On this rainy, nearly spring day, I’ve been sitting at my computer and having a big think. Was it Winnie the Pooh who used to sit and have a think? I can’t remember. Anyway, these are some of my current garden thoughts and plans. They include some things I want to do more of, and some I’d rather stop.
Garden throughout the year. There was a time long ago when, in the fall, I would put the garden to bed and not think about it until February or March. Then, I would go out, make some rows and plant some seeds. Pretty simple, right? The last ten years the climate in Oklahoma changed everything. I could now garden most of the four seasons, because our winters, while fierce part of the time, are also mild for several months. I really need to change my mindset and garden all winter to be ready for spring. f I wait until February or March, I am so behind the eight ball.
Do you feel behind too? With speaking, writing and my book’s publication, there is even less time to go around. I’m not complaining, but my dilemma reminds me of the wise counsel in Lillian Cunningham’s piece in The Washington Post titled “Exhaustion is not a status symbol.” I think I’ll ponder that one some more.
I now wish I’d cut down my perennial grasses when temperatures were mild in December, but I did not. I also wish I’d pruned the roses in February, but February was our worst weather month. We had a lot of snow and cold. I can sometimes be a fair weather gardener. Like Goldilocks, I prefer things not too hot and not too cold. I should live in Hawaii.
Hire good help when you need it. My garden is really too large for one person even if she is a passionate crazed gardener. I laid out and planted much of the garden over twenty years ago, and time has marched on for both of us. Most of the beds and borders are permanent so I don’t think I’ll be turning any of them over into bermudagrass soon–God forbid–but I have hired help every two weeks for this spring and summer. It was hard to admit I need help, but I’m 52. I know! Where did the time go?
I work, and I still have one teenager at home who needs me now and again. I found a great garden helper in Kari Walls of Tender Hands Gardening. She is a hard worker who helps me weed, mulch, etc. We also chat as we work. Good help is hard to find, and I needed someone who also knew plants. If you as a gardener feel guilty about getting help when you need it, think about how sad you’ll be when the garden is overtaken by weeds midsummer. It will be more nightmare than dream.
Also, as my friend, Fairegarden suggested, I’m planting more shrubs and grasses to make my work easier each year. I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t plan to move anytime soon, so this is a good compromise. For more musings on compromises, see Nan Ondra’s latest post at Hayefield.
Opportunities? Not so much. In connection with the exhaustion article, I’m being choosy about any new projects I’ll take on. It will be rare that I promote anything on the blog. Occasionally, I get excited about books and tools, or maybe a new plant, but that’s it. Note the word “excited.” I get about twenty emails a day asking me to promote someone’s product, or to do a link or campaign. If an email has “opportunity” in the subject line, I am pretty sure that it isn’t one for me.
This blog makes no money. By the time I pay for hosting and do the writing, photography, etc., I am in the hole. Let me be clear. I never meant for it to make money. I just wanted somewhere to muse about gardening, and I wanted to help people garden in Oklahoma and the central South. With our extreme heat, bad soil, bugs and disease, it’s really hard to garden here. I want everyone to feel like RDR is a safe place to get information. I’ll tell you when things die. I show what the crazy prairie weather does to our plants and landscapes.
I won’t do click-through links for anything I wouldn’t grow or use. My time is worth more than someone’s marketing campaign. Yours is too.
Garden more, not less. Last summer I worked so hard that I lost sight of something. I love to garden, but it was all becoming just business, and I felt overworked and underpaid. I noticed I was getting my hands in the dirt less and less, and it made me sad.
Do you ever wait so long to garden that you’re almost afraid of what you’ll find? Only last week I felt this way. Everything looked brown and overgrown. The roses were sadly begging me to do something, anything, to save what’s left of them. The weeds were waving their ugly leaves and taunting me from every corner–even the paths. I don’t use Roundup. Burnout II, a natural weed killer, only works well when the weather is hot and sunny. I may try Avenger this year too. I also pull a lot of early spring weeds out of those paths. You can see why it’s overwhelming.
I actually told Bill I didn’t want to garden this year.
Luckily, we’ve been married 25 years. He just looked at me and said, “You’ll be fine once you get out there. You always are.” He was right. I was. I started in the front borders and worked on them first tidying up here and there. Then, I moved to the back garden on the north side where I have daffodils and hellebores planted, and I worked there. Then, I worked on two tiers of the border on the back of the house. I don’t get my garden help until the end of the March because she has other obligations. In the meantime, each day I make a little more progress, and I love gardening again.
The garden does still looks brown and forlorn though if you ask me. I know it will get better in a few weeks especially with the rain we’ve had.
Work on the house. Now, this may not seem garden related, but it is. We need to rebuild the deck on back of the house. I’m meeting with someone this week to see if he wants to take on this project. I also need to remodel a bathroom, and we’re going to put wood floors in the great room instead of carpet. Carpet makes no sense because of all the dirt we trek in and out of the house. Country homes have a lot of dirt and dust no matter how often you clean them. It’s far easier to work on wood floors with rugs than carpeting. I’ll leave the hallway and kids’ rooms carpeted because they don’t get as much traffic. The bathroom is in our former master bedroom, and it really needs help. So, things here are rather busy right now.
