Gardening the Hard Way

Sweat streamed into all sorts of strange places and soaked deep into my sun hat creating a personal sauna that clung to me as I worked in the garden. I resolutely vowed to keep up on the garden this year. I had made an annual ritual of promising myself three or four times a year over the last five years that this season would be different. In order to stay ahead of weeds and pests, I figured I’d need to check on the garden at least twice a week.

Years ago I’d had more time and I regularly went through both the garden and flower beds, sometimes even daily. Now they spent most years unsupervised, and I considered myself lucky to assess the garden twice a month. Generally my bimonthly assessments resulted in a realization that I had arrived much too late to make a difference.

One year squash bugs decimated my plants. Leaves and stalks wilted, withered, and mostly died back. By the time I became aware of the situation, the now exposed and malnourished squash were way too big to eat anyway.

Another year I’m pretty sure quail kept eating all my bean and pea sprouts as they came up. By the time I noticed what was happening, it was too late to put up chicken wire and too hot to replant the crop. No dilly beans.

Last year I let a few weeks go by and the weeds took full advantage of my negligence. They ran rampant and choked out the tomatoes and hot peppers. Weeds intertwined with the desirable plants’ roots and refused to come out without digging — and digging would damage pepper and tomato roots along with the weeds. As a result, not only was I eating store-bought salsa, but I still had to deal with the weed roots months later.

Marshmallow weeds spread wide and sank deep tap roots. I drove my shovel as deep as it would go and discovered rock-solid soil about three-quarters of the blade length down. The soles of my feet ached from jumping on the blade then perching on top with nothing but the handle to balance me as I wiggled back and forth like a third-grade boy ‘flossing’ in an effort to drive the blade deeper. As if to mock my efforts, roots snapped off anyway since they descended deeper than the shovel’s overall blade length.

Had I been more vigilant and frequent with a scuffle hoe, I could have kept the weeds out. Young roots easily separate from loose soil before they reach, and anchor into, deeper compacted earth. I couldn’t use a tiller at this point. That would just make the problem worse later down the road. I needed to remove the massive weeds before I could loosen the soil. And so I labored, sweated, and danced with my shovel around the garden. Fifteen minutes of relatively easy labor every couple days would have saved me the several days of hard labor now required to prepare the garden.

In my spiritual garden I have the scriptures, personal prayer, general conference talks, the Come Follow Me program, and many other ‘scuffle hoes’ designed to keep weeds out of my life. President Nelson wrapped up the 2018 October session of general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with this council: “This has been an inspirational and historic conference…. We have been motivated to do better and to be better. The marvelous messages delivered from this pulpit by our general authorities and general officers… have been sublime! I urge you to study these messages, commencing this week. They express the mind and the will of the Lord for His people today.”

Twice a week won’t be enough. I need to maintain my garden daily. I can’t allow weeds to establish themselves, driving taproots deep into the soil where they’re difficult to pry out. Especially when it’s so easy to grab one of the many available scuffle hoes in the shed and remove young weeds from the soil as soon as I see them.