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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Bird

Summertime Blues

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

My July garden is a disaster. There is no other way to put it. The winter dreams and lists, culled from seductive color seed catalogs, graph papers of neat raised beds, plans for utilitarian sheds, and a privacy hedge as dense and robust as Tom Selleck’s mustache - they can be filed under F for “fiction,” and several other choice “F” words. I can not help but be disappointed that in the third summer of the garden-ish. It looks possibly worse than the day I moved in when there were only some overgrown meatball shaped shrubs too close to the house. In January, I dreamed in flagstone and lush perennial borders. Flagstone, people! The audacity. In July, I am sobering up to the girl I actually took home, and it ain’t pretty.

Expectations vs. Temu, below.

And now, as the sun blazes down unmercifully, all I can do is wait for more reasonable weather as I rehash every misstep like a French general. I had to build a fence, and then another fence, and then a coop and run to house the baby chicks that camped out in a tent inside the bunny’s room like an avian Woodstock. And I had to build a grow room to start my plant business. THEN I had to care for the 1000 baby plants the grow room helped produce for market. Surprise surprise, the plants grew and I had to build potting tables and racks to introduce them slowly to the real sun, and also put up a massive sunshade so the babies wouldn’t blister in the afternoons. And because I am possibly deranged on some cellular level, or as my grandmere says, “touched in the head,” I invited into my life the pure chaos of a rescue pup. And a turkey. And a scroungy feral kitten pulled out from under a car in the parking lot by a coworker during a rainstorm.

So now I sit in the devastation of my own self-inflicted Schliffen plan, with no hope of a Marshall Plan bailout although I would gladly embrace democracy over the pockmarked soviet hellscape of my current yard. The dogs have mined a series of ankle busting holes; the 100 gladiolas I planted to sell as cut flowers are some sort of canine affront. They punctuate the yard with green exclamation points yanked ruthlessly from the ground. My Peggy Martin rose, from stock which survived full water immersion from HURRICANE KATRINA (!), was chewed to a nub by the new dog. Both dogs jump into the clumsy raised beds I made with discarded fence planks and do their own version of Riverdance. They spend hours plotting to liberate and murder the chickens so I have to reinforce the run with any bits of metal I can get my hands on.

My chicken run and the inspo behind it.

The chicken gulag blends in perfectly with the weedy, unmowed and junked mess of the rest of my yard. The lean to sheds I designed at the two water points to store tools and supplies are less building and more it’s the thought that counts. They are buildings in their hearts, not abandoned bootlegger shanties that Carrie Nation took a hatchet too. All the bulbs and tubers I carefully pulled up last fall to transplant languished and rotted in boxes. Despite growing and selling hundreds of plants to others, I have managed very little for myself this year. The only thing thriving is the compost pile.

Go home, glads, you're drunk.

The three biggest factors in every gardener’s reality are time, money, and ability. The 4th is the environment you are working with, but if you are strong in even two of the first three cards, then the habitat you are plunked in becomes more of a 2s are wild situation. My time, money, and ability cards were 4, 3, and a Joker, respectively, while my plans were more of a royal flush ambition. A place to enjoy my coffee in the mornings, a bird sanctuary featuring native shrubs and maybe a working fountain. A comely gravel firepit outside the reaches of the streetlights where I could sit facing north and reason on clear winter nights. A couple of dripping arbors, a spiral herb garden, a porch remodel with maybe some custom painted concrete pavers. A small zen garden and a few fence murals. Just a few other DIY projects in addition to the aforementioned ones that I actually did manage to accomplish. Writing this list, I can see perhaps my original plan was a bit much. Maybe this was less of a two front war and more of a Kamikaze mission; I was never gonna make it back alive. Especially after packing the cockpit to my plane with a literal petting zoo.

It is a humbling lesson, this July garden. A number of draconian gardening laws have been ratified following the experiences of the first half of 2023.

  1. All current plants languishing in verdant purgatory SHALL BE HOMED prior to ANY new purchases* (*seeds don’t count towards new purchases)

  2. Thou shalt not purchase bare root plants ever for surely they perish or the pets dig them up for the roots are weak, and the paws are strong. Lo but the line of Hosta be broken. It is nigh!

  3. Particular individuals possessing both limited intellect and upper body strength will be subject to a 3 day cooling off period before beginning any new gardening project so as to ameliorate the possibility of moving cinder blocks a DOZEN times (as per a 2023 study)

In the meanwhile, there is some comfort in knowing that plants I grew from seed are thriving in dozens of other (better looking) gardens now.


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