A Partnership with Nature

Published in the May 2022 Issue Published online: May 19, 2022 Articles, Home And Garden
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 BY VALERIE ILLGUTH, EAST IDAHO MOMS

“I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE HOUSE. I WANT A YARD.”

That’s what I told my husband 3 years ago when we started the process to buy our first house.

It was the first house we ever bought. After renting for over a decade, we were excited to have our own home for many reasons. One of my reasons was the chance to finally do what I wanted with my own yard.

I have an innate love for gardening. Even when I lived in rental homes I was always trying to grow things. My gardens have ranged from small window boxes to a plot at a community garden and small garden beds in the backyard. I’ve regrown lawns, sprayed for weeds, trimmed rose bushes, divided irises and once even planted a tree — all the while knowing that I wouldn’t be there in a year or two to enjoy the results of my efforts.

Over the years I’ve learned that time spent on gardening is never wasted. One of my favorite things about gardening is how it is such a partnership with nature. I do a lot of the upfront work to make sure the garden is a good place for things to grow, but then I can step back and let nature take over.

There’s no other hobby like gardening. When I bake, I can’t mix up the dough and then find it fully cooked a few days later. When I sew, I can’t pin something together, leave it for a few weeks and then return to find it sewn together.

With gardening I can put seeds in the ground, make sure they have enough water and light, then leave them alone for days. Those seeds will sprout without me doing anything else. Those spouts will grow into plants as long as the water, temperature and nutrients are right.

My family moved into our house in the late summer of 2019, and so I missed much of the growing season that year. My first project was to haul away the river rocks covering the front garden beds. After the rocks were moved I was able to plant tulip bulbs. Those tulips grew in the spring of 2020. The flowers were a joy during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The spring of 2020 is full of hard memories, but it’s also full of happy ones from working in my yard. Since we couldn’t go anywhere, my family was free to spend every evening and weekend in the backyard. I dug out a spot for a vegetable garden. My husband built a treehouse with our children. I planted two cherry trees. I put in a berry patch and my children helped move dirt, bricks and rocks.

This was the first spring in our new house and so it was full of happy discoveries as I watched the yard come alive. I was delighted to see yellow blooms on the rosebush, and to learn that the Hydrangea bush bloomed on my wedding anniversary.

That year I enjoyed harvesting lettuce, peas, tomatoes, beans, onions and pumpkins from the vegetable garden. I had so many vegetables that I had to give many of them away to neighbors.

In the fall of 2020, my husband and I began the process of taking down a rickety old shed. There was something cathartic about hitting the thin metal siding of the shed with a huge sledge hammer. The shed proved tougher than it looked and we didn’t get it all the way down until the spring of 2021. After clearing up the debris, I set to work turning the former dirt floor of the shed into another growing space. My husband built garden boxes, I transplanted grass and my children helped build a firepit. That area is now a focal point of the yard rather than an eyesore.

I added five new trees in 2021. First was a peach tree in the backyard. Then a Weeping Birch and a Northern Catalpa in the front yard. In the fall I was able to receive two tiny trees through a program with Idaho Power. I picked a Red Maple and a Red Oak.

In 2021, I started to see a few long-term results from all the work the year before. The tart cherry tree was full of fruit. The strawberries were plentiful. The raspberries produced berries from September until mid-November. The tulip bulbs I’d planted the first fall were ready to be divided.

This year I was in the garden again as soon as the weather warmed up. I’d left some things for nature to do over the winter and I found that even the cold and snow hadn’t stopped her. Garlic and onions that I’d planted in the fall were sending up green shoots. Lettuce seeds that I’d planted in a bed next to a warm south-facing wall had already sprouted. The tulips were sending up little points. Later I would see new shoots in the berry patch and tiny buds on all the trees.

I have more plans for this year; planting a plum tree, adding another flower bed to the front yard, maybe getting my husband to rework the sprinkler system, and continuing to show my children how to plant seeds and care for them as they grow.

I love working in partnership with nature to create life that will return year after year. And I love that I can live here for a long time to enjoy the results of our work together. 

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