Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cancer Survivor’s Garden – The Staff

            Because I had an income from my flower business, I had enough money to hire help with my garden when I couldn’t do it all myself.  The first person I hired did a reasonable job of expanding a new bed.  When I asked him to weed the white garden, he disappeared and never came back. The white bed wasn’t that bad--yet.

            I hired a young girl who liked garden work.  She couldn’t tell the difference between a flower and a weed.  She couldn’t do the heavy chores.  She wanted to be paid the same as someone who knew what they were doing.  When she didn’t show up for work, I refused to call her again.

            A landscape company sent me a flyer.  I called them.  They came out with a team of people and did a great job.  They knew the difference between garden plants and weeds.  They were fast and thorough.  The recession hit and they went out of business. 

            I tried several more people who would show up for work, maybe, if they were in the mood, and the work wasn’t too hard.

            Finally, the local garden store started contracting out garden help.  Their people show up on time.  They do heavy chores.  The workers, they send out, know the difference between weeds and common flowers.  They’ve weeded out some of my rare plants.  On the other hand, Carlos throws the hated snakes over the fence into the woods.  I will continue to hire them and keep labels on rare plants.

            Nobody I’ve hired can weed to my satisfaction.  I like to take my garden fork and loosen the top six to eight inches of soil.  I can then lift out the weeds with some chance of getting the root. 

            Alas, the staff likes to get down on the ground with a hand held cultivator and break the weeds off an inch below the surface.  The gardens look great for about two weeks then the weeds sprout from the healthy root that is still in the ground. 

            Still, the men I hire from the garden store do a great job with cutting back brush, weed-eating and hauling compost.  I have them chop the weeds out of the driveway, which is hard work.  It does look nice for a few weeks when they are done.

            It is expensive to hire help in the garden.  I am paying twenty-five dollars an hour for someone who will show up on time.  I’m told I could save money by hiring this person or that.  It saves a great deal of money when the help doesn’t come to work, but it doesn’t get the chores done, when they need to be done.

            There is one other person I might class as staff, my husband.  Most of the time I was sick, he had all he could do to work, and take care of me.  He did try to help in the garden.  He is willing to mow with the riding mower.  He cut down a bed of daffodils before they were ready to be mowed, and I lost about five hundred daffodils.  I’ve given up asking him to use the weed-eater.  He spells sudden death for perennials, yet seems afraid to cut the grass to the ground around a raised bed.  As for weeding, my husband has one method he learned as a young boy watching his father turn over the vegetable bed.  He will turn the top layer of dirt over, hiding the perennial weeds until they reorient themselves and pop through the surface again.

            Hubby can be counted on to do some routine chores.  I can occasionally get him to clean the duck yard.  He built me a new two-foot high brick bed, and laid a brick retaining wall along the driveway.  He will haul compost with much grumbling.  As garden staff, he is acceptable if I stand right beside him, which was not realistic when I was sick. 

            Hiring someone to work in the garden is just a hit and miss proposition.  Some people get lucky with a hiring a general handyman or an individual with a yard maintenance business.  My grandmother used to hire someone who kept her gardens beautiful.  She stood over him the whole time he was there and made certain the job got done right.  I am not that type of person.  When I was sick, I couldn’t stand over the staff.  I’ve had the best luck hiring the guys from the local garden store or the landscape business with a large staff.  I hope soon to be able to do more myself.


  1. I hear you! We have a little over an acre--mostly grass but also a lot of gardens (thanks to my husband who has a penchant for building new gardens--there's [probably some deep-rooted psychological explanation there). We do most of our own yard work with no help from our puppy RAZZ who holds on to the rake while I'm trying to rake and jumps into the lawn bag I'm trying to fill with leaves. RAZZ even has our 12-year-old German shepherd Vega wading in the little pool we have mixed in with all the gardens. In all his 12 years, Vega has never wanted to get his feet wet and now he loves slopping around in the little pool. I guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

  2. Oh how I love maintenance free living. My husband and I gave up yard work when we moved three years ago. Haven't missed it yet, but I know people who love it. This was a very enjoyable story.