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Working Around the Garden, Literally

In southern Michigan, it’s still too wet and cold to start cultivating, that is to start disturbing the soil on any more than a very surface level. But I wasn’t going to stay inside on such a lovely day as this. Full sun. Warm enough that I could even stand in the breeze without a jacket. And plenty to do.

But if I couldn’t work IN the garden, I could still work AROUND the garden. Literally. Our beds are ringed by grass pathways and today’s task was to rake and straighten them up, sort of like making a nice frame for a painting. I know that later on in the year, I’ll ask myself why I bother to keep ANY lawn. The arguments against lawns are many: gas lawn mowers are noisy and are horrible polluters since they have no catalytic converters, lawns take too much water and more importantly, too much my precious time for upkeep. Plus, unless you’re a goat, you can’t eat it. (You can tell my biases right there!) Sometimes I’m tempted to dig it all up and plant a maze of asparagus. Or a path of low growing, fragrant herbs like mother of thyme so I’d be surrounded with scent when I strolled. Or any one of a number of even more whimsical ideas. The most practical reason I keep a lawn is to harvest the clippings which I find are a great source of nitrogen for the compost (and the “sheet compost” style of all over mulch that we practice.) And there is also the excuse, this early in the spring, that I can play around in the garden without ruining anything.

I collected three big bags of “material.” If I was a bird, it’s probably prime house building supplies: leaves, wind fallen sticks, the dried bits of last year’s weeds, the odd candy wrapper… Everything was decomposable apart from the candy wrappers, so I put it back behind the barn where we’re fighting an infestation of non-native bamboo. It’s a good natured feud we have with the bamboo that we’ve continued for… let’s see, over a decade. It’s retreated largely to our neighbor’s yard but every now and again, a sprout pops up in our yard so we remain ever vigilant with a thick coat of mulch.

Raking up the lawn makes the place look like a garden again. The edges of the beds are more defined. The lawn is a more neutral color and texture, like a good picture frame, which allows attention to be focused on the beds. I discovered several new arrivals. The daffodils (or are they “paper whites?”) that we’ve naturalized in our front yard have made a determined showing with their spear like foliage. The clumps of tiny snow drops that I mentioned before are now all in bloom. Also in bloom are the purple cups of the croci, tucked in and around the stones. Still no word from the asparagus, that slumbers in the cool soil but there were two profuse eruptions of rhubarb. My mouth waters at the thought of the season’s first rhubarb pie, especially when I consider it’s just a couple weeks away. There’s also a good stand of garlic chives.

So I spent my 20 minutes today with a rake in my hand. Then I spent a good 20 more poking around under the mulch. Soon, very soon, I’ll be getting my hands dirty again.

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