Grit Blogs > The Open Book

Garden Headaches

By Jean Teller, Sr. Assoc. Editor

Tags: garden, family,

As far as I’m concerned, gardening is hard work!

My garden, before all the work. Check out the sedems!

My garden area is between the house and the sidewalk to the front door, and it’s always been a sore spot. When I first moved in, it looked like a jungle. I finally cleared it out, and then the grass took over.

There’s a beautiful Japanese maple that keeps getting better every year near the front window. A huge hosta huddled next to the house, and it just kept getting larger. Two sedems also managed to survive the jungle, and they too were huge, leggy and unmanageable. All three plants were constantly being hit by the lawn mower, as we tried to keep the grass under control.

So after more years than I care to count, I decided something needed to be done. My sister volunteered to help (I’m sure she regretted that offer at some point during our adventure), and we set a date.

That Saturday morning, I headed to the garden supply store and bought mulch. Soon the bags were stacked in the garage, and I was trimming back the sedems and the hosta.

Halfway there!When Mary arrived with her two youngsters and a set of garden tools, we got down to business. Within an hour, the three plants were dug out, setting on another section of lawn, and a large section of sod was gone.

There were, of course, problems from the get go. Neither of us thought about how wet it had been recently, so we had mounds of mud to contend with, and the soil was much more clay than dirt. Both factors made digging difficult. Mary took it as a personal challenge and declared she was going to kick that grass to the curb before she was finished.

And she did.

About four hours later, Mary was dividing the hosta into eight pieces, and the two sedems into three each. I tried to envision the plants in full summer green, and pointed to spots I thought would work. (The placement is marked on the photograph at the end of this post.) We dropped in the divided plants, pushed the muddy clay around the roots, with our hopes high that they would all survive.

Once the 14 transplants were in the ground, the mulching began. I tried to be dainty (hah!) about it, raking carefully. Mary soon convinced me the only way to garden and mulch was down on my knees, close to the ground, pushing those cedar chips around. My 10 bags of mulch didn’t last long, but we put it down around the plants. My Sunday task was to find more mulch, and finish around the maple. (I added another six bags of mulch!)

The full bags of sod were heavy! The plastic glasses were filled with drinking water, until an earthworm took a bath!After a great deal of effort, we had eight bags of sod at the curb for the city to pick up Monday morning. A neighbor gave me recyclable bags so it all went to the city compost pile. The bags were so heavy, we placed each on an empty plastic mulch bag and dragged it to the curb, a task that took both of us to accomplish. Whew!

Then it was cleanup time. What a mess! It may take me a while to get that sidewalk clean, but it was definitely worth it.

My niece Maura wanted to help with it all, and she did – bringing us water and watching her little brother. My nephew Thomas was fascinated by the earthworms, and more than a few glasses of water had to be thrown out after the worms were given baths. It was fun to spend time with Mary, Maura and Thomas. I’m not physically able to do as much in the garden as others, so Mary did the lion’s share of the work, for which I am eternally grateful.

Do you have any suggestions for my hosta/sedem garden? Any tips for a non-gardener? How do I keep it user friendly?

On this long Saturday, I learned a few things. One, my sister Mary is amazing!

Two, I learned that I am definitely not a gardener. Mary and her husband Mike, our sister Tricia and her husband Mike (who has a degree in horticulture, and they have always had great outside gardens and lots of indoor plants) are the gardeners in the family. I’ll stick to my few house plants, thank you very much!

My garden, after most of the work and before the final bags of mulch.