Spring Garden ShapeUp-Along

by Daisy


Does your garden look like something snaked out of the J-trap under your kitchen sink?

Do you refer to it as “the wasteland”?

Did a location scout for a post-apocalyptic movie just ask to film a scene in your backyard?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in the right place. No, I’m not going to come clean up your garden, but if you’re game, we’re going to clean up our gardens together. A burden shared is a burden halved.

This time of year, late winter, when we’re flirting with spring, can be one of the most overwhelming times in the garden for me.


And since I just got through taking a bunch of deliberately unflattering pictures of my garden (and believe me it was depressingly easy) I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed.

They say the best time to evaluate your garden is wintertime, when the bare bones of garden structure are revealed, but right now those bones look bare and ragged indeed.

I’ll just say it: my garden looks ugly.

There’s SO MUCH to do. In many places there’s a dense carpet of weeds. The beds look sunken and need building up. The mulched paths are sun-bleached and sparse. Patchy overwintered greens are tired and poised to bolt.


Half-finished projects glare at me. Windblown leaves are caught in every possible cranny. Even the garlic tops seem depressed.


All those tasks I should have done last fall but was too tired to do then are now waiting for me, and spring is impatiently tapping its watch. Why didn’t you start your onions in January?

Why didn’t you manure the beds months ago so they’d be ready for planting?

Why is the compost pile so low?

Explain to me, my garden asks, why did you expand last year when you had trouble maintaining what you already had?

Is there more time in the day?

Do you have fewer responsibilities?

Are you getting younger?

My garden has a smart mouth on it.

If you’re feeling the pressure, too, you can join along over the next few weeks while I try to get my garden in gear.

Tomorrow I’ll share the first step in the CleanUp-Along so we can get started. Don’t worry if you’re still covered in snow. The first stage is planning-related.

I’d love to have lots of company! Let me know if you’re going to try this and together we can get motivated.

If you want to join the CleanUp-Along, just comment below that you’re in and tell me what’s the ugliest part of your garden.

Over the next weeks we’ll see our gardens transform bit by bit. I’m feeling more hopeful already.





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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Stewart February 20, 2016 at 10:42 am

Cold weather weeds are very thick.

Daisy February 20, 2016 at 10:56 am

Judy Stewart–They’re like a solid mat. The whole surface of soil comes up like peeling back sod. I’ve tried flipping sections of it over like a green mulch but I’m sure they’re just re-growing even stronger.

Christina Dreise February 20, 2016 at 11:20 am

I’ve got old plants that just need to go and lots of soil building and mulching to do.

Elizabeth Vega February 20, 2016 at 11:54 am

So much in. We have a ton of neglected containers that are begging for herbs in them, our front yard looks like it belongs to an abandoned house, and it’s well past time to harvest the winter raised-bed garden and get it ready for spring.

Daisy February 20, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Elizabeth Vega–Yay! Let’s do this.

Shelley February 21, 2016 at 3:24 am

I remarked to my husband one (rare) perfect day last summer that if we lived in a nicer climate I’d be a much better gardener. He laughed. Our climate here in the NE of England is cold, windy and wet, but I still long for a pretty garden. I keep trying to be more like my mother, who was a wonderful gardener – in Oklahoma. Look forward to seeing how you get on.

Daisy February 21, 2016 at 6:21 am

Shelley–It IS harder when the climate is working against you. I suppose one must adjust ones expectations depending on the limits of the local clime. Join in!

Amy February 21, 2016 at 6:51 am

I need to join the clean up. There is NO part of my garden, yard, flowerbeds that are ok. 🙁

Daisy February 21, 2016 at 7:35 am

Welcome, Amy! Excited to have you join.

KAY RICHARDSON February 21, 2016 at 11:08 am

I’d like to say “I’m in,” because these could be shots of my gardens. My challenge is working a 40 hr/wk job and the serendipity of full on monsoons on the weekends. I could halfheartedly sign on though.

Daisy February 21, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Kay Richardson–Half-hearted is better than no-hearted! There will be no judgment for partial completion, just do what you can do within your time constraints and I bet you get more done than you think! Glad to have you 🙂

Helen February 23, 2016 at 4:19 am

I could have written this post. Looking forward to this series.

Julia February 23, 2016 at 5:36 am

I’m in too! My raspberries have taken over and my paths between my raised beds are full of weeds. I moved my whole garden last year (8 4×12′ raised beds). I need all the help I can get.

Daisy February 23, 2016 at 6:49 am

Julia–Welcome! That sounds familiar–I moved beds a couple of years ago, and my blackberries are popping up everywhere. I’m running out of places to transplant them to and it seems such a shame to throw them away.

Daisy February 23, 2016 at 7:00 am

Helen–I think except for people with gardeners the late winter doldrums are epidemic. I’m so looking forward to the greening up, but getting the old cleared out is very satisfying.

Terry Barbanell February 23, 2016 at 7:05 am

I’m in!!!!

Daisy February 23, 2016 at 7:21 am

Terry Barbanell–Welcome aboard!

Pat M February 23, 2016 at 7:59 am

So much of this sounds like me and the questions I am asking myself. Looking forward to hearing more.

