Restarting a garden
It's not that we are starting from scratch. There was a garden here. And I have gardened. It's just been a while.
For about 15 years now, this old clipping from a magazine has been hanging on a wall in whatever city apartment I have been living in. It has supported the dream that someday--someday--I would have my own garden again. Now that day has come.
The last time I had a garden was in Washington, DC, a city plot I shared with my friend Amber. That garden plot offered much needed mental decompression value. It rendered plenty of mint for mint juleps during those hot, sticky DC summers. It also offered a few snacks to the unfortunate migrant workers who used to wait around on Q Street for jobs.
That was a long time ago, and that was a different climate and environment. Finland has notoriously poor soil, full of stones, acid and swamp. Not to mention that our region has a surplus of white-tail deer, which were introduced from North America in the 1930s. The deer eat anything and everything, I am told, posing tremendous problems for local farmers and gardeners.
I have enthusiastically announced to anyone who will listen that I have big plans for our garden. I issued the first announcement when we signed on the property. During our meeting with the previous owner of our house, I proudly announced my intention to plant potatoes. The previous owner, a woman in her early seventies, gave me a look I can only describe as bemused. I almost want to call it a condescending look, but it wasn't quite that. It wasn't unkind.
A couple of days ago, some of our neighbors stopped by for a visit, a couple in their seventies. Again, I proclaimed my desire to plant potatoes, and there was that same look on the face of a different woman. And this time I knew what the look meant. Potatoes? Oh really. That look meant: "Oh child."
Either their expectations of my abilities are low, or they know something I don't. What am I in for?
Where do we start?
Take it slow
Step one. Clear out the nettles and overgrown grass. Find the right tool for the job.
#Fiskars gardening shears should help. They came with a 25-year warranty, which might just be long enough. The iconic orange on the handles takes me way, way back. My mother, a talented gardener and seamstress, discovered #Fiskars scissors some 45 years ago. She called them her "orange-handled scissors" and they were a sacred possession to her. We had a dishevelled household, so those scissors had their own designated place, tucked in the front of a drawer near Mom's sewing machine. If we kids ever used them and forgot to put them back, there was hell to pay. In our minds, there was no connection to Finland, but now I know these scissors and the Fiskars brand are one of Finland's most important contributions to world design.
I propped myself up on this old crate and started hacking away at the brambles and nettle--while wearing proper protective clothing, obviously.
There were some secrets hidden here and there, like this ring of stones someone a long time ago had taken the trouble to place around this rosebush. We should honor that effort. It stays.
We moved into the house at the end of July, and the roses had long since bloomed and gone. I have no idea what color they are. I can't wait to find out next spring.
There was a silver teaspoon hidden in the rubble. I washed it up and added it to our kitchen drawer.
Hello, little friend. #frog
Step two. What should stay, and what should go?
I am not familiar with all the flora and fauna of Finland. A constant question emerges: Are these wild flowers or weeds? Is this ground cover or something I should get rid of? A friend who knows gardening stopped by few days ago, and she told me the dark green plant you can see between the trees here is a good ground cover that bears beautiful small blue flowers in the early summer.
It stays. If I can manage to get rid of the bramble and nettle, maybe I can coax this ground cover plant, whatever it's called, to cover a wider space. Eventually it would be pretty great to put a hammock between those trees, not but if you have a bunch of nettles tickling you.
Step three. Repeat steps one and two.
We have a long way to go, and it will take some time and energy to work through everything. And it's going to require power tools, not just shears.
I have all kinds of dreams floating through my head while I work: strawberries here, rhubarb here, purple irises there. And what about gooseberries? Will they grow or will the deer eat them all? What about a little greenhouse right here? So many questions, so many plans. It's all something to think about through yet another COVID winter.