Many believe wholeheartedly that the time to plan your garden is in the depths of winter. Perhaps this is true in terms of the minutiae; but after years of implementing the overreach that winter weather inspires in the bedraggled, I cannot recommend it. No, the time to plan next year’s garden is now, before the current garden has left us and while the gardener remains firmly chained to its demands.
It is all well and good to plan a new bed while the seeds of crabgrass and plantain lie perfectly dormant in dead looking sod. You are being reasonable, you think. Till it, edge it, plant it, enjoy it. What could possibly go wrong? The soil will smell so good – so life-giving after a winter cooped up with scale-infested ficus.
Come March the deed is joyfully done (along with three deeds more) and then, everything unravels as beds of the previous year’s wise winter thoughts call for immediate assistance. Chaos reigns. The chastising begins. It’s only June 10th.
No, I say again. Plan now. Only now do you still feel the true weight of your workload, and only now can you make sensible decisions that involve adding to it.
For example, for over five weeks now I have kept a weeping nootka cypress sitting balled and burlapped in a seven gallon pot – all for lack of a decently dug hole. Each morning I throw yet another bucket of water on it, mumble embarrassed, empty words of promise and apology, and skulk away to easier jobs. The woman who performs this ritual every morning is not the same woman who will consider ordering sixteen chionanthus to line the drive next year. I have thus made a stern note in my journal to be read in January.
A friend writes me yesterday to remind me of the plant swap next weekend. I reply asking if I can bring my entire garden and let the woodland and meadow take back what is rightfully theirs. Are these the words of a woman on top of her workload?
And I could go on.
This is the mind and body you want planning next year’s horticultural feats. There is little point in creation if the maintenance is beyond your ability to cope. I liken it to preparing for a Christmas party with three little children underfoot. By the time you have artfully arranged the cocktail area, they have gnawed on the buffet candles and grabbed white tablecloths with grubby hands. Mother Nature is just as cruel and she never takes a nap during the growing season.