I’ve been collecting information about plants in this region and wondering what my next garden will be like. What will make the cut? Fruit trees and flowers. Citrus. Kumquats. Yummy-smelling stuff for the pollinators and azaleas. Herbs and berries. I’m considering the blueberry bushes and strawberries combo again. We’re starting with a fairly blank canvas and the farmer gene is running away with me.
My gardens have never failed me.
The Dead Plant Lady
There was the first house that I bought alone. A great big yard for the dogs, in need of some privacy, and something to hide that ugly chainlink fence. Landscaping that one earned me the nickname “the Dead Plant Lady” at the local garden center. When their garden stock decided not to stay saleable, they’d become part of a pile in the back. And usually for the grand sum of about $10, I’d go home with a carload full of ugly, broken perennial shrubbery. And a really fun way to plant: dig a hole, cut the plant way back, cover the roots, and wish it “good luck.” I think it was the lack of pressure that helped them flourish.
When I moved to the north country, there were lots of mature blueberries and lilacs. Lots of daffodils. It was there that I met permaculture and added grapes, asparagus, gooseberries and a whole lot of annuals. It’s a very short growing season.
When Everything I Touch Turns to Compost
When my output at work seemed to consist only of bumps, detours, technical failures (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to use the internet in a mountainous, rural location), a growing to-do pile and opportunities to really embarrass myself… I quit. That always made a lot more sense than forcing myself to write when everything I touch turns to…. compost. Giving up and going out to the garden always made a lot of sense. Even in a short growing season, there were plenty of greens and herbs to pick for dinner.
It was there that I was frequently rewarded with overflowing buckets and colanders full of luscious, thumb-nail sized blueberries, still warm from the sun. There were so many that the branches were bent to the ground — making it convenient for the local Canada geese to waddle up and eat their fill.
When I picked off and discarded the dozens the birds had nibbled, I thought about the prior month’s “strawberry wars.” The strawberry bed was young and tender — just about a year old. Following the instructions from the landscaping expert, three dozen tender plants were protected with cages, surrounded by mulch, and covered with a fine mesh net. Strong-smelling soap and moth balls had been added to complete the barricade.
Surrendering to The End of the Strawberry Wars
Would you like to guess how many strawberries I harvested in that second season? If I told you “about a dozen” I’d be exaggerating. Not a dozen boxes — a dozen berries. The chipmunks and the squirrels got the rest. So much for (literally) harvesting the fruits of my labor.
Generally, there’s a lot of giving that takes place when the gardens mature — but usually I think in terms of sharing the harvest with family, friends and neighbors. (And avoiding well-meaning friends who plant too much zucchini.) Those bountiful blueberries and the stolen strawberries gifted me with a new thought — and a simple way to solve my strawberry problem.
I’ll just plant berries — and let the critters have them. That’s right: add plants and subtract the cages, mesh and other deterrents. Let ’em eat their fill. Don’t worry about protecting the berries. Give up. Give ’em away. If this equation works in the garden like it does everywhere else in life, we’ll have more berries than we can handle. And,if not, it won’t matter — I’ve decided that the only sane choice is to enjoy feeding the critters!
I wonder what the new garden is going to teach. I wonder if there will be strawberries.
Go ahead… tell the little birdie. You know you want to.