In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
April, 2009
Regional Report

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In this woodland bed, I don't remove any of the old foliage or fern seedheads. And everything thrives!

Slow Gardening

The first 55-degree day with no plans means I'm off to work in the garden. I pull on my brand new gloves, open the shed, and take out my bucket, a rake, shovel, hoe, leaf rake, watering can, box of seeds, and stakes for the new compost bin. Then I empty the wagon of a winter collection of pots, bags of potting soil, fountain pump, and roll of twine so I can put in all my stuff.

Off to the vegetable garden. I take all my stuff out of the wagon, start ten things, and finish none. And then I have to put my tools away, frustrated. Does this sound like you in spring? Well, I've decided that I'm not going to do that this year. I'm jumping into the Slow Gardening movement. The Slow Food movement is alive and well and essentially means savoring all the facets of preparing and enjoying food.

Slow Gardening
Slow Gardening is the same thing except applied to the garden. We seem to be always in a hurry to get things done, and Nature just doesn't work this way. The garden and landscape will progress through the regular sequence even if we don't intervene. It may not be as tidy, but it will progress.

This year, let's sit back and enjoy the show, make every effort to relax, not get insanely nuts over tasks not done, and spend more time simply being in the garden.

Don't Remove Your Leaves
Don't pull back your leaves. Think of the wildflowers in the woods. They come up through the leaf mulch and are healthier for it. If your leaves are really heavy and matted you call pull them out on the lawn, run over them with the mower and blow them back into beds. But leave them there.

Cut Back Some Things
You will still need to cut back ornamental grasses, but why not use them as straw mulch for the vegetable garden? Or, simply let the straw drop where you cut it and become part of the mulch. If you have no disease issues, leave the vegetable garden straw in place and simply plant through it.

No Need to Be Tidy
The hardest part of this new way of gardening is changing our mindset to not have everything tidy. Nature isn't tidy, though. Nature recycles beautifully and once we take her lead, we will be able to finally relax. And, we'll be ecstatic when those hostas pop through last year's leaves. Eventually we will be shocked to see any bare ground. Last year's leaves will be the carpet that feeds next year's plants.

And, in the end, it's a grand experiment. Some things will work and others won't. That's the fun of gardening.


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