Unlike Mark the duck (who has his own twitter feed if you’ve not seen it! @marktheduck1), my day was spent quietly mowing the grass, filling the pond, pulling weeds, harvesting onions, digging out potatoes and garlic, some baby carrots, peas, beans, beets, dill, and even a cob of corn that looks marvellous, but probably could’ve used another month or so. Still lots to grow bigger left on the stock. It was my 45th birthday and it came quietly, and passed again quietly. Just another day, but one that I enjoyed very much doing things that are my own quiet, peaceful pastime: primarily, scheming about how to alter or improve the garden.
There’s new grass coming up in the front. I initially thought I wanted to do raised beds throughout the front yard, increase the production of vegetables and flowers, do something more productive or just plain different from the other houses on the block. But there is a kind of strange, peaceful, enjoyment in mowing that I had forgotten! Mowing is just … zen! Plus there’s cuttings that are great for compost.
Many of the plants I’ve put into this garden have significance. They’re like markers of where I’ve come from, the people that I’ve met, the important times in my life. The hollyhocks came from Gladmer Park, and although they’re suffering from a really bad fungal infection I can’t break myself to pull them out. They’re standing, in some cases, almost ten feet tall without leaves and just masses of pink, purple, and red flowers. The lilies that I brought, the gas plant, all plants that were purchased after taking garden tours with the Regina Horticulture Society. Star gazer lily to remind me of my past history as a club kid in Saskatoon, my friends there, especially Belinda who was (and still is in my heart of hearts) one of my best friends. And the perennials that I planted from seed which are now filling out, spreading like gang busters in whites, pinks, mauves, and reds. The roses, three planted and two survived the winter. One red, the other white (and a miracle growing from a dead stump, yet to bloom) to remind me of my friendship with Pam, my boss. The herbs throughout the garden: borage, lavenders, sages, thyme (which had no business over wintering…you bet I’m going to mulch heavy again this year!), lemon grass–all to remind me of the history and nature of gardening, the healing power of herbs and the earth taken care of. And this year, four asiatic lilies planted to mark my birthday, but one specifically planted to mark the passing of a primate of the Old Catholic Church. It’s called playful: bright white blossoms with streaks of pink and purple spots, combined with a heady scent. Then there’s the other plants, the perennials that were part of this garden before I took it over, the old poppies and peonies, the new trees Dave planted in the front borders: cedars, willows, box, dogwoods, and beautiful red-leafed trees that once grown up will not only provide shade but help to keep water out of the basement. The garden is a collection of plants that have memories, that become individual but part of a collective. I know I’ve said it before, but gardens like people, like gardeners, have lives their own. This garden is a far older, more elderly teacher and companion. It has taught me patience, knowing when something is a mistake and needs to be either re-done or reconsidered, the importance of layers and colours in a space to increase it’s depth not only to the eye but to the body, the foot, the paths which when wandered create separate spaces and rooms, but also the illusion of a larger space, a journey. It feels a lot more like a cloister, or a courtyard, and I think even when the lilacs are trimmed back in the fall, as they grow that space will return.
So new projects! The fall will bring trimming back the hedges in the back, sorting and cutting the wood for fire in the spring/late fall. The pond is going to be filled in with gravel, sand, and stone to create a fire-pit space with two benches. The reality is that putting the fire pit in the garden (that is the old garden) will put a source of flame far too close to the three old spruce trees and I can’t risk them going up in flames…because they’d take out my garage, and probably my neighbour’s garage as well! So! New pond going in where the garden is, much bigger, much deeper, and with any luck filtered by pond plants, kept mosquito free by gold fish, and cool enough to jump in after a long day’s work! The city requires permits for pools that primary function is for swimming. The primary function of this pond would be fore aquaculture. Swimming would be secondary; still, fences and gates are going to need locks and greater security to keep wandering kids out. The old topsoil is going to move to the hugelkutur garden raised bed that I started late spring: twelve by six, I layered a bunch of sticks, twigs, and branches (old and new wood) from the hedges and buried it with soil. The idea being that once the wood begins to decay, it will not only provide greater nutrients for the plants being grown on top of it but the wood will retain more water (meaning you have to water less) and the head created from the decomposing wood will allow for earlier planting! I’m wanting to create a really substantial mound so I will probably layer more wood on top of the existing soil and put more dirt on top of that wood. By next spring, the mound should be (I’m hoping) about 2-3 feet tall in the middle, sloping down to the edges of the raised bed. Enter square foot gardening techniques and bob’s your uncle. Higher yields, earlier yields, and better tasting (apparently) yields as well.
Keep weeding, keep harvesting, keep being grateful for the bounties you have in your life, especially the ones that are unexpected.