Thursday, March 21, 2013

I fear gardening

The extremely disastrous and extremely upsetting porch project is proceeding apace.  In the sense that it is still extremely disastrous, looks like a construction zone, and is infintely more hideous than when I started (and the main project I've taken on so far was the cosmetic one - "make the floor look nicer").  And I haven't even begun to think about starting the project that was really supposed to be most of the work on the porch - insulating the walls. 

However, there is no longer an enormous hole in the floor:

So I guess we could call that progress.  I am hoping to have major, visible, amazing progress by the end of the weekend.  I have been hoping that every weekend in March, and also February, and I believe some of January.  So, believe it when you see it, people.  My goal is to be done with the floor by Easter.  Walls and radiator installation next.  How do small, just-a-few-evenings-to-clean-this-area-up projects take over my entire life? 

I have promised myself that after the porch is done, I will turn my full attention to the outdoors.  I am working on a vegetable and herb garden again this year (fifth year in a row?), with some modifications.  (1) I am not starting anything from seed.  Experienced amateur gardeners were impressed with the quantity of seedlings I got from seed last year.  So was I.  But I didn't end up with any vegetables.  Seeing as that is the goal, I am not wasting my limited time and easily-diverted attention on germinating seeds.  (2) I am planting more of everything.  Obviously, this just means I waste more money when nothing grows.  But I have decided I am willing to run at a significant loss this year, and if I fail again, then never again.  I will cover my yard and raised beds with colorful gravel. 

I also need to work on the uneven pavers in our side yard.  My DH took those on last year, but he's not happy with his results.  I hypothesize that my rather different work method - fail constantly for months, continually research new ways to approach the problem, try everything until you either succeed or no one you know is still speaking to you - may succeed here.  It succeeded with wallpaper, cabinets, floors, plumbing, the table, and the porch subfloor.  But yes, I still remember - I failed with that stove.  (Still need to sell it.) 

And then I need to work on fencing.  I have decided I am going to build a two-piece swinging gate for the back yard.  (I know that sounds crazy, but I promise it's not that much work, and it will save me some 90% of the cost of a decent pre-made gate.)  Then, possibly some time when my DH is away, I am going to put up green wire fencing around the rest of the back yard.  This will keep the dog in, and it will also provide support for the plants that grow around the perimeter of the yard.  And said plants will conceal the wire fence, so that it will all be just one nice landscape.  Plus, I don't think you need a permit to put up a wire fence.  (Let's just not talk about the gate.  That's going to need fence posts set in concrete, but maybe it will look like it has always been there...) 

I have decided I am going to fill in any bald spots in the shrubbery around the back yard with blackberries and raspberries.  According to my reading, these are weeds - strong-growing and aggressive, the sort of things that take over your yard.  This is exactly the sort of plant I need - something I couldn't kill if I wanted to.  Because I can kill pretty much anything, despite willing it to health and fruitfulness with all my strength.  (No comments.)  Also, these plants naturally want to be trained to four-foot-high wires and stakes - like they were tailor-made for my fencing idea. 

Which brings me to another subject.  Last year, I was wandering about Home Depot (in other words, my typical Saturday) and I saw blackberry bushes for sale.  $7 for one, and they grow into a nice big bush.  It was my first summer in my very own house, and I couldn't think of anything nicer than growing my own blackberries.  So I bought one, and a week later, I did much reading on its preferred habitat and found it a nice spot between two large bushes.  When I fetched it out of its wrapping, I realized it was a stick.  The packaging optimistically proclaimed it a "dormant blackberry bush," and I can't argue that sticks (of whatever species) are dormant, so I planted it.  For a few weeks I would go and peek at my stick and water it.  Then spring hit in full force and the many secretive flora that inhabit the entire DC area took over every blank spot in the yard and grew like, well, weeds.  I could no longer see the stick.  Not that it mattered, because I hadn't really been in the market for a stick in the first place. 

It was only recently that I learned of the aggressive growing habits of blackberries, and how perfect they would be for my plans.  So, had Home Depot not sold me a $7 stick, I would unwittingly have hit on a perfect solution - great for the area where I planted it (which gets a lot of sun), and great for my summer berry needs.  I find that with interior work, some percentage of the time I accidentally hit the nail on the head (both literally and figuratively) with my decisions, and they work better than I could have planned.  This isn't really unfair luck, because I put enormous energy into planning, but it means that things generally come together, and I can focus on the minority of areas that just aren't working out.  Thus I get results (after much labor) and I do not despair, so I take on more projects. 

