Sunday, May 30, 2010
A Good Morning's Work
I am an impulsive gardener. Truth be told, I am impulsive about most of my projects and it drives Bubba crazy. He says I am a "project starter." But I think, having grown up on a farm, the gardening project-starting is the one that makes him the most nuts. It's not that I don't think about gardening. I ruminate on it a lot, it's just that when I decide to do something, it is generally spur of the moment, most often in the morning, and I haven't always anticipated how much work it will take to complete.
I would love help, but most often because of my timing and the projects I choose to undertake, Bubba's not all that excited about pitching in and I really can't blame him. For the last few years, I've been determined to have a successful vegetable garden and the indoor planning stages involve gardening books, graph paper to map out planting sites and timelines of when to plant different varieties of plants. That all sounds very organized and clear, but when it comes to getting outside and actually doing the work, I'm a whir of energy and dirt, handfuls of tools and bags of dirt and gloves and dog-in-tow, whipping willy-nilly from place to place according to my own internal whims.
This year I decided to get some help from a woman who gardens for a living. She came out and sat with me for two hours, asking questions about my goals and preferences, walking my yard and looking at which places get the best sunlight and asking which existing plants I was willing to remove in order to accomplish my veggie gardening dreams. It was terrific. I forgot to tell her about my impulsivity.
She pointed out two possible places for my vegetable garden, both of which would entail removing large swaths of lawn (not likely to make it past Bubba's filter, but I didn't tell her that). She said that the reason I've struggled in the past is because my original site is surrounded by trees that have grown up considerably and there just isn't enough sunlight during the day in our short growing season. After she left, I walked the yard myself and ruminated. Very near to her ideal site, we have a bed planted by the home builder with ugly evergreen shrubs, most of which are near-dead 10 years later. I decided that would be good enough and Bubba concurred.
Near-dead or not, those shrubs wouldn't be easy to get out, though. That was six weeks ago and I've waited for the right opportunity to get help removing them. In the meantime, I followed garden-diva's advice and started seedlings indoors. Thanks to her expertise, I successfully started 40 artichoke plants, 30 tomato plants, 30 cauliflower starts, narcissus, and basil. I was so pleased at their incredible growth that when it came time to thin the seedlings I nearly cried. I apologized each time I tugged a tiny plant out of the dirt and set it aside because it was jammed too tightly against its neighbors or just too small to make it. Even after I ended up with this bounty of plants I knew I couldn't possibly support, I couldn't imagine tossing all but the ones I had space for, so I began offering them to neighbors and co-workers. Finally, my herd culled to the plants I would keep, I was ready to plant.
Today dawned a perfect day for it. After six days of solid rainfall, the ground was soft and pliable, the weeds easy to yank, and the morning promised to be free of showers. Unfortunately, those evergreen shrubs still taunted me. Downing a quick latte, I headed out with my impulsive-gardening tools; hand pruners, long-handled pruners, spade, leaf rake, trusty JetCut saw, and horihori. I knew there was no way I had the strength to uproot the buggers, so I simply whacked the branches back to the trunk, raked the debris into the yard waste container, pulled the smallest roots that radiated out from the plants and cut through the rest with my hand pruners. Amazing how sad I was to thin my seedlings, and how pleasing it was to get rid of these bushes. In the end, I was left with four knobby trunks, 2-3 inches in diameter, and clear dirt around them. Bubba came out to survey (and shake his head), and I headed for my compost mix and seedlings.
As the dog looked on jealously, I dug and worked the soil and planted my babies. The extra few days hardening off in the rain had only strengthened my plants and they went in to their new homes easily. Who knows if my efforts will pay off handsomely? I'm certain I will at least get some vegetables out of this deal, and if I don't, the hard work in the clean air and the satisfaction of having removed those nasty old evergreen shrubs and the lessons learned are enough for me this year. I'll undoubtedly come up with some new project outside next Spring anyway.
I wish I had before and after photos to post, but the impulsive nature of my gardening means that I didn't think of taking any pictures until the shrubs were half gone already and I was covered from kneecap to toes in mud. You'll have to content yourself with pictures of someone else's garden that I've appropriated from the web.