Saturday, November 20, 2010

All Tucked in for Winter

A man's children and his garden both reflect the amount of weeding done during the growing season. –Unknown

It is done. The biggest, most daunting task on my list of horrible necessary chores is done. It required 35 man-hours {only 27 of which were mine}, ten {non-consecutive} days, six trips to the green waste yard and the life of my totally adorable pink garden clogs, but it is done :faint:.

My gardens have been pretty neglected this season. It all started when I didn't get my fall clean-up done last year and decided that I would do it in the spring instead. Over the winter I became increasingly attached to my quilting time and so when spring came, I didn't want to give up any of that to be out in the gardens. I kept the front yard presentable, because all the neighbors walk by on their way to church. But the back yard grew feral and it became more distressing and overwhelming than therapeutic to go out and dig in the dirt. I took 'before' pictures to show just how crazy it got, but I have to admit I'm pretty embarrassed by it.

This first area is a new bed that I cleared out a little over two years ago. I rented a sod cutter and cut out the grass; then I paid my Lawn Boy to help me haul the sod away and then we dug out about a cubic yard of the underlying mix of very poor quality topsoil and heavy clay and hauled that away. Next I hauled in about a yard-and-a-half of really good dirt and peat moss and tilled it all in. Then I planted nine trees which were dying in their pots and had been handed down to me because the person who bought them ended up with a busier summer than anticipated and wasn't able to get them planted in their yard. I intended for this area to house a little grove to bring some shade and help cool things down in our really sunny south-facing back yard. However, all but three of the trees died and since the soil was so good, the grass and weeds crept back in and I didn't do much at all to stop them. I think that the man who sprays our lawn for weeds took pity on me and sprayed in this area to kill off the weeds without realizing that there were trees in there, because all the weeds were dead, but so were two of the remaining three trees. Either that or the weeds choked them out. In any case, it was pretty scary.
This was the first area I attacked. Two of my good friends {who I have both mentioned here} came and helped me a couple of different times for a couple hours each. Together we got the weeds cleared out and then I cut down the grass that had crept in and sprayed it {because that is the only way to get rid of grass where you don't want it}. One of my friends went to the nursery here in town during their season-end 75% off close-out and surprised me with some new trees and and shrubs. Next spring, I'll give it a once-over with a hoe, spray any grass that remains and then cover this area with bark. It is not meant to be a flower bed but a green area for shrubs and trees to help with the heat.

I call this the Back West Border. This bed runs along the back {south} of the house, going west from the patio all the way around to the front porch. It is one continuous bed, but it is divided by the fence on the side of the house. I employ Lamb's Ear {which is totally a weed} along the edge of this border to keep the grass from creeping into the flower bed, but the lamb's ear was about to take over the entire bed. I like to keep it trimmed down so that it is doesn't flower and stays small and unobtrusive, but this year I totally ignored it. I bought that tree that is to the left of the frame for $12.50 {an amazing 75%-off find} and absolutely love it. When I brought it home the Little Bugs decided that it was to be Mr. Bug's Tree, since they each have a tree in the front yard.

This is the west end of the house, just around the corner from the bed running along the back of the house. This my Cutting Garden, because nobody can see this bed. It is blocked from view in the front by a fence and is on the far end of the house. I don't have much in it, though, that is good for cutting. I kept it empty for a really long time, and then one year I had a surplus of plants I'd ordered on-line so I planted them here. It turned out that most of what is in there doesn't have really long stems for putting in flower vases. Eventually, I'll get some good cutting plants in here, but I'm not convinced that I'll actually use them to cut and bring into the house. I don't bring flowers in much.

This bed runs east from the back patio along the back {south} of the house and I call it the Back East Border. That is my kitchen window there and when the flowers get tall enough {which they sometimes do} I enjoy a lovely view out the window. This bed is small enough that I came out and worked in it a few times this summer. The possibility of getting all the pruning and weeding done in this bed in one day was much higher than in some of the other areas and so I spared a few minutes on it. You can see the lamb's ear isn't quite as huge as on the other side.

This is the Raspberry Patch and Vegetable Garden. It is divided into five sections by a little gravel path {which is in complete disarray}. Two of the sections house raspberries. One section is for tomatoes {because those cages were SO difficult to get into the ground and will never be removed} and two sections are for whatever else I want to grow during the summer; carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes. I planted strawberries along the edges of it to make a cute border {and perhaps choke out any grass that might try to creep in} but I didn't plant anything this year and the strawberries have completely overtaken the bed. They are going to need some serious thinning {if there are some good weather days in the next few weeks I'll work on it, or it can wait until the spring}. The raspberries grew pretty thick and heavy but despite the neglect they produced wonderfully this year. I got them partially thinned, but they need some more attention {now or in the spring, whichever}. In the spring, I'll cut them to the ground and hope for another delicious crop next summer.

