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Garden “Ethics” – Or – Don’t Do This!

It’s still too cold. And what’s worse, if the sun shines long enough one day to warm up the ground, then the beds are too wet. If you step on wet soil you’ll compact its structure, make a mess of your shoes… and possibly cause the sky to fall. The best thing you can do for your garden right now is to stay out of it. At least that’s what all the expert advice says. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with that advice. On a merely and purely botanical level, there is no refutation. But gardening, especially amateur gardening, also depends upon the psychology of the gardener. And even after a back-breaking day at work, there was nothing that could have kept me from “gardening” a little this afternoon before the sun fell behind the trees.

I needed to remember my place in the world today, to measure out my yard with the length of a few good strides, to see if anything was already busy beneath the mulch. There are a couple clusters of horseradish that have green tips, though given the hardiness of that whole stand of horseradish, I suspect they never really went dormant despite our brutal winter. The buds on the apple are starting to swell, which reminds me that another January has passed without a proper pruning. Under the lilac — the one area of the yard where we permit purely ornamental plants — several tiny clumps of snowdrops are blooming. The garden has started without me.

I couldn’t restrain myself. I started to “garden” as well. I decided to see how much I could accomplish in the bed behind the house. It had been “under utilized” if not outright neglected last year. We never got around to harvesting any horseradish and the second year kale that grew there wasn’t exactly delicious. I had stored the frame for our nursery bed in the bed, and then I stacked the logs from an old wooden swing set on top. I had every intention of using those logs for a hops trellis last summer (and now intend a hops trellis for the coming summer). Some variety of pernicious grass sent its long spear like runners under the mulch and established a strong foothold as well.


In 20 minutes, I was able to: remove the logs and lean them against the barn where they’re more conspicuous; move the nursery bed frame (even though I’ll likely put it back there once I’m done cleaning the bed;) rake out the dead horseradish leaves; rake up the two year old leaf mulch. I raked mostly because I didn’t want to step on the beds — I obeyed at least that part of botanical wisdom — but I did step in long enough to snip off a box elder that had grown to a sapling since the last time I worked in that bed. Even if I left a couple foot prints behind, I got to work in my garden today!


To those wise sages who prohibit gardening at this time of the year, I counter with the equally wise proverb “Make hay while the sun shines.”

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