What does that have to do with gardening? Well, less time means I decided not to start eggplant, tomato and pepper seeds indoors this year. I know. It’s a sacrilege, but I just don’t have the time and energy to watch over babies right now. Instead, I’m going to buy veggie plants from our local nurseries and even the box stores. I’m also going to take half of my large vegetable garden and make it a cutting garden of zinnias, tithonia, gomphrena, celosia, cosmos, Nicotiana langsdorffii and anything else that tickles my fancy. When thinking of a new project, it’s smart to enlist the thinking of good friends. I asked mine what to do about so much space in the vegetable garden, and Cindy From My Corner of Katy suggested a cutting garden. Dahlias could go in there too. I would dig up the tubers in the fall. Mary Ann from Gardens of the Wild, Wild West loaned her Pinterest boards for inspiration. Aren’t friends grand?
See, that’s the thing about dreaming and gardening. As my friend Leslie from Growing a Garden in Davis says, it’s best to do what you like. These are the things I’m pondering this rainy, nearly spring day. What do you have on your mind in this growing season?
Kathy Sturr says
Wow that’s a LOT of think. You must be exhausted! I need to have a think. Last year I was so busy gardening for other people I lost sight of my own garden. This year I don’t want that to happen. I’m actually avoiding opportunities. All good, all good. We still have snow and it is a big BUMMER. I am going to sort through my seeds today and sterilize pots and get to it this weekend – should lift the spirits. The birds are starting to sing and the geese are rallying. I think a cutting garden would feel like royalty! Can’t wait to see it. My front porch may just fall off the house if we don’t do something soon and we still are sleeping in the spare room because we haven’t painted the master bedroom floors yet – we tore out all our carpet upstairs. Carpet grosses me out now but we did it because I developed allergies which are thankfully much better and under control. Our back porch which is now a room still has plywood floors and no siding and no interior finishing other than electric. I feel very “unfinished” ha ha. Still, we escaped winter and it feels good to be home aside from the weather. I wish you glorious time in your garden this year!
I’ve always wanted so much more space for plants than a small town garden, but I’m beginning to understand that that train has left the station. I did read Nan’s post and can imagine how daunting it is for both of you in spring. Here in So.Calif the drought is a constant companion and is forcing us to rethink what a garden actually IS — I’ve always felt it to be more about sanctuary than number of flowers per square inch — but old mindsets die hard 😉 About the constant barrage of promotional requests bloggers get, I sometimes feel guilty about ignoring them, because I want to support the hort. community — then I remind myself that just keeping a blog on plants and gardens is support enough.
Nice post, Dee!
Donna@Gardens Eye View says
I am pondering many of the same things Dee and especially that it has been too long since I have been in the garden….spring is not here yet and I need to be in my garden. i wish we had milder winters.
Sharon Lovejoy says
I really love seeing the good bones of your garden. Since I saw it when it was breathtakingly bountiful, well, this is a good lesson. I love the photo of the big containers just beginning too.
So SORRY you lost your rose. I know you loved it.
I too am having to think about maybe hiring someone for perhaps two hours every other week. I weeded and worked outside for two hours today, but didn’t make a dent. I find that I am getting more permissive, more like a grandmother to my garden than a mother.
Love you dear Dee and 52 sounds like diaper-time to me!
Hi Dee, Your garden is so pretty in all seasons. Love all your daffodils and pansies. My pansies didn’t fare too well this winter. Today was my first real day back out in the garden. My husband cut back the monkey grass and then mowed while I finished pruning my roses and cleaning up flower beds. Seems a gardener’s work is never done and once spring is here finding time for indoor projects is hard. Sounds like you have a lot of projects on your plate this year that will keep you busy. Can’t wait to see your garden in full bloom again! With our continuing drought probability in Oklahoma I’m planning a much more simple garden that is more drought resistant. If you have any favorites you would like to recommend I’d appreciate it. Happy Spring!
Dee, I admire your honest assessment of your changing goals for your garden and your ability to keep up the garden. And also for the acknowledgement that success (book publication, speaking engagements, blog recognition, all of which are wonderful) can negatively impact the time you have for the things you love, like gardening. I’ve cut back too, no longer taking new design clients as I assess what I want to spend my time on. To take on something new, something else must give. For now I’m focusing on writing and gardening, and I know that next year, with my 2nd book’s publication, my focus will shift to talks and other promotional activities.
Anyway, I’m glad you’re hiring help. I do too as needed. I recently hired out the spreading of several yards of compost, and it was a relief to my back and a big time-saver. It would have taken me several weekends to do what two guys did in one day.
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says
I think a lot of us are rethinking our gardens and our time commitments. It’s good to speak your thoughts out loud, no matter how traitorous they seem–you never know how many people are thinking the same thing and are just afraid to say it!
