Monday, January 25, 2016
My Garden Taught Me How to Say NO
The main reason my garden has had to lay fallow was that I accepted the wrong sort of help. Sadly, it nearly killed my garden entirely, and it broke my gardening heart.
It's not easy being always by myself in everything, so sometimes I barter for things or for help that I need. A couple of years ago, I bartered my eBay services for garden supplies and assistance. I would list or buy what the customer wanted; the customer would donate soil and help me mix it to replenish the containers. He said that he had taken horticulture classes and that he had been planting vegetables since he was a kid. It sounded like a good idea. It would have been. It should have been. But it was a disaster.
My customer basically went nuclear on my garden: He raked the ground entirely clear of the mulch that helps keep the flooding at bay under the planting benches. He dumped out all of my planters and re-filled them a mixture that was mostly unrotted manure. He moved my planting benches and drove fence posts into the ground so that neither the benches nor the trellises could be moved again. He unexpectedly brought seedlings for plants that I did not want. He wouldn't listen to me saying, "Please, wait!" So I stood there, completely intimidated by someone who was too busy, too energetic, too loud. I watched the destruction unfold, fully anticipating the worst. But the results were worse even than I imagined.
The pictures I posted a couple of days ago made it look like my garden was all nice and tidy but the reality is that it wasn't. The ground was stripped, and the containers were essentially polluted.
You can see the manure right on the surface of the planters. I removed as much as I could but there was much more under the surface so it's little wonder that the roots of the plants burned away.
All that summer, proud of his accomplishment in "fixing" my garden, he kept coming back to check on the progress of his work and was very astonished that absolutely nothing that he worked on grew properly because it was all burned by the fresh manure. Nearly all of the seedlings died. I removed as much of the manure as I could but it was so incorporated that it was hopeless. I had never had tomato worms in the garden before but the plants he brought were completely infested, and other bugs must have heard the call so they joined in to attack the compromised plants as well. The only things to survive that year were some wax beans and English peas that I planted with soil I mixed myself. Finally, he admitted that I was right in what I had tried to explain about container gardening.
I need the extras that my garden produces so this was a hard lesson. But disasters don't happen from the actions of just one person; there is an equal burden on the person who stands by without standing up. I should have been more assertive and more insistent but I feared being rude or appearing ungrateful. I had maintained my container garden for years. I understood the soil mixtures that I used, and I knew that I was being coerced into something that would not work but I didn't say no forcefully enough.
The results were something that only I had to live with. Now I know that being too polite won't put tomatoes on my sandwiches.
Alas, the battle is not done. The manure came from a variety of animals (chickens, rabbits, goats, horses) who had eaten a variety of seeded plants. Yeah, a lot of those seeds came out the same way they went in: viable. The weeds in my garden are horrific. I've tried non-chemical means of killing them. It hasn't worked. I'll be living with these consequences for quite a long time to come, unfortunately, because I simply can't afford to do a complete soil replacement.
My garden isn't lost but it is changed. And so am I. I will no longer remain quiet when it comes to something so important.