the "Easy Organic"
to be a Crazy Gardener
Do you cruise around your
neighborhood on trash day, picking up bags of leaves to shred for your
garden? Do you keep a shovel or pruners in your vehicle…just in
case? Do friends and relatives eyes glaze over when you start to talk
about your compost pile? Do you have a genuine problem deciding
whether to spend your money on groceries or a new plant? Then you
could be a Crazy Gardener.
No one is born a crazy
gardener. It creeps up on you. It may start with a packet of free
seeds in the mail, or a plant given as a gift. Then, slowly, it
increases until your kitchen and dining room tables are covered with
flats of seeds, and there is no need for curtains in your house,
because plants cover every square inch of window space. There is
no cure for crazy gardening, so just enjoy the ride.
are a few tips to help you along your way...
Always plan your garden in detail. I prefer using large sheets of graph
paper taped together until it is roughly a scale of 1:1. Mechanical pencils
are a must, since a wooden pencil will always end up being used as a plant
marker. Leaf through your plant and seed catalogs, comparing prices and
carefully noting which plants will do well in the areas you have to fill. It
helps to have a template for the plant forms, and colored pencils so that
you can fill in the various foliage colors.
Make sure you have your
measurements precisely positioned so that in the spring you can forget
EVERYTHING you have written down. After comparison-shopping all winter long,
when you finally break out the checkbook for the springtime buying frenzy,
you'll be lucky if you actually purchase anything on your list, once you get
an eyeful of all the new and improved varieties introduced this spring. Of
course, when you have them home, you will simply stick them in the garden at
random `just for now' until you have time to plant them properly.
I recommend you keep the store
tag in an envelope which will provide you with hours of entertainment in
future years as you wander around your garden, looking at the plant tags and
wondering which plant goes with which tag.
2. Always use the
proper tools. Every gardener dreams of shiny handled shovels, sharp
pruners, gleaming mowers, and a perfectly organized seed safe. Neatly coiled
hoses, romantic gardening clothes, and a potting
bench of natural stone and wood with a space for everything also rank high
on the wish list. In actuality, however, the perfect tool selection is
nothing like the gardening supply catalogs indicate.
For a crazy gardener, there
should be a padded handled shovel, rake, hoe, and trowel leaning against
each outdoor wall of the house, within easy grabbing distance for
spontaneous gardening activities. Small hand trowels should be jammed trowel
point down every ten feet amongst the perennials, and pruners should be hung
from a low branch in each clump of trees or bushes. Lawn mowers aren't
really needed for a true crazy gardener, since all the lawn will eventually
be dug up and replaced with some more interesting collection of
A crazy gardener’s seed safe
will always eventually consist of envelopes leaking seeds from the unsealed
edges in an untidy jumble of whatever box, bag, or drawer has been chosen
for the task. There is no such thing as a convenient hose, and potting
benches are never clean when you need to pot, so any flat surface, such as
tables, garden seats, or even the driveway usually suffices.
Gardening clothes for a crazy
gardener are whatever you happen to be wearing at the time the gardening
urge strikes. From hospital gowns as you prune the dead leaves from the
clinics Swedish ivy, to your Sunday best dress and heels as you realize that
your pots need watering, as you are about to leave for church. The one truly
necessary gardening tool for a crazy gardener, the one tool no crazy
gardener should ever be without…is a sharpened stick. A sharpened stick
can be a dibble, a hoe, and an impromptu pruner. It can be a garden trowel,
or a snake whacker, a plant stake, or, if it is large enough, a crutch.
Stick to your budget. Your friends and family will be less likely to try
to have you committed for compulsive gardening if you try not to use your
house payment for new plants. Besides, where would you keep your plants
without the house? A little creative thinking is all that is required to
stick to your budget. Do you need ten plants, but only have money for one?
Simple! Buy some rooting hormone and take cuttings of your neighbors'
plants. Ten cuttings for the price of one!
Do you have to make a choice
between purchasing plants and purchasing food for the family? Easy. Purchase
EDIBLE plants! Sure, you'll be hungry for a while, but when the crops come
in, all will be forgiven! Do you have to purchase gifts? Give them the gift
of a plant! Either they will ask for help taking care of it, or they will
become a fellow crazed gardener, and offer you cuttings. You can prompt your
friends and family into purchasing plants for you by making a gift list that
includes cars, mink coats, diamonds, personal airplanes…or a plant.
Usually, they will choose the plant.
A thrifty savings plan includes
a compost heap. A proper compost heap will consume all parts of your life.
You will send your spouse to work with a bucket to collect coffee grounds
and fruit peelings from the office break room. You will begin asking grocers
what they are going to do with that spoiled vegetable. You will become a
tyrant at home, snapping at whoever throws a compost-able item into the
trash. Leaves from your neighbors' yards, and used pots with old potting
soil will become curbside treasures. Another money saving technique is to
use any conceivable container as a potential planter. That roasting pan
makes an excellent seed flat, and the urn with your grammas ashes WOULD be
more attractive with a plant in it, don't you think?
Be health conscious. The uninitiated gardener probably thinks of
gardening as a relaxing, gentle occupation. The true crazy gardener knows
better. The crazed gardener is not a person who can spend hours stretching,
walking and doing aerobics when there are weeds to be pulled, mulch to be
moved, or pots to be planted. So the exercises must be worked into our daily
routine. Try placing your gardening tools or your iced tea JUST out of reach
to help promote stretching. Who needs a rowing machine when you can hoe your
entire veggie patch?
Mowing a lawn can be a good
walking exercise until the lawn is replaced with gardens. For aerobics, try
going to the Labor Day sale at the biggest nursery in your area. Wait until
there is only ONE of the plants you want and then try sprinting to the table
before another customer grabs it. For strength training try watering all
your plants before moving the pots, and use only terra cotta or cement pots,
rather than the lightweight plastic replacements. Weeding, of course, is the
ultimate bending exercise.
The crazy gardeners exercise
regimen usually consists of working like a madman from early Saturday
morning till after dark, and recuperating for the rest of the week. The
health conscious gardener will also be aware of other health factors, such
as sun, allergies, and dangers lurking in the soil. They will be aware of
these factors as they slather on sunburn cream, take benadryl pills and
apply bandages and calamine to mysterious wounds and rashes that have
appeared in odd places.
Enjoy! Sometimes the Crazed Gardener forgets to stop and enjoy the
garden, leading lives rather like Rabbit, on the Winnie the Pooh series.
Compulsively gardening and then having minor strokes when dogs, weather,
kids or other natural (and unnatural) disasters happen. This can get a
gardener down over time, especially if the gardener has forgotten to sit
back and enjoy the garden, complete with weeds, bugs, empty spots, that bed
to be filled, and mole holes poking up here and there. So make sure that at
some point each day, you can sit or stand in the garden and take pleasure in
the minor, individual triumphs of the garden.
All gardens are a work in
progress, and even the Garden of Eden was prey to a nasty pest problem…so
don’t expect perfection in your garden. Instead see perfection in the
little things…the first bloom of spring, or the perfect fall color on a
fallen leaf. Spend time examining the tiny bits of the yard and never mind
about what folks think of you standing stationary in a stork like pose in
your jimmies, staring into the shrubs. If you’ve followed the previous
advice in the column, they already think you’re nuts…so just relax,
enjoy, and feel free to send in some of YOUR crazy gardening moments to
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