Dee, thanks for this post. I too am struggling with the fact that nothing stays the same. Not my 58 year old body, nor the health of my other half. I have just spent my spring break waiting on an oncology report on my husband. They think his cancer is back. For the past 3 years, my ‘dirt therapy’ has been my saving grace, but my creaking joints are whispering to me, things are changing. As much as I can, I ignore the whispers, and keep moving. I have been following your blog for a couple of years and never left a comment. Today, however, your blog somehow brought me the kind of comfort you feel when a friend grasps your hand, or puts an arm around you. Here in SE Norman, its been a gray first day of spring, but you brought me flowers and encouragement, thanks soooo much!
Dee Nash says
Thank you Judy. Your comment is why I write the blog. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your husband.
Matt Mattus says
Dee, I can relate to so many things that you have said, but don’t be too sad, that late spring day will come when you feel invigorated again. I too have not really started seeds yet, I too have even said out loud, that I may not garden this year ( maybe a little!), I too have decided not to promote anything unless I really, really really love it and use it. I too get about 20 requests a day to promote something ( I’ll bet we are on the same lists!), I too don’t want to look at the garden just yet – it’s a MESS here with the snow still melting. I too got rid of our rugs this year – believe me, with 4 dogs, a doggie door and mud season! I too seem to have less time and energy (in my mid 50’s) and needed to hire garden helpers reluctantly, and – well, All I can say is you are not alone, and I feel your pain! It’s snowing again today! But I hope once I get into the groove again, it will all feel fresh and new once more.
Jean Campbell says
It’s always good to stop and regroup when the seasons change. I was reading along, agreeing about how a garden changes as does the gardener in 20 years. Then it hit me: You and my son are the same age!
Curtiss Ann Matlock says
Thank you, darling friend. I needed to hear all that you wrote here. I’m chronically overwhelmed, and I’m trying so hard to figure out what I really want to put my energy, my life, into. My right arm and leg have been chopped off with widowhood. Making a new life with the new me is so very confusing. I will allow myself more thinking time, and I ‘think’ to do that, I need to get outside with the grass, dirt, and growing things. Sending blessings…
Marian St.Clair says
My Upstate SC garden is on hold this weekend; the spring ephemerals are calling and I’m dreaming of a wildflower hike!
Dee Nash says
Sounds lovely Marian. Please take photos!
Dee, you’ve echoed many of my thoughts. With some lovely weather lately but with the detritus of winter all around I wonder if I’m up for another year of gardening when I see all that needs to be done. But like you, once I’m out there, I’m ready again! I agree it’s important to recognize when we need help too, we don’t have to do everything we’ve always done over many years. We evolve, so do our gardens.
Dee Nash says
You put it so much more beautifully. Yes, we and our gardens evolve.
Lisa at Greenbow says
When I look at your luscious blooming garden I start to feel worn out. I am glad you have some help. A garden should be a pleasure. When it becomes work it is time to take a closer look to see how you can rein it in or make it more manageable. I love garden blogs. I love to read what people have on their minds about their gardens. It takes me much longer to get my garden straightened up in the spring. The older we get the longer it takes. A friend of mine has a fine helper this year. Luckily my Dearly Beloved helps me or I would have to conjur up some help. Happy spring dreaming.
Dee Nash says
Lisa, when I take the photos, it wears me out too. That’s why I’m replacing the harder things with shrubs, grasses and long-blooming perennials. Less work to do I hope. Still, cleaning up the dead winter foliage is what really gets me. I think I need to blow more leaves away like some of my friends do. Thank you for your sweet words. I love garden blogs too.
I just smiled when you said ” I actually told Bill I didn’t want to garden this year” I have told my DH that before and he has replied with a similar come back as yours did! I always want to garden, but there have been times I felt so overwhelmed with…LIFE… funny thing is.. gardening is the one thing in life that always always makes me feel better. :O). As Bill said.. once you get out there …. then its awwwww yes I needed this :O)
Dee Nash says
Nice to hear I’m not the only one. 😉
Charlie@Seattle Trekker says
Your garden has all the wonderful signs of a shift from winter to spring…Love the color and wonderful blooms you have in the early part of this new season.
Dee Nash says
I really like how you worded that Charlie. In two more weeks, it will all look so much more like spring.
Do you already have peonies coming up? Mine are still little wannabe stems. I think you’ve got some good ideas there. I really could not handle as much garden as you have without an almost full-time helper. Would love to talk to you about it more but did I see that you’re not going to be able to make GBF in Toronto? Dang. Won’t be the same. Maybe we can meet up in Dallas or Austin some time.
Dee Nash says
Hey Jean, I am coming to Houston next weekend. We have a vacation scheduled the same time as GBF this year. I just can’t be in both places though I wish I could. I am home full time which helps some. Maybe that’s why I can get away with so much garden. The truth is it just grew into bed after bed over the years. It’s quite ridiculous.
Dee, I often get to Houston but can’t next weekend. We’ll get together sometime this year, I’m sure! Ha, I can picture how your garden grew.
Dreaming of the garden is so fun. Yours is lovely as always!
Dee Nash says
Dreaming is the best Christina. 🙂