Internal Battles in the garden

IMG_5861.jpgYes, I am in the garden – well – really no I am not. I am sitting with garden books, and garden journals all around me. I should really be in the garden pulling weeds but I have an issue on hand that is creating an internal battle. So for now I am looking at the weeds, while reviewing garden books – really not garden books so much as books written by naturalists.

Let me explain – first I have to admit I am writing out this issue is hoping to find answers so bare with me in this fight. My guides in download-1.jpgthis battle are Aldo Leopold author of A Sand County Almanac ( read it if you have not – published in 1949) and Saving Tarboo Creek writing by Scott Freeman and Susan Leopold Freeman (2018). ( yes, Susan is the granddaughter of Aldo – cool! Right?)

download.jpgThese guys represent the re wilding side of nature. The on going efforts to return the land to a healthy state. They have and are working to heal old over worked farm land or forests that have been clear cut and streams that have been dammed or diverted making it impossible for fish to spawn. They are doing great things in their little corner of the wor

This leads me to my little plot of land. I sit in the middle of a big city. The land I live on and “own” for now is just one of many slots in a typical neighborhood. (I put quotes around the word own because I don’t really believe we ever really own the land. We borrow it for a time. No one owns the earth – really.)

The yard does not have an alley so it a bit longer in the back than most yards in our city and it butts up to the neighbors behind and his veggies garden. It is lovely. It is where my battle is happening.

After the heavy winter the grass did not come back in large sections, The weeds along the edges of the fence line have been winning the struggle between the two of us (really for years if I am honest) and we took down an old children’s fort leaving a large bare spot in another section of the yard. The weeds are having a hay day filling in this location. If you can picture it the yard is a bit of a mess right now. Added to this mess I choose this year to stop any yard treatment that controls the weeds. We have Aldo and Scott in part to thank for that decision.

So here I sit struggling with a yard of weeds that I can’t stay ahead of, the desire to move to more natural planting and no chemicals but wishing to have that beautiful green yard and gardens that one walks through like a premier garden. (the front gardens are a step towards those more cultured gardens – see photo of purple iris.) IMG_5852.jpg

The questions that loom are

  • Do I just call the lawn treatment guy and say come take care of these weeds and grow nice green lush grass?
  • Do I find help to dig up large sections of the yard and turn them into garden beds – a more cultured look with bushes and perennials?
  • Do I plant trees and bushes and let the area return to a more natural state?
  • I am in the middle of a city and how important is the concerns of my neighbors on what I do with my piece of land?
  • There is also the resale valve of this land – we am getting “old” and know that one day we will move. Will it sell if I create a small wild forest in my back yard?
  • I like flower gardens and cultured beds. I like well weeded gardens with crisp edges. The weeds are driving me crazy – can I really move toward letting go of the controlled city landscape?
  • How much energy do I have to create and maintain either landscape?
  • What is the cost of creating new garden beds with perennials over creating a more forested landscape and letting things take with own coarse?
  • Of Course there is the on going battle with the rabbits but that is a different issue – it does just shows up here if I think about adding a water feature in the back yard – the rabbits and raccoons would love it. Me – I am not crazy about wild rabbits and raccoons eating every plant I put in the ground.

So there lies the struggle – personal likes and dislikes, personal desires to save the planet through what I do in my little yard, money and energy.

For now it all comes down to – do I go out and weed or just let it sit until I make some bigger decisions?

This little piece of heaven is not bad looking in the photo below but get in close and the world changes. The wood off to the right is the remains of a fort – soon to be taken away leaving a fence line of weeds. The two small rectangles are old raised beds – one that contains rhubarb, horseradish and Jack in the Pulpits thanks to the birds. The other has volunteer onions and maybe strawberry plants next week due a donation from another gardener in the neighborhood. The rest of the brown is dead grass and open land from under the fort. The perennial garden beds that line the left side and back fence are growing nicely if I can just keep chasing the weeds.


So continues my journey into responsible planting and gardening – I will keep you posted on what happens – do I keep it a city landscape with lovely garden beds or find a way to let the woods take over allowing the critters, that I often fight with, take over.

I guess the question should be is there a middle ground? Can I find the space in between the cultured city beds and the letting go for the development of a mini wild forest? We certainly don’t need with much grass to mow, chemically treat and stare at.

Do you have thoughts to help me?  Which side of the battle are you on?

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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4 Responses to Internal Battles in the garden

  1. Best of luck with your battle! I go through similar debates constantly in my own mind about what to do. We have 3.5 acres of property and this year, I just cannot seem to stay on top of it at home – and I am definitely loosing a battle at the school gardens which I manage. Good Luck! I applaud your efforts – Leopold is definitely a great resource and inspiration!

  2. Trina Haase says:

    Our grass didn’t grow back like usual this year either, and a few plants died because of the April storm. We are constantly grappling with weeds too. I don’t have the gardening experience that you do… That makes me want to weed a bit more!

    Good luck with your gardening challenges!

  3. elsie says:

    I am on the side of what makes you happiest and whatever you have the energy to deal with. Gardening shouldn’t be a source of angst, there should be pleasure in the placing of plants and nurturing those plants. I am not a plant person, but I enjoy them. Lucky for me, my husband finds great joy in the yard. Good luck!

  4. arjeha says:

    I just came in from cutting the grass. Of course I get a good look at what needs to be done in the yard as I cut. I admit that I have quite a bit of work to do. The thistle is winning in spots. I do not use chemicals on my lawn so maybe it is not the greenest most perfect yard in the neighborhood. Oh well. That is how it is. Good luck with your yard.

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