7 Quick takes Friday ~ Gardening Edition
As usual, go check out Jen for more.
Thank you for all your positive feedback on my garden. Let me elaborate a little, based on some of your questions. First, I live on a 3 acre parcel of land, in the woods. The area around the house is the only space that gets sun. Everything else is shady. We have numerous areas I call "the wild areas", due to the fact that they are left to fend for themselves. I see evidence that they had been cultivated at one time, but when we moved here they were too far gone to wild for me to do much with them.
Right around the house, there were old, leggy, overgrown bushes, and we had them taken out. With that, I got lots of empty dirt that I had to do something with. Around here, with our very fertile soil, a blank spot doesn't last long. It is either plant something, or concede the area to the weeds. So first, I prepared the soil with rototilling and removing as many roots and rocks as I could. Then I watched the sunshine, to see what percentage of the day this area got sun, if any. Then I defined the space by edging it (basically digging a trench around the bed). I noticed the other day that those have grown back in with weeds, and need to be re-done this year. So, number one, prepare your space.
(our basil patch, awaiting planting. We grow basil for church, for the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross in September)
The next step was to beg for perennial plants from anyone who had some to share. I offered to split any plants that had gotten overgrown in their gardens, if I could take the extras. I have many varieties of lilies, cone flowers, black eyed susans, bee balm, catmint, grasses, and ground covers that I paid for only with my labor. I also go to garden walks and community garden sales and often times people offer plants to share. One word of warning: When people give away plants because they have too many, it means the plant spreads and may be aggressive. Find out how aggressive it is: having a plant fill up a lot of space may be just what you are looking for, but if you want to contain it, plant it in a coffee can with the bottom cut out (if it spreads by root), or be prepared to pull a lot of seedling if it spreads by seed.
(some catmint and other ground covers, next to an old street sign and a pot, soon to be filled with geraniums)
The next section will be about shade plants. I have a wild area smack in the middle of my back yard. It had some ferns in it, and some ground cover, but wild bushes and lots of blackberries and weeds. Without care, the blackberries arch out of the area, attaching to the dirt next to it, and gobble up about 5 feet of land every year. So, my first job was to redefine the space, and cut back and dig out blackberries and some weed bushes. That was all I did that year (about 8 years ago). Next, while whacking my way through another wild area, I discovered a tree with hosta growing around it (remnants of past cultivation that was long overgrown). I dug some out, and plopped them along the border of the now blackberry free wild area and the grass. That was all I did that year in that area, and I have distinct memories of hauling my full term pregnant self into the woods to dig up the old hosta, actually sitting on the shovel handle for some leverage, and all the squatting and bending I had to do to finish that job. (My son turns seven this Sunday. How time flies). I hand-cleared the soil that year, but was much smarter the next year, when I rented a rototiller to add to the hosta garden on either side of that first try. The next year, I continued to add about 5 feet of cultivated space by rototilling a new section, splitting and transplanting old hosta, and begging other varieties from friends and family. Hosta are like weeds in a way ~ very durable, hard to kill, and they get bigger every year. So every year I split and move them, reclaiming more space from the wilds.
Last year one of my neighbors gave me a little of her very vigorous bleeding heart, and I put that and some pulminaria along the front of the hosta, and in the process added another section of my garden. I think it is looking pretty good.
(the old dilapidated trike that I now use as a plant stand. Impatiens will be potted and set upon it soon)
The next year the kids and I (mostly the kids, though) put a little path into the wild area and dumped a few bags of mulch on it to keep it from getting overgrown. and that leads me to the next section:
(There is a chair tucked back in there. Click on any photo to get a bigger picture)
mulch. If you go to all the trouble of clearing dirt, and planting flowers in the dirt, make certain you put a thick (4") layer of mulch on all the soil around the plants. This will keep the weeds down, and help retain the moisture in the soil, so you will have to water less frequently.
Look to the future for more ideas. This area is still wild. I have put a few decorations in it, because I see it from my bedroom, but it is the next spot I will reclaim from the wilds. I am beginning to cut out the blackberries now, then I'll have the soil tilled and then split and plant more hosta and other plants I have. I'll get about 5' done this year, and have about 20' to go. Slow and steady.
(If you mow down the weed, from a distance, it looks like lawn =)
Lastly, at least for this post, is the little extras you can do to fluff up your garden. In a sunny spot, throw zinnia, cosmos and other annual seeds down. This will add a lot of color with almost no work. In the fall, plant LOTS of bulbs (like I mentioned before, last fall was the first one I actually did this after 7 years of wanting to. Slow and steady). I planted about 400 of them (the kids and I did, I mean. I couldn't have done it alone). About half actually came up (squirrels and chipmunks feasted on the rest, I think). If I had only planted 200, I may not have ended up with very many. Also, I have lots of things in my garden to decorate. Old wheelbarrow filled with dirt and annuals, with a fairy statue. Colorful pots that I put geraniums in. Old baskets that I fill with dirt and pansies. The St. Francis statue that I got at an estate sale for $35. It was so heavy no one else wanted it. My sweet husband had to figure out how to get it home, but it was so worth it to me! I have bird baths (mostly from garage and estate sales, or garden sales). I put shepherd hooks in the middle of the garden and hang a plant there to add height and color. Wind chimes here and there. A random chair, stepping stones, and little glazed figurines I get at the thrift store, stuck here and there add to the charm. I have some freestanding trellises with climatus growing up, adding a backdrop of color. As these things start bloom, I'll take more photos. I have birdhouses around, all of which I got from the thrift store.
These things are like frosting on a cake. I move them around every year, and if I have one problem with it, it would be I can get my garden looking cluttered if I am not careful (you should see inside my house. Same problem).
(this is right off my back step. More blank dirt I had to put something in or I would have a weed patch).
(See the ball next to the fairy in the wheelbarrow? It is silver and swirly, and iridescent and weather proof. What do you think it is?)
(This birdhouse remains vacant)
(This one has wrens in it)
(An old bird bath and my tulips that I planted in little clusters here and there around the garden)
So, for now, that's all folks. I'll keep you all apraised of the garden progress and the season unfolds!!
and last but not least:
The gratuitous baby picture. She gets smooched from one of her sisters.