Still in the Garden



It amazes me what two years of neglect has done to my garden. Aunt Katie tells me that – years ago, when she was a student here – her class took a field trip to one of the outer islands. There, still coming up in rows, were remnants of gardens put in by a religious community that had made a home there. The gardens had been abandoned in 1927, at least fifteen years before my aunt’s visit there. At the rate my little plot was deteriorating, I doubt a visitor would find more than a weedy field in a few years!

With help, I have been able to get a good start on the garden this year, and I fully intend to be watching vegetables – rather than weeds – grow this summer! But what a lot of work! I have removed the garden fence, a series of cedar posts that enclosed a space much too large to be reasonable. I saved every one, to surround a smaller garden space.

From the large area that will eventually, now, be mow-able lawn, I have to dig up raspberries, asparagus and strawberries, then level out the raised beds. I am in the process of removing the overgrowth of berry brambles and grasses that took over what used to be my tomato garden. I plan to enclose a bed for strawberries there, and possibly another for asparagus.

The life of the raspberries is still in question. They are a lot of work (maybe too much work for the time I have?) to keep up, what with pruning and keeping up with their wild spread…but, oh, what beautiful large berries they produce, when they are taken care of!

The herb garden is so overgrown, I can hardly get a shovel in. My lovely sage plant has turned into a woody shrub that has crowded out just about everything else. Except for the grasses, which seem to persist, always. Lemon Balm, which I have in a pot because of its invasive nature, is barely hanging on. Even the chives, which have spread out of control in other years, seem to have disappeared.

In all the pathways between garden beds, herb garden and flower beds, two or three inches under the gritty soil – but sometimes even closer to the surface – is a layer of heavy black weed barrier. I had forgotten all about laying it down there, many years ago. The township had bought a chipper, for using materials cleared from road edges and intersections, and was selling wood chips at a tremendously good price. I bought a truckload. I put down the weed barrier and, wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load, moved all of those wood chips to the pathways and open spaces. I remember thinking, “The weeds won’t have a chance!”

The joke was on me. Wood chips deteriorated, creating soil that strange new weeds seem to thrive in. Grasses, sending roots across the ground, found any opening in my weed cloth, and came up to see the sun. With their roots protected by the sturdy cloth, any attempt at pulling the whole plant was foiled. Now, with a different plan, I am straining my back removing the weed barrier from areas where it would tangle in the blades of the mower.

To prepare for mowing, I have also had to dig out several boards and flat rocks that had once served decorative or useful purpose that I’ve now long forgotten. I’ve had to find places for totes and buckets that used to reside just inside the garden fence. I’ve raked up brambles and dug up weeds, hauled one load after another to the woods.

I’m still far from finished. It’s an ambitious undertaking. This year, as apposed to the last couple years, I have a direction. That, alone is a big help. No photos yet, but soon I’ll be ready to show off my progress!

About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

4 responses »

  1. I do sympathise, our garden was a jungle when we took it over and I still battle rampant weeds (although if I battled more often I’d have a better chance of winning the war). You sound as though you’ve made huge progress … congratulations and keep up the good work!

  2. I was so impressed and reassured by your 5 wheelbarrow loads of weeds. I certainly have a few wheelbarrow loads myself (I’ve only started). My query – large raspberries. What is your secret? We have, to be polite, diminutive berries. And I am impressed by their incredibly intricate creeping roots and black hair-like things that reach incredible lengths. I would like to like them. If they got bigger maybe I would.

    • I had tried raspberries twice before, and was discouraged by their invasive habit, thorns, general buggy-ness, and lack of production. I could walk into my own field and find wild raspberries larger and more pest free than the ones I labored over! The Erbers convinced me to try again. She was thinning out her raspberry patch, and told me what lovely berries they were. I transplanted some canes, and – until I neglected them so badly – have been very pleased with them. I will have extras that won’t fir in the allotted space for transplant, if you’d like a few canes.

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