yard nazis, part 2

Believe me, I appreciate help when I need it. I have no false modesty about that. Also, I believe if someone wants to do something nice for another person, it is wrong not to let them have that chance. Though I haven’t been sick this summer, I haven’t felt up to the level of effort a pristine garden requires.

Of course, I also don’t believe in removing any organic material from a garden if possible. Return to the soil what you can, and it will more than return benefits to you down the road. That is, I try to return yard waste back to the soil. It’s an organic gardening strategy that encourages healthy, loamy soil that is full of nutrients, worms, and the micro-flora and fauna that is healthy soil. Traditional gardeners see that as messy gardening, so they rake out the good mulch and use chemicals to force their plants to poop out fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Ugh!

"herb garden"

Though my herb garden this year wasn’t much, it gave me fresh herbs for my food. Maybe it wasn’t obvious, but weed-whacking through this plot would have been very aromatic because there was a border of chives and separate plantings of peppermint, basil, tarragon, and dill weed. My door was open. I could have been asked if there was anything I wanted to save. I guess in the world of yard nazismus, scorched earth is the policy.

mint saved by bluebells

Some of my mint survived because it was mixed in the bluebells, or, as I look at it, because bluebells were mixed in my mint!

About 6:15 this morning, there was a racket outside. My cats weren’t happy, of course, but they watched out the door anyway, then ran over to me to get a little loving and reassurance. Yep, yard nazis were at work! Not like the time my neighbor across the grass took it on herself to clean out my garden space, pulling out my mint and removing the organic material I wanted to decompose into the soil, though. This was serious weed-whacking!


Find the rhubarb in this picture. You can’t? Well, there are the stumps of two plants in the picture somewhere. Weed-whackery that just makes no sense to me. Rhubarb isn’t everyone’s favorite, but the plant is attractive enough most people recognize it as something the gardener planted there, something with a purpose.

dill saved by bluebells

Bless you, little dill weed! You survived because you were among the real weeds, those bluebells! What irony! Maybe there is a value to bluebells after all!

2008-12-31 yard nazismus 015 volunteer elm sapling

Hee! Hee! You are an elm sapling! You survived the herbal pogrom! Grow, little tree! Grow 80 feet tall!

I don’t own this place, I just rent it. I guess I don’t have much say in anything, and there isn’t much point to having anything but bluebells and iris, scentless roses and the thistle. The latter has taken over many of the flower beds in the complex, a gift from birds that eat thistle seed, perhaps, or the wind. Let the morning glories spread like the wind, speaking of which. Don’t bother with the weeding because the weed-whacking yard nazis will be through eventually. If you didn’t plant it, you won’t feel bad when they whack it to the ground! Whack! Whack! Whack!

I’m all about surviving retirement with two cats, eh? What happens outside I will try not to let bother me. Much. Remember, too, when someone wants to do something nice for you it is wrong not to let them have that chance. Yard nazis have mothers, too. In fact, I also know them to be really nice, thoughtful people. My not-so-obvious garden will all grow back.

yard nazis, part 1

A friend of mine, the late Margaret V., lived in a retirement community in Arcata, California. Though she wasn’t a major gardener, she did like to plant a few flowers on the borders of her lot and place potted flowers on the steps up to her home. Every summer, I’d get at least one letter from her complaining about “yard nazis”, maintenance staff who weed-whacked this border flower she’d nursed all summer or, inexplicably, knocked over that potted flower on her steps. She’d be livid!

I lived in a regulation house at the time, and always had a big garden in back, nice flower beds in front, that I worked years to get just so. I worked very hard to improve the soil until it required almost no effort to turn, it was so loamy. I double-dug all beds and amended the soil every year. All that in a yard that started with clay soil.

Then I had major illness (Wegener’s granulomatosis), which made maintaining a yard of that size more than I could manage. We moved that fall to the retirement apartments where I live now, a pleasant if not fancy duplex that started out as WWII housing. The yard maintenance, we were assured, was handled by staff, as was snow removal, and so on. One could, however, have a small garden along the foundations of the apartment, if one wished.


Bluebells are pretty, but, like morning glories, have a weedy growth habit. I dug out tons of them at the house. They return without mercy and they spread like the weed they are.

I tried small scale gardening at the apartment the first summer. Someone before planted a variety of flowers and roses I didn’t particularly care for (other than one climbing yellow rose): Bluebells, morning glories, some wimpy plant that hates dry conditions and looks like hell when fully hydrated (name?), iris (which are lovely for a couple of weeks once a year, then not so much), snow-on-the-mountain, two awful artificial-looking red roses with no scent, and a nice yellow rose (also no scent). Not to my taste mostly, but, well, not tragic. I’d try to work them out over years. Gardening, if nothing else, is an exercise in patience and planning. Oh yeah, and hope!

yellow rose

This yellow rose has a clean, floral scent, and grows outside my bathroom window. It is the one rose at the apartment I do like.

Management or an earlier tenant used crushed rock to cover unplanted areas as a weed control and to make things look pretty. Like hell! Hell to dig, though I finally broke through using a garden fork I fortuitously brought from my old home on the chance I’d one day be able to garden again. What I found under the rock was compacted, worn out soil much like I’d started out with and spent years building up with composed leaves and grass at the house. “Shit,” I thought! No, at that point, shit of the right kind would have made me very happy!

Also, I left a huge rhubarb patch at the house, thinking it wouldn’t be right to take any with us when the new owners could enjoy it as much as we. The new owners tore it out and tossed the plants in the trash. (My old neighbors tattled on the new owner…!) They had no idea what to do with it or that a couple of the neighbors always enjoyed large amounts of it each year because we shared it with them.

There were some neighborhood rhubarb patches at the apartment complex, a plant here and there, but the old neighbors scouted it out and usually beat me to it. They’d lived here longer. They knew the routine. I resolved to plant my own, which I documented elsewhere in this blog. It took two, three years to get an amount of rhubarb that gave us a taste of it each year, if nowhere what we had at the house.


I was so happy when I finally got rhubarb to grow in the dead soil out back! I added lots of compost and fertilizer to the spot where I planted it, and, unlike my first, failed effort, had the lovely early spring surprise you see in the photo!