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17 July 2016

My Garden was a Jungle

I'm forever thinking, "Oh, bummer! I should have taken a Before picture!"

I didn't do that. 

But my garden was a jungle. Five or six years ago, Hero put in about four little strawberry plants in a little section of the garden that we declared to be his. They didn't make much of themselves that first year, but they have been getting happy ever since. The thistles and other weeds have been getting altogether too happy, too: the past couple years they've been chest-high. This year, I've done better: they've only been knee-high. And the path was long-since overgrown. And the other day my best friend pointed out the obvious: 

My garden was a pitiful mess. 

My first reaction was justification: those weeds are only knee high! And that represents tons more work put in than last year! And the front gardens are (more or less) presentable!

She just nailed me with The Look (she's got a great one). And went back to taking pictures of the kids blowing mega-bubbles. This is one she sent me:

Well, maybe it's some more work than previous years. 

Ok. So I did let an embarrassingly large portion of my strawberry harvest rot on the plants because trying to break into the garden to pick them was completely overwhelming and life's not so easy right now ... So I didn't do it. 

Yeah. Maybe my garden is pitiful. 

It was just the kick in the pants I needed. I'd been threatening to go get mulch and Do Something for quite some time. This week, I did it. 

But I forgot to take a "Before" picture. So I can't show you my garden in its full weedy glory. It was bad. 

First, I scrounged some cardboard and picked up as much mulch as I could fit in the car -- the city has it for free. No excuses there! And I put the cardboard right over the plants growing where the path ought to be, weeds, strawberries, and all. Squish. And I put a ton of mulch on top of the cardboard. BAM! Now getting into the garden didn't feel so impossible. Plus, with the garden getting Real Attention, I started to have kids interested in what is going on. That's good, too. I love how Dragon was quick to protect his hands, but didn't feel any need to do the same for his feet. I did suggest it. 

Mulching a path was a good start. And it made it easier to see what still needed doing. So I kept going. I started by the gate and killed weeds, dramatically reduced the strawberry population, and added more mulch to all the areas I cleared. I tried (again) to pull the grass out of my oregano plant, and clipped off the flowers to try to get it to pay more attention to growing leaves. I might even try watering it. Crazy talk, I know! 

I was feeling pretty happy with myself - even sent my friend a picture. I spent the better part of an afternoon on it, and made Real Progress. I even cleared a spot and planted a little bit of peas and lettuce: the online calendars say now is when you plant the mysterious Cool Weather Crops. Right as we're going into what will likely be the summer's best heatwave. But whatever. I don't loose much by trying: the seeds were already in the drawer, from when I meant to do this 2 months ago. 

So at the end of the first day, there was lots of progress, but it's clearly not done yet, and even after dumping mulch everywhere I'd worked, there were still some jungle-y parts. There were still plenty of weeds and tons of overgrown, overcrowded strawberries. And the back of my van was still full of more stinky mulch than I could lift, so it stayed there till the next afternoon. 

I excavated my chives -- look, they're still happy and I can keep using them! -- and killed grass invading at the fence line, then mulched the remains. I found both my tomato plants -- one already has tomatoes on it! -- and got some supports on them. Both the boys turned up, wanting to work on their sections -- see the little fences? Those are dividing their parts from the other parts -- so there's progress there, too. I planted another section of peas and decided to try for a cabbage. Ought to be interesting: I've never tried cabbage before. 

At the end of the second afternoon, I'm still not done. And we're having an ugly heat wave, with heat indexes supposed to be in the triple digits, which is Really Hot this far north, plus, we'll be drinking our air, with the humidity we usually have when it gets hot. 

But we get up "early" now - we're gradually leaving second shift behind and it's not uncommon now for the household to be stirring by 7:30 or so. And I'm hoping that if I roll out of bed and sneak outside I can get some more done in spite of the heat this week. 

It's nice to have some order in the garden. It's teaching me things. 

Like, the good things are still there, but weeds and things can make them hard to see. 

Like, planting the seed is just the first step, and if you stop there, you will miss the full potential of the thing. 

And how I've waited and resisted killing those strawberries -they're super yummy! - and they took over the place and nothing got harvested and enjoyed, not even the strawberries. But now that I made the path again, good things are happening. Keeping things tidy (even in a kinda-sorta-almost tidy kind of way), makes a big difference. 

And there's this phrase: "in the process of time". I've been pondering that this summer, and I want to give it its own post, soon. (Here it is!) But it's really remarkable how many things grow slowly, over time. 

I'm really enjoying the way my garden is starting to grow. 


misskate said...

Nice! Hopefully your garden enjoys your labors and the nasty heat doesn't fry anything too badly.

Ritsumei said...

It's doing well! This was a couple days now (my blog nearly always lags behind real life), and the lettuce has come up. There's been plenty of water between the rain and me actually remembering to water things, and the plants are looking pretty happy, in spite of the heat. I think it's helping that the heat hasn't been quite as bad as they were predicting. The first of my tomatoes should start turning red any day now. Woot for real strawberries from the garden!


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