Saturday, May 02, 2009

Sometimes I should just shut up and listen

Sissy, this post is for you! Back in March, my sister and I started getting my small vegetable patch-to-be in order. Now, I'm sure I've mentioned numerous times that there's a lot I would like to do with my backyard. I am having to work hard at not calling it my "backyard" since it just seems so far from what a real yard should be. There was an old, half-broken laundry pole, lots and lots of gravel, and some raised flower beds. We've taken down the laundry pole, I've started working in the flower beds, and I try not to resent the gravel too much.

The front yard was filled with some sort of interlocked planters. I didn't want to throw them away, but I definitely didn't want to keep them in the front yard, either. My sister, the Master Gardner, had the brilliant idea of using those containers in the backyard and the idea of having a little terraced patch suited me just fine.

While we were digging around trying to get them installed, Sissy pulled up some kind of root and said, "Oh, you have lily of the valley," which impressed me since she identified it by this teeny weeny thing that looked to me like any random root (my failure to be able to distinguish roots will become important at the end of this post). And it turns out I have A LOT of this plant, running smack dab throughout the place I wanted to put my veggie patch.

As we were digging it up, it became clear that I had more lily of the valley than I could use. I didn't want to just throw it away because it seems so wasteful, but my sister advised me to just go ahead and get rid of it. Did I listen? No, I did not -- I tried my best to salvage what I could and now I am very sorry for my rampant willfulness. It came up through my planters, behind, beside and in front of my planters, and even without the toxicity aspect I just do not want anything else growing up where my squash and tomatoes should be. Not yet, anyway.

The irony of this story is that May 1st in France is a holiday -- Labor Day -- and there are always little stands on the side of the road selling lily of the valley. It's everywhere this weekend, and if I had been smart about it I could have opened up my own roadside stand because I have THAT MUCH. And even after I get it out of my vegetables I'll still have enough to sell, although maybe I won't need an actual stand, just some big boxes and a couple of chairs.

I've been tearing apart my vegetable patch and removing those hideously heavy planters in an effort to remove the lily of the valley for two days. I worked until 9:30 p.m. today and still don't know when I'll be finished. I have also encountered what appear to be multiple ants nests, which didn't bother me until I discovered that my digging seemed to irritate them and they retaliated by biting. Then I discovered little larva-like things that the ants were dragging around and decided that couldn't be good, but in the end I just gave up on the larva problem and hope it will somehow end up actually being beneficial.

As if I didn't have enough issues with the digging and the ants, I then found what I was convinced was the mother load of the lily of the valley roots and started trying to rip it out. It was a bit bigger than all the other roots but was right there with the lily of the valley, so it soon became a target. When it got big enough to require the assistance of the hatchet, I determined that it is either a) futile to try to remove the lily of the valley or b) not related to lily of the valley at all. Yes, I know, at some point I really should have known it was option b).

But since I had started with the chopping, I decided to keep at it and found that it started to get bigger as I got closer to the wall. There were some hollyhocks that were fairly sizable and I thought maybe it was another one of those, but it has now occurred to me that the giant mystery root belongs to one of my neighbor's plants across the wall separating my vegetable patch to be and his/her garden. Whoops. I didn't intentionally try to kill any of his/her plants on purpose, but it's still not very neighborly... not to mention the horrible gardening karma that's going to come back to me for that in addition to the lily of the valley removal.

The moral of the story is that if I had listened to my sister in the first place, I would not be in such dire straits with gardening karma. I don't know if I should 'fess up to my neighbors or anonymously donate a few homegrown vegetables to them because I'm too chicken to tell them face-to-face. Ah, well, perhaps I can find a way to make amends tomorrow...


Michelle said...

Oh, Deb!! I would kill for some Lily of the Valley, but not that much. It's one plant I can't seem to find around here (and it's one of my favorite flowers). I had a similar situation with mint. I had to dig up half my garden and found the mother of all spiders towards the end. I'm still skittish about working in the garden after having that thing so near my hand!

Kathy said...

D and I vote-don't tell. If we were the neighbor, we wouldn't expect you to tell us about a root.

I've had lots of perennials blooming this spring. My irises' are starting to open now. We went to Slaughters this weekend and bought 2 apple trees for the farm, and some marigolds and petunias. Of course D has already been hard at work in his garden too. It's a great time of the year!

Pardon My French said...

Michelle - I'd totally send you some if I could. There's a bunch of mint in there with the lotv so that at least works well together, apparently.

And Kathy - yeah, I'm not feeling so bad about the root thing this morning. Loved the bee pictures, btw, and am so looking forward to seeing your land!

Angela in Europe said...

I vote for not telling. Plants are really resilient and they might never, ever know. And yes, you should have sold the LOV because I paid 3 euros for my sad little pot. You could have been rich!

BTW, I gave you a blog award.

Pardon My French said...

Hey, thanks, Angela! I'm honored (and btw I'm so glad to see you're back!)