Sunday, May 21, 2017

Creeping Charlie 1, K 0, Ants 58,000,000

I loved the way my raised beds looked last year, with the mulch walkway around them, lined with stones.

I've always liked raised beds with paths between them, and I certainly was glad to have less area to mow. Unfortunately, my yard is about 40% creeping Charlie, and creeping Charlie knows no boundaries. Mulch is no barrier, because creeping Charlie spreads above ground as well as underground. It pulls up easily, but by the time winter rolled around, I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of maintaining mulch paths in the face of creeping Charlie. Short of using noxious chemicals, or putting a couple pigs in my backyard, I don't foresee winning the war against creeping Charlie. Trimming around all the stones wasn't exactly a picnic, either. So, the practical side of me won out, and I've started deconstructing my mulch walkway.

As I removed stones, however, I was startled by the sheer number of ants that had taken up residence under them in the past year. Almost every stone I pulled out revealed a writhing mass of ants, and many of them also had piles of what I'm assuming were eggs. I felt somewhat bad, so some of the rocks I just tilted a little, so the ants would start moving, but wouldn't be completely exposed. By the time I was done, however, I had given up caring. Besides, some of those little ants have been exploring my kitchen, so I think we're even.

I'm doing this the very lazy way. At this point, I've simply rolled the rocks out of their places so I can mow (and the ants can move). As I get around to it, I will move the rocks to other areas of the yard. We have several spots that show signs of erosion, so I'm going to use some rocks in those spots to help with drainage. I don't think I'm even going to remove the woods chips. They'll break down soon enough, and the creeping Charlie is already working on covering them.

Hopefully, by the end of this year, it will all be green around the beds again, and I can simply mow right around them. Sigh. I have to admit, it will be nice to not need to pull weeds out of the path every time I go out to the garden.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Complete chaos

Maybe it isn't that bad, but I feel like I am completely unorganized this year. The other areas of my life are crowding out the garden in my brain, and I keep forgetting what I'm supposed to do next. Despite the forgetfulness and life chaos, however, I have almost everything planted, and it's starting to actually look like a garden again.

The garden beds west to east/left to right:

Broccoli, onions, carrots and one pepper

Peas, two tomatoes and room for cucumbers
Radishes, beets and room for green beans
Cabbage, struggling lettuce, onions, four peppers
The new bed:

Five tomatoes, two peppers, two eggplant and garlic, if it lives
Last but not least:

Two potatoes
Four potatoes
The potatoes got their first layer of straw on Monday.

When I was labeling the garden beds above, I realized that I forgot I still needed to plant green beans. Oh well, the seeds don't know what day it is.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Master plan progress

The other thing I did during my long weekend last weekend was plant the 31 native perennials I ordered from Prairie Nursery. They are the reason I had scheduled the days off in the first place. When I placed my orders, they gave me a shipping date, and I took time off to make sure I'd get the little plants in the ground soon after they showed up. Prairie Nursery was right on time, and the plants arrived Thursday afternoon.

Twenty of them went in this corner, where I've had a tarp laying since February.

The grass weeds around it have greened up, but the area under the tarp was mostly dead.

I don't think creeping Charlie ever really dies, and there were plenty of its runners still in the ground, but the area was definitely clear enough for planting in.

I had a bunch of brown packing paper sitting around, so almost every plant got its own piece of brown paper mulch.

In between other scheduled activities, I only had time the first day to get about half of the plants in the ground.

Here it is finished up.

I didn't have enough pine bark mulch, but that's okay because the uncovered part is on enough of a slope that the mulch will just slide off anyway. I used some rocks along the fence and in various points to help hold the paper down.

This corner has Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Tall Joe Pye Weed, Maidenhair Fern, Wild Geranium and Bishop's Cap. I have no illusion of keeping the area mulched like this. I just wanted to give the little plants a fighting chance and keep them from getting choked by weeds right away. I might throw on some grass the next time I mow as well. Speaking of mowing, this is one part of the yard I hope to never mow again.

If you were paying attention, you've realized that I still had 11 perennials left after filling the corner. Those 11 plants were destined for this sunnier slope.

As you can see, I never got around to tarping this area, and it was covered in bright green grass. Almost entirely grass, too, which is very strange for my backyard. By this point of the weekend, I was worn out and I decided to try something radical. It might be the stupidest thing I've ever done, but I'm the kind of person who learns from my mistakes so, at worst, it'll be a learning experience.

My experience in the other corner had already made me realize that I couldn't really mulch a slope, and I'd run out of paper, so rather than getting rid of all the sod, I just dug holes for the plants, and stuck them in.

from below

from above
I realize it'll be a pain to trim around them for awhile, but it's already a pain to mow this slope, so I've just traded one pain for another. And the second pain should eventually go away once the plants have grown to their full sizes.

This slope has Butterflyweed, Purple Poppy Mallow, Rattlesnake Master, Blue False Indigo and Purple Prairie Clover.

I'm hoping all of these perennials survive. I really want less grass and more worthwhile plants in my yard. It was around 70 degrees last weekend when I planted them, but since then our temperatures have dropped. The past few days have been rainy and about 40 degrees. The little perennials have definitely had enough water, and I don't think it's been cold enough to harm them. I'll have to go check on them when it dries out a bit, which will hopefully be Tuesday.

