Taming the Wild Backyard
Ten years ago when we moved into our house the backyard was a big blank canvas ripe for planting, there was nothing there but grass. I did what any over-enthusiastic gardener under 40 without a clue would do and planted a nursery full of variety. I sort of had a plan. I envisioned a cottage garden, full of blooms neatly tucked behind a white picket fence; only 10 years later, there is no picket fence and it definitely didn’t end up neat.
I started with small patches along the back of the house and around the deck. Then we took down some large nut trees a little too close to the house for comfort and the stumps were transformed into flower beds. And wouldn’t it look nice if that bed connected to that one. And I had too many vegetable seedlings and couldn’t fit them all in the raised beds so we could just add this here or that there. And so it went for six years or so, there was always one more thing I needed to find a spot for.
These days between age and having a 5-year-old to keep up with, I just don’t have the time and energy I did when I created it all. If I had the body I had at 25 with the smarts I’ve acquired at 43, I’d be in good shape, but no such luck, it’s all going in the same direction and that definitely isn’t towards youth. Last year, I decided it needed to become more manageable, and I’ve been working towards that goal, some days though, it gets overwhelming. If I had the time to dedicate to fixing it all, it wouldn’t be so bad, unfortunately I live in the real world. There are no hired gardeners, no landscape designers, no hunky muscled workers to tear it all for me. There’s just me, and I’m also the cook, the housekeeper, the finance clerk, the laundress, the babysitter, and a million other things all in a day’s work.
Little by little I’m working at it, and I’m learning a lot about patience along the way, mostly, that I don’t have any. If I look at the whole thing together, I get too overwhelmed and get nowhere. I’ve found that I have to pick one spot and focus on just that one thing until it is done. Currently that spot is the vegetable garden.
When my husband put in raised beds for me, he designed them in 6-foot-round beds out of retaining wall block, because it was the easiest for him to build. They look great but they are hard to manage, they are just too wide to reach anything in the middle. I know I want two beds at 3-by-10 each for my vegetables. I also need a bed for the strawberries, one for the asparagus, and I’d really like to do an herb spiral.
The hard part is deciding where to place it since I don’t want to do this again 10 years from now. I also have to fence it all in since the hens patrol my backyard on the lookout for bugs. Some days I contemplate just ripping it all out and purchasing my vegetables from the local farms. For now I’ll just keep working on trying to come up with a plan, maybe the smarts of 43 will help this time around.
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