This is my Birdbath Garden, so named for the birdbath sitting in it. It sits right up next to the front porch and you have to walk past it to get to the front door. I didn't take 'before' pictures because this garden wasn't too bad {except it had been invaded by quack grass}, but you can see it in full bloom here. It always makes me sad to cut down the plants for fall, but I also love the exposed look of the clean, brown earth.

This is the Shade Garden. It is part of the border that runs all the way from the back patio, around the west end of the house and then across the front of the house up to the porch. It sits in deep shade all the time. This is the bed I've struggled the most with to grow pretty colors in because not much grows in such deep shade. I've spent a lot of time researching and seeking out the best plants to grow here. The trellis on the left {next to the porch} sports a Nightshade vine in summer. I cut it all the way to the ground this year, not sure if I mind too much if that kills it off. It volunteered there four or five years ago, and thrived. This spot gets absolutely no sun, so anything that would grow there was gold in my book. I was talking about it on-line, wondering what it might be and a friend identified it as Nightshade. It lost its charm for me after that, but I've kept it because it grows in a very difficult spot. I use Bishop's Weed as a border in this bed and it very effectively keeps the grass from coming into the bed. As a matter of fact, the Bishop's Weed is coming up on the other side of the cement border and growing in the grass now :lol:. It is an aggressive grower and this year I didn't keep it pruned back as I should have. It choked out several of my favorite shade plants, including some really pretty Astilbe, a sweet smelling Purple Coneflower {which volunteered in the perfect spot} and possibly a Peony. The Hydrangea is not doing so well either, but that could be from a lack of acid in the soil, too much water and/or not enough sun. In the right of the frame, you can see a few branches of LadyBug Tree and the window on the left is my office window.

This is my little Sidewalk Garden. The little bunches of green things sticking out of the ground are Saffron Crocuses and are supposed to be fall-blooming. They come up in the fall, but don't bloom. Then they come up again in the spring and this time they bloom :confused:. I haven't figured that one out yet.

I have come to the conclusion that I have one too many big hobbies or too much yarden for one person who also likes to quilt to handle. I didn't even do annuals this year and the clean-up was monumental. It has been nearly three weeks since I started in earnest to get the beds all cleaned out. And it is a huge relief to have the gardens finished for the season. I'm so glad I won't be looking at decomposing plant skeletons all winter and kicking myself for not getting it done. Also, when the bulbs start to come in in the spring, I'll be able to view them at my leisure instead of trying to get out there to clear away the debris of the last growing season. Today I got bulb fertilizer and Preen 'n Green spread around the beds and Mother Nature is watering it in for me now. I call that a pretty happy ending :flower:.


Anonymous said...

Ummm that is a lot of work!! The hydrangea would burn in sun so it is good it's in the shade. And they only need acid for the bloom color so...does it get too much water? There...I have done my duty. :)

Shay said...

You can bring that hydrangea back. Just fertilise when the snow goes and make sure it doesnt get too much water. It'll go dormant now anyway with your colder weather approaching. (This is one of the few plants I know ANYTHING about because I have 5 of them on my front verandah- that I have thus far managed to keep alive)

And wow @ all your hard work. Fabulously done E!

Paulette said...

Hoo boy, I'm tuckered out just reading about all your yard work and gardens! Not the reading part, the imaging the work involved part. I bet they'll look really nice next spring/summer. I was fairly neglectful of my little flower beds this year, but I'll go out and give them my personal apology come May. In the meantime, they'll flash their decomposing plant skeletons at me all winter. :)

Unknown said...

Boy, you have a lot of garden space. I need to get in the garden and clean up before spring. I was unable to clean up this spring and had to work too hard in the summer. I didn't bet much done for all the cleaning up. I look forward to seeing them the beds this spring and summer.

Marg said...

Wow that sounds like a lot of hard work. The end result is amazing. If I had to do that here I would leave!!! Fortunately or unfortunately everything here grows pretty much all year round, which means we just need to keep plants trimmed and spray the weeds.
I have 1 hydrangea in a pot which I keep on forgetting to water, it has survived so far.

Michelle said...

Whew Elizabeth, I got tired just reading your post. Many kudos to you for actually doing the work! Way to go! Now you'll be ready to put some lovely things in in the spring. :-)

whimsyfox said...

Good job. I too got tired just reading about it! When we finally have our yards done, I think I'll just have to call that hubby/kid chores!

I had a small hydrangea once that survived the heat and lack of water many a would have to agree with the others that perhaps too much water is the culprit.

I can't wait to get the one hydrangea I'm allowed to get for our yard (only one spot where it will be shady enough ). Hydrangea is my absolute FAVORITE flower!