Once upon a time there was a garden within a garden within a garden.
I call it my vegetable garden. It wasn’t always this way. Twenty years ago we moved into this house and inherited the usual fence around the perimeter. I liked this fence. It’s old wire and had gates to match at four different entry points.
The gate that led to the front door never really worked. I’m guessing it was because the previous owners who had been there 50+ years had used it the most. What do people love to do with gates? They love to swing them to close. What breaks a gate? People swinging them to close. We also realized that the only people that came to our front door were people we didn’t want to talk to; Jehovah’s Witnesses, salespeople, politicians. So, over time, I’ve let a rose climb across and now you really have to look to see that there is a gate there.
Our front door was awkward anyways so, we naturally used the gate closer to where we parked. Last year that gate finally wore down from all of the swinging we were doing. We took it down and then made entry wider. I had not realized how dependent I was on that fair warning sound of the gate opening and closing. I felt as if people were sneaking up and knocking on my door!
There was also a gate that use to connect our back yard to the neighbors (I guess the two houses belonged to sisters) but, that had to come out as we put up a deer-proof cedar fence along the backside of our property. So, of the original four gates only one is still in use and that’s pretty much just to check the mail.That’s enough about the gates.
The other thing that has happened over the years is that the deer population has gone up.
They are so destructive! What they don’t eat, the males thrash and break when they’re trying to get the velvet off of their antlers. That’s why I’ve always had a deer fence for my vegetable garden. Well, actually, there were a few times it had to come down to be redone for one reason or another. At one point it was down for a couple of years. Those were trying times! I wanted to give up on vegetable gardening because it seemed too hard. I was surprised that when I expressed it to my family my kids were like, “No, Mom! We have to have a garden!” I was so moved by this. I hadn’t realized how much it meant to them in their lives. So, they put up the fence that I still use to this day. Pretty cool.
Unfortunately, I still had a problem with the deer getting past the perimeter fence that is only 4 feet tall and into my ornamental garden. I didn’t want to turn my entire property into a fortress. That can start to feel very unwelcoming for people and critters alike. What I wanted was deer protection for my garden so I could stop hating the deer.
My solution was to deer-proof my backyard and move most of my garden back there.
It took about 3 years for me to complete the process. There was a lot of heartache undoing beds and getting rid of plants that I no longer had room for. It was weird to see something that I had put so much of myself into come undone. I felt vague and existential. Now I’m a full year past all of that and hate to admit that I really don’t miss all of those endless planting beds. Besides, without the deer damage I’ve been able to see the true form of the plants. I had an old rose, the Empress Josephine, that I thought was a bush because the deer always kept it cropped. It turns out it’s a climbing rose! Now I’m training it to grow along the backside of my vegetable garden.
OK, now we have come full circle back to the vegetable garden.
My first true love, my first protection, my yard’s inner sanctum. When the whole back yard became deer-proofed I took down it’s gate. Now it’s open but, still protected…. as long as no one ever forgets to latch (gently!) the backyard gates……