Why gardening?

I don’t like being dirty or doing physical labor, so you might ask how I got into gardening?  The first thing I remember growing was yellow marigolds.  I had this tiny space that used to be a footpath until my dad put up a fence between our yard and the neighbors.  He got tired of the constant stream of kids and dogs that cut through our yard.

At 9, I had never heard of amendments, turning over the soil or mulch.  I just scratched a bit at the surface, carefully patted my seeds into place and ran out every day to see how my 4 plants were doing.  They got to be about 3” tall and sent out one sad little flower each.

You would think such a miserable experience would have put me off gardening forever, but no such thing.  Our first apartment had a little space outside the fence where they let me grow tomatoes.  The giant snake was a bonus courtesy of the construction on both sides of our complex.  I was lucky.  Our neighbor found hers inside the apartment.

view from bottom of walk

View from the bottom of the walk, looking up toward the grass garden

Our first house had a fabulously flat back yard with no trees.  The previous owners  raised vegetables on the back half and every year they dumped a truck load of manure on it.  Everything I put in the ground grew like Jack’s beanstalk.  I sold bushels of tomatoes to a local market.  That was right before a storm knocked over the whole row of plants.  I learned the hard way not to tie all the stakes together!

In 1978, we moved to the house we live in now.  No one had ever done anything, except plant trees.  I think the first owner must have stood on the front porch and thrown a handful of marbles out in the yard – and then told her husband to put a tree everyplace there was a marble.  There were 38 of them on our lot.

The back yard is sloped down to the house at about a 45 degree angle.  The 2008 picture above shows the view from the house, looking up the hill at an angle.

Over the years, we have changed the yard many times.  There was a swing set  when my kids were young.  I got big boxes built like terraces so there would be a flat place to grow plants.  Gradually, I took over all the edges of the yard, creeping out from the fences and the house and leaving just the swath of grass you can see.

I explained – over and over – to my husband that I was doing him a favor.  He would have less grass to mow.  He’s learned that letting me garden is cheaper than therapy.

The close up below is my ornamental grass garden in 2008.  There is a fig tree at the rear.  It looked spectacular that year, didn’t it?  Sadly, the big evergreens across the back property line kept sticking their branches out and blocking the sun.  A lot of the grass died and the fig started growing over to my neighbor’s yard.  He didn’t like it.

grass garden with fig tree at top

Ornamental grass garden with fig tree at back

The inner parts of the evergreen boughs were bare and I finally convinced Roger we should have them removed.  Massive changes are happening in the back gardens this year.  I’ll show you more in a future post.

Back to my original question – why gardening?   What else carries such uncertainty, hope, promise, disappointment and even exercise, all wrapped up in one package?  You learn botany, etymology (bugs), chemistry (composting and fertilizing) and a little animal husbandry (birds, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and voles).  Maintaining a garden is endlessly fascinating and challenging, beautiful in all the seasons if you learn to appreciate subtlety.  What else lets you start over every year?


2 thoughts on “Why gardening?

  1. Carol, I love your garden. I agree that one must garden early in the spring for when hot weather comes it’s too hot to do anything here in FL. i’ve just begun living in a different house with a large yard with loads of possibilities and trees but alas it is July and I don’t have the energy to stay outside for long. Your garden has inspired me. Now I must begin thinking of shade loving plants. Thanks. Betty Ann

    • Thanks, Betty. I imagine your area would use all kinds of plants that I can’t use here. Not only it goes below freezing, but sometimes gets down to 20F. Still, I bet hosta would work in your shade areas and all kinds of begonias, which would likely be perennials there. I’ve actually had them come back here if it was a mild winter.

      Right now, our problem is drought and terrible heat. There hasn’t been measurable rain for more than a month. Watering does nothing more than keep them alive. The new plants are the same size they were when I planted them.

      I’d love to see what your garden looks like – now and after.

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