If you garden, I am sure you understand what it means to be a yard dog. You dig the dirt, turn and spread the compost, wheel the mulch, prune the shrubs, drag the hose to the thirsty tree, plant new plants, divide old plants, pull the weeds, rake the leaves, and then start all over again. All of the aforementioned jobs take place in the spring when it’s cold, in the summer when it’s 90, in the fall when it’s raining and very cold.
Every landscape is threatened by trouble. No rain, too much rain. Weather that is too hot, or too cold, or too humid. Woodchucks, deer, chipmunks, the neighbor’s children, Japanese beetles, anthracnose, fungus, white fly, spider mites, slugs, nematodes-even dogs. There is ample evidence in my yard that I have two male dogs. Can you hear me shrug?? I am always on patrol for trouble. It makes much more sense to stay ahead of trouble, than be left in its wake.
Some trouble pops right out in front of your face. A shrub with leaves so green on the outside may be hiding trouble on the inside. Scale-have you ever had it? This revolting insect attaches itself to to the stems of magnolias, and euonymus. A severely infected plant has stems covered in white; scale is very difficult to eradicate, once it has taken hold. Be a great yard dog-inspect your plants regularly. From top to bottom. I like to hand water. The time it takes to water deeply gives me time to see what is going on behind the scenes. I see Milo running in and out of the boxwood hedges-they do not seem to mind the intrusion. I see the hummingbirds on the nicotiana. I have lots of them right now-they must be on their way south. I see the hydrangea flowers pinking up-who knew pink could be a verb? I can process a lot of trouble, and my plan to combat said trouble, while holding the hose.
I see the hawks riding the updrafts. I see the clouds-are they not beautiful in the fall? I see those giant messy structures I know to be squirrel’s nests in my big Norway maple. The black tar fungus has decimated the foliage on this tree-this is trouble over which I have no control. Whether on not I have control, I stand watch.
Milo has a squirrel friend. This squirrel chatters at him, leaps and runs through the trees ringing the property. Milo never takes his eyes off that squirrel. His focus is an astonishing thing to behold. They have quite the relationship. My very low to the ground corgi, and that tree hopping bushy tailed rodent have a mutually satisfying relationship. The same could be said for me and my garden.
Milo works very hard, keeping up his end. He may patrol the perimeter of the garden 10 times in any given evening. His nemesis, that squirrel friend, is bound to show up sooner or later. At some point, he will take a break, and get a drink. I understand perfectly the responsibility involved. Nature dishes out all kinds of trouble. Weather is to be watched, and cleaned up after. There is no intervening in this. I don’t intervene with bugs-I live through them. I will treat a bacterial infection, and I will treat a fungus. But no matter how little control I have, I have the yard dog gene. No doubt, there are those moments when I need a drink of water.
Gardening is a dirty business. The dirt may be the best part of it. Given 15 years of compost and ground bark turned into and returned to my soil, my plants thrive. What could be more thrilling? That dirt-in my socks and under my nails-part and parcel of being a yard dog.