The phone rang just as I had my hand on the door knob to step out of the house. A friend I seldom see anymore was on the line. We talked and caught up with each other’s lives.
As we got ready to say, ‘good-bye’, my friend asked, “What sort of plans do you have for the rest of today?”
I admitted, “I’m putting my garden to bed for the winter. If I get everything done that I want to, I’ll be a muddy mess by the time I come back into the house,”
With the call over, I pulled on my gardening coat and wrapped a scarf around my neck. Picking up a pair of garden sheers, I left the house. Walking across the lawn towards the garden, I thought about the phrase, ‘putting my garden to bed’. It reminded me how I had I hated bedtime as a child, and how Mom had struggled to get me settled.
When my family started to pray our nightly rosary, I knew my evening was over. Immediately after, Mom insisted I put on my nighty, brush my teeth and use the bathroom to prevent a cold, middle of the night trip downstairs in the dark. As I unhappily trudged up the stairs, Daddy would cheerfully call out from his favorite chair in the living room, “Nighty-night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
The ends of my scarf flapped in the chill breeze, bringing my attention back to my job at hand. Although the lawn was still a vibrant green, the rest of the backyard looked dreary, with gray, wind-whipped clouds overhead, dark green pine trees and skeletal deciduous tree branches.
Stepping into the garden was like entering a different world. The sides of the hoop building were closed, so there were no playful drafts of wind. Some hearty plants were still green despite the recent freezing nights. More delicate plants drooped dejectedly with crisp, brown leaves.
The air in my garden was somewhat chilly, but after several minutes of pulling dead plants out of the soil I was warm enough to take off my scarf and outer jacket. The amount of work left to put the garden to bed was intimidating. The asparagus needed to be cut down, all the tomatoes pulled up, the tomato cages put in the shed, all the plastic mulch discarded. The sensitive parts of the irrigation system stored in the basement and leaves from my maple tree spread on the soil as an organic soil amendment.
As I turned to go back to work, my glance landed on five blueberry plants in the last row. Shaking my head, I wondered how to protect them from hungry rabbits during the winter. They hadn’t borne fruit this year because last winter the rabbits chewed them down to nubbins. A plan began to form. I had chicken wire and garden fencing in the shed.
Putting a garden to bed isn’t a one-day job. I break up the work into bite-sized tasks. One day I harvest the butternut squash. Another day I clean around the horseradish. Today I was pulling up pepper plants, zucchini and flowers. The tomato plants would be next. As I worked, garden dirt found its way inside my shoes and pockets. Dust settled on the lenses of my glasses.
The need to put a fence around the blueberry plants made me feel grumpy. I muttered, “I should have a fence around the whole yard. Every varmint that walks through wants to eat my plants! It’s too bad they don’t eat just grass. Then I wouldn’t have to pay anyone to mow it.”
When my garden work was done for the day, I picked some rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage. Despite the cold weather, they were still green and fragrant. As I closed the garden door to return to the house, I stopped to say, “Nighty-night garden. Sleep tight. Don’t let the rabbits bite!”