in the garden

Now that spring has finally decided to make a tentative appearance, it's high time I buckled down and did some yard and garden work. This is a tricky area for me because I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm but not a whole lot in the skills department, despite years of effort. Normally, I have a pretty steep learning curve, but when it comes to plants, all  bets are off.

Not that I haven't tried, mind you. And I know enough, at least, to remember what should be planted before the last frost date, and what should wait until Memorial Day. I have finally learned the difference between the terms "partial sun" and "full sun," which you see on the tags with the plants you buy at the greenhouse, and I know that the latter does not apply to any part of my property, though it hasn't stopped me from trying to grow sunflowers in the front yard.

I'm feeling particularly incompetent lately because a few weeks ago I volunteered to plant tomato and pepper starters with all the first graders at Daniel's school, and not a single one has sprouted yet. (That's right. I failed the entire first grade at ____ Elementary. Not doing wonders for my self-esteem at the moment.)

I have also, by this point, accrued a fairly comprehensive mental list of what rabbits will and will not eat. What they will eat, they will devour, and what they won't eat, they may still nibble on if they are desperate enough; at the peak of last year's drought, I witnessed bunnies chowing down on my marigolds.

The landscaping of my yard is, at best, eclectic. At worst, it is haphazard. I once had a friend kindly refer to my front yard as "wild." Every year I swear to make a plan and every year I fail. I have all kinds of stuff planted in my perennial bed, and I never remember what's there or what it looks like when it  comes up in the spring, so by the time stuff starts blooming, it's a weedy mess.

I've given up trying to improve the back yard anymore. Last year we had to have three trees removed, one in the middle of the night because it was about to fall over and take out the neighbor's house. Next year we plan to have an addition built and the kitchen remodeled (finances and our builder's schedule permitting), which means the giant pain-in-the-ass silver maple will have to  be removed, we'll build a patio, maybe replace the shed, and possibly add a chicken coop (I do love fresh eggs) anyway, there's no point in doing anything with the back yard before all the construction happens.

I'm not ashamed to grow vegetables in my front yard, either. I have four raised beds, two with fencing to keep the damn bunnies out. These actually look nice because I enlisted the help of my husband, who is more compulsive than I am about keeping things orderly and symmetrical, to build and install them. I also put down landscaping cloth in between and covered it with mulch and flat-rock stepping stones we dug out from the side yard a couple years ago. I've planted carrots, peas and Chinese kale, and when it's warm  enough I'll put in tomatoes, parsley, flowers, and as much basil as I can pack in the space because I am of the opinion that one can never, ever grow too much basil.

Then there's the compost. I am a BIG FAN of composting. It's the perfect form of recycling - all those onion skins and carrot peels kept out of the landfill and instead piled up and, eventually, changed back into dirt you can grow more onions and carrots in - what's more eco-friendly than that? It's easier said than done, though. We had compost that got so slimy and stinky the next-door neighbors (who are lovely, kind and thoughtful ladies) referred to it as our "dirty diaper compost." They were being generous, actually. I've smelled a lot of dirty diapers in my life and most of them smelled better than our compost pile at the time. We've improved our methods and now have two piles - one on which to dump our kitchen scraps and the other to fester and rot and turn into lovely dirt - and so far it's at least an improvement, if not an unbridled success.

I'm not sure where I'm going with all this. There is just so much work to be done, and if I want to accomplish anything, given the demands of my kids and my freelance work schedule, I have to prioritize and be organized about all of it. I also have to let my kids be as involved as they want to be. After all, whatever doesn't work out, we can always try again next year.


Jessi said…
I suck at this, too. I have a small collection of bulbs that come up every year and afterwards, my beds are just eaten alive by weeds. Also, composting. Ick. I've tried and failed so many times, in so many different ways. Good luck, lady.
WeirdEnglishman said…
I'm just delighted to read that the United Kingdom isn't the only country that has been awaiting the arrival of Spring! It is positively tropical today. 8.5 degrees. I can't say I have tried composting though, well other than out of a bag bought from our local gardening centre. I stumbled across your blog, in case you were wondering.

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