Saturday, May 25, 2013

Life in the Land of Weeds

Everyone has gardening bugaboos, and mine is weeds.  I guess that weeds are the bete noir of many gardeners. I purchased four yards of loam this spring, and once it warmed up a bit I find that my soil is host to a large number of germinating weeds. Lambs quarters, purslane, and smart weed seem to be the most plentiful. Lambs quarters and purslane are edible, smart weed apparently has some medicinal uses. I am still going to pull them out, although it turns out that lambs quarters are delicious and the gleanings will surely find their way into salads.  The peas and beans are up. I may have left the planting a bit late for the peas, but since the weather continues cool I am hoping for the best. My bif plans for tomorrow will consist mostly of a trip to the dump and several hours of crawling around pulling up weeds while they are tiny and submissive and before they get big enough to give my more desireable plants a run for their money. My main enemy this season will be squirrels. Due to a heavier than usual acorn crop last fall I seem to have four squirrels living in my yard - two adults and two juveniles. They are all fat as stoats and bold as brass.

The Enemy

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Bargain Hunting Gardener's Life

Shady Bed, early spring
Every morning I head out, weeder in hand, to look at my garden and see what's happening out among the plants. I stare fondly at the plants I love and do battle with the endless armies of invaders. There is usually something interesting, especially since this year I have planted a lot of seed. I'm pretty comfortable with things I have grown from seed before, but less so with new things. Apparently during the years when I was off planting mature plants the seed sellers have decided you do not need a little picture of that the new seedling will look like. Things are germinating that I do not recognize than I am not sure they are welcome. I won't know until they get a bit bigger. I am also new to veggie gardening, so I do have a bit of anxiety about it.

Shady Bed mid spring, north end
After many years of grousing about my gardening methods Shana has finally decided that she understands the difference between my gardens and "normal people's" gardens. I like plants. Isn't this amazing? I'm not really a landscaper; I just see what kind of exposure/soil I have and put something there I think will grow. I also value leaves as a mulching material. Personally I like the combinations that result even if it's not normal. This does make my garden significantly more interesting in the close up than it might be from a distance, however. It rewards close inspection but does not give the dressy and finished appearance a more edited plan supplies. Probably some areas are suffering from too much variety, and I enjoy diminutive plants as much as the structural garden stalwarts. The volunteers, like the money plant and lamium that crawled under the neighbor's fence and the bleeding heart that arrived spontaneously from the forest are welcome to stay.  Wild violas are as welcome as their more cultivated cousins, although I keep a close eye on the wild violets and their pushy ways.

Shady Bed, south end
 I am trying to fill out some new garden spaces without any budget to do it, so I am moving a few things around and making the best of the extras I have around the yard, and around everyone else's yard. I've been lucky enough to have a mature garden to pillage and a few interesting volunteers around the yard. I am also blessed with the conviction that gardeners are playing a long game. I am resigned to waiting until plants mature in their own time. The corner bed  I have planted in hydrangeas and hostas will not really look like much for another three years. It will be gorgeous then, and in the meantime I have the comfort of knowing the only expense I have incurred is the price of two hostas I bought because I could not beg cuttings of those varieties. I just have to keep my hands off it because although it looks sparse now it is actually completely full. The mature size of the plants will fill it up and then some.
Classic Cape Cod combination of hydrangeas and hostas

My shrub border is fully planted but does not look like it. I do not have quite the varieties or sizes I would have chosen with a more generous budget, but I have some nice things. I have a forsythia, two high bush blueberries, a butterfly bush, rose of sharon, fairy rose, andromeda, viburnum and dogwood. There are lots of hydrangeas in various puny sizes.  I spaced the shrubs with their mature size in mind even though right now they are mostly little sticks. Next year I can start underplanting with smaller plants, like the hostas which will need to be divided, and the miniature hostas which will be crowded out and covered up where they are.

Just a reminder: for a close up inspection of any of my photos just click on them to embiggen.

