Monday, May 14, 2012

Changing, growing

If you've spent any time reading this blog, you'll know I like to garden. I waited ten years to have a garden of my own (container gardening, while nice, only gets you so far). So one of the first things I did when we moved into our house last fall was to tear out the grass along our fence line and put in native grasses and perennials.

Okay, it wasn't just me. Beloved Husband and both kids helped. It was a ton of work, but well worth it, because we now have this:

The neighbors, who thought we were crazy when we started, have all commented on how much they love it. And I love that it will change as the season progresses. By mid-summer, it will have lots of yellow and orange flowers blooming, and by fall, the grasses will be tall and all shades of yellow, gold, and red, some with feathery pink seed heads.

Yesterday, I was pulling weeds (yes, I pull them by hand, more on that in a moment) to the susurrus of baby cardinals begging for food in our lilac. As long as I kept my head down, the parents were content to come and go. I also discovered a bumblebee nest behind that pinkish plant in the foreground (Penstemon, for anyone who's curious).

Weed-pulling: a back-breaking, mindless waste of time, right? Lots of people think so, but I enjoy it. (Now you know why our neighbors think we're nuts.) I like it for many reasons.
  • It's hard work, but at the end of the day, I can look at the planting bed and see the results. There's very little instant gratification in writing.
  • It's back-breaking, but in a different way from writing. it stretches muscles that sit for too long when I write, so in a way it's soothing. Besides, there's something satisfying about going to bed a bit sore from a hard day's work. And I sleep better.
  • It's mindless, which gives my brain a break from constant focus and thought. The inability to sustain focus on something for a prolonged period of time (or the increasing difficulty in doing so as time progresses) is called directional attention fatigue, and studies show that exposure to nature is the best way to allow the brain to recoup and revitalize (source).
  • It's inspirational. A good many of my magazine article and picture book ideas (the non-fiction ones) are based on things I have seen while gardening or spending time outside. Gardening is also the perfect opportunity to figure out what, exactly, that random thing that just happened in my novel really means, and how it will play out later in the story (or if I should get rid of it).
And then there are encounters like these. How can you not love seeing something like this?

eastern swallowtail butterfly
Do you garden? What do you like about it? And if not, why not?


  1. I love looking at gardens, shooting pictures in gardens, but not having a personal yard (living in a condo complex) I don't get the let's-dig-in-the-dirt itch.

    1. It's a lot less work if you enjoy other people's gardens! :)

  2. I love looking at gardens, shooting pictures in gardens, but not having a personal yard (living in a condo complex) I don't get the let's-dig-in-the-dirt itch.

  3. I didn't know there was any other way to pull weeds than to do it by hand. I have a garden, but it's not very large. I'm not too savvy with flowers; I only have about 5 indoor plants and two front flower beds in the shade that house my favorite no-fuss flowers: coral bells (or Heuchera). My vegetable garden is about 4 feet wide by 20 feet long. I'm trying to grow a few things, but I think some of the seeds I used were bad. And the rabbits are eating all my radishes. I think it's going to be a broccoli year. And I have 4 cantaloupe plants in my compost. I don't like having to set aside so much time in the summer to harvest and can because it means I'm not writing, but when the winter comes, I enjoy the salsa immensely.

    1. There's the hand-pulling, and there's spraying. Or lots of people put down plastic or other physical barrier to keep the seeds from reaching soil in the first place. And now there's herbicide-treated mulch, to keep weeds down. I'm just not a fan of using chemicals, and I want some of my plants to self-seed, so I haven't used a barrier.

      My neighbor had trouble with rabbits eating her radish greens; she's hoping the radishes will be huge, since the plants couldn't put any energy into growing above-ground! :)