I have been asking myself this question for a while now. For various reasons, I was unable to work in the garden for most of the summer. And when I was finally able to find the time in September, I could not summon up the fortitude necessary to tackle a garden that had been neglected for 4 months.
It was really bad. Weeds were (are!) everywhere. No really. Some places are so bad, that I would have to go in and pull the really aggressive weeds before I could even start taking out the regular weeds. And there is nothing else growing because I didn’t really have time to plant anything, so all that weeding wouldn’t even pay off in a harvest of some sort. The Czech mate was no help. He suggested we just let the grass take over and be done with it. Three years of gardening looked to be a complete waste of my time. It was so depressing that I didn’t even want to go outside and look at it.
But I finally did go outside and look at it. And I found 2 enormous pumpkins. They didn’t turn orange, but they are HUGE and will make great Jack-o-lanterns. Well, that’s encouraging. And there were a few late strawberries and probably if I pull just a few of these weeds in the strawberry beds, I won’t have to give them up. And our young apple trees only had a few apples, but – oh my gosh – we never tasted better apples! And if I dig a couple of holes out of these weedy spots, I can transplant some rhubarb. And wow it feels nice to be out here in the fresh air, and weeding gives you such a sense of accomplishment – your progress is so visible and gratifying.
It was all like a story I remember reading in school. Someone gave a flower to a sad, old woman. And the flower was so pretty, the woman decided to polish her dusty old vase so it would really look nice. And then she decided to to dust the table where the vase was sitting, and then clean that corner of the room so the table looked nice and before she knew it she had cleaned and polished her whole house and felt happy again.
I have now spent that last 4 days in the garden, weeding and mulching and transplanting and trimming. I feel much better about it and even found a few things to eat. Like the beans I planted and forgot and some Swiss chard and nasturtium flowers.
So, I’ve decided not to give up on my garden, though some things have to change. I put too much energy into repetitive tasks because I haven’t found a way to make my garden more self-sustaining. I can just about keep up with it if nothing goes awry, but I can’t get ahead and make improvements or expand because then I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it.
What I need is a new plan. That’s my task for the winter months. A plan that incorporates more permaculture techniques, more time- and labor-saving solutions and more productivity for less effort. Sounds like a pipe dream, right? But I think it can be done. Permaculture is all about getting the plants to do the work for you, and I am sure better management will help, too. I feel like I have to put the effort in at the right times to save more effort later.
My perennial herb garden is a great example. I only planted it last year and finished it this year. It’s full of hardy perennial herbs and keeps itself relatively weed-free. The lemon balm, tansy and comfrey spread pretty well, cover the soil and prevent the weeds from growing. I’ve added yarrow, salad burnet, thyme, and hyssop. They all seem to thrive and are low-maintenence. I need more of this kind of thing.
There are still lots of weeds in my garden. But I have rediscovered my passion for the garden and can’t wait to get back out there in the spring!