Sanders: Why garden?
Right after Christmas the gardening catalogs started arriving. Talk about marketing genius! We know it’s winter, yet we yearn for spring. We read the catalogs and almost believe we can grow flowers and other plants that will look that good. As long as we can push the reality of weeds aside, we can fantasize to our heart’s content.
When I garden, I think of the Dutch and how they reclaimed the land from the sea. In landlocked South Dakota, the ocean of water isn’t my problem — it’s the ocean of weeds, prevalent on the farm. It is from the weeds that I reclaim the land, working on small patches at a time.
I even have to define what a weed is to me. Do grasses count as weeds? Not in my yard. I welcome plants that add variety although I do not want thorny plants. Thus, my nemesis is sandburs. God is so generous that here he gave us two varieties, the puncture vine, also called goat heads or Mexican sandburs, and the regular round sandburs also known, tongue in cheek, as porcupine eggs. In Webster’s dictionary the definition of nemesis is, “Something that cannot be conquered.” That may be true, but it certainly doesn’t stop me from trying.
My reclamation projects involve these two Ps: perennials and patience. Perennials are important to me and I can usually get them from friends and neighbors when they clean their own flower beds; there is also more of a feeling of accomplishment when using perennials since I know that area will do fairly well. I keep my eyes open for certain favorites such as succulents. After years of transplanting from others I have been sharing succulents since they do well and they spread. Along with the need for patience, which every gardener experiences while waiting for spring and later, the first ripe tomato, comes the realization that I cannot reclaim the entire yard right now. I know it is a slow, yet fulfilling, endeavor. Each year it is necessary to select a relatively small area on which to concentrate my reclamation efforts. I have to remind myself that I can’t do it all in one year. Before and after photos are one of the best inspirations and are a welcome addition to my gardening journal.
Another thing I like to plant is rock that work well with succulents. I built a short, drystacked rock wall around a light pole to create a small bed for evergreen shrubs, a tree and flowers. The latter have been phased out due to a grandson taking over the bit of land for one of his farms.
When I get to feeling like the little boy who stuck his finger in the dike, I take a deep breath and look to the land I have already reformed. Knowing that every weed takes moisture and nutrients from the plans I want to grow increases my diligence. That is enough to keep me from giving up and letting the weeds have victory. ❖