I am trying to awaken my inner gardener. Last year I left the gardens of our new home completely untended, figuring I could get away with one season. This year, though, they’re beginning to look weedy and unruly, and I realize I must give them some attention if I don’t want them to start looking like a total jungle.
First step has been to discover if I even possess an inner gardener. I’ve concluded yes, surely I do, since great gardening skills run in the family and surely cannot bypass me completely.
Second step has been how to proceed. I’m quite clueless. I didn’t know you need to cut down dead plants in the fall. I can’t tell weeds apart from perennials. I fear ruining them somehow.
Third step is negotiating the children in our unfenced town property while trying to accomplish the work. Surprisingly, the toddler adores gardening. Each morning he pleads to go outside to “do a little bit of gardening,” and, with some guidance, this arrangement works quite well for both of us.
1. The Garden Hose
This is his tool of choice, and by watching me carefully, he has learned how to turn on the tap at the foundation. By the end of an hour outside, he is completely soaked from head to toe, and insists on taking off his wet clothes. The gardening ordeal usually concludes with a colossal argument that sounds like this to people walking by: “No, please leave your clothes on.” “But I want to be naked. I want to be naaaaaked!” I have also been the unwilling recipient of the hose’s attentions, since the squeeze nozzle is simply too appealing for the toddler to release upon request. The upshot of the garden hose, though, is that if he makes a dash for it, I always know where he’s headed.
2. Trowels and Shovels
The small garden trowel delights the toddler because of its size; it looks as if it was made specially for him. While I’m transplanting perennials from the empty lot next door (don’t worry, I have permission from the owner), he digs happily with the trowel, imitating my actions on a smaller scale. The problem, though, is that he doesn’t know when to stop digging. He digs up the good guys and the bad guys indiscriminately and I must be on the lookout (though I’m not much better at knowing which is which). One trowel saw its demise when he found a perfectly-sized hole in the wooden lattice beneath the front porch and stuck it through. Of course it fell down into the dark, inaccessible depths of under-porch-land and will remain there indefinitely.
Little seedlings delight the toddler. (Why is it that kids love miniatures of all kinds?) He wants to fondle and caress them, which of course they’re not strong enough to withstand, and as a result we’ve lost a number of potential tomato plants from his over-enthusiastic affection. Once planted in the ground, he still wants to touch them and trample them. A few have required emergency first-aid intervention.
It’s amazing how many creatures the toddler spots in an hour of gardening. It heightens my own appreciation of the animals and insects in our backyard, because it’s so easy to overlook them as an adult. He loves earthworms, in particular, and usually requests one as soon as we get outside. He spies beetles and collects snails, chases robins across the grass and the odd neighbourhood cat, mimics the mourning dove, laughs at the squirrels, and comments on spider webs. He watched some baby robins learn to fly a couple weeks ago.
5. Transportation of Garden Refuse
This is where the toddler really excels. As I clean out handfuls of weeds, dead plants, leaves, and sticks, tossing them behind me onto the grass, his job is to load the garden refuse into his wagon. He takes this job very seriously and can remain focused for as long as it takes, picking it up, stick by stick. With help, he transfers it to collection bag or the compost heap, unloading it with just as much care. Unfortunately he was once attacked by a rose bush I was trimming and it has made him permanently leery of all sharp-looking sticks, but as long as I take care of those nasty ones, he’s happy to load the rest.
It’s an ongoing journey, learning how to care for these garden beds, but one that I’m actually enjoying more than I expected.