The frustrated gardener |

The frustrated gardener

by Karen Brier

The signs are there: nursery catalogs and seed packets piled on the sideboard; gardening books and planting diagrams spread across the table. Conclusion? It must be spring. Correction: it should be spring. After a winter of hardly any snow, we get several inches in mid-April. Really? I love the high desert, but this year I have a garden and I want to get out there and plant something!

I’ve put my gardening zeal into getting ready for spring – whenever it arrives. Pruning the flowering almond and pulling away the dead leaves from the irises. I created a couple of mini-greenhouses with those clear plastic apple holders and planted seeds for tomatoes, herbs, kale, lettuce, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes and eggplant. They’re growing – slowly – but they are growing which is truly satisfying. I have a few things left that wintered over well: leeks and thyme that I’ve been using all winter. The five tiny lettuces that I planted in the fall are actually growing and strawberry plants were looking green and healthy – until Tuesday night’s killer freeze – I’ll have to wait and see if they recover. The first bulbs of the season bravely forced their way through the hard dirt next to my driveway. I didn’t know they were there or I would have given them more attention. Tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinth and some tiny purple flower that I can’t identify yet. Even the trees are amazing: weeping cherries, Cherokee Chief crabapple, apricots and peach trees.

Inheriting such an amazing garden brings a lot of responsibility. I want to honor the enormous effort that Dell put into creating these gardens. After only six months – and most of that winter – I know that I’ll be spending an hour or more a day – every day – digging, weeding, mulching and planting. Weekends will be heavy hitting times – new beds to dig, seedlings to transplant and more weeding.

The good news about weeds is that my chickens love them. I wage a daily battle with the dandelions and nettles. We don’t use chemical sprays so I’ve been digging them out. The roots, leaves, flowers and seeds are all great for the chickens. Nettles, though stingy and nasty to me, are treats that they race to grab. I recently came across a recipe for a natural weed deterrent that I will try this weekend:

Mix 1 quart vinegar with 2 tbsp of dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the leaves of the weed or grass you want to kill. Within hours the plant or grass will start turning brown. Repeat if necessary.

My other big project has been getting the sprinkler system going. When I turned on the water I had four major leaks that had to be repaired immediately. (Note to self: must learn to do a better job of winterizing)

I can’t wait until I’m sitting on the porch at sunset, watching the sprinklers and enjoying the sunset. Come join us anytime.

Reach Karen Brier at, or 790-0072.