Bonnie North February 23, 2016 at 9:30 am

I’m in for the garden shape-up. We’re in the “Snow Belt” region of Ontario, Canada, so I’m glad the first phase is planning, since there’s no way I can dig through the snow and frozen soil to get the clean-up started at this point!

Looking forward to this!!

Bonnie North February 23, 2016 at 9:35 am

Oh, I forgot to add my garden shame comments: My garden looks like something that qualifies for a superr-fund clean up site. No one would believe that I am a gardener, judging by what my yard looks like. Is there a 12 step program for this? 😉

Daisy February 23, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Bonnie–Welcome, Canada! I’m coming back with a post tomorrow about incentives (besides just having a shaped-up garden). Glad to have your input!

Daisy February 23, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Bonnie–You’ve admitted you have a problem! Now the fun begins.

Corinne February 23, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Consistent Rain, A new puppy and an incredible amount of mud and weeds. The garden looks like a rugby team has trained on it.

Daisy February 23, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Corinne–Oh boy. I feel your pain. It’s raining here as I type. Extra time to plan and peer out the windows to see what needs doing, I suppose. Need more tea.

Terrie February 23, 2016 at 6:28 pm

I’m definitely in on this. All my garden areas look like no one lives here anymore. This is the year to change that (I say that every year!). Looking forward to help and direction from you. Thanks.

Daisy February 23, 2016 at 7:58 pm

Terrie–Thank you–let’s do this!

Claire February 23, 2016 at 10:22 pm

I just moved into my house last summer – a bit too late to have a garden then. But my to-be garden site is going to be where we had some holly bushes torn down. So now there is nothing there but some awesome NC orange clay (insert sarcastic eye roll here). I’m in! 🙂

Pennie February 24, 2016 at 6:32 am

Ugh is right! Like you I didn’t get my fall clean up done. I was just out on the porch looking at the front flower beds and cringed. The other thing I *must* do this year is divide some plants. I wish I had another garden friend to share them with. lol…I think part of the problem is I’m slowly running out of room to relocate them and hate putting them in the compost. I’d love working together…it’ll keep me motivated. 🙂

Mel February 24, 2016 at 8:22 am

We’ve got low, sunken beds and mulch everywhere! I’m in!

Daisy February 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

Claire–Great to have you on team shapeup! I love the challenge of a blank slate. I bet it’s going to be good.

Daisy February 24, 2016 at 8:49 am

Pennie–Yay! The worse it looks–it can only get better, right? Let’s go!

Daisy February 24, 2016 at 8:51 am

Mel–Where does it all go? I’m ready to start piling dirt. We’re going to get there!

Laura Lockard February 25, 2016 at 8:16 am

Ugh my husband is peeing in my garden Cheerios and I could use some clean up along support! My biggest issue is the unfinished ballustraded patio and the garden beds that go around it. The contractors have to finish the hardscape and thankfully my husband is willing to do the last few stages of planning to make it happen. Then I have to decide how to put these beds in and move many, many plants.

I want to put a potager garden in the back yard, and I have to move the raspberry bushes into it because the black walnut tree is slowing killing them. It has to be raised beds (due to black walnut).

Much planning, much work for contractors, much $$. But if I ever want this edible landscaping plan I paid for to materialize, I have to get through the negativity and make it happen.

Karen February 25, 2016 at 3:03 pm

I’m in; I need all the help I can get and I absolutely love your can-do attitude and everything you share! Ugliest part: hmmm, where isn’t it? But, probably last year’s plants that need to go…and the corner of the fence that I just shovel leaves and scraps into and call my “compost” pile.

Mary February 27, 2016 at 9:22 am

I’m late to the party, but I’m soooo in. I’m trying to reclaim my backyard this year. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

Daisy February 27, 2016 at 11:31 am

Mary–You’re not too late, you’re right on time. It’s going to feel so good to get this done.

Charleen March 1, 2016 at 1:57 pm

I’m in!!! My biggest issue is ‘the future garden’. I have visions of it in my head, but nothing seems to be happening. I can’t even think of planting anything until it’s fully fenced in, or the deer and rabbits will leave me with nothing!

Dottie March 2, 2016 at 5:54 am

I’m in. You had me with the post-apocalyptic metaphor. Feeling discouraged in NW PA.

Daisy March 2, 2016 at 8:13 am

Dottie–YaY! It’s all about the list! And the carrot and the stick, too. If you’re just joining us and need help finding the next steps on the blog, let me know. I’ll lead you through it. 🙂

Daisy March 2, 2016 at 8:15 am

Charleen–I know. The first step is the hardest. It can be done!

Dottie March 3, 2016 at 7:20 am

Thanks, Daisy.

NW Grandma March 10, 2016 at 12:58 am

You all have a head start but I want to start cleaning up the back beds & put in a new bird feeding station the squirrels can’t invade among many other clean up chores. Oh my!! Now if the next week of rain (I just dumped 9″ from the gauge this week) will quickly pass maybe I can get started on those dead plants from last year & all those weeds!

Daisy March 10, 2016 at 6:09 am

NW Grandma–No time like the present. And I feel you on the rain. We’re about to float away down here.

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