Nothing brings comfort like repetition of the known, the tried and true, of the past. Every late summer I begin the process of cleaning up debris as they form in my garden. Along with the cleanup process is a basket of promises I make to myself each year. “This is the year I complete cleaning up my garden so it will be ready when spring arrives. Well, if I at least keep the paths clean of debris, the garden will look so much better when I walk during winter. Then there is a final resignation of ‘if I can get half the garden cleaned, then I will only have a half left to clean come late winter.’ Those are the tip of my iceberg of promises I make to myself as a gardener. I must find comfort in my delusions, for I hold on to some many of them.
This year is a touch different. I began with a well-organized list of tasks to kick off the celebration of the season. I selected only one section of the garden and placed all my focus, all my gardening efforts, on this now hallowed ground. First task up was to remove all existing weeds (the first foolish promise I made to myself. I have never removed all the weeds in any section of my garden in all its history). But, in my defense, I did one hey of a job completing what I was able to weed. I would say about less than half of my intended efforts were accomplished.
Actually I was quite proud of my focus, for as the weeds found a new home in the middle of a path, I had a vision. All this new space called out for new plants. Answering the call, I made several trips to local garden centers and purchased dwarf shrubs with colorful foliage along with a mix of textures. Remaining in the promised land, I redesigned sections creating new life and color to the area. While standing and taking short breaks I could look out over other sections of the garden and see where I could bring new matching design to those areas. As I age I find myself wanting to see more color, more drama in my garden. But, and this is a large but, I held fast and stayed in my area of focus. I was so proud of me.
This time around I added a new feature to my basket. Once weeds were in the paths and shrubs were transplanted I took the time to spread newspapers several layers thick, then dampened them so they would stay in place. I purchased bags of pine bark mini chips and then spread them over the paper about three inches deep. This time around I was doing it right. One step at a time, complete a section before moving on. Be sure this one thing is completed before wandering off into another project and no one thing will ever get completed. Of course, by going through all the steps for a great garden, the cleanup took much more time than originally imagined and planned for. So, while ahead of the game in one area, I fell behind in others. Kind of like two steps forward, one step back.
I have heard fellow gardeners and friends tell me for years that I need help, I just assumed it was mental they were referring to. I did come to my senses and asked for help in the garden. A young fellow gardener came once a month most of the summer and concentrated on weeding in the garden. Since I did not get the areas mulched where she weeded, some of the weeds returned, but overall it was of help. While I enjoyed the company in the garden, I also learned that there was no way I would be able to manage and enjoy this much garden and the responsibility that comes with it. As I keep telling myself, perhaps by next spring I will be in better physical health, able to do more, to keep up with time to spare for a time out on a bench. (One more promise from my basket).
My ritual of fall continues for it once more turned too cold, too rainy, to work outside even in the afternoons. Shut out of the garden before I could keep my promises to myself again this fall. The last of the falling leaves remain to be chopped and spread in the garden for mulch. The debris from walnut trees with stems and black walnuts, limbs from wind storms, leaves and piles of weeds remain to remind me again this fall of good intentions gone awry. However, I remind myself that what I experience each fall comes well within the definition of gardener.