Sunday, March 19, 2017

A small project

It seems that every place is having strange weather, and we are no exception. We've had enough warm days to make you think spring has arrived, but so far they've all been followed by cold. At any rate, I've been itching to get outside and work, but it's still a little early. On one warm Saturday recently, however, I noticed something I could do that wouldn't take long but would be a big improvement.

The perennial bed along the driveway is edged with bricks.

For some reason I've never been able to understand, people like to lay bricks flat on the ground around flower beds. Our old house had the same thing when we moved in. I'm guessing that part of the rationale is that you can run the mower right up to the bed because the wheels can roll over the bricks. Never works that well, in my opinion.

Even if it did, it wouldn't make sense here because there's no grass.

Instead of enabling mowing, these bricks just enable mulch and soil to wash out of the flower bed.

So, my first project for the year was turning the bricks. Now I might not have to worry about mulch getting in the drains in the driveway.

Not perfect, but better.

And I inadvertently added some space to my flower bed.

Now I have room for a few more plants.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My name is K, and I have a problem

Well, probably more than one, but who's counting? I'm not even talking about my inability to blog on a regular basis. My problem is a complete lack of self control around gardening catalogs and websites, and now I'm realizing how busy I'm going to be this spring.

Shortly after ordering the plants for my shady slope, I decided there was no reason not to work on the sunny slope this year, too, so I got back on Prairie Nursery's website and ordered 13 more plants!

To the right of the bird feeders in the above photo is the slope I'll be working on. I planned an area roughly 8 foot by 6 foot. Unfortunately, I haven't done anything yet to start killing off the grass, which is now greening up, so I've really got my work cut out for me. The best news is, all 31 plants are currently scheduled to ship at the same time! I've already requested a couple days off work at the time they should be here to give myself a four day weekend. I just hope they don't change their shipping schedule.

You might be thinking that none of this sounds too bad, but there's more. I have been wanting to plant more fruit for awhile. At the old house, I planted strawberries and rhubarb, but we left before I could harvest either of them. I've thought about raspberries and blueberries, but each has their issues. Blueberries will be tricky to grow here (especially for a lazy gardener like me), and raspberries can be quite messy.

The other thing standing in my way was the place I wanted to put them. In the top middle of the above picture, you can see the northwest corner of our lot. Nothing is growing there except weeds, and I thought some bushes would look good there. Sounds great, except that is the only easy access for machinery that will likely be needed when we fix the failing retaining wall. So, anything I planted would eventually get run over.

Even though I wasn't planning on planting any fruit bushes this year, I couldn't help but look through the Stark Bro's catalog when it showed up in my mailbox. Good thing I did because I was struck with inspiration in more ways than one. Why not try honeyberries and why not put the bushes next to the garden beds?!

By "next to" I mean in the grass north of the beds, which is toward the top of the above photo. Long story, not really short, Stark Bro's had a deal on honeyberries, four bushes for $25, and they could be here any time in the next week or so.

So, that's 31 perennials and 4 fruit bushes to be planted this spring, in addition to the regular vegetables and annuals. Oh yeah, and my good friend Carla, who's almost done more to feed my gardening habit than I have, sent me a Prairie Nursery gift certificate for my birthday a few weeks ago, so I get to order more plants!

Thursday, February 23, 2017


After a couple weeks with temperatures consistently higher than normal (60's and 70's), lots of plants are starting to grow. This is about two weeks ahead of last year.

And more tulips
All of these photos were taken yesterday when it was about 72 degrees. Now, it's 36 and we have a winter weather advisory for tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Something different

My backyard is very sloped. When I sit on the deck and look out, I look into my neighbor's trees, not onto the yard or garden. The slope makes mowing very difficult, and my plan has always been to plant things on the slopes that won't need mowing. With the winter onslaught of catalogs, and a resulting mix of optimism and lack of self control, it turns out that this is the year I'll be starting that project.

My starting point will be this corner:

For a little perspective, that is the northeast corner of our lot. Standing in the corner, looking back at the house, looks like this:

In addition to the slope, there are trees both to the north and to the east, so the area is shady.

I'd started thinking about plants for this area last year, so when Prairie Nursery had a free shipping special a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist. I ordered 4 Sweet Joe Pye Weed, 5 Wild Geranium, 5 Maidenhair Fern, and 4 Bishop's Cap. Last weekend I spent some time with a tape measure, graph paper, and colored pencils, figuring out which plants will go where.

I was so proud of my work, that it took a few days for me to realize the area is nowhere near ready for new plants. About 60% of my yard is creeping Charlie, and this corner is no exception. The plants will be arriving in 3" pots; they won't be big enough to win a fight with Charlie.

