The Madness Is Upon Me

By January 30, 2013 Gardening Downtime 2 Comments

I really need to start a master list of plants I’ve given up on.

It would be much more useful than “plants I’ve killed and will try again” which is a very very long list at this point.

Also, when I make stark declarations in the middle of August that I am DONE this is MADNESS and from now on I will grow nothing but tomatoes and basil in the vegetable garden GODDAMNIT, I really need to write that down and perhaps have it witnessed, because here I am at the end of January wondering if I’ve got room for those dwarf snow peas after all.

And the vegetables are the easy part. When Prairie Nursery and Prairie Moon Nursery send out their catalogs and I find myself going “Why do I not have ramps? Ramps would be a great idea!” and drooling over the blue cohosh (which is a very expensive plant to possibly kill, and I am a bit nervous) I need a clear, laid out plan that says “This goes here. Nothing else will fit.”

Actually, what I need is a sign taped to my computer saying “YOU HAVE NO PLACE TO PUT IT SO PUT THE CATALOG DOWN.” That would cover most eventualities.

I should not be thinking of blue cohosh. I should be thinking vines. I have space for vines. I made space for vines. I’m thinking two Carolina jessamine, then a coral honeysuckle, then two jessamine, then a coral honeysuckle in the full sun area. Might mix it up with American bittersweet in the shadier sections. I do not need wild cucumber. It’s an annual and not edible anyway. WHY DO YOU TAUNT ME, CATALOG?

There are so many empty places in the garden. They never warn you that you will live with eyesores for years and years and years, that parts will be gloriously lush and other parts will still be a dead zone under pine trees, that lots are scraped and that stuff isn’t DIRT, it’s subsoil and self-respecting plants won’t grow in that and it’s really not your fault, that your yuccas will grow in the moss and the moss will grow in the yuccas and both will apparently be happy and dear god what is wrong with this picture?

This is the season where I stare at the garden and realize how many things need fixing and how many things I am completely unequipped to fix. I realize what a large garden I have made and how many years it’s going to take to fill it. (All the years. All of them.) I am simultaneously paralyzed by too much space in which hardly anything will grow (that grove of oaks and hickories and all those cedars! Mature trees one might kill for, and I stare at them and wish they were ten feet back on the other side of the fenceline!) and too little space in which nearly anything would grow, having painstakingly hauled manure and topsoil and mulch for multiple years to make it habitable.

I want a cottage garden that overflows with exuberance, and did not realize how often that meant that an exuberant plant would eat its weaker neighbors. I want to grow fascinating vegetables and end up having to glove up and root out the cardoons which were supposed to be annuals, goddamnit, and why did no one mention that they will re-seed like Satan on a bender?

And can I grow artichokes in a whiskey barrel?

And why did I wait so long to discover ferns? Why did no one beat me over the head with ferns until I listened?

And why are there never enough tomato cages? They work great for pea trellises—by the time the peas are dead of heat stroke, the tomatoes are just starting to need cages. Chop the peas at the roots, move the cage three feet, there you go. Except that I need more tomato cages so I can grow more peas.

And why is it only January, when there’s so much gardening to be done?

2 Comments

  • jenj says:

    man oh man do I know that feel. Also, why oh why is my backyard the texture of a swamp, making it nearly impossible to weed, when come, oh… April, it will be harder than adamantium laced concrete? Also, I’m sure you’ve been, but just in case, have you brought your catalogs to Big Bloomers over in Sanford, you’d be surprised what they carry. But your tastes run a bit more nativey, so they might not have a huge selection of that. But that place is great. And lizard heaven. My kinda gardening center.

  • Well, I could say, make a map, then make a plan and then start preparing the problem areas when it’s the right time to do it, then plant them. I could even say do lots of research on what you want to plant so you don’t get saddled with aggressive invaders.

    But that’s not going to happen when there are catalogs to drool over and dream large garden dreams over.

    And Jenj – loads and loads of organic matter will help that swamp to concrete problem. I used to have a similar problem in northern california where it’s all red clay and absurdly hot dry summers. There’s a week, maybe two in late spring where you can work what passes for soil there. Yards and yards of compost went into my garden there until after several years there was something you could actually call dirt. Compost and mulch in vast quantities fix many garden evils.