Tending Fertile Ground

I’ve been away, but I haven’t been far. I’ve been out in my garden.

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Chives, always the first herb in spring.

After the last gasp of winter last month, spring has sprung in its usual fashion, that is almost overnight. The flower and herb beds are coming alive with green, growing things, and the wooded area of our yard is leafing out with astonishing speed.

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Rhubarb, Nature’s fan-dancer.

In the past, this would signal me to begin my vegetable beds, but, after 15 years, there is too much shade cast by the trees to grow vegetables anymore. I have decided to allow the former vegetable beds to rejoin the lawn (pretty sure grass will still grow there-weeds certainly have no problem), and I have turned my eyes to the under-used, unappreciated sections of our yard, as places I can add some beauty to the world. Even though I can’t grow vegetables in these places, they are still fertile and full of promise.

I have been moving a lot of earth, one shovel- or trowel-ful at a time, to make way for flowers, shrubs, and stepping stones. I’ve put a whole new flower bed in along the front of the house, to make it more welcoming, and sweet to look at. Spring perennials are in there, and plenty of tulip and daffodil bulbs will be planted there in the fall, for even more promise of beauty next spring.

I am putting in a fragrance garden of flowers and shrubs on the south side of the house, because that is where I spend my time (when I’m not in the kitchen) online, or writing or sewing or crafting. The windows open onto that garden, and the scents of lilac, orange, lavender, and alyssum will float in on summer breezes to lift my spirits.

Fertile ground, left untended, will still entertain growth. But it may not be welcome growth.

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Violets, sweet woodruff, forget-me-nots, English ivy, all happy to co-exist.

Weeds are in the eye of the beholder, it’s true, and there are plenty of opportunists in a wooded yard that know how to play well with others (forget-me-nots, violets, woodruff, and ferns for example), but there are green, growing things that invade, take over, repel, even kill, other green, growing things. Those are the weeds that take advantage of untended, neglected, fertile ground to gain a foothold, and unchecked, they will spread with a conquerer’s zeal to take over as much territory as possible.

A few years ago, our family was in a serious “rough patch” , as they say around here. The yard was the LAST thing on my mind, and much of it went a bit wild. The lawn was mowed, the leaves were raked, but that was about our limit of yard care at that time. On one of my many restless walks around the yard, I discovered a large, menacing patch of poison ivy I had not seen before, growing in a place far too close to the house, in a place where I thought nothing would grow. I began to tear away at it impulsively, realized my mistake, and went inside to wash thoroughly and dress appropriately for the task. Armed with garbage bags and a gardener’s rage, I pulled and ripped and tore and stuffed the poison ivy into garbage bags until I couldn’t see any more of it. It spreads underground, so the patch was quite a bit larger than it initially appeared, and even with the precautions I took, I ended up with a few nasty, itchy, painful, patches of poison ivy rash.

I spent the rest of that summer and fall hunting down poison ivy shoots all over the yard, either pulling them up if they were small, or (as a last resort) spraying them with an herbicide especially for poison ivy. They are now a yearly ritual, my “P.I” walks around the yard, and this vigilance has paid off, with only the smallest shoots popping up now and then, easily dispatched with the same bags I use to collect my dog’s droppings. I take a perverse pleasure in damning them to the dog-poop trash bucket.

Oddly, the kitchen has not been “fertile ground” lately. I’ve struggled to find inspiration there, mostly because I don’t know what I want to eat. The daily news does not do much for my appetite, either. But, I have been eyeing that rhubarb, checking the stalks to see how thick they are, and debating whether to let them go “one more day” before I cut some of them and introduce them to some frozen strawberries and some pastry of some sort. The chives are finally looking healthy, and there are some baby potatoes in the pantry that would love to meet up with them. The situation is not without hope.

Spring has arrived, and with it, potential and promise. Don’t let it get away from you.

 

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