The starting never stops.
This has been our mantra from the moment we plunged our shovels into the earth and began the arduous process of digging up the bumpy, grassy backyard. Each new session in the garden feels more like a step towards another beginning than a real step forward.
- First raised bed built: The beginning of our salad greens garden.
- Second bed built: Followed by several starts and stops as I pull out things I’ve planted to reposition them elsewhere.
- Plant the lavender I overwintered in the greenhouse: Dig them back up and move them into the big long bed as I re-envision the third raised bed as a sweet pepper domain.
- Dig up a bed of 10 year old irises from the Street Garden and watch as they suffer through being moved at the wrong time of year. I know what to do to bring them back for next year, but for now they are a gaggle of sad looking plants.
Starting over again in a brand new space is reteaching me old lessons all over again. Sure there are some new lessons in dealing with the challenges of this particular space, but they aren’t exactly lessons in how to garden — this is not my first time out. I have learned a thing or two in the years that I’ve been doing this.
No, what I am learning now has more to do with the emotional life of a new gardener. I am remembering all over again the frustrations, joys, and the little ego trips. I am recalling in vivid detail what it is like when everything is exactly the same size.
EVERYTHING IS EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE.
I don’t have a budget for the garden. My budget is not: We have x number of dollars to make this garden. How can we make our vision happen within those parameter? It is more like: Can I pay the bills AND purchase this plant or these materials? This means that I have to limit what I can accomplish on a weekly basis. It also means that I have to buy teeny, tiny, immature perennials. Annuals are easy. Most of mine were started from seed or will be direct sown in the coming days and weeks. The big plants will put on size within the next month and should be filling out space soon enough. I know this in theory and in practice, but my impatience is killing me.
The bigger problem is with the perennials. They take time to come into their own. Small perennials can take a year, sometimes five years before they hit their stride. Most of mine are at about the same size as the tomato transplants and I know from experience that some of them aren’t going to get much bigger before the growing season is through. Good garden design takes three dimensional space into consideration. My garden has no height and my plants lack lushness. All of the action is happening underneath the soil where the plants are hard at work setting in roots and getting themselves established in their new home. Above ground they are like a sea of same-sized dots. Each demands the same visual attention. The current effect is a garden that is both wild and trippy like a bowl of Fruit Loops, but also flat and boring like an oatmeal soup. Too much sameness.
You keep asking me to post more updates, but my ego won’t allow it. My impatience screams at me to wait until the tomatoes have filled out their stakes, the climbing rose has gained some height, and those big empty spaces have grown in just a little bit more. Then, and only then can I reveal the progress we have made. Although by then my ego will be unhappy with the placement of this and that and I will find more excuses to withhold. It will never be right. It might be good enough sometime next year. It will be even better in five years.
Let’s wait until then.
My rational, intellectual and experienced mind knows that this is the reality of starting a new garden on a shoestring. One has to wait. It will happen, but it takes time. You can’t make plants grow, and even when they do it doesn’t always turn out as you had hoped and so you move things around in a quest for a better combination or a new idea realized.
As a garden writer I have strived to be honest about my experiences and to show things as they are without the obsessive fluffing and fakery you find in most mainstream publications. And yet here I am: on the one hand finding a continuous stream of joy and pleasure in the daily changes and discoveries I am making in my new space, all the while holding onto a strong desire to hide it, and hide out in it. I love my new garden, but I am paralyzed by the thought of putting it out into the world for unfair judgment.
I will post my next garden update in five years or possibly later this week, depending on when I am able to get past this stupid slump. But not before then.
p.s. Apologies for the terrible cellphone photo. Davin erased the drawing from our chalkboard wall before I could take a proper photo.