Last week I made my first Spring foray into the garden. It was a bit intimidating. Spring weeds sprout quick, and grass is always my main adversary along the edges of my garden. Besides this, as usual I didn’t do a thorough clean-up of the garden this past Autumn, so there was a lot of work in that department as well.
But none of this deterred me. The air was warm, the Sun was shining, it was time! I grabbed my stirrup hoe and started clearing paths, since visitors to my garden in Spring are usually at a loss as to what is garden and what is not. I purposely have a lot of meandering, curvaceous paths.
After about ten minutes of that, I moved on to cutting out some briars that were growing at the far edge of my garden, crowding out some of my blueberry bushes. Then I weeded out along the edge of one of my herb gardens. It was at this juncture that I realized that I am an ADD gardener. I am all over the place!
To prove the point, Wikipedia defines ADD-predominately inattentive as “characterized by inattention, easy distractibility, disorganization, procrastination, forgetfulness, and lethargy.” Now, the lethargy does not exactly apply (all the time), but everything else most certainly does. How many times have I been lost in garden work only to be called by my children to end an argument, for instance, leaving my tools (and even once, painfully, my seeds, which later got rained upon in their sweet paper packets)? How many times have I forgotten about that new plant I placed next to its planting spot, only to find it a few days later withered?
However, this realization has also helped me think of some tools to help me become an even better gardener. Because truth be told, even with my many failings, I really do have a beautiful garden, with a marvelous array of natives, herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Somehow I manage! And every year I plant more, and expand the garden just a little bit, too (that’s where the grass likes to grow).
So, for all you ADD gardeners out there, and come one, there has to be at least a few of us, here are some totally untested, hypothetical tips to help you thrive as an ADD gardener.
1. Take a watch, work for a specific amount of time. OK, I hate watches, too. But I did this today, not to combat my ADD-ness, but because I was in a piss-poor mood and said I would just work in the garden for an hour. Curiously, though, instead of getting lost in the work only to be called (or wander) away, I had a set amount of time, and when it was over, it was over, and I knew to gather my tools and other accouterments and call it a day.
2. Consider your distractibility an asset. Yeah, I know there are folks out there that say, “Today I am going to plant three 100 foot rows of potatoes, and then I’m going to weed the kale, and then I’m going to mulch the spinach.” And then they do it. They are magnificent gardeners, and I hate them (are you reading this, George?). But they are not us! We are not meant to have gardens like that. Our garden may be more akin to the chaos of Nature, and that is OK. In fact, in a lot of ways its better. Because Nature rocks and rows are kind of, well, boring. So when you walk through your garden gate (if you have one, it may be more like a bit of woven wire fencing that hooks, sometimes, to the corner stake like mine), and you see first that your ladies mantle is sprouting lovely pleated leaves, then by all means, go there and weed a little bit. After that you might want to go check out your greens, see if they are doing all right, and from there you might see that the garden bed next to the greens is overgrown with weeds. And you might do something about that, or you might not, because maybe you aren’t exactly sure what to do, but it will come to you in the course of a few days. Don’t worry, move along. And as you make your way through the garden, noticing this, weeding that, you are engaged with all of your garden. You know what needs attention, and what doesn’t, and you can spread out your energy as you see fit.
My Lady’s Mantle’s Lovely Pleated Leaves
3. Making mistakes is not only OK, it’s a good thing! Well, maybe not leaving your seed packets out in the rain. But we’ve already covered that with tip #1. So let’s move onto why making mistakes is a good thing. Because you learn! You are brave enough to do it your own way, and maybe someday you’ll invent something really spectacular like Lasagna Gardening and be able to write a book about it and become rich and famous. And maybe not. But still, being willing to make mistakes is part of every garden, and for every mistake there’s a success. Maybe it’s all the borage growing like mad in your garden by August and which you could possibly never use all of, but that borage is great for the bees AND it’s really beautiful. Next year, don’t look so kindly upon those borage volunteers. They get really, really big. Or maybe you have a place where the bigness of borage would be really perfect. You just never really know until you try.
4. Embrace chaos! Let’s face it, Nature is wildly chaotic. And sometimes that can be a great advantage in the garden. Instead of rows I have six garden beds and a multitude of herbs and flowers growing alongside those aforementioned curvaceous garden paths. Everything is kind of thrown in together, and I’ve learned a lot about what thrives and where. Using that information, I might move the bee balm to another spot where it can really take over, or give the nettles free reign of a whole section. I wanted a garden like the ones in the magazines (who doesn’t?) but what I’ve got is my own constant work in progress, that provides me with immense pleasure and challenge.
5. Make your own rules. I have an inner dictum which I follow. I’m not even sure why I do it. But I just don’t have the heart to weed something that is flowering. Oh, that’s it, you say, this woman is crazy! But wait! There’s something to this. First off, for me it is a way to show respect for the Earth and her own way of doing things. And sometimes I just let things flower for a few days before covering them up with mulch or hoeing them away. Or I might just leave one plant of a whole mass of flowering weeds. But it’s my of doing things, and it brings me joy. I’ve learned a good deal about the common weeds from this practice, and enjoyed the beauty of some, such as Ranunculus acris, a wild buttercup with brilliant yellow blooms on long, swaying stems.
Your garden is yours. Let it be an expression of your joyful relationship with Nature, however that unfolds. If the chickweed takes over, by god, then eat the chickweed! If your tomato plants are always stunted, grow squash! If it’s too late for squash (though right now it’s certainly too early for most of us) then grow lettuce! Whatever your garden is, appreciate the beauty that unfolds, whether it’s a peony blossom or the rampant takeover of morning glories. A garden is NEVER done, and is always a blessing.