MY LIFE – Armed and ready

MY LIFE – Armed and ready

Spring has arrived and this year I am armed and ready. Unlike other years when I have stayed tucked into my comfy home waiting for warmer, drier days before venturing out into the cool damp that is April, this year I have already thrown down the gauntlet and engaged the enemy.

Bags of ammunition are lined up in my garage. I have organic fertilizer for flowers, another for tomatoes, foods to feed my acid-loving plants like holly and rhododendron as well as the acidifier that will help my hydrangeas stay blue. Oh, and there’s one more bag of organic fertilizer for all my perennials, one bag having already been sprinkled upon most of the beds in the front yard just hours before one of our ever present April showers was expected. I also seem to have a bag of blood meal but I’m not sure why.

Probably for the first time in the 30 years I have lived here, I actually put down the first step in the weed and feed procession of products – the one with the crabgrass deterrent – before the crabgrass has emerged, and drunk with power now that I have begun the fight, I have my grub killing agent all set to spring into action as soon as the right time for action comes along (reading the instructions on the bag would be a good first step).

So much for the easy stuff, and believe me, dumping a bag of whatever-it-may-be into the spreader and taking a quick trot around the “estate” really is the easy part. The tough part, which I have also already started, is the hands-on, down-and-dirty, sweat-producing physical labor aspect of gardening that I really hate and dread.

The beds in my front yard (the butterfly garden under the kitchen window and the herb garden directly in front of it, the little triangular “Nora’s Garden” so named since it is filled with birthday flowers from my friend from Texas, and the big bed that holds pride of place on the front lawn) are all filled with easy-to-care-for perennials, and for years that’s what they were, needing minimal cleanup and fussing.

And then two years ago, right after spring cleanup and with everything looking great, I broke both legs and it all went to hell in a handbasket, pointing out the fact that although “minimal,” some regular upkeep still needs to be done. With no one keeping an eye on things, invasive plants soon took over, necessitating a major overhaul last fall.

My friend Al and his rototiller cleared swaths of grass and weeds. I dug up, washed, separated, and replanted three different varieties of irises in three different areas and, unable to bear the thought of tossing out expensive plants, I called around and managed to re-home every last scrap of the excess. I relocated some plants and added new ones, being mindful the whole time of the fact that somewhere beneath the very ground I was working on were roots and bulbs of other plants whose time of the year had come and gone and of which all traces were now gone except for what existed in my memory and that I really did not want to disturb. That done, I put down layers of newspaper to keep new grass and weeds from growing, covered it all with mulch, put my tools away and took the winter off.

That brings us to the present and I can’t wait to see what will come up and where. Will the butterfly weed from my neighbor Sue grow and help feed the pretty butterflies? And how about the bee balm, also from Sue who got some of my lamb’s ears in exchange? Will the beautiful yellow and pale blue irises that failed to thrive where they had been planted finally be able to achieve their full potential in their new spot? And will the purple coneflower I planted with such care last spring come back again this year or will it fail to take, as did its expensive predecessor (I think it was called a raspberry coneflower) the year before?

The miniature daffodils, the purple hyacinths, and the tiny blue flowers called Glory of the Snow are all in full bloom, and a few other early perennials are also starting to grow. Spears of irises, most of which were thinned out last fall, are looking good, too. The lilacs are filled with buds that look almost ready to burst, and the chives are as perky and green as I have ever seen them.

Unfortunately, so, too, are the sprigs of mint that have begun poking up here and there at the far end of the herb garden.

Planted almost 30 years ago in a pot sunken into the ground to prevent it from spreading, it eventually busted loose and escaped, infiltrating everything around it. Two years ago it was all dug out. It returned. Last fall I did another major dig out and promised myself that this time I would stay right on top of things, and I have. For the last two weeks I have been digging them up, not pulling out, every time I spot them.

The “Battle of the Mint” has been engaged and like old Elmer Fudd with his “wascally wabbit,” and armed with shovel rather than shotgun, I will not relax until the wascally weed has been “ewadicated.”

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.