Garden 2009: spring flower bed, planted in memory of Aunt “Boots” Jones, Prescott house

Ah, the heartening effects of pleasant springtime weather! It makes me want to go OUTSIDE. A lot. This spring I have an excellent reason to get out of the house and into the back yard. We moved to Walla Walla mid-May, 2018; now is the first time I’ll be able to get a real start on the “new” garden.


I would say I’ve always loved gardening. The more basic truth is, I’ve always loved pulling weeds. As a kid, I earned a hefty fifty cents an hour pursuing this passion. There’s something about getting my hands into dirt- -blame it on my Irish heritage- – that makes me feel truly alive.


My real career in gardening began in the year 2000. I had my own house for the first time. The back yard was overgrown but sunny, a happy change after living in the woods for many years. I figured I’d try a few things- -peas were supposed to be easy, maybe a few herbs. . .


And just like that, I was hooked! Every weekend I trotted down the hill to the well-stocked local nursery and spent every dime of discretionary income I possessed on seeds, planters, soil amendment materials, gardening tools, and different fertilizers for vegetables and flowers. I lined the driveway with floribunda rose bushes and dug huge holes on the street side of the house to accommodate the anticipated vast root spreads of laurel bushes that would one day become a mighty hedge.


Like many things, the “hedge” remained sparse and didn’t meet expectations. But, like many other things, much of my effort that year produced what I’d hoped. This year, armed with hoe, trowel, shovel, rake and soil testing kit, I am poised to embark on Garden 2019!

And, for my next trick. . .Prescott garden, 2017

Naturally I think about how much it would mean to be tackling this project with Bruce. He was wonderfully encouraging and helpful in my gardening endeavors over the years, breaking up plots with the rototiller, fencing the garden against deer and other opportunistic critters. One year, when failed tomato starts reduced me to tears, he took off for town, 20 miles away, and returned with eight hearty tomato seedlings. In two of the places we lived, he built me a greenhouse.


Those days are gone, but I can still lose myself in the joys of gardening and watching things grow. Peas will come early, with lettuce and chives. Plucking the first ripe tomato from the vine is a happily anticipated summer event. Flowers, cut from the patio bed, will bring fresh life indoors. I’ve discovered an excellent recipe for surplus zucchini (a soup that can be frozen for months) and neighbors who are delighted to receive spaghetti squash. Lots of spaghetti squash.


Southeast corner of “new” backyard in Walla Walla, 2018; the raised garden bed, one of six, is home to strawberries

There are six raised beds in the new garden, one already planted with last year’s strawberries. Last year I bought eggplant and tomato seedlings in early June (too late, really) and plopped them in whatever spots seemed best, ditto for peas, carrots, beans, zucchini and spaghetti squash grown from seed. The nightshade vegetables were a bust. Every bean plant in the neighborhood, including all of mine, was infected with mosaic virus. One bed of sunflowers and zinnias came out stunted; the other hearty and strong. There is much to learn.

Sunflowers in September, garden bed off patio, 2018

In Walla Walla County, common wisdom warns against planting a garden before Mother’s Day. Before then, emergent plants are as likely as not to die from frost. In my case, there is so much to do before then I doubt I’ll get restless (and don’t even get me started about the lawn, which is more appropriately called “miscellaneous invasive grass varieties”). I’m looking forward to the back-aching, rewarding fun of it all; the hours spent outside with the dog and cats who will snuffle at and comment on every change; a restorative soak in the tub at day’s end.


In a word, renewal.

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