A gardener’s self-analysis: Moving forward


Earth Day marked my first sojourn into the garden. I had intended to do a walk through and pick up any bits of garbage, but anyone who knows me also knows that soon enough I’ll be down on all fours, nose to the ground, looking for early signs of life. And Glory be! There was evidence everywhere. It is a blessed relief to be able to shake off winter and all that comes with it. As a teacher, I also have been up to my neck in essays and exams and have spent too many days at a desk under the lamp light. However, questions I put to my students on their exam seem to apply to my garden as well: What have I learned this year? What didn’t go well? What surprised me? What would I do differently?

What I learned:

The time to rake up leaf mulch is while the ground is still frozen. In the fall when I protected the base of my plants with the leaves, I thought “this is going to be a pain to separate from the mulch underneath.” But ho ho! The mulch, still very much frozen, stayed put nicely while I raked up the dry leaves. I didn’t take all the leaves up, just the mounds at the base. The other leaves I’m leaving for the worms.

What didn’t go well?

Some of the stones in our rock wall fell out. The frost had heaved them out of place and they lay sinking in the mud. That’s going to require a big fix, which will require disrupting the moss and vines that have taken nicely. Maybe a few dabs of cement to keep it all together?

Also, three cedars didn’t make it. And while these were temporary plantings, I always feel it is a huge failure on my part when something big dies. Like a whole tree. Or three of them. I was advised that cedars need not be wrapped in burlap, that they can “take it”.

Was I wrong? Should I have listened to my gut? Probably.

What surprised me?

The yews, on the other hand, are a deep delicious green and are thriving! Delight! The ivory Hellebore  are such a wonder that I weep with gratitude just looking at them.  They’re like the crocuses’ sophisticated aunt who lives in the city and comes bearing pearls. I also love forgetting about plants, then being reminded that I stuck them in late in the fall. Creeping Jenny? Hello! You’re looking spry!


What would I do differently?

Have a focused plan. This summer, I intend to do X, Y, and Z. The rest be damned. If I can be attentive to one large project or a few small ones, I’ll be well ahead. This year, the task is to hook up more rain barrels and contrive a better compost situation. And trellis. Good sturdy homemade trellis. And two new rock walls. It’s not even May and  I’m over my quota!


Welcome spring!  What kept you?

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