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Gardening

Gardening is Also Digging Rocks

There’s more to gardening than planting flowers.

You can start seeds. You can divide and transplant. But you have to weed, or cover the soil with mulch. And before any of that, you have to work with the dirt you’ve got.

This summer I’ve spent a lot of time clearing wheelbarrow loads of gravel out of two garden beds. (Never will I landscape with gravel and black plastic, never!) I also dug up a pretty massive pile of rocks.

One neighbor shouted across the street, “Rose, what are you doing?”

I shouted back, “I have no idea.” I was making hay while the sun shone, I guess.

 

I’ve wanted to clear out these beds ever since we moved in six years ago. But the task was always daunting and far less inspiring than arranging peonies or transplanting tiger lilies from my grandma’s garden.

And I had bigger problems than gravel: my main beds were choked with snow on the mountain (impossible to get the roots out!) and lily of the valley (with 18 inch root beds!).

So for a few summers I dug out invasive plants. I shook dirt from the roots. I got the best garden tool ever and twisted the soil until the crab grass and the snow on the mountain roots sifted themselves to the surface. I did some plain old boring weeding.

And this year, all threats to my established plants taken care of, I started the season with an early weeding, and could sit back and let the garden just do its thing.

We’re almost to our sixth anniversary of moving in here— the longest Jay and I have lived anywhere since we met each other almost 14 years ago. And there are projects that continue to arise— not as surprises, but, now that more pressing matters are handled, as the next thing on the list.

I’ve been feeling frustrated with my hang ups about book layout and publishing. I’ve been feeling worried about not really knowing what I’m doing, worried about making mistakes in front of people, and mistakes that cost money to dispose of and/or fix.

I’ve been asking myself, how can making books be like making a garden?

It already is. I’m just in the rock-picking stage.

It’s not hopeless. This won’t go on forever. I know there’s good soil under it all. I just have to stick with it. Keep putting on my gloves and picking up my shovel. It can be tricky, since my flower gardens are in sight all the time— my progress is visible, whereas working in In Design or sitting on hold with Ingram are not.

Maybe I should make a map of my “book garden”— shade the areas that have been cleared, note the skills that have been learned. And maybe I need to cut myself a vase of flowers to put on my desk while I work.

Medicine Friends

My grandparents’ house was sold at the end of the summer. This was a Century Farm, meaning it had been in the family for over 100 years; my grandpa was born there. My grandma moved half a mile from her childhood farm when they married.

They each had their own gardens (as did her parents). The story I’ve heard is that they needed their own spaces to plant what they wanted. Both gardens were magnificent in my childhood: my grandpa grew roses, my grandma grew everything else.

I’ve only discovered my dormant green thumb when I bought my first house: all of a sudden I was digging and moving rocks and dividing plants… and transplanting. That first home in St. Paul presumably still has the cousins of my grandmother’s peonies growing out by the front door.

When we moved into the bed and breakfast in 2013, I began the process of recreating my grandmother’s garden once again, though I didn’t realize that was what I was doing at first. There was already a hardy perennial flower bed here with peonies, day lilies, some tiger lilies, and irises.

But there weren’t flox or echinacea or black-eyed Susan.

So when I found out that, a few years after my grandma moved into an apartment, her farm had a buyer, I made sure to go dig. A year later, they’ve bloomed. Next year they’ll be bigger.

Perhaps once they’re established, I’ll be ready to try my hand at roses.

Gardening Season

I used to think my grandma was a little crazy for having such an enormous garden. I helped her once, but even being paid to weed couldn’t make gardening appeal to me.

Everything changed when I bought my first home in St. Paul: suddenly I was making straight lines curved, dividing and transplanting, and salvaging old bricks for edging.

Here at the B&B we inherited a beautiful perennial garden. After four years I’ve learned that weeding really has to be done right away, before everything gets tall.

Oof! This one didn’t get any attention last summer.

An unexpectedly warm May-June  has meant I’ve made a lot of progress. I find I’m about as fanatical as my grandma…

 

Thanks, Dad, for putting up all the lattice!

Also, I can’t recommend the Yard Butler Twist Tiller enough!