One of the greatest joys in my life is getting up on fine summer mornings, loading the wheelbarrow with shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and spending the day whirling around the garden like a mad dervish. There is always something that needs to be done – moving or dividing plants, mulch to be spread, weeds to pull. Sometimes the work is steady but light; a day spent weeding or deadheading the roses. Other times, the shovel is out and the dirt is flying, usually when new beds are being built, which is often.
It has lately been brought to my attention that my habit of putting in 10 hour days amongst the greenery may be coming to an end.
When we bought our home in 2001, we had a little over an acre of bare land. My husband, Brian, and I felt we could build garden beds indefinitely. And over the course of 7 years, we did just that. A new bed each year seemed reasonable; except each year’s bed got bigger. Still, we had plenty of room and the work never seemed to get overwhelming for 2 people. Aching muscles and stiff joints were the norm during the gardening season, but the joy I had in the garden made it worth every twinge. Even after 7 years of expansion, at the beginning of the summer of 2008, we had barely a quarter of the acre converted to garden beds. It was obviously time to get serious.
That was a banner year in our garden expansion. We hired a contractor to clear out the northwest side of our property which was overgrown with sumac, poplar trees, honeysuckle bushes and bittersweet vines. There was also an old foundation, left from a house fire 20 years before, that needed to be pushed in and buried. Other junk was scattered across the countryside, including a fire pit made of 2 layers of cement traffic dividers in which we could have roasted a bison had we been so inclined.
Unfortunately, most of the summer was spent arguing with the contractor over where the property line was located, which trees to keep and what the actual budget of the project was. In the end, we were between 10 and 15 feet over onto our neighbor’s woodlot (they were understanding, especially when we replanted a few nice trees on the edge), every tree was cut down except for 2 enormous maples which were simply too big to remove (thank goodness) and way over budget. It took over 3 months.
It was too late in the year by then to move more dirt or plant green things so we spent what little was left of the season planning out the space. We agreed that a patio in the shade of the 2 remaining maples was a must as the existing patio next to the house had no shade at all. A veggie garden, herb plot and assorted flower beds were designed and garden catalogs were amassed.
The list of plants I ordered during the winter of 2008 – 2009 was . . . impressive.