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“Keep Your Knees Dirty”

I had an epiphany today, and not a wonderful one either. It was actually a bit disappointing.

My Philosophy: If you have enough nice big perennials, the weeds won’t have any room to grow!

I was outdoors this morning, working up a flowerbed, and as I spaded, pulled out stray grass and weeds, and worked up the dirt, it dawned on me that I really don’t enjoy gardening.

Like most people, I love beautiful gardens. I love the green lawns that surround them, and I love little nooks and crannies, like a hidden corner or between the roots of a large tree, where unexpected beauty grows. I love damp mossy places, and I love bright, open beds full of colour. I just don’t like making it happen.

If you know me, you know that I live in the country. Although most of our five acres are wooded, we have flower beds and quite a large lawn, which I’d rather mow than do gardening any day! However, I try to keep the beds looking nice, and perennials are my best friends. You can just work up the earth in the spring, knowing that the plants will soon grow big enough to keep the weeds down. In the fall, if they’ve grown too big or spread too far, you hack them apart, transplant to places that need coverage, and call it a season.

This morning I was hard at work on a flowerbed that runs the length of my husband’s shop. The only perennials in this one, however, are a clump of rhubarb, and a huge hosta that I divided into three. When planting season arrives, it’s due to have sunflowers (for height and colour) and a ton of nasturtiums, because I love their green leaves and cheerful flowers. Also, they’re pretty good at covering every square inch of the flowerbed and I don’t have to worry about weeds until I rip them out in the fall. It was hard work because the dirt is packed solid by snow sliding off the metal roof of the shop. It lands with a thud so loud you can hear it in the house.

Anyway, after I finished I took a walk around to see what else was blooming on my gardening agenda. My loving husband worked all winter to clear an area of woods just beyond our backyard. He cut down small trees that had no chance of growing, hacked out ugly bushes, and kept a bonfire fed with the stuff while he worked. It looks great. Only problem is, it’s going to be a challenge to keep the weeds down until the gout weed and rudbeckia I planted last fall can spread. Sigh … it will be a lot of work. But do you know what? I just realized that something good has come out of committing my whining thoughts to “paper”.

I know that my mother is right, and that what she taught me applies to gardening too:

  • Hard work never killed anyone.
  • Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and,
  • You’ll enjoy something a whole lot more if you work hard to get it.

That’s right! Instant gratification isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes, working hard at something you don’t really enjoy pays far bigger dividends than you ever imagined. With that in mind, I’ll take my friend Mark’s advice  and try to  “keep my knees dirty”. His gardens don’t suffer from all the special attention he gives them, and I hope mine turn out okay too.


Phyllis writes words: words for stories, and words for books. Phyllis writes words for blogs too.

7 thoughts on ““Keep Your Knees Dirty”

  1. You should post your “keep your knees dirty” advice on nittygrittydirtman’s blog. He was asking about garden advice and I believe yours is the best I’ve heard.

  2. When I was working, I used to assert that I’d have an enourmous garden if I had the time. When I quit my job, I spent 3 months building raised bed gardens and perimeters, and a strawberry patch… and realized I hated gardening. We’ve since moved and I had a landscaper put in the most low maintenance options he could come up with, because I know if I had to do it, everything would be dead.

    1. You should have seen the flower beds we had before we moved to this place too. I kind of inherited them — I didn’t make them myself — so what I have now feels like a bit less. Like you, though, I’d go down to practically nothing if we had to move again. Hopefully, that won’t be any time soon because I hate moving even more than I hate gardening!

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