Afraid of the dirt

Yes, I am afraid of the dirt. Or, more specifically, I am afraid of messing up the dirt. And not just the dirt, but the plants, animals, bacteria, and everything else that makes dirt so wonderfully dirt-y. If you’ve seen any earlier posts you’ll know that I’ve barely conquered this fear and merely covered it over with cardboard to wait out what is turning into the longest, coldest and most uncool Austin winter yet. But I must get back to my point here. Gardening can be very scary when you’ve never really grown anything at all and then find yourself the owner of a big wonderful space where you can finally grow your own organic vegetables but haven’t the slightest idea of what to do. And that is why I urge all of you to make friends with a garden designer or someone who can help you measure and PLAN.

This blog is quite truthfully an homage to dear Chloe who braved the Texas heat in August to measure, draw, discuss and dream up the current plan. And this brings me back to the importance of a good plan that reflects the garden you want to spend the sweaty hours making into something that might be considered more than just a patch of weeds.

Not too long ago I spent my lunch hour reading garden blogs and came across this post at J Peterson Garden Design that highlighted Rachel Mathews, a British garden designer, who has an awesome blog and newsletter you can sign up for all about garden design. The most recent email I received is all about how the interested novice can design a fabulous garden (and perhaps make it better than a professional could) and it reminded me of my fading fear.

Chloe and I spent the week and half she was here looking through gardening magazines, websites, blogs, and books. (We also ate tons of Texas barbecue and Mexican food, saw the bats and enjoyed other Austin highlights. I’m not a terrible hostess!) We stood in the yard at all times of the day to see the shadows and walk our imaginary paths to get a feel for the structure we had sketched on paper. And we discussed the virtues of geometric shapes over organic free form and I argued for circles instead of a series of rectangles. (Chloe is an architect by training and she put her foot down when it came to aemoba-shaped beds. She simply could not make her pencil draw those forms.) We had a ball. If you’ve read Rachel’s post you’ll see this the advantage novices have over hired professionals.

After Chloe went back to her more temperate northeast life and it cooled down to the mid-nineties in Austin, I decided to tackle the garden. Part of my strategy involved contacting Jeremy who owns BioGardener for some pint-sized help. Maybe he thought I was a bit nuts. I showed him the plan Chloe and I had made along with a long list of carefully research perennials for the butterfly/hummer corner and he looked me in the eye and asked me what I thought he could do to help me. Secretly I was hoping he would look at the plan and my list of carefully (obsessively) researched plants and tell me he could whip the whole garden into shape for a little bit of money and we’d be finished. Ah, silly girl, a garden is never finished. Instead, he affirmed that the shade-less area was indeed full sun, had great dirt, and I should get some plants into it posthaste.

I’m working on it and will someday have all the beds outlined, seasonally planned and planted, and include those fun sculptural accents and other touches that personalize one’s outdoor space.

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3 Responses to “Afraid of the dirt”

  1. Deborah Elliott Says:

    I look forward to seeing your garden grow! I just discovered you through blotanical. Welcome! How exciting for you to get professional help with your garden. That is something I have sometimes longed for but never had the funds. One thing I have learned about gardens is that they are always changing, and that is what makes gardening so fun. Don’t be afraid about messing things up; you can always move things around or pull things out if they don’t prosper or please you. . It will be wonderful!

  2. Pam/Digging Says:

    You are well on your way. Just plunge in, and I promise in a year you’ll look back and be amazed at your progress. Each year adds to the progress of the year before, although you never feel that the garden is finished. Thank goodness! What else would we do with our time that would be nearly as satisfying as playing in the dirt?

  3. Laura Says:

    Looks to me as if you’ve already got a wonderful start. You have a great plan and as Deborah said above, gardens are always changing. It’s as if you are starting a work of art that will reflect you.

    When we bought our lot, we had nothing but weeds–big ones taller than me such as ragweed. There were trees on the perimeter but nothing else.

    We measure and put our own plan on paper. We planned for a gazebo and pathways even though our finances were tight. We plotted and we worked, and our plans changed when we got to know the land first-hand. Some plants that were supposed to be good for our area didn’t work. Others that we’d tried before on a plot just five minutes away did.

    The gazebo never came about, but brick pathways and a potting shed, not in the original plan, did.

    This is your chance to make whatever you want out of it.

    There is nothing wrong with getting help if you need it for planting, but it’s also so satisfying to do it yourself. If you make a mistake, you can always move a plant or pull it out or whatever. It’s so much fun!

    I look forward to reading more of your posts. Laura

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