I've got one more shipment from Prairie Nursery on its way. It's not as many plants, and they won't be here for a couple weeks, but they're going to be exciting!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Almost ready

I took a couple days off work recently so I could spend some time in the garden. The weather was beautiful, and I got a lot done.

My first task was filling the new raised bed. It's been sitting like this for a couple weeks.

After running around town to three different garden centers, I finally had all of my supplies. I like to use a variety of different composts, and no one store had everything I wanted.

That's roughly 900 pounds of soil amendments, but who's counting. (Uh, me, the one who carried them all).

The first thing I did was fill the bottom of the bed with all of the bags of leaves I had tucked under my deck. Some of them were more decomposed than others.

Then it was time to mix everything else together. A giant tarp is a great garden tool. Pile everything on...

...and mix it up.

The trusty snow shovel is great for getting the soil from the tarp to the bed.

There's still room for a little more filling.

There usually is. I do the math, but I never buy as much material as I know I'll need. Oh well, there are a few more bags of compost in the garage. I just need to drag them down the hill and toss them in. Then this bed will be ready for tomatoes.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Current affairs

Well, sort of current. I took these pictures almost a week ago, and just haven't gotten around to posting. So, this is what was happening here last weekend.


I'm doing things a little differently with my potatoes this year. Ever since I built my potato box a couple years ago, I have undoubtedly been planting too many potatoes in it. The smallest amount of seed potatoes I can ever find is 10, and I have a little problem with throwing any of them away, so I usually put them all in the 3 x 3 foot bed.

This year, however, I vowed to change my ways, and I only put four in the box. Probably still technically too many, but I'm okay with it.

In the spirit of further experimentation, I bought a grow bag and planted two more potatoes in it.

It's entirely possible that I put a couple more in the flower bed on the wall, but I can't remember for sure. Guess we'll find out if they sprout.

Herb garden

Last year I planted several sage and thyme plants in the herb garden and they grew like crazy. Both of these plants have the potential to be perennials in my zone, and the herb garden is one of the warmest places in the yard, so I was optimistic enough not to plant any sage or thyme seeds inside this year. Looks like my bet is paying off.

So far, I see four sage plants and at least three thyme plants coming back. That's more than enough since I hardly use either one of them in cooking. They're so beautiful and they make the herb garden smell so good that they're worth growing even if I don't ever eat them.

Also in the herb garden are about 100 dill seedlings. The great thing about dill is that you only have to plant it once.

I will eventually have to pull some of them out, but for now I'd rather see dill seedlings than weeds.

Finally in the herb garden, the New Jersey tea bushes I planted last year survived the winter. I was a little concerned because they didn't leaf out as early as everything else, but they're one their way now.

They are tiny little things, not even as big as a dandelion, as you can see, so I'm interested to see how big they get this year. At full size, they should be two to three feet tall.

In other news, it looks like the strange weather we had did a number on my purple tulips. They're stunted and the flowers are growing sideways.

The pink and yellow tulips seem completely unaffected. Several of the orange ones didn't even come back this year. That could be something other than weather, however (yes, squirrels, I'm looking at you).

Last but not least, the rhubarb I planted last spring (I think) is doing great. I think I'll be harvesting some rhubarb next spring.

That's the update for now, but I'll have more soon. Lots of seeds have been planted in the raised beds and things are sprouting.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A new raised bed

Since I won't be planting anything on the infernal, failing wall this year, I needed to make some more garden space. That meant building another raised bed.

I decided to do a couple things different with this one. First, I decided to try using brackets, instead of simply screwing the lumber together.

Second, since the bed is going to hold several tomato plants, I decided to make it 6 foot by 8 foot, instead of my usual 4 by 8.

The brackets were made for 2 by 12 lumber, or so the box said.

2 by 12 by 8 is a big piece of lumber.

I wrestled the pieces around for awhile before I got them together.

It probably would've been easier if I hadn't been too lazy to drill pilot holes for the screws. Oh well, I'm stubborn, and I got it done.

Interestingly, the brackets turned out to be about an inch longer than the lumber.

I bought 2 by 12 lumber, and the box said the brackets measured about 11 3/4 inches. I know a 2 by 12 isn't really 12 inches wide, but there shouldn't have been an inch difference between the two. The box for the brackets had no explanation other than "can be stacked to create taller beds". That end is clearly meant to be on the bottom, so D and I figured it would just stick in the ground and help hold the bed in place.

Now I have to fill this darn thing. That's a lot of compost, etc. to move, and this bed is almost as far from the driveway as possible. Where's an extra yard of compost when you need one?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Eating from the garden already

Since I don't have a greenhouse or use any other methods of starting the season early, I don't usually get to eat from the garden until May. This year, however, I took advantage of my thriving chive plant and made this delicious chive pesto.

My pesto doesn't look nearly as bright as Kevin's, but it certainly was delicious. It was milder than I expected, and I'm not sure if the chives themselves are mild this time of year or if it's just the combination of ingredients.

The first night we ate it on pasta, and the second night I mixed it with sour cream and had it on a baked potato. Yum.

Luckily, even after harvesting two cups worth, my chive plant is going strong, and I'll definitely be making chive pesto again.