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When we first moved into this house, I was appalled to find the garden shed loaded with toxic pesticides of every form. There went my hopes for an in-ground vegetable garden, as upon closer inspection, I began to notice the assortment of crusty powdered lines of who-knows-what, that had been layered within about… no kidding… 6 inches to a foot of nitrogen robbing large chunk wood mulch that had turned the soil beneath into a stinky bog. Even more horrific, were the dead bees I was to find on a daily basis that spring. As the year progressed, we also lost some of the pre-existing landscape to root rot. Needless to say, it was quite a chore to sort through it all and decide how to properly dispose of things. Were the failing shrubs and perennials to the point of no return? Hazmat, trash, or compost? Over the course of the year, I ended up digging out most of the back yard landscape, and about a third of the front slope, all of which were failing from a combination of rot and mole damage.

Year 2: We ended up working in a ridiculous amount of compost, and no surprise, there were hardly any worms to be seen, but a ton of grubs and slugs. The remaining half-dead perennials in the front slope were removed and replaced with carefree heathers and English lavender. I made a clean sweep, clearing everything from the back border, replanting with a full range of trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, and perennials that I hoped would thrive in our climate with minimal care. The bumblebees returned, but unfortunately, we were finding a lot of dead ones on the ground. Still, not a single sighting of a honeybee. There were few beneficials, but loads of nuisance insects. We were so out of balance. I almost gave up on the garden, our best view having been that of the bird feeder.

Year 3: Oh, goodie. We have bees. The kind that bore into the siding of the house. And ants. Lots of ants. Bad ants. I ended up calling the least toxic exterminator I could find.

Year 4: Where did my perennials go? Something had burrowed beneath them, and ate them from below the soil up. Voles had taken up the recently vacated mole tunnels. Rude. Here, have some castor oil granules, Mr. Munchie-pants. pfft.

By that point, my motivation toward any form of garden improvement had been beaten to the ground, our outdoor time spent mostly on mowing, weeding, and composting that which did not thrive.

Bzzzzzzzzzzz. Shoo, fly! Oh, you’re some sort of bee. And there are more bees. And other bees! Aah! The crabapple tree is loaded with… honeybees! I’m so happy I could pull a weed! *yoink*

*sproing*

Sproing? What was that? It’s a tiny green frog! Finally, signs that things were coming back into balance.

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