And for your entertainment, a wonderful example of stop motion filming:

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Alec Explained

ALEC has been in the news less lately, but I suspect it's not because the creation of "sample legislation" is less prevalent these days but because people are catching on to what that is and how it works.  It's worth repeating how this works:

Thursday, May 02, 2013

This Year's Garden Project

Because I have a little more time these days to garden one of the criteria for selecting a house was that it should have plenty of room to play outside. I don't have an acreage that would give me enough space for a natural woodland garden or a formal arrangement of garden rooms, but I do have a quarter acre with a variety of exposures to play with. Last year I started a hydrangea and hosta bed in a shady corner which  should be beautiful in a few years with almost no  expenditure on my part because I was able to start it with offshoots and divisions. I have a shady bed that is nearly full and needs only light maintenance - weeding, some compost, and cleanup in the spring before the bulbs come up. A sunny corner is full of mature shrubs blooming from spring through fall. I added a shrub bed in the part shade front of my lot to block road noise and provide privacy in the fullness of time.

This year I added a few holly seedlings (thanks Wanda!) to the front bed. They will not provide privacy for several years, but when they are grown they will be a fuss free privacy hedge winter and summer. I want a shrub border on one side of my yard. Last year I was given two small blueberry bushes and two small hydrangeas to start me out (Thanks, Alison!) and this year I moved a rose of sharon that was being overwhelmed by my humongous forsythia, and took a sprout from that giant as well. I was able to get a couple of dogwood seedlings and additional hydrangea sprouts from my late mother-in-law's garden and a couple of offshoots of something of whose species I am not altogether sure - peegee hydrangea? doublefile viburnum?  After moving a pieris japonica across the yard to a more suitable location I have the start of a lovely border - in about ten years, when everything is grown. Gardening is a long game, especially when you must violate the first rule of gardening: Have Lots of Money!.

I did not bother to dig out a bed for the new shrubs; I will just get them mulched over the summer one at a time. As small as they are there is not great hurry, except to identify them to avoid running over them with the mower. I have access to as much free mulch as I want from the dump, the only provision being I have to take my own containers and fill them myself.

This year's big project is a combination veggie garden and sunny flower garden. For my birthday I got 36 big cinder blocks and four yards of loam to build my garden. The blocks will form a raised bed and short wall to keep erosion under control on the sloped area which is my most reliably sunny spot, all the more sunny because several trees have been removed on the east side of my property.  To get this project started I also cadged a few used cinder blocks from a friend (thanks Wanda!) and some newspapers from the in-laws to mulch over the grass inside the raised bed. After I moved all the cinder blocks into place I made a mulch path around the veggie bed for access. Then I dug out several inches of the sandy soil surrounding the raised bed for my flowers and replaced it with loam. I schlepped the sandy and rocky soil to the driveway to build up low spots that become little pools in rainy weather.  I also burned the rest of my brush pile and moved a shrub to a happier location before I started digging around in this area.

This weekend we will start planting in the raised bed - lettuces  and kale first, plus some of the more hardy flowers and herbs that will live in the surrounding cinder blocks. Later we will put in bush beans, pole beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. That seems ambitious enough for me. The veggie portion is meant to be Shana's project for the summer, with the flowers being my domain. Given the amount of weeding the veggies will need I suspect she will be happy to share. I have a few flowers "parked" around the yard waiting for a sunny bed to get my part started, and a friend who had perennials to divide and share will expand my selection so that need only pick up a few to fill it out this season. It look bit puny now, but considering that this area was completely bare when we bough the house I have high hopes. I am thankful that my job at A Major Retailer has provided me with the strength and endurance for this project! I have been doing all the heavy lifting myself without major discomfort. I have tired feet, tired hands, tired back, tired knees, tired shoulders and elbows, but nothing is injured. It has been strenuous. I am taking today off from digging and lifting. Tomorrow I will get the rest of the loam that I need for this project moved and move a shrub from my front bed to a happier location beside the shed  with a nice big loamy hole where it will get better sun and therefore reach its full potential. The birdbath in this area has a leak, so I also need some better duct tape! Roxy has been happy to supervise but so far has not done any of the work.