I have attention deficit disorder, the garden variety. Perhaps you suffer from this, too?
I walk into the garden with a goal. I’m going to weed a particular bed, transplant something or maybe water. Sometimes, I’m so focused I actually start my intended project. It never lasts long.
The weeding in my designated area becomes tedious. That’s when I notice a random dandelion a few feet beyond my task’s perimeter. I grab my garden fork and off I go to uproot that single dandelion. But then I notice another dandelion … and then another. Before long, I’ve traveled quite a distance. I stand to stretch my back. What was I doing, anyway? Oh, yes. Weeding.
On the return trip to weeding, I see some hostas that I meant to divide. Their unfurled fingers are just poking through the ground. This is the perfect time. I grab a shovel and begin dividing. Having done that, I wander around, uprooted plants in hand, trying to remember where I wanted to add more hostas. Oh! Here’s the spot, but, wouldn’t you know … there’s something else I have to move to make room for the hostas.
By the time I dig holes for the hostas, move the other plants to make room, then replant them, and finally water it all in, hours have passed. I’m too tired to return to weeding and very demoralized that the garden is still such a weedy mess.
A Milwaukee gardener I interviewed for Better Homes & Gardens magazine told me her trick for maintaining her glorious garden. Each spring, she went through each garden bed one at a time. She was very disciplined about finishing every task in the first bed before moving on to the next. She got each bed so thoroughly squared away that it required only touch-up maintenance for the rest of the growing season.
Brilliant — yet so simple — unless you have garden-variety attention deficit disorder. Then it’s a very tall order.
I think of that Milwaukee gardener often, usually when I am ricocheting from one task to another. Chastened, I return to my starting point and endeavor to remain on task.
I’m not alone in my attention deficit. It seems fairly common among gardeners, and that makes sense. Observe pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds as they flit from flower to flower without any apparent plan. Perhaps they, like us, are easily distracted by the abundance the garden presents. They might consider each plant an opportunity. We might consider each a task. Nonetheless, we’re all drawn to the garden. It’s blitz.
Patrice Peltier lives in Spring Green and writes regularly for Wisconsin Gardening, Chicagoland Gardening and The Landscape Contractor magazines.