Keeping Up Appearances

Thank goodness for wet weekends. I don’t often say that, but it has been a busy week here at Chateau Shrew and I’m ready for some down time. Most of the week has been spent in the garden. Everything is planted and/or fed now, and I think that I have things pretty much as I want them. I say that every year, but then the next year the eye gets a bit more critical and sees things that could be moved/changed/improved. However, apart from a new coat of stain on the deck and a new coat of paint on the garage, which will be done during Richard’s upcoming holidays, we’re there now. I think. I might change my mind again next spring, but for now the eye is quite satisfied when it looks in each direction.

The biggest project of the week was a total overhaul, again, of the patch of ground between the end of the garage and the property line. That patch has been a source of much head scratching and frustration since we moved here. I don’t even know why it’s there and I’d like to ask the previous owners why they left that space. A bit hard to do as they’re both dead now, but it’s something that has definitely puzzled us from the time we moved in. Why not build the garage against the fence and make a longer driveway, rather than leaving that piece of ground between the end of the garage and the fence? That extra four feet would make backing out of the garage a lot safer, and also give vehicles coming around our corner of the back lane in opposite directions a better chance of avoiding each other.

When we got here the patch was just scrap ground, literally. A four by sixteen foot space with nothing there except really crappy soil, with a good amount of gravel mixed in. Weeds loved it, but not much else. Over time it became a flower bed of sorts, but with only okay results. No matter what we did to the soil, or what we added, it just didn’t want to become fertile loam. Then I got the brain wave to sprinkle a wild flower seed mix there, which thrived and gave us something gorgeous to look at for a few years. Eventually the house next door changed ownership, though, and weeds started to creep into the parking pad on the other side of the fence from my flower bed. Which then started to creep into the flower bed, of course. A wild flower garden can’t be disturbed over the course of the summer, so it was hard to keep the weeds under control. Then ownership of next door changed again and the parking pad became a forest of weeds. So, out with the wild flower garden and in with a new herb garden. Which was fine for the first year, but last year the weeds got in there again and it was a fight the whole summer. I had the herbs spaced enough that I could hoe between them, but that wasn’t enough. I totally dug the bed over last fall, apart from the herbs, thinking that turning the soil completely would get things under control. Wrong. This spring the weeds came in so thick and fast that they choked out some of the herbs, so enough was enough.

This week I dug everything out and turned all of the soil with the spade, shaking out each spadeful and grabbing every bit of plant life visible out of it. Then I repeated the process, twice, just to be sure. Next up was blasting all along the fence line with a potent weed killer. I hate using the stuff, but needs must sometimes. Then it was off to the garden centre to buy some flowering shrubs. They’re hardy, they’re pretty, and in a few years’ time they’ll fill the space and create a barrier between us and the weeds. Meanwhile, wood chips on the ground should keep the weeds from invading the now clean soil. If they don’t, the next step might have to be a flame thrower, used with reckless abandon on the other side of the fence.

I’m not a miserable neighbour, far from it. But it just gets to a certain point, doesn’t it? When one person’s laziness makes for a whole lot of extra work for everyone living anywhere near them, it’s just not right. I keep my property up for the sake of my neighbours, too, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the same in return. You don’t have to be an expert in gardening or lawn care to keep things neat and tidy, and that’s all that any of us on the block is asking for. Why spend the money to buy a property if you’re not going to take any pride in it? We don’t live in Swankville by any means, just a modest, old, working class neighbourhood. But it’s a truly lovely neighbourhood, when everyone does their part.


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