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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Full Suburban: Bidding adieu to summertime garden – or what was left of it at least

A gardener weeds flowers in a flower bed. Julia Ditto’s garden has produced two pumpkins, 15 cherry tomatoes and one string bean in its seven years of existence, but it has been a family affair of the years.  (Getty Images)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

The dreaded winterizing of our yard is almost complete. This is a fall ritual that I do not enjoy, as it entails me wielding a pair of small, dull garden clippers as I trim back all the plants surrounding our house, giving myself blisters and borderline carpal tunnel in the process.

This is usually a task I take on by myself; it’s annoying but really not that hard, and it allows me to listen to hours on end of uninterrupted podcasts. But this year, Logan got in on the action when he declared that he hated how big the bushes had gotten on the west side of the house, and that he wanted to rip them all out.

“Those bushes are hiding some pretty gnarly stuff under our porch,” I reminded him. “It’s the spot where footballs go to die; where Hyrum and his buddies dig through rocks to search for buried treasure; and where weeds have grown unabated for seven years. Are you sure you want to expose all that?”

“Definitely,” he responded, already putting on his work clothes and heading out the door. I should mention here that Logan’s eagerness to undertake this particular task was heightened by the fact that he came into possession of a mini excavator over the summer, and he is now like a little boy playing with his construction toys in a sand box.

It only took him an hour or two – and the breaking of the concrete edging around our flower beds, and maybe a little torn up grass on our front lawn – but he and the excavator got those bushes out like a pro. And I hate to admit it, but that side of the house does look a lot better now that it’s not an overgrown jungle.

But what do I know? Gardening and yard care is not my forte in general. If red is the color directly opposite green on the color wheel, I think it’s safe to say that I have not a green, but a red thumb. Any plant left in my care dies. Vegetable gardens quickly turn into weed patches. Hanging flowers – even when attached to a drip line! – shrivel within weeks. Logan, it is true, takes great pride in having a nice-looking lawn, but beyond that, our yard doesn’t exactly look like a Better Homes & Gardens photo shoot.

However, there is one period of time each year when we really spruce it up –when we acknowledge the weeds and graying bark and actually do something about it. And that time is the day when we host the annual summer picnic for the staff at Logan’s dental office.

The summer picnic is quite a spectacle, with bouncy houses and barbecued burgers and a homemade waterslide that we craft every year out of an obscene amount of plastic sheeting, two hay bales, and a garden hose. Classy it is not, but it gets the job done.

This year’s party prep was a real weed-extravaganza as we were finally forced to deal with the invasive, tall and prickly weeds that had absolutely overtaken the area behind our garage that we had once naively designated as the spot for our “garden.” This garden has produced approximately two pumpkins, 15 cherry tomatoes and one string bean in its seven years of existence, so I wouldn’t exactly say we’re doing a great job.

Even my parents could sense the desperation of our situation, and they bravely showed up several days before the party to help us tame the jungle. While my step-dad edged the lawn to within an inch of its life, my mom shaped and weeded the flower beds as if she were Michelangelo restoring an abandoned Sistine Chapel. The kids and I spent the whole time working on the nightmare weed garden, getting plenty of prickles and scrapes in the process.

By the time we were done, everything looked beautiful – truly something to be proud of. And come party time, no one from the dental office knew that just days before it had looked like the Spokane Valley version of Grey Gardens.

Maybe next year, we’ll just take the excavator to the whole thing and start over. I think my red thumb would like that.