Garden Philosophy – Now is a Time for Architecture, Not for Toil

Gardening is a big part of what we at Insteading tend to think of as “off the grid” living. With proper maintenance- and a bit of luck- a garden can help you survive and thrive. Still, Julie and I are not expert gardeners, but Glenn Meyers is.

Glenn is the senior editor at our sister site, Green Building Elements, and he’s agreed to write a new series for Insteading called “Garden Philosophy” – and his first installment appears, below. Enjoy!


Now is a Time for Architecture, Not for Toil

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    “A simple gallon-sized pickle jar affords the possibility of a superb mess. I put mud in the bottom, add water, and raise water lilies.”

    –   Henry Mitchell, “One Man’s Garden”

Garden architecture prepares one for the coming spring. It is only the middle of October, and flowers still bloom and herbs are harvested, while forecasters predict blizzards for the mountains and bets are on as to how severe the winter will be.

So I stick it out with weed removal, planning for a crop of bulb flowers next year. I stirred the forgotten parts of my garden, giving it the refreshed look of turned soil, then took myself back inside the house where I could dig the imagination.

Sunk deep in my chair I would begin designing how my garden should appear in its new year. Now is a time for architecture, not for toil. Do I really care for all of those asters dominating the south flank of the garden, have I really picked the best place for a new rose garden?

For those so disposed, now is the time to become chief architect and chef, to choreograph where the butterflies dance and hummingbirds sing, and finally, where ants are and aren’t allowed. So I don’t become a complete slave to my imagination, now is also the time to ask how much do I really want to work at parenting my creations? Do I have one hour a week of hard work, assuming I don’t have Chauncey, the gardener? Or have I sentenced myself to 20 hours a week at hard labor, with never a spare moment to sit on the beautiful bench I bought for contemplation? The challenge looks inviting.

Although it may be too early to plant, if you look a little you can always find plenty to do. Call it tinkering or whatever else you wish, the work feels uplifting and useful.

Make your beds, turn the soil. Six to ten inches should do. Just stay always from the bulbs. Many daffodils and tulips might already be sending up shoots that will be damaged by a shovel or a rake.

Clean, but do it with prudence. If leaves are covering iris and daffodil areas, leave them alone for now. Remember, more cold weather will come. The leaf covering still protects from late or severe freezes. Don’t even think about removing most leaves until April. On the other hand, clean up your lawns and remove all those leaves.

Invite your dirt to dinner. When the turning work is complete, feed your dirt. Add one inch of organic matter such as mulch or peat moss.

Remembering the great indoors. If you’re the type that likes to plant indoors, break out the egg cartons. Get your planting containers ready with dirt. Beside them, place this year’s pick of annuals, vegetables and herbs. Don’t plant quite yet, but you’re getting close.

No barbering work quite yet. You may be thinking about pruning, but it’s still too early. Remember what those late freezes can do.

Use the razor strap instead. Get you gardening tools ready. Sharpen the blades and hone the edges of shovels and spades. In fact, clean everything. The sharper and cleaner a tool looks when I put it in my hands, the more inspiration I have to toil.

A carpenter needs a blueprint. It helps gardeners, too. We always want to try new things. If you haven’t planned for them, though, you’ll probably have a disappointment or two. Besides, the good weather won’t hold all the way until May – a lengthy time away from today. Plan for good days inside with pencils, a tape measure, graph paper, resource books, and a good eraser.

A quality list of winter tools, in other words.


Original content from Insteading.

Written by grileymeyers

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