too big for my britches

It started with a sad clematis.Sad

Then I noticed a lilac had taken over the party garden.

Lilac good days006

The lilac in happier times.

I decided to dig up the lilac and put the clematis in its spot, where it will get the sun it so desperately needs.

So I dug. And I pulled. And I snipped and clipped. And I dug.

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This is after day 4. Party garden disrupted. Wall collapsed. Tools strewn about. Lilac stump not even budging.

roots)

This is after day 9. Looks like you could just pluck it right out of there, doesn’t it? . . . Nope

Now

Finally, two weeks later, things are looking up. The clematis is still just a bitty thing on the trellis (right in front of the blue jungle gym). But we all have hopes for a better future.

volunteers

I first noticed the gardening term “volunteers” while reading a novel. I immediately took it and made it my own. I pictured little seeds jumping up and down, raising their hand: “I’ll grow!  I’ll grow!”backyard, Dave's Quilt, Sea Isle 010

My lemon balm sends volunteers all over the yard, as does  my catnip. Sometimes I let them be, but usually I relocate them to a place that pleases me more.backyard, Dave's Quilt, Sea Isle 004

The native sedum that my brother planted in my mom’s yard (that I stole a piece of)  is spreading everywhere. Here I put a clump on an old stump. It’s happy as can be.crepe myrtle, spice jars 001

This crepe myrtle started a few years back beneath the mother tree. I transplanted it to fill up an empty corner.June Backyard 005

But this yucca is the best volunteer ever. It came from a neighbor’s yard, I suspect, because I have not seen one elsewhere. It flew over the street and plopped down in the perfect place in the corner of a street garden.

gardening with dog

Riley web 002This is Riley. She is 95 pounds of self-appointed yard protection. No bikers, joggers, walkers, or trash men are safe from her ire. She’ll race from one end of the yard to the other to get a good bark in.garden trampled by dogThis is the war path. Nothing can grow along the fences where Riley chases her prey: not even weeds. I’ve had to get creative in trying to mingle my love of the pretty with Riley’s habit of crushing everything in her way. brick and stone planter against fenceHere I built a little planter against the fence to reclaim a bit of earth.fence with purple runner bean growing on itI have lots of these three-foot fence pieces (thanks, mom!) I use them to trellis pretty vines and to “steer” Riley away from areas I am trying to protect. grouping garden elements to act as dog barrierGrouping works wonders. Here, the combination of the planter, birdbath, and hosta is just too much trouble. She’ll go around rather than through.raised bed gardenLastly, I’ve been able to train her to stay out of the vegetable garden. Unlike the rest of the yard, it’s an obviously defined space. The walls could never keep her out, but they do give her a visual boundary. So far, so good.

Cleome flower with bee

Seed Saving

My yard is always full of my family and friends. As I walk outside I am greeted by Woody Platt’s Sundrops, Grandma’s Tiger Lilies, and Mom’s Cleome. I take care with these special plants. To ensure that they stay with me, I save the seeds to plant next year.

Cleome flower with bee

Cleome Flower and Friend

Cleome seeds in the pod

Cleome seeds in the pod

This is the time of year when the seedpods are brittle and dry. That’s when you want to collect them. The Cleome seeds above are ready to be harvested. I’ll hold a large, clean, dry Tupperware container underneath and brush the seeds into the container.

Columbine Flowers

Columbine Flowers

Columbine seed pods ready to be harvested

Columbine seeds work the same way. Collect them when the pods are dry and brittle and look like the picture above.Seed collecting envelopeweb 003

I store my seeds in a labeled #10 envelope.  Seed Collection Envelope  Here’s a pdf to download to print your own envelopes. It is set up for my printer, which feeds envelopes vertically on the right. I can format it for different printers; just let me know.

Swinget turned into swing

Backyard Solutions

I’ve been living in my yard for a lot of years, and I’m learning what works for me.Swinget turned into swing

When our children outgrew the swing set my husband made, we pulled down the kid’s swings and replaced them with a swing everyone can use. I planted wisteria on one side and after just a few years we are getting nice shade.Bird bath made of recycled dish

I go through birdbaths like Snickers bars. I try to remember to empty them before a hard freeze, but the water containers always seem to leak after just a year or so.  I’ve learned that a big dish from Goodwill and a rock is all it takes to bring back the bathers.Gourd vine growing up a tree

My yard is a nice size, but gourds and cucumbers and all of those sprawling vines seem to take over everything. This year, I let the birdhouse gourds overtake the trellis and continue right up a nearby tree. The garden stayed neat, and this totally appeals to  my love of the quirky.Hummingbird silhouette

The hummingbird likes it, too.A squirrel peeking out of the the hole he gnawed in the trash can.

