Monday, April 30

April Projects

With my new, crazy (but temporary) schedule, I am discovering that Sunday and Monday nights offer up the best opportunity for gardening. I have been able to complete a couple of small projects and begin to work on the front yard bed expansion as well.

When I planted the doublefile viburnum in 2005, I figured that I would have a 3-year grace period before I would need to widen the bed and give it more room. Last fall, I purchased a small oakleaf hydrangea with the intention of planting it in the widened bed, but on the right. I moved a silver culinary sage into the front corner, and have some other perennial and grass divisions earmarked to fill in the rest of the new bed space.

My methods of bed creation are admittedly a bit unorthodox. I generally do a lasagna bed method so I don't have to dig, but when a bed has to appear or grow in a hurry I simply turn over the dirt, plant, mulch, and pull out the occasional blade of grass that breaks through in the first year. And I don't amend the planting holes, either. In fact, I often wash the pot soil off of the roots of shrubs and plant it as if it were bareroot. My thought is that they might as well settle right into the native dirt and get used to it. Tough love, I guess!

The other main project I worked on was adding little planting pockets to the short length of retaining wall in my back yard. Mindful of comments that were left on my post about my original plan, I had been pondering how to make the pockets look somewhat natural even though the block is very artificial. The solution was to reuse the 3 partial blocks that I had removed from other sections of retaining wall.

I had to center them enough that they would still provide support to the blocks above them, but this created one bigger planting pocket and one smaller one. In the smaller one, I will simply plant more of the little green groundcover sedum that you see at the base of the wall and spilling over the top. In the larger planting hole, I'm still trying to figure out my plan of attack. I have 'Fuldaglut' and 'Voodoo' red sedums that might be nice, and a blue variety called 'Vera Jameson' as well.

Of course, I don't even have to stick with the sedums... there are so many choices for planting within a rock wall! On the bright side, evaluating my options will give me something to daydream about while I clean up perennials and sling flats of annuals at the garden center this week... :)


Anonymous said...

Nice move Kim. I'm not a big fan of the artificial blocks however I think you've overcome this beautifully. It looks really random and very natural.

I can't wait to see what you finally decide upon to plant in those holes.

Carol Michel said...

I like the pockets you've created to put little plants in.

It's been a long time since I slung flats at a garden center. How do you work there without buying one of everything? Or maybe you are buying one of everything and you just haven't told us yet.

Happy May!

Entangled said...

I am sooo happy to read that someone else approaches soil preparation the same way I do. I did some lasagna beds a few years ago, but I kept running out of material to layer. Now I just loosen the dirt and if I have compost, I dig it in. If no compost, oh well.... The plants don't seem to notice, but I always feel like a slacker :-)

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

LOL I'm a slacker bed-maker, too! I was always ashamed of that until now....I mean, doesn't a "real" gardener carefully prepare beds, adding compost and soil amendments well before purchasing plants to put there? Phooey! You quickly realize when you start gardening that the way "they" say it should be done in books and magazines isn't the only way to do things. And now I see that you (and apparently others!) make your beds this way, I can go forth, feeling like less of a slacker :-)

Annie in Austin said...

Maybe some thyme? I love how thyme looks draping down a wall.

I didn't add much to the soil when planting in the midwest, Kim but we did use all kinds of mulch and compost on top. I think your tough love method works in places like that, where the soil you're digging into sort of came with the property.

But in these Texas subdivisions, who knows what is original! At our first Austin house, we had a few inches of trucked-in dirt over rock slab. At this house it appears to be black clay with what's called 'sandy loam' dumped on top before the developer added the sod. I seldom feel confident when I plant!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Ki said...

Hey, I use the lasagna method too! ;) Knocking off dirt from clumps of grass is too time consuming and laborious. Great description for this gardening technique.

I see that you are quickly getting rid of your lawn. I can see it happening - soon your front yard will be sans lawn with beautiful plantings. A lawn is such a pain anyway with the constant mowing, fertilizing, edging and watering to keep it in good shape.

Love the plant pockets but won't it wash out if you have a heavy rain?

Ottawa Gardener said...

Oh me too. I use the same 'lazy method of bed creation. Usually I just stick newspaper on top of sod, dirt on top of newspaper and mulch over that. The end. Tadda. By next season the sod is dirt. I do have the occasionally dandelion peeping through but that is easily taken care of -yank-

Sometimes I manage to turn over the sod too.

Anthony said...

That's a great idea to soften that wall with pocket planting. Well done.

I like to make new beds in the fall because I dump all my leaves on newspaper and then mulch on top. Leaves are great bait to get the worms to make you a nice bed.

meresy_g said...

ferns! I see ferns poking out of that wall. Little tiny ones like Spleenwort. No matter what you plant, the wall will look great with plants growing out of it.

