The mulch fairy

When you were a kid, did you put your baby teeth under your pillow and await the tooth fairy? (The tooth fairy in my neck of the woods preferred teeth to be placed in a glass of water—much easier to grab.) My teeth were worth a dime, which tells you how long ago that was. That tooth fairy business set me up for a lifetime of magical thinking … such as: Where the hell is my maid? Am I doomed to a lifetime of weekends spent doing the floors and cleaning the toilet? (Yes!) And the gardener—where is my gardener?? Do I really have to weed all these gardens myself, over and over? (Yes!) Silly me, I still wait for fairies to show up and give me a little help.

big dandelion

Especially this year, where the Pacific Northwest saw a warm and record-breakingly wet spring. Plants have gone crazy and look so overgrown compared to last summer. Most of all, the weeds LOVE it. I thought maybe I was imagining it, but it really has been a bumper year for weeds. I didn’t know they could be cyclical, but evidently we had the perfect storm. The weeds have been so fierce, I almost want to cry with frustration.

weedy woodland garden

Normally, Eric and I attack the gardens in the spring, and have everything more or less under control by Memorial Day. This year, we got rained out often, and distracted by our spare room project and our New England vacation. (I have lots of excuses, but those are my favorites.) That is why, this Fourth of July weekend, we are still toiling in the yard. (Mostly, we enjoy this. If you enjoy it, it’s called gardening. If you hate it, it’s called yardwork.)

Because we fell far behind, the gardens became so choked with weeds that we couldn’t even make out individual plants. This was my first weed harvest in the rose garden back in April.

roase garden and pulled weeds

Sadly, the mulch fairy did not come, and soon the rose bed looked like I had never weeded it at all. So discouraging!

Elsewhere in the front yard, the triangle garden also was carpeted with weeds. When I finally was finished extracting them, I realized that without the weeds, there wasn’t much left. I was so bummed, I didn’t even take a picture. Last summer’s drought coupled with the colder-than-normal winter took a toll on many plants. I cleared out the dead and damaged ones and decided I’d have to redesign and replant the garden—a task I’d ordinarily relish, but I just had too much going on. I decided to let the rose campion self seed and take over (it’s invasive but pretty, and it blooms all summer), and fill in some purple feather grass, coreopsis, and blue Nile lily for color contrast. It looks kinda wild, but it’ll do until next year!

colorful triangle-shaped garden

coreopsis and rose campion

Meanwhile, in the backyard, the jungle was completely out of control. Shameful.

weeedy corner of garden

weedy woodland garden

Eventually we got it all weeded out. We pull all of our weeds by hand. I must admit, most weeds (other than stubborn dandelions) pull right out of our rich, rock-free, valley soil. We don’t use chemicals, and we never need to fertilize anything. Yeah, we are lucky … but I still reserve the right to complain about weeds!

At long last, the mulch fairy came (bearing a striking resemblance to Eric)!! Two trailersful later, we are still working on getting it dispersed, and we may need more. Doesn’t this look better?

corner after weeding

woodland garden after weeding

Eric even bought a new pressure washer (an unexpected expense when ours died) and spent July 4th and 5th playing with water—cleaning the deck and putting up the white lights that we used at our centennial party last summer. Magical!

Eric pressure washing deck

white lights over deck

We’re still not done. We will never be done. With anything. We have to clear some overcrowded plants out of the front porch garden and weed the Japanese garden for the third time … but we have made good progress. As soon as we get caught up we can concentrate on finishing our inside projects … or starting a new one outside. Can you guess what that might be?

Bees are buzzing in the lavender, hummingbirds are buzzing in the crocosmia, the plants are happy, and the cats are happy! Thank you, mulch fairy! Come again soon!

white lights over clematis and hydrangea

red crocosmia

lavender in bloom

black and white cat under birch tree

“Prisons have yards … houses have gardens.”



11 thoughts on “The mulch fairy

  1. Karen B.

    I had to laugh at your tooth fairy story…do you watch Modern Family. Lily puts her tooth under her pillow and her dad, in the dark, accidentally gives her a $100 bill. They have to work on trying to convince her that the fairy made a mistake. I think I used to get a dollar…your parents were wise to have you put the tooth in a glass of water. Way easier to leave the money, although I do think 10 cents isn’t nearly enough! 🙂
    I’m happy the “mulch fairy” is far more generous. Your gardens really do look great. I believe gardens, like any household task (loved or not) is a continuous project. I notice that my garden can look really tended to one week and let me miss on weekend of work and it can look like an abandoned yard.
    I’m eager to hear what your next indoor project will be.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Haha–saw that Modern Family episode! Technically, our next NEW project will be outside! We are still working (not very hard right now) on finishing the kitchen and spare room. The list is never-ending!

  2. shellgren

    I personally like to think of our new planting and re-landscaping efforts as simply replacing last year’s dead plants with next year’s dead plants. With love from the mulch fairy 🙂

  3. Connie in Hartwood

    We call it the mulch fairy, too! Sounds as if we have had the same sort of weather, though we are on opposite sides of the country. Cool and wet has caused the weeds to completely take over. I work on it a little at a time, covering the bare soil and mulching as I go to keep the new weeds from germinating. Nutsedge is my nemesis right now. Nutsedge is from the devil. I will not let nutsedge have my garden … it’s going to take me a while.

  4. Jessica@CapeofDreams

    Fairies or no, mulch is magical. We have been battling the weeds as well. In fact, Alex, our new child, spent about three hours outside with Douglas yesterday pulling them while complaining bitterly. I would recommend getting a child yourself to help with the work, but the truth is that they cause more work than they do.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Haha–I have been reading some novels about the orphan trains of the early 20th century, and “get a child to help with work” is exactly what people did back then! But I agree, a child would be even more work than a herd of cats. It was some consolation to learn this has been a particularly bad weed season, because I couldn’t imagine so much hard work as I get older and stiffer!

  5. Judy Huppert

    Everything does look better with the mulch, but it was nice before, even with the weeds. Where the rose bushes bit the dust, the flowers there now are beautiful. Nice work. Wish we were so dedicated. We do weed and fertilize with things like Epsom salts. Roses, gardenias and others respond well to the Epsom salts.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Good to know, Judy! We are getting some to mix with vinegar and spray on weeds. I never do anything to my poor old roses other than give them some water. I should try feeding them, huh?!


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