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Gardening techniques: assessing neglect in the garden

One thing I like about raising shrubs and trees is that the maintenance is typically low, and usually I can do a lot of cleanup from fall through spring and then back off a little bit in the summer while the mulches last long enough to at least fend off the major competitors until later summer. By the fall, when the sun becomes more tolerable and spending long hours outside cleaning and planning becomes a reasonable thing to do once again, everything comes together and I can actually assess the successes and failures over the year.

Today I started looking for areas of serious neglect and rethinking my maintenance habits. For example, the bed of comfrey (photo 1) that I stuck into the ground earlier this spring and then ignored probably needs some maintenance. This bed was just a short term holding place until I can learn to trust the plant and start introducing it in some of the forest garden zones. I’ll have to mow around the edges then I may try digging up a few plants to see if they are ready to transplant. I don’t know much about growing comfrey but I plan to learn by trial and error because I am so fatigued of book/internet research right now.

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Elsewhere I have clusters of weeds and flowers and the never-ending tomatillos that I planted in the first year and have seen volunteer throughout the yard every year since (probably thanks to the chickens, who are no longer with us). Lawn maintenance has become a multiple-length management style, taking after some of my neighbors, where some grass gets mowed regularly to keep paths open, and other areas grow up pasture style and can be used for mulch or whatever when the time comes. An old daydream of mine was to raise livestock to graze our seemingly endless fields of grass, but my head is spinning with all the chores at the moment that adding a few new live beings (and lures for the coyotes) to the mix would just be too much. Also in photo 2 you’ll see my half complete fall greens bed. Greens and onions and herbs are all I plan to grow for awhile until I can get back into the rhythm of caring for more challenging plants.

The biggest reason that things get neglected these days is because of the crazy, fun, and incredibly demanding job of guiding an almost-4-year-old through his early years. He’s starting to blossom into a semi-helpful garden partner, but sometimes he’d rather destroy the new seedbeds after we plant them, instead of waiting patiently for the little plants to emerge in a couple of weeks.

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