Unknown said...

Stuart, I don't much like them, either. But I inherited them with the house and... well, the price was right! I hope that this is a nice way to camouflage them a bit.

Carol, I have to save money for a fence this year... but I did allow myself to buy a few things (annuals for containers, mostly, and herbs) that I know I would buy anyway! (More on that next post.)

entangled, yours was the first comment about my "bed creation" methods, and when I read it I thought: "WHEW! I'm not the only one!" lol.

Colleen, I've been glad to see people chiming in that they're not so particular about bed creation, either. I have been really tough on the things in this front yard, though, I admit. It's kind of an experiment for me.

Annie, good point about the mulch--I do use that extensively, and it makes a difference. And my house is OLD, built before they really started carting topsoil around everywhere. I would probably work differently in a newer lot. And I LOVE thymes, too, but was thinking about letting them cascade from the top instead of the pockets. Hmm.

Ki, I am definitely hoping to end up with no lawn in front someday. :) I wondered if the pockets would wash out before I could get plants nestled in there to hold the soil with their roots, too. But we had a huge storm come through last night and there was no washout in the downpour, luckily.

ottawa gardener, doesn't it seem like those few weeds that do pop up are much easier to take care of somehow?!!

anthony, I like that timing, too--that way, they're ready for planting in the spring. I hesitated to do that here for two reasons: 1) I was short on time in the fall. 2) There is just enough of a slope to my front yard there that I wondered if everything would wash down onto the sidewalk without plant roots to hold it down!

meresy_g, ooooh! I like that idea! This particular wall is in full blazing sun until about 3pm, so ferns are probably out for here. However, on the northern wall of this particular bed... which I wasn't really planning to change... :) (I have more of those stupid blocks in the garage anyway. They can't be too hard to cut in half, right?!)

lisa said...

Nice job, Kim! While I'm sure you want to keep costs down, I bet High Country Gardens has more than just that ornamental oregano that could take the heat...just an idea ;)

Unknown said...

lisa, I never did end up telling you about my HCG order, did I?! I didn't end up ordering the ornamental oregano at all, because I'll be moving a cherry tree in place of that ninebark and it will eventually be too shady there. :-P (Maybe I should get it for this spot, though!)

You aren't kidding about what they have that can take the heat, though. I ended up ordering lonicera sempervirens (native honeysuckle), carex platyphylla (wide-leaf sedge), grey creeping germander, a penstemon, and 2 different kinds of zauschneria (California/hardy fucshia)!!!

Gotta Garden said...

I actually heard Patricia Lanza (of Lasagna Gardening books) speak a couple years ago...she was a stitch! very funny! I am similar...usually build on top of what we have here...does look like you have much nicer soil than we do here (trucked in red clay, builders cheap special...).

I like the suggestions you've received...I'll just add a couple others...creeping phlox and some dianthus...I saw recently some columbines that were growing out of a rock wall...they had seeded themselves there! Just have fun with it and experiment!

Unknown said...

gotta garden, I bet I do have better (and worse) soil. The house was built before they started playing moving games with topsoil, but it's rather spent from years of planting! I would love to get some columbines to grow out of a rock wall--maybe on the north side, when I put in the ferns, I should tuck a few columbine seedlings in there, too. Hmm. :)

Nickie said...

hehehehe it depends on my mood what method I use. If I'm being ambitious, and i have the time I will carefully scrape up all the sod with my shovel and dispose of it, then mix in top soil and admendments. If im not feeling so ambitious I lay newspaper down, cover it with mulch and let it go a while. I tried layering a bed last winter and im not sold on it yet though it did save me a bit of work and took care of a larger bed for me. Sometimes If im short on time i will just turn the sod over like you, getting out the worst clumps of grass, mix in some topsoil and plant. And if im really being lazy I just dig a hole in the lawn, plop the plant in and mulch directly around it and finish around it later.

lisa said...

Wow Kim, that's a nice-sounding order! I bought 'Little Plum' bitterroot last year, and they came back like rock stars! (I was afraid they'd rot). I mostly have good luck with their stuff, even if it arrives kinda small. But the red flowering false yucca and it's yellow flowering counterpart aren't looking alive at all...they ARE trickier, though.

Unknown said...

ggg, I definitely like the idea of lasagna gardening, too. The only reason I'm not sold on it is that if you're not making the bed in the fall and planting in the spring... it's no fun to see only the mulched, bare bed all summer!

Lisa, are those the hesperaloes you're talking about? If so, I keep wanting the red-flowering one myself!

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