Okay. I've hidden my secret from you long enough. My gardens are driving me wild (and they have gone almost perfectly wild, themselves). My predecessor at this church was a passionate gardener, and something of a garden snob. He was also an anglophile, and so planted lovely little English cottage garden beds all over about a half-acre of yard here. He also planted some beautiful and unusual specimen plants, as well as a cartload of roses. When I arrived, the gardens had only been neglected for about a year and a half, and my first summer, I actually managed, by dint of very hard labor, to whip them all into nearly-perfect shape. They were a delight. I performed a wedding that summer, and proudly invited the bridal party into my gardens for photographs.
Then I became enamored with my veggie garden, and the flower beds became seriously neglected. I labored long and hard on that little plot, enlarging, tilling, fertilizing, planting, harvesting. I installed a sunken fence, to guard against tunneling pests. I lined it with chicken wire to keep out bunnies. I installed raised beds for quicker warming and earlier planting. I mulched paths with everything from landscape fabric to newspaper to wood chips. It was a labor of love and great satisfaction.
Last spring and summer were very busy for me, finally culminating in that long bout with allergies, bronchitis that was very near to pneumonia, and nearly 2 months on the sofa prior to my trip to Italy in September. It was all I could do to get to church and my office hours; there was nothing, nothing left for the gardens.
As you may know, this spring I fought the beginnings of the same battle with my allergies, but I was determined to learn to manage them, not be sick for months like last year. I weathered the worst of pollen season fairly well, certainly better than last summer, but the gardens have gone begging. And today I feel the urge to get to them. I've decided that my gardening really requires two characters: "Farmer Ann" and "The Genteel Lady Gardener" -- unfortunately, rather more of the former, and less of the latter, at least right now.
I will get to the flower gardens shortly, but if I want any crop at all (I'm already nearly a month late getting any garden veggies in, and have to forego cool-weather stuff like peas, onions, potatoes, lettuce, & spinach completely), I have to act quickly. I have one surviving tomato plant (from a batch I bought several weeks ago), and can still buy more, I suppose. It's really tomatoes that I love, anyway.
But here is what I have to contend with:
Yes, this is one part of my shameful secret (the other part is my flower beds, and you'll see those, in time).
The weather is mostly cloudy, with rain always threatening. Even if it does rain, I want to get some work done out there. I'm about to "suit up:" getting ready to garden in Tennessee is never an easy process. There's old, "mudproof" clothing and shoes to don, then insect repellent and a cap to soak up sweat. Without bug repellent I'll be annoyed by many flying insects and eaten alive by chiggers. Then gloves and my tool basket to dig out tough stuff. My list of chores includes:
- Pulling as many weeds as I can, loading them into my wheelbarrow, and hauling them off to the end of the yard where I dump green stuff as "landfill."
- Dismantling the raised beds I spent weeks installing a couple of years ago.
- Tilling up all the soil, if I can get my tiller to start (haven't used it in years).
- Replacing the fence, including digging a small trench to bury the bottom 6-8" down. I pulled it up to reduce the size of the garden (should probably have just left it in place and dismantled whatever beds I didn't want to cultivate any longer, but it's too late for that -- no sense crying over spilt milk).
- Mounding up beds to plant, re-mulching paths with wood chips.