Tale of the Startling Garden


First time veggie gardeners or long time, experienced plant handlers take comfort.  You are not alone.  Growing stuff can be overwhelming.

I’ve wrestled with this question:  Why haven’t I gone out to work in my gardens in the past week?  I thought perhaps it was the “heat” ( what heat?).  I’ve even wondered if my love of gardening has changed.

I got ‘er figured, though.  Just yesterday.  I realized that I am frightened by my garden.  I’m intimidated by the threatening mass of encroaching damp green that my acre has become.  Each morning, I’ve walked outside, stood, hands on my hips and surveyed.  Looking in an arc, back and forth.  I cower, turn and walk back inside.


Heliopsis helianthoides surrounded by black snakeroot and ferns

Here’s the fairy tale: Once upon a time there lived a fair New Cumberland gardener who knew she needed to get out into her scary forest backyard and confront her fears, search for good harmony with nature and make her place look a little more acceptable.  And perhaps harvest some green beans.  She was just waiting for a magical something to take on the venture with her.  A frog? More likely a magical chicken.

It wasn’t that there wasn’t any thing to do.  It’s the opposite.  It’s chaos.  Creeping jenny has crept right past the rock walls without so much as stopping to pay a toll.  Grasses, that are normally tame, are wild and partying over pathways.  Freedom lawn has had a free for all, freely spreading into my perennial beds.   Tomatoes and asters are living together.  There are chickens in the strawberries.  Fading coneflowers dive head first into cardinal flowers.  Oh…  the inhumanity.

Somehow the wildness and clutter of my gardens this August seem too much bedlam for one little ole gardener to reign in.  Perhaps I need a group of deputies to roll into my yard and whip up a little law and order.  They’d need chain saws and hip waders.

I exaggerate a little.  Though there are in fact tomatoes and asters living together…  and chickens in the strawberries.

Every thing is indeed over grown and out of control.  But this isn’t the first time this has happened in August.  I have repeatedly taken on more garden than I can realistically care for year after year.  Each year, I swear I will scale back.  Each year, I find a reason to tear up more grass and add a garden.  Each year, I find myself buying more pots and planting even more containers.

I think I’m an addict.  I keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Watermelon vine surrounds a landscape rose

Watermelon vine surrounds a landscape rose

Add to this, the crazy rain and cool temperatures we’ve had.  I have to admit the diseased tomatoes and snow white squash leaves due to downy mildew have drug my chin to the ground from time to time.  It’s been a disheartening growing season even for crazed seasoned gardeners.

Now that I’ve acknowledged my fear, maybe I’ll be brave and get out there. Maybe I’ll pretend that Dixie the chicken is magic for solace.  I’ll start at the garden the farthest away from the house and work homeward.  Probably by the time it frosts, I’ll have the garden neatened up.

Japanese anemone cradled in Japanese blood grass

Japanese anemone cradled in Japanese blood grass

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About the Author

Laura Mathews

Laura is a garden writer and photographer. She writes online content for gardening websites, writes for gardening publications and blogs for three gardening blogs. Her interests are local food, organic gardening, backyard homesteading and native plants. She assists gardening related clients with social media. And occasionally, she'll offer a solicited opinion as a garden coach.

One Comment

  1. what an absolutely lovely post – and as I mentioned to you earlier, I can’t get over that beautiful photo of your chicken! I feel scared by my garden, too, however it’s not due to the overwhelming size (it’s 1/3 acre…) but rather by the thought of me getting older each passing day and not being able to work 6 hours straight without ending up crippled! I’m getting worse, while it’s getting bigger….it’s a losing battle for me, but one which I fight daily….age!!

    # Posted on September 17, 2009 at 3:07 pm by rebecca sweet

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