Once each year, about this time, I hit a wall.

I’m done. I’m finished. No more. Not one more plant or seed is going into the ground. My fingernails are permanently soil-stained and daylight is shining through the knees of my old jeans.

The garden is basically complete. Things are growing relatively well, despite our local lack of moisture as storms slide by almost within arms’ length, leaving behind only a few scattered drops and windblown leaves. Porch boxes and planters are full, mulch is down and sprawling tomatoes are caged in wooden supports.

Wire fencing around the strawberries has been removed and relocated a few yards away around a young patch of sweet corn. Its aim is to, hopefully, be a deterrent to a rerun of the rodeo held in the garden last weekend by a couple of escaped beef cows. Their antics effectively wiped out the lingering asparagus stalks, along with some invading Johnsongrass I’ve been battling for some time.

A bundle of excess zinnia seedlings went in to cover the big, open, stomped-down patch. The zinnias should add some greenery and, eventually, color and pollinator attraction there while the asparagus recovers from the hoofed assault. Fortunately, the sweet corn tops that the beef snacked on during the rodeo intermission are growing back out, encouraged by the sprinkler I finally dragged to the garden in frustration at the moisture deficit.

I’ve (mostly) forgiven the four-legged invaders, but for a bit after discovering the results of the cattle’s adventure, my mind focused heavily on thoughts of a freezer full of hamburger and beef roasts.

Switching Lanes

Recovering from the annual planting-season burnout generally requires a temporary focus on some totally new challenge that has nothing to do with digging holes in the soil and lugging containers of water.

The challenge I found was right there in front of me: a garage in dire need of a cleanout.

Our garage doors face the prevailing western winds, which went out of their way this past winter to toss cornfield and tree residue into every nook and cranny imaginable, including the garage. The constant passing of farm equipment on the road located just feet from the garage doors delivers a steady accumulation of dust. And, the lawn mower housed within the garage adds plentiful fallout of chopped, dead grass bits.

Along with all that “natural” dirt was an accumulation of assorted, no-longer-relevant household items parked there over a period of time and destined for donation to local charity thrift stores. Also filling a corner of the garage were bags of salt, for use during winter ice storms, jugs of automotive windshield washer and assorted other items stuck there because it was a handy spot.

A couple of old rugs laid on the garage floor are kept there to collect gravel and dirt before I climb into my car. They were in dire need of a shake-out and an airing. And, needless to say, the entire concrete floor screamed for some attention from a large barn-broom.

So, one recent afternoon, blessed with a comfortably brisk breeze, bright sunshine and unusually low humidity, proved the perfect time to shake off planting burnout with an assault on the grubby garage.

Out went an accumulation of old items no longer likely to be rehabilitated in any fashion. Donation pieces got cleaned up, organized and packed into a couple of boxes ready to haul off. The rugs went out for a good shaking and air-out. Dust, gravel, leaves, cornstalk residue, dried lawn grass and who knows what other bits and pieces of residue got swept into piles and shoveled out.

For me, tackling such a cleanout of an area too-long neglected is great therapy for mind and body. By the time the job is finished, I’m dusty, smudgy and my clothes need to go straight to the laundry pile. And, the garage looks more respectable than me ... if you don’t look too far into its farthest corners.

After, returning the wide push-broom to the calf barn and restoring the much-cleaner rugs to their rightful places, I suddenly remembered an important piece of information that had just come my way.

The local greenhouse, where I’ve been getting most of my plants this season, had just sliced the price on all their plants in half.

It was a good thing the garage cleanout was complete, because it didn’t take me long to back the car out of the more-tidy garage and head off to the greenhouses a mile away.

My hands are grubby with soil and the knees of my jeans are damp and muddy. And my assortment of new perennial plants are in the ground.

Life is back to my normal happy gardening.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.


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