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When the Gardener is Not There to Maintain

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As many of us move into the second half, or even the fourth quarter of life, New Year’s becomes a time for reflecting on past decisions and the energy and time needed to support those decisions. In this column, master gardener Julie Silva reflects on her garden “systems” when she will no longer be here to maintain them.

When I die:

· Who will surprise the neighbors with a new plant or seeds that will become the highlight of their spring garden?

· Who will feed the mosquitos with delicious, organic blood in the evenings while gardening? This year’s mosquitos refer to me as the blood bank.

· Will the squirrels have a celebration of life and worry about where and when the food is arriving next?

· Who will stop the mow-blow-and go guy from making all the trees look like lollipops? Or stop them from trimming the English roses down to the point that only the suckers bloom?

· Who will pay a neighborhood kid to disperse thirteen-pound zucchini to all the neighbors?

· Who will grab a cart, fill it to the brim with rescue plants at any box store in any city, revive them and plant them throughout the yard until space becomes a premium?

· Who will fight the Bermuda grass wars with the vengeance of Attila the Hun?

· Who will point out every delicious bug to the flock of hens wandering the yard? Those prehistoric little dinosaurs are the best environmental cures, bug population destroyers walking the face of the earth…loudly clucking for joy while doing the bug dance, like a post-game celebration.

· Who will buy 25 pounds of sugar monthly for the hummingbirds? Mix the sugar water as prescribed, store it in the fridge, and be joyful when being dive-bombed as the feeders are filled.

· Who will dress in camo, sharpen a machete, and take down the vinca major and English ivy? The end of the world will be cockroaches living under the English ivy.

· Who will look at the end of a hundred-year-old oak tree and remember to call Becky so you may mourn the passing of a great soul together?

· Who will plant several bundles of red onions in honor of my grandfather? Spaced four inches apart, up to the depth of the second knuckle on your index finger (the instructions of tradition).

· There will be more bags of fall leaves on the curb. The absconding of those bags of potentially rich, organic material will grace another’s yard since there will be no competition from me.

Instructions for the future:

· Notify the nursery industry and seed catalogs, so they may make adjustments to their annual sales predictions.

· Come and retrieve eclectic building materials from my yard, using imagination to build your dreams from forty-year-old redwood planks, wooden ladders, graniteware dishes for bird bathing, colorful pottery, and rusted horseshoes.

· Convene the “Ghosts of Gardeners Past” to meet on the patio to discuss how to keep the plants alive until a new gardener arrives. It cannot be left to my husband with his black or missing thumbs.

I hope to meet Mother Nature. I will ask forgiveness for planting the right plant in the wrong place, for failing to water or not water, and for shaking my fist at inclement weather. I will remind her that I am steadfast, kind to plants, and patient. I will also request, if she allows me, to return to this world minus the singular hair on my chin. So, when I die, be kind to any little donkey you meet with a bare spot on her chin.

And, since I am still here, my wish in the New Year is that all my gardener friends be blessed with strong backs, wise plant knowledge, and the kindness to share both with new gardeners. May you be saved from the generational grind of discovering the right course to keep your plants alive. (It may take several attempts, or generations, to keep a particular variety alive.) In the meantime, may you not suffer, gardeners and plants alike. As you look backward and forward, happy gardening in 2024 from UCCE Master Gardeners!

Julie Silva is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.

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