Gardening As Exercise

Gardening is often touted as good exercise, though when I was young and able to run and hike and even lift weights, I didn’t understand why it would be so.

Well, now I do understand. I spent a couple of hours this morning pulling weeds and digging a few holes for planting, and I could barely do anything the rest of the day because everything between my ankles and neck hurt. It’s possible the aches have more to do with my relative lack of exercise lately than the gardening itself, but it does show me that gardening can work a variety of muscles as well as beautifying a yard.

Most of my yard is still a mess. There are bare spots that were torn up by the various machinery used by the workers I hired. They are supposed to bring in fill dirt, but haven’t done it yet. That’s only one of the many things they haven’t done, but I have hopes that some year they will finish all they promised.

Meantime, I am planting bushes, trees, shrubs, flowers — whatever vegetation I can get my hands on.

When I bought the house, a relative who has experience designing gardens volunteered to do the landscaping. She did all sorts of research, and I was excited when she finally came, expecting her to help me work on the yard. But no. She wanted to . . . actually, looking back, I don’t know what she wanted to do. All I know is that she shrugged off the yard with a simple sentence, telling me that planting can’t be started until the hard things are in place.

I paused here to look that up online, belatedly wondering if she were leading me on, but apparently, she was right. Topping a to-do list of landscape design essentials is that you have to do all the hardscaping before you set any plants in place.

Even assuming that the hardscaping is the first step, that’s not how I’m going about things. I’ve been told I’m contrary. I’ve also been told I march to a different drummer. To me, it’s not about either of those things but doing what I can when I can.

Even before the fence went up, I started transplanting lilac seedlings from a neighbor’s yard. (With his permission, of course.) I also transplanted some of his larkspur, which have now reseeded themselves for the second spring in a row. In fact, they are filling in the “island” between my two sidewalks. The garden I had originally planted around that area became defunct when the sidewalks went in, or so I thought. Apparently, clearing out the weeds and grass and tilling the soil made the seeds from the original larkspur take hold.

The bushes that are planted along the fence were dug up and transplanted from the area off the alley where the driveway now is. They went in before the pathways — those who laid the rock worked the paths around the plants that were already there.

The same will be done for the rest of the yard. I am creating a swath of garden on the left-hand side of the sidewalks, and eventually, another path will sweep alongside that swath.

There are some parts of the yard that I am not even thinking about at the moment and won’t until a bit more of the hardscaping is done, but it doesn’t matter. I have more to do right now than I can easily accomplish in the next couple of years.

It’s odd — the property doesn’t look all that big, but each small section I am working on seems to loom large. There is no way any one person could landscape this place in a matter of weeks or even months, and I certainly don’t expect that from myself or the people doing the hardscaping. (I like that word, have you noticed? I’d never heard it before, and it’s a fun one.)

This is a project for a lifetime.

I remember reading a story once about a woman who planted a hillside of daffodils — acres of them. People came from miles around to see her hill of daffodils. There was only a single sign in the field, and that said “One at a time.” Apparently, everyone wanted to know how she’d planted so many daffodils, and she must have gotten tired of the question. Hence, the sign.

That’s my gardening philosophy — one at a time. Over the months and years, some things will die, others will take hold, so I’ll have a changing landscape. Meantime, I am learning to accept what grows here and what doesn’t (and how little control I have over either). Except for weeds — that I don’t always accept. Unfortunately, although I like to think everything has the right to grow, I have to draw a line somewhere, and I don’t appreciate anything — or anyone — encroaching on territory that is not theirs. So I pull up whatever encroaching weeds I can. (No poisons. I haven’t crossed that line yet.)

Yesterday a neighbor mentioned that in five years, after everything grows up, I will have a beautiful yard. That’s something worth working toward.

Besides, all that exercise will be good for me.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Tulip!

It’s amazing how sore a person can get doing a bit of gardening if it’s at the beginning of the season and she is not yet used to digging holes.

This morning when I went outside to see what the day was like (still the most accurate way of checking the current weather), I noticed that a few of my tulips were budding, and one was in bloom!

I was so thrilled with the discovery that it gave me the energy and inspiration to transplant a couple of lilac bushes. The bushes I planted last year from the Arbor Day Foundation all just stared at me when I watered them, and though they greened up a bit, they never grew. And this winter killed them. I was able to get a couple of “volunteers” from a neighbor to replace the poor moribund twigs.

It didn’t take me that long, and I thought I was outside for a short while, but now? Oh, my. I am sore from head to foot.

So tomorrow, whatever happens inspiration-wise when I go out to check the weather, I will simply enjoy the tulips and resist the urge to do more.

The tulips that flowered are those I planted this past fall. Considering the massive failure of the previous fall’s plantings, I was very careful to prepare the soil and measure the proper depth and distance to plant each of the bulbs. And they did well.

Many of the original bulbs are growing leaves this year (to my surprise and delight), but very few are budding, which according to one gardening site, could mean they weren’t planted deep enough. So next fall, I will have a choice — pile more dirt where the bulbs are, or dig them up, spread them out, and make sure they are replanted at the proper depth.

Or, of course, I could do nothing and see what happens.

***

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A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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Needing Heartenment

After writing what was supposed to be today’s blog post, I was so disheartened that I decided to save it for tomorrow and post something a bit more heartening today. A lot more heartening, actually.

Although the yard is still cluttered with building materials and scrap lumber, and although the yard is still mostly dirt and dead weeds, there are a few bright spots, such as this gorgeous poppy. I’m not sure where it got that color because the seeds came from a red poppy, but I love the bright pink.

Most of the trees (twigs, actually) that the Arbor Day Foundation sent me aren’t doing anything, and a couple for sure are dead, but one crabapple is showing signs of life. Yay! Even better, the lilacs I received because of a different offer are all doing well for only having been in the ground a little over a week. I water them and shower them with love and hope that’s enough. I know that particular area of the yard has soil compatible with lilacs because there are two other bushes in the vicinity, so there’s that.

The cactus I transplanted from my neighbor’s yard that I thought was dead is alive and shows new growth. The poor thing was so white and limp I considered digging it up and throwing it away, but the thought of having to deal with the prickles stayed my hand. I am so glad! It looks so green and stalwart that it lightens my heart.

And oh, I so needed that today!

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Cat Photos

I’ve read that people online love to look at cat photos, so here are my cat photos.

See? Cat?

Well, I thought it was funny!

And anyway, the Cat was mine for only a couple of hours, and I never even got to drive the excavator! The construction workers did a lot in that short a time — dug the foundation for the garage, and moved the lilacs that were going to be in the way.

Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that the lilacs will survive, though I’m sure at least some will. With the Cat, they were able to dig down below the root and take up the whole ball of earth.

Things might be at a standstill again. We seem to be in a weird weather pattern — spring every weekend, fall on Monday and Friday, and winter midweek. Although it’s nice to have lovely weather on the weekends, it makes it hard to find a long enough dry time on work days to pour the foundation and allow it to cure. But it’s fun to watch the property change when they do get a chance to work.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator