Curing the Gardening Phobia

Green Manure

1:30 P.M. 96°

I never work in the heat, but I didn’t have any choice today. It’s mid summer, and as I’ve done nothing in the yard, my anxiety over its neglect is as prickly as that patch of thistles.

Covered head-to-toe with insect repellent, I made decisions as I went along. After thoughtlessly grabbing a few clumps of clover, I decided to keep all of it. My research on clover finally clicked: it’s called “green manure” because it’s so good for the soil. It’s a natural ground cover that I can turn under either late Fall or very early in Spring. It needs about 6 weeks before the benefits leach into the soil, and then you can plant. So the general recommendation is to wait 6 weeks and then plant in that spot. For now, I’ll just leave it all; otherwise, I’ll have too much bare dirt, and the thistles will just fill in again.

Then I’ll transplant a hydrangea that’s not doing well and add a new one to fill in the spot. And along the stones, I’ll transplant some lambs ears from the front yard that are growing into the grass.

But for the large bare spots, I realized that I should test the soil before I plant in it. (See the slide show below.)


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I stopped to grab the new soil test kits that I bought yesterday. It took more time than I wanted to spend, because I couldn’t find the bucket that I needed. Finally found it, then washed it, then decided that I didn’t need it. A 2-cup measuring cup would do. I rummaged through the individual measuring cups to find one that I wouldn’t mind leaving in the shed for all future testing.

Finally, ready to start, I set up on the patio table, then decided to move it all into the kitchen because the little vials seemed too unsteady on the pierced metal table.

Next, I struggled with the tiny colored capsules. The package was explicit—gently pull them apart and pour the compound into these teeny vials. Really? I imagined powder spraying all over the kitchen.

I cut the first one open and the powder sprayed all over the counter. After some experimenting, I felt the right amount of pressure and pulled the next one open. Hmm…pulling was the best method after all. As with most things, once I understood the directions, it wasn’t difficult.

The verdict came in—the soil needs potash and nitrogen. My 1-hour deadline was pressing down and we were expecting rain, so I decided to keep going, since I had not had as much time as I wanted to actually work in the dirt. I set the timer for a second hour. I figured with the rain coming I wouldn’t be able to get out the next couple of days.

Learn more about green manure here:


Curing the Gardening Phobia

Canada Thistle

Recently I read a book called Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, a quick read and full of useful ideas. One that struck a chord with me was the author’s suggestion that doing research is a method of procrastination. That hit home. I love to research…but it does eat up time…then I walk around claiming to be thinking….

Well, this time I needed to know everything about Canada Thistle, since I was faced with so much of it. Before I hit on my plan, I had spent some time on my knees, with my maroon plastic-handled weeder, digging out a bunch of nasty thistle from a bed on the north side. Feeling fierce, I dug deep and bore the stickers coming through my dirty gloves.

Then I got my plan for 1-hour gardening, and I had to stop to research those thistles. Why was I suddenly in need of advice? I really wanted some praise for my previous heroic efforts. Didn’t happen. I found out that the best way to beat thistles is to just cut them off at ground level. They say that the root system is so tough that the best way to ultimately get rid of thistles is to kill the root system by eliminating the leaves above ground. In fact, digging out the roots tends to leave the root system cut into bits, leaving it more able to product twice as many thistles!

All the stickers through my gloves for nothin’! Even chemical control, they say, only works in combination with cultural and mechanical control (weeding).

More than one site explained that even the strongest topical herbicides won’t kill an infestation in one application. So, I’ve settled on the organic method, which I described above…that is, persistently cutting it off at ground level.

It’s like a lot of unpleasant things in life…we can decide that it’s too difficult to attack our problems and leave them to fester…or we can get on our knees and at least get some satisfaction from one small victory after another.

I have a very sharp new pair of pruning shears, and I’m committed to my daily 1-hour of natural prayer.

A surprise gift…swamp white oak sapling
Curing the Gardening Phobia

The 1-Hour Gardener

6:00 P.M.

I’m just a suburban naturalist, who finds peace kneeling in my garden. I had lost all of that a few years back through a series of natural and personal troubles.

One night we awoke to the sound of raccoons rummaging overhead. They had ripped a hole in our roof leaving the attic exposed during 14 hours of rain. We finally managed to place a temporary patch on the roof, buying ourselves some time to come up with a recovery plan.


Soon our plan had to encompass more troubles…we lost 3 ash trees in our backyard to the emerald ash borer. And the tree removal specialists did even more damage to our beds, as they brought in heavy equipment to take down the trees and grind out the stumps.

We spent the next year with the roof patched, but not repaired, and no landscaping left, while we churned over our plan. That following year we added on a room and repaired the roof. A landscaper friend bartered services with us to help with the yard. Thanks to Kenny, we seemed to finally be back on track.

But then the next summer hit, and I was overwhelmed by a longstanding difficulty that I finally sought professional help for. I was told that the condition is called “lack of nurture,” and I spent 18 months crawling out of a deep mental hole. During that time, I only minimally worked in the yard. And insult to injury…we lost some of the bigger new plantings.

The first several weeks of this 2018 summer, I was numb. I wandered fecklessly around the yard. Wondered where to start. Overwhelmed by the work.

Then one morning, I realized that I only needed to be in the yard. I did not need to conquer it…just be in it. My plan is to just be in the yard…not study everything that needs to be done…but just be in it and work on 1 small patch at a time—for 1 hour a day.

I hope you’ll come with me on this journey, as I recover myself and the yard…in 1 hour a day.

First hour success