Garden Rehab

crop farmer carrying seedling tray in field

Welcome to my traveling home adventure! Last weekend was my mother-in-law’s birthday. We spent the weekend with her in Vermont and it was incredibly hot – and it was only May! She’s been in down-sizing mode, so I knew I had to be practical with her gift this year. I decided to tackle the very over-grown garden at her rental property. This is definitely going to be a long term garden rehab project. I was also completely unprepared to garden this particular weekend; I thought of the idea to do this on the drive up.

garden rehab - wrong shoes
Sandals were all I had – whoops!

How it started

The people who used to live in this house loved their outdoor plants. I think when the woman was younger and more mobile, this garden bed area was probably really amazing. Everyone I’ve ever heard speak of this lady (who is still with us, just in an apartment these days!) always talks about her garden.

When I saw the garden for the first time last summer, it was already over-grown so I’ve probably been thinking about how to go about it since 2021.

As you can see, the lavender (right photo, lower right corner) was taking over an enormous portion of the garden. Last year I took a few plants home and I harvested an insane amount of flowers. While completely unruly last year, the plants did look generally healthy, at least on the outside. This year, however, I could see that they were not looking as great. I expect it was the combination of lack of regular care and that the plants had finally had enough trying to fight for light.

The weeds weren’t too bad, actually. A few of the spreading plants, like this Lamb’s Ear, were growing into the garden path. I got to the house at 9:00 am in the hopes of not sweating to death, but I was filthy and soaked by the time lunch rolled around.

How it’s going

This isn’t really the time to prune lavender plants, but I wasn’t sure if I would be around at the right time to wait. Plus, the plants were on their way out if I didn’t try to do something now. There was definitely new growth coming up on the old wood, so that was promising. Lavender, like with other old-wood growth plants (think: hydrangea, lilacs, and forsythia), needs those dead-looking branches to develop new shoots. Pruning is very tricky and aggressive pruning to rejuvenate has a high failure rate with lavender. If this plan doesn’t pan out, I am fully prepared to start all over again and buy my mother-in-law some new lavender plants from the garden center.

Here’s hoping that sunlight on the lower branches help fill them out a bit.

I pulled up nearly every bush, closely inspected them for truly dead branches, pruned them, and re-planted them with plenty of air and light in between. After closer inspection, I think this mass of lavender started out as only 3 or 4 small bushes.

To be continued…

I kept a few plants for myself to add to my new terraced garden and left this garden covered in dirt, dripping sweat, and happy with my progress. It took a grand total of 4 hours just to complete the middle section of this relatively small garden. I’ll be back in 2 weeks to see if anything survived and to work on it some more – this time with my proper tools and clothes. Fingers crossed!

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