Most people clean their gardens up (and “put them to bed”) in the fall. The reason they do this is so that when spring finally hurls itself at them, they can simply dig in and plant their earliest crops without first having to remove all of last year’s dead tomato plants or weeding the quack grass that was allowed to root itself in firmly. It’s a great tradition. I haven’t done it for years.
It is taking so much work to do this ritual cleaning now, in the spring, that we are in danger of not having enough beds prepared for planting this year!
In spite of being so far behind in all my yard maintenance (roses haven’t been pruned in two years) it is shaping up and looking better than it has in a long time, thanks to my mom. My mom has a way of getting me out in the garden even though I’m just embarking on writing the third draft of my novel. I have barely been out in my garden for a year. My mom moves in, I say “Hey, even though we might have to move this year, we should plant some things anyway.” and she takes up the idea and before I know it Philip is digging holes, I am wrestling with quack grass, and she’s planning and plotting for our next best garden move, without us knowing quite how it all happened so fast.
I love this about my mom. She is whipping us into shape without actually bossing anyone around. It has felt so good to get out there, to see what’s growing and changing every week rather than hiding out in my eyrie of an office looking down at it from a distance. It’s not that I ever forget how much I thrive by getting my hands dirty and being around my plants, it’s more a question of finding the energy, the motivation, and of keeping in the habit. I’m still tired all the time from parenting a special needs kid, writing a novel, working for money, and trying not to drop every other ball in my life, yet I am now also spending more time in my garden.
Some of the things we’ve been doing:
- Cutting back the rampant brambles.
- Fighting the good fight against the heinously encroaching quack grass.
- Mulching the strawberries.
- planting pole bean seeds (Helda, Lazy Housewife, and violet podded stringless).
- Transplanting mullein volunteers.
- Pruning the fruit trees.
- Mowing the lawn (a big deal because Philip and I LOATHE lawn but can’t afford to get rid of it until we can afford to hire a rototiller and the materials to plant the vast lawn with other things-not a project to undertake if we’re going to have to move in the next year).
- Planting herbs (finally got some comfrey and planted it, among other herbs)
- Putting down cardboard and straw between the raised beds.
That’s quite a lot for people with little energy and a lot of distractions! Yesterday my mom informed me that this coming fall we’re going to properly put the garden to bed and avoid all this hard work in the spring that we’ve been doing. I just know she’ll get me to do it, if she says it’ll happen it’ll happen. So how does she do it? Easy- she is not in great health and has limited energy and battles with vertigo so seeing her out there mowing the lawn in the surprise sunshine makes me realize that if she can get out there and do that, then I can get out there with my shovel and other dastardly tools of quack grass destruction and put in at least a half an hour! (Yes, it’s guilt at its gentlest and most effective)
I have at least five more 8×4 raised beds to clear of solid quack grass and top up with dirt. That’s a lot of really hard work. Quack grass is a formidable foe, in case you haven’t encountered and don’t know. If you don’t recall, last year I broke my shovel on the stuff. I think a nice blessing to bestow on a new born child is “May she/he grow strong like quack grass!” (translation “Should he or she grow as strong as quack grass he or she will outlive all nuclear events in the future! Mazeltov!”)
The more I do out there the more I want to do out there. I try to have modest garden goals (just a bed of beans and a bed of tomatoes will be plenty for a modest year of gardening) but I always get carried away. I want a big section of beets, carrots, pickling cucumbers, slicing cucumbers; plus I need lots of my own summer squash and winter squash and…
I forget that I can get all these things from the farmer’s market too. But nothing, I think most gardeners will agree, is more satisfying than going out in your own garden to see what’s for dinner. I want it all. Oh, right, forgot about all the dark leafies I need and the lettuce and…
No matter how much or how little I get planted or harvest, the important thing is that I’m out there to see the lilacs budding up and then opening, that I see the ladybugs flood the yard like they do every early spring, and that I see the shape of my monastery garden re-emerge.