So, this is plan A:

I laid a tarp over the area, in the hopes that the tarp would smother everything underneath it. The plants won't arrive for about two months, so the tarp has plenty of time to do its job. Fingers crossed; I don't really have a plan B.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


After my last post, I got inspired enough to start planning the garden and order some seeds. That's all the further I got, however, up until a few days ago. Then, I finally made myself sit down and start determining dates for everything, when to start seeds, when to plant outside, etc.

That exercise got me motivated enough that I've spent several hours today fiddling with my online garden planner. I realized that some of the measurements I'd used in my planner last year weren't right, so I re-measured several areas of the backyard. I now have one plan that covers the raised beds, one that covers what I call the west wall, and one that covers both areas together, which is almost 3/4 of the yard.

My challenges with garden planning this year are many. I planted all of my tomatoes and peppers on the west wall last year, but I don't want to do that this year because we might be able to have the wall rebuilt this summer (budget allowing). A refresher on what that wall looks like:

The infernal failing wall
Above is the south end of the wall, the area that is seriously leaning. The top is a large area that I hope to be able to use entirely for gardens some day. Below is the west side of the wall:

West side
I think I can use some of this area this year, without interfering with construction, but I'll have to clear out more Black-eye Susan's to make room. The BES's themselves are somewhat of a garden challenge - they grow everywhere here. I never imagined they would spread the way they do on this property.

With the realization that I needed to find new places for tomatoes and peppers, I've decided to add another raised bed. Since it won't fit in line with the others because of a slope in the lot, it'll probably be on the flat area in front of the wall. So, I've added that project to the list, which also includes fencing the two un-fenced raised beds. I'd rather deal with the fence, which was a hassle to install, than deal with the rabbits, and this year's garden layout depends on all of the beds being fenced.

After all of today's noodling and measuring, here are the current versions of my plans:

Raised beds:

A better view can be found here:

West wall area:

Better view here:

Entire backyard:

Better view here:

I hope those links work.

By this time last year, I had already started to plant things, so I'm a little behind, but I think I've finally got my garden mojo back, and that feels really good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Distance makes the heart grow lazy

I'm talking about distance from blogging, of course. The further you get from it, the easier it is to stay away. Besides it being the time of year when nothing noteworthy is happening in my garden, there have been things going on in my non-gardening life that have consumed my emotions and energy. With the new year, and all the catalogs, however, I am being lured back to thinking about the garden.

We had a very warm fall, and I kept postponing the last of the cleanup chores. Then the non-gardening events transpired, and the garden was all but forgotten. Now, in the middle of winter, the ground is frozen, and things will have to stay where they are for awhile.

The kale slumped over and froze to the ground.

The ground is frozen around the pepper cages, so I can't pull them out.

At least some things are as they should be.

peas and oats cover crop
I had several cabbage plants doing quite well, and I even covered them for a couple weeks. Then one day it was warm enough to uncover them, and I never put the cover back on.

This one probably would've made it to eating size.

Under the snow are several smaller cabbage plants and my squirrel-planted peanut.

I meant to dig up that peanut after the first hard freeze to see if it had any baby peanuts on the roots. Oh well, maybe the squirrels will plant another one next year.

It's kind of pitiful looking in the garden right now, but I'm going to start planning this year's garden and hope I get renewed and energized.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fall herb garden cleanup

Even though our temperatures are still very mild, I know cold and probably wet can't be too far away, so it's time for more garden cleanup. The zinnias I put in the herb garden so many months ago...

April 16th

May 14th
...grew into plants the size of shrubs.

October 29th
They've been leaning over and crowding the rosemary, chives, and sage for months. I started at the back - really at the easiest point to reach them - and got to work.

The cages are protecting the New Jersey tea plants from rabbits. Hopefully, next spring those little plants will grow almost as big as the zinnias.

Hiding under some of the zinnias were hundreds of dill sprouts.

I'm hoping so see more of those next spring.

The other thing those zinnias have been hiding all these months isn't so pleasant:

I knew the yuccas were quietly growing under the flowers, hoping I wouldn't see them. No dice, yuccas. I know my battle against you isn't over yet, and I'm not going down without a fight.

I did find enough nice orange flowers (my favorite) to make myself a small bouquet.

This is what it looked like when I was done:

Notice that one clump of zinnias in the upper right corner of the top photo (partially hiding the truck)?

Well, when I got to that plant, look who I found:

She was a little camera shy at first and didn't want to look at me.

Hello, lovely
She's been hanging around this flower bed all summer and I had almost forgotten about her. As soon as I saw her, I stopped cutting. I hope I left enough plant to keep her protected for whatever time she has left.

Mantis hangout
To get to our front door, you have to walk right past this fence corner. Every time I walk by now, I look for her. I'll keep stopping to say hi until she's gone.