Le mie passioni, parte 3: Gardening

(Le Mie passioni,  Italian translation of “my passions,” is a an occasional series of things I really, really love.)

Magnus coneflower (foreground) and phlox peppermints, July 9, 2011.

As we slip-side towards the middle of July, summer is finally taking hold of us here in Michigan after a long, desolate winter and a very odd spring. I explained to TheHusband recently that my need to be outside and doing something, anything is more towards getting rid of the cabin fever syndrome that is still a carryover from winter, when we could barely leave the house, then actually wanting to accomplish (despite best intentions) something on our grounds. Sad, but true.
Our veg garden, photo taken from the garage roof, 05/24/11.

TheHusband and I have been at gardening odds at each other since the snows have melted: He’s only interested in working in the vegetable gardens while I distinctly remember that I wholly promised with all my heart to work on the flower gardens to get them cleaned up and prepped for the season. This may not seem like a bad trade off until you take into consideration that we have nothing BUT flower gardens: There is not a single blade of grass, in sight, on our entire property. The previous occupants was a gardening maestro, even my mother-in-law noticed that under all the nearly rotten foliage were rare and expensive plants. The problem, however, was that the previous occupant planted them willy nilly, perennials on top of perennials with the ground cover filled in with creepers such as nettles, English ivy and archangel to fill in the holes, that it is literally a needle in the haystack to get to the good stuff. Our job, my job really, was to sort out the rot, figure out what is underneath the weeds, the creepers and the trash to see what was left behind.
Wisteria to be composted.

Our first forays into the gardens in the spring, we got easily overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done. We slowly cleared out English ivy tap roots that weighed in as much as 30-40 pounds and were settled along the brick of our garage, I pulled wheel barrel after wheel barrel of ivy that was settled around the urban garden landscape and part of our backyard. TheHusband chopped down and uprooted junk trees and bushes that were strangling the more expensive flora and blocking out their sun. But it seemed for every weekend worth of work we did, we discovered that more work had to be done.
While our veg garden beds were laid out years ago, the wood used to build the containers is all rotting and will need ot be replaced next year. English ivy is so dominant in our yard that it is also strangling the vegs and before we build the new containers in veg garden, we’ll have to till the fuck of the land to cut up all of the English ivy roots. For weeks now we’ve been hiding in our house, attempting to ignore the wild jungle that is our yard. Every once in while, one of us will kick the other into action to go out and do something in the yard whether it is to water it, tend to the vegetables, chop up some compost or weed.
But again, the more we do, the more overhwlemed we become and the cycle continues to repeat itself. TheHusband suggested a week or two ago that we just say fuck it and hire a landscaper to have them clean out the weeds, the creepers and the ivies and get it looking good again. If that didn’t work, if it would be far too time consuming or expensive, hire them to tear the hell out of yard, till it back to the soil so that we could start afresh, design it the way that we want it. All of this costs money, something we don’t have right now as unexpected costs keep becoming, well unexpected. And personally, I don’t see the point of hiring someone to come do the work we can do it ourselves. Yes, granted, it sucks; it’s getting to be unbearably hot, but if I can weed a fairly large section the yard in under a few hours, think of how much I can get down with a few hours a day?
And I don’t mind the weeding – there is a zen like state I fall into when I’m out there working. I took a stand and pointed out that part of this problem was our own fault: If we only worked a few hours a week on it, instead of few hours a month, the amount of work would not seem so terrible. So we’ve decided that I would be in charge of the weeding and the planting and TheHusband is in charge of all the removing and the chopping. After my declaration of war against our garden, I spent the last week, a few hours after work each day, working steadily on our front yard. It is beginning to look clean but definitely more bare with the ivy and the creeper gone but now we can fill those bare areas with non-aggressive plants and other pretty flora. I’ve also discovered brick pathways, long covered up by the ivy and extra dirt, that there is a method to the previous occupants madness and it is up to me to decode it.
I’ve also realised, as I keep working outside, that I like weeding so much because not only is it to some degree meditative, but that it is also very much like being Indiana Jones. I keep finding so much stuff in the ground, besides trash, such as Indian arrow heads, broken pieces of random pottery, hat pins, old gardening tools, and accouterments. I keep a little bucket for non-composting items that need to be removed and it sometimes is a virtual treasure trove of strange and wondrous items.
I thought about creating a new Tumblr entitled, “Things found in my garden.” I’ve stocked up on wife beaters, 45 SPF, hair ties and even bought a pair of Crocs. My pasty skin is getting brown for the first time in years and freckles are appearing on my face. While our vegetable garden may not yield much this year, our fruit bearing cherry tree is struggling and the yard looks like a war zone, soon it will look beautiful and I can say it was all done because of me.