And the solution here? . . . Keep the birdseed in a metal container from now on.

blooming sunflower

here comes the sun . . . flowers

blooming sunflowerAfter a few days of torrential rain, today was beautiful. I saw my first sunflower bloom at coffee time.

full view of gardenJust for perspective:  The lowest finger points to the sunflower bloom pictured above. The finger above it points to the birdhouse gourds that are happily climbing every tree in sight. The finger in the top left points to the sunflower blooms (nearly 8 feet) that are in the near future.

cedar waxwingMy little darling Waxwing greeted me at dawn with his silent welcome. Even though I have studied their sounds online, I have yet to hear them. The nest withstood the heavy rains. For that I am thankful. It’s all right (do do do do do do dododododo).

early july : my favorite things

My yard is bursting: with birds, animals, flowers, vegetables. Sometimes July can feel parched, but not this year. We are ripe with all of the things I love.zinnias in bloomZinnias I planted from seed are in their full glory. When they no longer look pretty to me, I will leave them as a meal for my goldfinch friends.cherry treeThe cherry tree is overripe to me, but it is alive with blue jays, red-breasted woodpeckers (and a fledgling – the first I’ve EVER seen), robins, brown thrashers, finches, cardinals, flickers, and titmice. The hummingbirds spend a great deal of time perching in it – but I have never seen them eating the fruit in any way. There are also a crazy amount of bunnies beneath the tree. Are they eating the cherries that fall?birdhouse gourd plant climbing a homemade trellisThe bird house gourds are happy to climb the trellis I made to keep them off the ground. I have big plans ahead for these, but the hummingbirds love their blossoms right now.tomatoes almost ripeBut of all those things to love, beautiful tomatoes, just days from being ripe, are my current favorite things.

how to hide a stump

I have several areas of the yard that get neglected every year, despite my best intentions . . .ugly stumpWitness the Stump Garden.

I’ve been reading about Permaculture, and that gave me the idea to incorporate the stump into a planting bed.turniing a stump into a planterI used some cedar shims and bricks I had lying around. I hammered the shims deep into the ground so they would support the bulk of the soil. I just stacked the bricks around that to pretty it up. It was easy after I got the bottom layer level.brick planterHere’s how it looked at the end of April, before soil and plants.brick planterAfter I planted it with a sedum and flower seeds, I added some Native Sedum plants to the cracks of the planter to see if they’d grow.brick planterThey did grow. Just wait till the zinnias bloom!

cabbage success

I am officially calling it a successful cabbage season. I bought plants (Golden Cross) and planted them on April 13th, over a month before our last frost date. They are in a raised bed which I filled with soil from my garden excavation and lots of compost (mostly kitchen scraps).

I planted them with rosemary, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. A few tomatoes volunteered, and I left them in there as well. After the heads formed,  I saw the evidence of cabbage worms on the plant farthest from the rosemary. The outside leaves had been eaten and there was lots of poop. cabbage worm poop and damaggeI used the hose to forcefully clean everything out, and as I directed the hose spray, I made sure to hit the rosemary first. I was sure I’d be doing the same thing in a day or two, but I never saw another poop.raised bed of cabbagesThis picture was taken about a week ago. I just picked my first cabbage this morning and made cole slaw for dinner. I’m going to have to get more creative than that.

seasonal firsts

We recently had our first good rain in a long time, and the garden is loving it. We’ve also had: honeybee on clover

our first honeybee;coneflowerour first coneflower; (thinking of you, Cynthia)Baby blue jayand our first floundering baby bird.baby blue jaySqueaky Pete – King of the Rock Wall.

more garden structures

I love this time of year! Every day I find some new flower blooming or seed sprouting. Lots of herbs are ready to use and the spinach is looking like dinner. We have a mockingbird sitting on her nest, and this year (horray!) it’s above dog-face level. Raised bed vegetable garden with pathsHere’s my revamped vegetable garden. The pathways are filled with trimmings from the spring clean up (no weeds). It’s about 8 inches thick and very nice for kneeling: clean and comfy.

carrot boxI even made an extra deep, rock-free carrot box. No more wacky shaped carrots for me!

garden structures and a special guest

My husband spotted him first while I was at work: a Rose Breasted Grosbeak at our feeder. SO exciting – I’ve seen them before, but rarely, and NEVER in my own back yard. Just plain old sunflower seeds on  a platform feeder did the trick. He was here for several days and I got a good look at him, the little cutie pie.Rose breasted gorsbeak at feederMy husband has been my best garden supporter this year; he signed me up for the organic herbal gardening course that spurred me on; he  gave me a gift certificate to the best nursery in town; AND he spent his birthday money to make me three of these excellent new planters.Raised bed vegetable planter

This one is sporting cabbages (I’ll pick the biggest and let the little ones continue to grow), rosemary, nasturtiums, and sunflowers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

outside

I’m redoing my vegetable garden in anticipation of all the heirloom seedlings that will soon be residing there. I am digging out a walking path, which I then fill with stones (oh, the stones!) and leaves and whatnot. This will give me a cleaner place to walk and will keep me from tromping in the plant beds. garden excavationI’m using some old lumber (non-treated) and just hammering in shims to hold it all in place. My thinking is that the soil on one side and the leaves on the other side will hold it all in place. So that’s the plan. . . .constructing garden bedsNext time I go out (hopefully this afternoon . . . ) I will bring a level and a square . . .