What I Do When Gardening Isn’t An Option

In a world full of unpacked moving boxes, my trowel and hoe have taken a back seat.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: Rachael Brugger

One of the hardest things about moving, especially for a gardener, is that you have to start all over again from scratch to get things growing your way.

At our “town home” (that’s what I’m calling the old house until it sells—we so fancy), I was finally was on top of things after three years of getting the garden established. Due to a relatively mild spring, I was able to get the garden growing ahead of schedule this year. Potatoes were in the ground in March (like I said, a mild spring), and I actually made time to plant other root crops. In fact, a week before we learned about our farm-to-be, I got beans in the ground—a first! With my perennial medicinals in the mix—lavender, echinacea, valerian, nettles (yes, I grow them on purpose—don’t judge) and California poppies—my urban garden looked the best it’s ever been. I was pretty proud of myself.

urban garden
Rachael Brugger

Wouldn’t you be?

But now that we’re at the new farm, I have a gardening itch I just can’t quite scratch. Periods of transition are like that, I guess. There’s so much you dream of doing—that you know you’re completely capable of doing—but with the amount of time a move co-opts, you just never get around to it.

Let me start off by saying, despite having some garden withdrawal, we’ve been completely blessed by our new space. Beside the farmhouse, we have a terraced garden that the former owner planted with heirloom tomatoes, butternut squash, culinary herbs, and lots and lots of mint, so we’re not without farm-grown food. I’ve also been able to harvest from the town home, even if I haven’t been able to tend it as much as I would have liked.

To fill the remaining gardening void, I’ve managed to fit in a number of other outdoor food- and garden-related activities. Here’s a peek at what I do to scratch my gardening itch.

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Pick Berries

picking blackberries
Rachael Brugger

If I never plant a crop ever again, I’ll be completely satisfied because our property is covered—I mean covered—with wild blackberries and black raspberries. I may have come home from work the other day, stopping my car every 2 yards up our quarter-mile drive to harvest newly ripened berries. Call me lazy, call me greedy, call me whatever you want—my fingers were stained and I was as happy as I could be.

Weed Like Crazy

weeding the garden
Rachael Brugger

The reality of a farm in transition, particularly at the end of spring/beginning of summer, is that not as much farm maintenance happens as it should. That’s life, and unfortunately, Mr. B and I are the ones left to deal with it. I’ve been taking a few hours out of my week to work away at the terraced garden beside the house, because I’m pretty sure we were growing more grass than mint there—and that’s saying something!

A friend and I also did some emergency weeding in the large production garden at the foot of our hill to prevent weed seeds from further spreading—though considering the number of non-cultivated plants that are growing there, it may have been a waste of time. As soon as I can get in to lift up the drip tape that’s matted underneath the weed jungle, it’s till time. With all the vetch and dock and other rogue plants, our soil should be pretty darn nutritious afterwards.

Mow, Mow & Mow Some Mo’

Rachael Brugger

Mr. B can take most of the credit on this one. As I’ve been unpacking boxes, he’s been cutting trails through our fields and forestland, and cleaning up the lawns around the house, so that we can get out and actually enjoy our property this summer without becoming too overrun with ticks and chiggers. (It’s a bad year for biting bugs here in Kentucky. Real bad.) But as you can see, I got my mowing fix this weekend, as we christened our new-to-us lawn tractor.

Native Plant Seek & Find

St. John's wort wildflowers
Rachael Brugger

This has been my favorite part of our move to date. One thing we absolutely fell in love with at our property is the diversity of ecological life on it—and as a student of herbalism, I’m smitten with the native plants I’ve discovered: milkweed, daisies, yarrow, wild bergamot, St. John’s wort. Many of them I hope to sustainably harvest one day for salves and tinctures to keep us healthy, but for now I’m content watching their growth habits and leaving them for the bees and butterflies to enjoy.

Dream Of The Gardening To Come

There are plenty of spaces around our house that are in need of some landscape rehab. Gardens overrun with grasses need to be replanted with deer-resistant plants—I hear such things exist, but we’ll see how well the theory does in practice. I also want to expand our little kitchen garden to include our favorite teas, culinary herbs and vegetables. It might not happen this year, but I take solace in the fact that we have nothing but time in front of us. And it gives me the opportunity to change my mind a couple dozen times.

I know many of you are also moving to the farm—how’s your green thumb holding up in the process? And for those of you who have already settled onto the farm, how did you keep your patience during the transition? We’re eager to use our land to its full potential, but there always seems to be another box to unpack first.

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