A Session With Dr. Hortfreud

A recent session with Dr. Hortfreud...

Carol, I see that you haven’t removed the sod by the fence and dug up that new bed. What happened?

Well, I was all set to do it, I really was. I even had a co-worker lined up who was going to split the cost of a sod cutter and cut out all the sod in exchange for getting to take it all to his yard. We even agreed on a date to do it.

That sounds like a good deal, but you didn’t do it. Why not? Did it rain?

Well, no, it didn't rain, exactly. There was some family stuff that came up.

Really, I heard about that but thought your family said to go ahead anyway.

Yes, they said that but I decided the right thing to do was wait.

So why aren’t you doing it now?

I’m afraid I won’t have time to plant it once I dig it up because there are so many other things I should be doing in the garden, like weeding, re-mulching the paths in the vegetable garden, mowing, and harvesting compost.

Yes, I heard you spent most of Saturday harvesting compost. Is that true?


Hmmmm… you might be obsessed with compost, but we’ll talk about that later. Let’s explore further why you have resisted digging up the area by the fence. If you dug it up now do you know what you’d plant there?

Not exactly.

What? You don’t have a plan? What were you going to do, just dig it up and wait for divine inspiration? Why don’t you hire a landscape architect to come up with a plan for you?

I think I’m too cheap to do that.

Carol, I’ve seen your hoe collection and know how much you paid for some of those hoes. You are not that cheap.

Well, maybe I’m afraid of large planting beds? Isn’t there a name for that, like kiposphobia, since “kipos” is Greek for “garden”? Or maybe it is megaloskiposphobia, the fear of large gardens?

That sounds like some of those phobias you made up. We’ll address that later, too. I can’t solve all your issues in one session.

This garden therapy sounds like it is going to be expensive.

I’ll put you on a payment plan. Now, we need to get to the root cause of whatever is keeping you from digging up that area. If it is just that you don’t know what to do with that bed once you’ve removed the sod, what would be a good first step?

To come up with a design?

Yes, good! Now we are getting somewhere! Oh, sorry. Times up. For our next session I want you to be ready to discuss three ways to get a design for that area.

Okay, thank you Dr. Hortfreud. I’ll bring my ideas to my next session, I promise.


  1. Your Dr sounds like he knows you pretty good. I think you should listen to him and get on with the project. What fun to have a whole new space to plant up.

  2. That was a quick session. Yes, develop a plan. We'll help, and we're free just like all of the best things in life. :) I think you need a rose or two in that new bed.~~Dee

  3. HI-LAR-I-OUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am glad I am not the only one with hort issues like that. Could it be we are living mirroring lives?!

  4. Uh, Indy? Doctor H has your number. Just pay up and keep goin' back.

  5. Very funny. Sounds like your finally getting to the root of all your issues!

  6. I must disagree with the good doctor. I think you should just dive in and dig it up & start improving the soil. Then, by the time it's ready to be planted up, you can have decided on a design in the meantime. Then again, I tend to design on the fly, so don't listen to me!

  7. I'm kinda in MMD's camp on this one, Carol. You could start the digging while you can - get the soil ready and plant sunflowers and cosmos as a temporary cutting garden if you can't think up a "proper" design.

    I'd like to see what would happen if you switch from that Starbucks iced green tea to French Roast coffee. You might go on a design trip!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. Very funny. Sounds like Dr. H has some good insights there.

  9. I agree with MMD and Annie...but I'm always doing impulsive things and then having to deal with it. And you were harvesting compost...it would have been a great time to have a bed to pile it on.

  10. Oh! I know that Dilemma, every year about this time I feel the garden is over taking me. I have so many plans and not the time or energy to carry them through. I think either plan is fine but I usually dig the ground, plant whatever I have in pots (I nearly always have lots of pots of plants waiting for a home), plant some seedlings (I do like growing from seed) and wish I had made a plan!

    Looking forward to the next session. Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  11. I'm with MMD: I'd go ahead and get the sod removed and build the bed while the plan is being formulated! Of course I tend to storm in, take no prisoners and then spend weeks wandering about and wondering what comes next ... Is Dr. Hortfreud taking new patients?

  12. I love your puns-a-plenty. And because we have basically the same garden phobias and habits, I get to use your experience without having to make an appointment with Dr. Hortfreud myself.

    I, too, dislike a completely open canvas for planting. I never plant with a plan on paper (except for vegetables). And I'm to cheap to hire a landscape designer. (Well, I did once but that turned out so very badly. Never again.)

    I'm looking forward to seeing how you come up with a design.

  13. Carol, Short term behavioral therapy is very effective and Annie and MMD are good adjunct therapists! Their advice is smart, so go ahead and dig in and face those phobias! Gail

  14. Hi Carol~~

    Well it looks like your bevy of cyber garden buddies have offered great advice. My two cents: The cliched Nike slogan: JUST DO IT.

    Also, there is a way to make it slightly easier but the person who wants your sod would lose out. Spray the area with Roundup first. Then there will be no need for the labor intensive nightmarish sod remover.

    Okay so maybe that was a little more than two cents. :)

    Do you have Dr. Hortfreud's phone number?

  15. Dr. H. sounds like quite a perceptive man; I don't think I want to be on his couch:) I'm a planner, but I think MMD and Annie are right--just go for it! You could always plant some annuals (and maybe a few more vegetables!) this year and then design a perennial bed over the winter.

    By the way, thanks for all the great info on your composting habits, Carol. I do compost, but I belong to the casual, low-maintenance group. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't turn her compost regularly or water it every week.

  16. I agree with MMD. Dig first, ask questions later. If you were gardening in our climate, I'd advise you to kill the grass over the summer by solarizing it (covering it with plastic and letting it die a slow-baked death), then put in edging. All the while cogitating on a plan for the space, which you can do while you're getting the bed ready. And then, in the fall, voila! you're ready to plant.

    But I suppose in Indiana you must plant in the spring or summer? You'll need to leave room for some large shrubs though, and I bet those should go in in the fall. Which gives you all winter to mull the rest of the bed over and plant in the spring. See? No stress!

  17. Your wonderful comments just go to show that advice comes from fellow gardeners as much as it does from a "specialist" like Dr. Hortfreud.

    If you'd like for Dr. Hortfreud to address any of your issues, just send me an email or leave me a comment about them, and I'll see what I can negotiate with the good doctor!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  18. I know I'm late with my comment, but might a garden coach or garden designer be a possibility? Not as expensive as a landscape architect, and more knowledgeable about plants. I pay my landscape designer hourly to critique my design.

  19. I know I'm also late to this analysis, but I really can't believe that the good doctor did not connect this issue to some of your other issues, perhaps your lawn mowing obsession, I mean love. How can Dr. Hortfreud expect you to reconcile removing lovely sod with your desire to mow it? Removing that sod might mean that you won't be able to mow as often! What trauma! Why would you want to do that to yourself? Skip the counseling, skip the sod removal, just take off your shoes and walk barefoot in that area!


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