It’s finally summer-like here in the northern hemisphere. That time of year when, suffering from cabin fever, we all race outdoors to do something — anything — in the fresh air.
For an increasing number of us, if you can believe the market analysts and demographers, that something involves gardening. I know I’ve been getting into it more lately, and in fact was out last weekend cleaning the debris from our front flower gardens. To hear my husband describe it, this means I viciously attacked the garden with a rake to expose the poor naked and cowering seedlings underneath.
I freely admit that the plants under my care have to be tough, as I tend to have a “you will grow or else” approach to gardening. I hope to accomplish one of two things with this policy:
1) Through an evolutionary/survival of the fittest campaign, make the greenery tough enough to grow and even blossom through the winter, or
2) Terrify the plants enough that they will maintain themselves. (“Noooo!” shriek the columbines as I approach. “Nottherake nottherake nottheRAKE! Look! We’ll weed ourselves, see? No need to trouble yourself, PLEASE!”)
You see, the fact is, I’m a very lazy gardener. I love looking through seed catalogues and nurseries, and I’m a sucker for large expanses of multi-coloured blossoms and greenery. The reality is though, that gardens are an awful lot of work. Just think of the effort of starting a new five by five patch in front of the house – break the soil, remove the sod, turn everything over, add the mulch and compost, pick your seeds and bulbs, plant everything, water and feed it.
Oh, and don’t forget to install the edging, decorative fencing, stepping stones, cute decorative froggie statues (ribbit!!) and the very trendy sunken pond complete with goldfish and lily pads.
If you’re really, really lucky, you’ll have an explosion of blossoms on June 25th — and nothing but limp greenery the rest of the season because the fine print on the seed packets notes that all of your seeds are actually early bloom plants.
Incidentally, weeds don’t have an early season, as they are capable of choking the living daylights out of any plant you actually want in your garden no matter what weather and soil conditions prevail. I personally suspect that the only thing that will kill off Creeping Charlie is kryptonite. And don’t get me started on thistle. No, really, don’t get me started on it, the little @#$%^! bites back.
So why go through all that struggle and effort? Why not just stick to grass? Well, if you think about it, maintaining a lawn isn’t any easier. Every year, in the fond belief that poking something with a sharp tool dozens of times, and running over it with a crushing 100 pound weight will make it grow better, we aerate and roll our lawns. Then we douse it with chemicals to make it grow greener faster and stronger — only to drag a mower/mulcher over it to hack it down to a well-behaved three inches.
Could it be that we ike the peace, quiet and serenity all this nature promotes? Somehow, I don’t think so. At this very moment in my neighbourhood, there are three lawnmowers, one weed whacker, two hedge trimmers and a rototiller on the go. Almost makes one long for the relative silence of the inner city, doesn’t it?
No, in the end, I think we do this to ourselves because we all like to pretend we’re farmers of a sort. In spite of the fact that the modern farmer actually uses genetic engineering and satellite technology to grow his crops, we like to harken back to the days of old, and make-believe we’re pulling a hard living from the soil. You know, get out into the elements, scrabble in the dirt, do battle with Mother Nature.
Don’t believe me? Remember this the next time you see your neighbour out mowing his tiny suburban lot with a huge riding lawnmower which looks suspiciously like a scaled-down John Deere tractor.
In the meantime, hand me my rake. The columbines are slouching.
What do you like to plant at your house? Answer in the comments.