In the Garden

When we bought this house (a foreclosure) the very first thing we did after closing was to start improving the landscaping, which had been terminally neglected for many years. Last year’s big projects were re-grading and reseeding the front lawn and building raised garden beds for the back yard, projects which are paying dividends now! The front lawn is no longer a disgrace, and the back yard is providing food.

While we were redoing the front yard, we took the opportunity to expand the flower bed – but due to its orientation (north side of the house, gets morning and evening sun) and a sizable Bradford pear, that patch of ground has been difficult. Sort of “too shady for full sun plants and too sunny for shade plants.” (The rabbits don’t help, either!) Last fall I put in a few reblooming azaleas, and despite the harsh winter, all three pulled through. I don’t know how well they bloomed, since we were in Europe at the time, but I’m hoping they’ll do well in the shade under the tree. But I’m determined to have a pretty front yard – even if that means doing more outdoor care than I’ve done previously!

I’ve been walking around the neighborhood to see what other people are doing with their yards – mostly evergreens. I have one dwarf blue spruce, unfortunately sporting a bare patch where I let the roses overgrow it while I was ill last year. Some people do have rose bushes, but those tend to be in full sun, rather than my patchy shade. The Knockouts bloom quite well during their first flush in the spring, but afterwards they’re a little anemic. This year I’m going to try fertilizing them on a schedule, since the soil is quite poor, and see if some extra nutrients will give them a good boost. (They also get chewed by sawflies, so really I ought to spray regularly too.)

But even with azaleas and roses, the bed is still fairly bare and unfinished-looking – so I went and picked up some hostas from the nearest garden center. I’ll definitely have to water regularly throughout this season at least, since I’ve planted them in the tree’s “rainshadow”! But I’m hoping that having a whole bunch of them will help with rabbit nibbling in the spring – when I tried a few hostas before, the rabbits would eat the new shoots as soon as they poked above ground.

I got four different varieties – two fairly large specimens, a “blue”-leafed one and one called Guacamole (no kidding!) as the centerpieces, then a kind supposedly more sun-tolerant with bright yellow centers for the edges. I also got a few cute “mouse ear” hostas for sidewalk edging – those must have been popular, because when I went back for more “melon” hostas there weren’t any mouse ear hostas left!

Meanwhile the surviving Minuteman hosta from previous years is growing in the shade bed in the back yard, which I filled with a few potted shade plants I’d bought previously and a packet of mixed flower seed – as well as chives, onion, and garlic. One onion that I had left over from last year is blooming, which is interesting, and maybe I will get it to reseed itself in that bed. (The chives certainly spread happily to nearby containers after blooming!)

The strawberry plants didn’t produce much this year, but then, they’d barely been hanging on in a terracotta strawberry pot until last fall, and I’m not really up on the whole trimming the runners bit. The raspberries and blackberries seem to be quite happy in their bed – setting fruit on the old branches and throwing up tall canes that gives me hope for a good harvest next year! I’ll have to pinch the tops so they don’t grow too tall and figure out some kind of support structure. The peas I planted in the front of that bed aren’t growing that well, though.

Meanwhile in the “sunny” raised bed, I got a volunteer sunflower, the wild blackberry stem survived and is growing its own cane (covered in thorns, of course), the blueberry bush has a few blueberries growing, the container raspberry bush is growing quite low and compact (it took the worst frost damage of any of them, so isn’t setting much fruit) – and the peas grew into gigantic tall things! Apparently I shouldn’t have put them in the front of that bed! Next year they’ll go in back. There’s a pair of bell peppers behind them that I’m hoping will grow nicely in that spot – I have the worst trouble with bell peppers, but every year I’m always trying again. It’s as if our yard is too hot for them – they get all wilty, even when they’ve got plenty of water in their Earthbox, and so I end up having to shade them.

The tomatoes, on the other hand, love the heat. Last year I was totally overwhelmed by the Sweet 100 cherry tomato – I think I’ve got its offspring growing in odd crevices all around the yard! I said I wouldn’t plant another one this year and plant roma instead, but then my BIL promised to come pick extra fruit and take it, so I went ahead and got another indeterminate cherry tomato along with the beefsteak tomato. I had grand plans of making a PVC trellis modeled after one I saw on Pintrest, but with our long vacation, that plan came to nought and we ended up changing our A-frame support into a large box support for the tomato vines. Hopefully they’ll look nice all year this way instead of forming a gigantic tomato tower and growing along the ground by the end of the summer.

I planted lettuce from seed, which worked out really well once I covered the box to keep the birds out of it. It seemed the house-sitters didn’t harvest any while we were gone, though I encouraged them to take all they wanted! I sliced the tops off for salads and it’s starting to grow back – we’ll see how long I can keep it going before the heat makes it bolt. I’ve got it in the shadiest spot in the yard – but even in the shade it can get very hot with the sun reflecting off the house!

In any case, that’s what I’ve been up to lately, around doing the regular household chores and watching the latest Hugo kerfluffle.

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About pancakeloach

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