Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Worth It!

This is a foto of the new shade garden, a hosta bed, that I finished over the weekend. Twenty years ago when I planted this front garden, it received full sun. Now the trees and shrubs have grown and they shade several beds. It was time to clean things up and make it fresh again.

I forgot how hard this physical labor can be on a body. Four years of school has zapped my strength and endurance for this kind of work and after a couple of days of intense gardening, I soon realized I may be past my prime for this down-and-dirty gardening. It nearly killed my body. My knees are sore and creaking, both of my arms go numb when I sleep, and I am so tired....But I got 'er done and it was worth it!

Early Saturday morning, somewhere between sleep and wake, I remembered that I had a garden tiller in the back of my shed. It had not been used in years, but I was anxious to get it out and give it a try. The thought of hand-digging the entire new bed - close to 100 ft in length and 2-5 ft in width - left me a little less enthusiastic about this project. Once I wrestled the tiller out of the shed, I checked the oil, added some gas and Sea Foam (a miracle engine elixir!), and pulled the cord. It actually sputtered to life, then died. Directions on the engine indicated that I needed to not only give it choke, but also move the toggle over to the jackrabbit, away from the tortoise. Once I did that, the engine roared to life.

Oh joy of joys. This machine was going to make all the difference in my attitude about this project. I tilled along one side, then turned and tilled along the backside, then up through the middle. And then I did all that again. Tiny pieces of sod lay on top of the black soil, so I got out the rake to clean and level out the bed. If I had done all that by hand, I would still be turning forkfuls.

Once the lawn was gone, I cleaned up the edge with my dandy Smith and Hawkens edger. Then I got busy resetting the pavers back in along the new edge. It was beautiful...even without any plantings. I had about 40-50 hostas potted up, so I started in the back with the taller ones, then planted the shorter ones with the shortest down in front. I laid out drifts of color and leaf shape and textures. Once the plants acclimate and start to fill in, it should be beautiful.

This was a 2-day project and by Sunday afternoon, I was exhausted. It had been a long day....I think I started in about 6:30 A.M. I put things away about 5 P.M. and gave every one of the transplanted hostas a thorough watering. When I finished, I climbed into the bathtub for a renewing, hot soak.

I still needed to mulch, but tomorrow would be another day. Rather than using cedar or cypress chips, I decided to try some prairie grass, or meadow hay. I had bought some last week to use in the veggie garden and was immediately impressed when I broke open the bale. It is beautiful stuff...reddish-purples, greens, and blues...with such a lovely fragrance. Reminds me of summer days on the farm, climbing up into a haymow filled with freshly-baled hay.

Neighbors were watching...and strolling by to check my progress. They think it is beautiful, but they also suggest that it is too much work. They obviously are not gardeners. I did not tell them that this is just the first half of the project. I still have the south portion of my lawn to lay out, till, edge, then plant. But first, I have to recover...and I am working on my plan. I have all summer to finish it, but already I am itching to get that tiller out and work magic in the garden.