The outdoors are different.  I accidentally get brilliant ideas; and I plant sticks.  All of my ideas - good and bad; neglected and dutifully tended; carefully researched and spur-of-the-moment - turn into piles of dead leaves in short order. 

Lately websites have been full of brilliant ideas for gardening and landscaping, and I obligingly click over, knowing as I do that this is what I need to work on for the next six months.  And I look at beautifully organized plants and lovely cheerful al fresco dining arrangements and magnificent blooms and little secret garden paths and I am enchanted.  They're even more beautiful than beautiful interiors.  And then the kindly authors explain just how they went about creating this earthly paradise, and my blood pressure doubles and I click away to the driest reading material I can find, hoping to hide from these manically cheerful people who have planted over 8500 individual creatures in their yards and now have 17,000 thriving, blossoming plants to show for it, and I think about the time that would take, and the good sense that I don't have, and how all of my plants would die and I would go into bankruptcy and still have no garden at all, and how I can assemble woodwork but pavers defy me, and how I would do all this to grow nice foods to eat and grow nothing, and how it is 1100 degrees out (in the shade) on the average summer day in the DC area, and I sunburn in 90 seconds in that weather, and how I love roses and how I feel when they die over and over again, and how I stopped trying to grow them in college because I was so intensely sad about it, and how during heat waves here (i.e., between May and October, continuously), if I forget to water for a single day the plants really suffer, and I am busy, and I do not water every day, and after the very first day I am consumed with guilt and I cannot bring myself to look at the plants, and then they die while I hide from them, and how long it would take to water even more plants than I had last year, and how I would probably accomplish that even less often, and how enormous my yard is (and, according to landscapers, how extremely numerous are the things that I could do with it) compared to just the inside of a house, and how it doesn't rain inside my house and ruin my work, and how much time it takes just to maintain the "distinct rooms" of yard that this article discusses, let alone create these rooms, with gravel in one, and pavers in another, and moss in a third, and then one with moss and a path, and one with a trellis, and then an arbor in another, and one with vegetables (that I kill every year) and another one with exotic flowers (that require endless tending), and a fountain to maintain of course, and then an area for a table and chairs (that need to go inside every time it rains), and every tall bush needs to be "underplanted" with something else for the perfect aesthetic display, and how I need one type of plant in front of my fence and something different for behind it, and how I need to plant flowers that bloom in late spring, and some in early summer, and some mid-summer bloomers, and some late-summer bloomers, all staggered in the same bed, so it is always in bloom, and also I need to repaint the fence all the time since it is outside, where it rains, and how each and every vegetable and flower is subject to different forms of disease and parasites, such that I must remove squash vine borers with my hands, and crush hornworms with my feet, and never overwater some for fear of root-rot, or under-water the neighboring ones as they are vulnerable to drought, and I have to make sure that every inch of my yard is "well-drained" (if it can't drain itself, what am I supposed to do about it?), and test the pH of each and every spot and treat it with chemicals if it's not perfect, and presumably re-test and re-adjust every ten minutes, and apply a special regimen of fertilizer to each plant on a different schedule, and apparently also cook food and keep my house clean and get some sleep and do my job and see my friends and spend time with my husband and call my mother. 

I feel physically ill.  Maybe I can just put plastic flowers and bushes in my yard and buy my vegetables at the grocery store like a decent person. 


  1. I find it daunting, too. A friend gave me a raspberry plant last year...I watered it daily but we had such an awful summer, it died. Actually...everything we planted in the backyard died. Darn draught. Anyway...I have nothing if value to contribute except to say I feel the same way.

  2. you mean these amazing little seedlings I have going might not actually turn out to be anything in the garden?! well crap. i feel like hearing it here first hand was probably a good forewarning to lessen the blow when reality hits, eh? i was probably getting a little too cocky anyway about how i barely even remembered to water them and (some of them) are taking off miraculously. ah well.

    1. Everyone else who is successful (especially this early in the year!) germinating seeds has a bountiful harvest - everyone but me. You will be buried in squash by the end of August, I promise. And I will again be ranting about the suicide of my cornstalks.

  3. Your post is making me itch to get outside and plant something...but with another snow storm looming on the horizon...I can't even think about it. ugh! Our winter is going on and on...that is interesting about blackberries and raspberries...I didn't know they grow as a weed and therefore are hard to kill..hmmm.....Thanks for sharing some interesting information and oh yeah...when it gets to spring in my neck of the woods...I'll be outside. :)