The Despondent Gardener

The weather has been rather glorious today, especially for January, a perfect day to get back onto the garden and get working on the veg patch.  Unfortunately J chose today to come down with a cold and so, after watching him shuffle about, sniffing and sneezing as he went, I banished him back inside on the proviso that cups of tea were provided to me throughout the day, and he took the kids with him.

Our plan for the digging of the garden, is to take the turf off a widthways trench at a time, double dig it, chuck the overgrown turf at the bottom of the trench and then fill it back up with the soil.  Double digging is a nightmare, we decided to do it after talking to our farmer neighbour who said it would be a good way to get nutrients into the soil as the turf rots down (I suspect he was actually just playing a cruel trick on us, to see how long we would last before crawling to him, begging him to just use a digger on it).  The patch actually used to be a silage pit for the farm, and our house was a cow barn as part of the same farm; when the house was converted, all of the rubble and random bits of junk were thrown onto the patch.  It doesn’t seem like the area has been used for anything since, except the cultivation of lots of weeds and grass, and has never, ever been dug over – and so the double digging was needed to break the soil up and make it ready for growing a decent crop of veg.  And the area that we’ve already dug, once we got rid of the rocks and general bits of metal and rubbish embedded in it, does look really good, and the soil is quite promising, full of lots of lovely fat worms and good mud.  So I’m hopeful.  But still, it’s pretty backbreaking work.

The weather yesterday was rather rainy and so the ground was sodden and slippery this morning, not the best working conditions but I was going to stick it out and make some decent progress.  My plan today was to mark out the next trench, take the turf off and dig down – I wasn’t expecting to get the whole trench complete in a day on my own but I was hopeful I’d get to the point of having the trench dug ready for filling.  How foolish I was.  I started well, and got a decent amount of turf off fairly quickly – I fashioned myself a marker line from some baler twine that we’d already dug out of the garden, and two fence poles – I felt quite smug at my ingenuity at this point – and got almost all of the turf off.

The out of focus thing is the baler twine

And then I reached the Corner of Despondency.


The corners and edge of the plot are particularly rocky and so make pretty tough going, this one also had two small tree stumps there (we’d cut the trees down last year as they seem to be sprouting everywhere) and a ridiculous amount of baler twine wrapped around the roots beneath the soil.  Not one to give up easily (some may call it stubborn, I prefer determined) I tried to dig down to get the trees out.  Rocks.  Rocks.  More rocks.


But I kept on, only having to make J brave the outdoors and pull on his boots the once, to lift out one of the ridiculously large rocks (whilst I moaned about my poor weak arms).  Our neighbour came to check progress and I moaned at him about how the garden had broken me, he kindly offered to bring machinery to pull the trees out, but no, this would be a sign of weakness and I would not let the garden beat me, so once he went I persevered.  Slowly.  I finally managed to get out one of the trees, after much muttered swearing and less muttered roaring, particularly when throwing rocks (it is surprisingly satisfying to give a roar at these points, not dissimilar to a Russian shot putter), but it was just an offshoot of the other tree, which remains fairly firmly in place and now has all of the baler twine wrapped around it.

I finally gave up on the tree, but am planning a fresh attack on a morning when my strength hasn’t been sapped (pun not intended) by hours of digging, I will not be beaten by a small tree root.  I then set about digging down into the tree free area of the trench, but it was quite late by this time and it didn’t take too many more rocks to make me chuck my spade down in a sulk and call it a day.


So unfortunately, not as much progress has been made as I’d hoped.  I have now said sorry to J for all the times I’ve been like “Is that IT?” when he’s been digging, but I’m hoping that the twine pulling and the rock throwing will improve my strength and we’ll have a veg patch before we know it….or at least, by the middle of April.



  1. I remember when we began our almost self-sufficient homestead decades ago. We, too, shunned the idea of letting a neighbor with big equipment come in to pull stumps and move huge rocks. Now, with hindsight and wisdom of many years, if I had to do it over, I would have happily had him do those couple of tough jobs that took us forever and sapped our energy. We could have used that time and energy to accomplish much, much more, like fencing, making the raised beds, tapping maple syrup….well the list is endless and are all things essential. Give it more thought. Maybe a compromise will enable you to have an earlier garden, or be prepared to start off running!


    • Thanks for your comments – it’s nice to hear from someone whose been there and done it gardening wise. I have a feeling you’re probably right – pride comes before a fall and all that. I’ll see how the next outing goes and then might take some humble pie next door 🙂


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