Gardening 101

Finding Joy in The Garden

Seed packets

Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo has Americans searching their attics for joy. Through her new Netflix show, books, online platform, and an army of consultants applying her KonMari method, she encourages us to find joy in our possessions or thank our unused objects for their service and let them go. Her well-timed message has swept through our house and carried me out to my workbench.

Garden Clean Up and Tasks

My garden tools and materials provide hours of tidying up joy. While I’m diligent about cleaning my tools after use, cold winter days are the perfect time to sharpen blades, tighten connections, and sand and oil handles. While my power tool-owning friends are busy servicing their machines, I’m at the get-a-guy stage of life —I get a guy with the power tools and stand back to marvel.

I’ve counted backward from the mid-April, our last average frost date, and have begun to plan my seed starting efforts for the coming season. In deciding what to keep, I am sorting through my collection of partially used commercial seed packets and the seeds I have saved. Garden wisdom says properly stored seeds should be viable for 2-3 seasons but there are plenty of stories of seeds germinating after decades. A germination test is the best way to sort the candidates. Fold a few seeds into a wet paper towel and seal it in a plastic bag, leave it in a warm spot and check back after a couple of days. Seeds that have begun to sprout can be joyfully kept, while the rest are thanked for their service and released to the compost pile.

Winter’s freeze/thaw cycles cause my mulch beds to heave, leaving the surface cracked and uneven. In some places, the top layer of the mulch has dried and formed a hard crust preventing water from seeping into the beds. On warm afternoons I’m out gently breaking up the surface of my planting beds and leveling stepping stones disrupted by the freezing weather.

I must, however, fight the impulse to tidy up my garden beds. The fallen leaves, dried stems, and small branches collected around the base of many plants provide cover for the wee creatures and insects inhabiting my garden. Tidying up now destroys their homes and much-needed cover for the cold weather that is still to come.

KonMari is a useful exercise for spring cleaning my indoor and material world. As for the living world I tend, Mother Nature is my guide and I just need to be still a while longer and listen to what she has to say.

Lise Jenkins, a newspaper columnist, volunteers her time as a Durham County Extension Master Gardener. You can find her on Instagram
@AbsenteeGardener.