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Weed wacking and other contact sports

This weekend was the annual sping cleanup in the yard. Usually I wait a few more weeks, but the forecast is pretty mild for the next ten days and I really don't foresee any other freezes. Plus, we're having a dinner party in the back yard in two weeks, and I'd like it to look nice for that.

So I started by dragging Graham to Home Depot on Saturday to pick up compost and mulch and all sorts of annuals. Begonias and impatiens and caladiums for the front shade bed. Lambs ear and some ornamental cabbage for the front white garden. Coleus for under the palm tree in the back. Basil for next to the deck. More asparagus for the asparagus bed. Purple cabbage next to the fence. Eggplant in a giant pot and next to the deck. Tomatoes for a few pots. Globe basil, oregano, thyme and sage for Graham's pots. Strawberries, dill and leeks for other random pots on the deck. I think Graham got both garlic and potatoes for the bed on the side of the driveway, too.

I was going to wait and do everything on Sunday, but I sort of got my front bed composted and everything for the front yard put in late Saturday afternoon.

Before I could plant anything in the back yard, I had to clear out the dead stuff first. First, the eggplants that were so amazing last year. Next, the canna under the palm tree, two compostable garbage bags full. The iris next to the deck needed to be trimmed down, another garbage bag. Then, I had to trim down the bougainvillea next to the deck. Fortunately, Tuesday the 8th is heavy yard waste pickup, so we can just drag those limbs to the curb next weekend.

Then I tackled the split leaf philodendron, which is the pride of my back yard, but admittedly a little massive. Most of its leaves were hit pretty hard by the freeze, but the stalks were still green. I suspect they'll die off as the spring develops, but for now, they just got a haircut. After that I ripped out the last of the hibiscus trunks that died in Ike and clipped away the dead plumbago branches. That corner of the yard is a little crazy, because there are thousands of vines of various varieties growing back there. Every year, I try to cut them back or otherwise destroy them, but every year they come back.

Next, I cut back the bougainvillea at the far corner of the lot. It's always been a show stopper of a bush, but this is the second year in a row that freezes pretty much took the whole thing out. I'm beginning to worry it's not going to make it through too many more of these. Graham will be overjoyed.

The pile in the driveway is pretty big. Two bougainvilleas, all of the plumbago, most of the split leaf philodendron, and a few palm fronds are in there. I suspect as the weeks go on, we'll add to the pile. Most of the yard waste I deal with through the course of the year ends up in one of two compost piles I have strategically placed in my back yard. But in a massive cleanup like this, where I have so much to get rid of, the compost piles aren't enough.

At around three o'clock, I ran out of trash bags, so after I rehung some rope lights I'd strung around the deck when I first moved into the house, I rinsed off, and Graham and I headed out to find some. We stopped at a lovely open house on the way, and then we detoured to Bed Bath and Beyond for a towel rack and roasting pan. Finally, after two stores, we found the trash bags at Kroger.

A side note to explain the trash bags. After Hurricane Ike, there were thousands upon thousands of tons of trees, bushes and other yard waste to be hauled away. And I think the city realized that they can actually make money on yard waste if it's sent to a composting company. So heavy trash pickup was changed to yard waste pick up every other month and trash on the alternate months. Then, last year, the city banned all yard clippings from being picked up with regular trash. Instead, it had to be bagged in separate compostable bags and left on the curb, and the fines for throwing away yard clippings were set at something like $1000. It took our lawn guy a few weeks to figure this out, but by and large we keep yard waste out of our garbage. I don't have any objection in principle to this. I do, though, find it a right pain in the ass to follow in practice, mainly because of the damned bags. They have to be city approved bags, and they have to be compostable. The bags I've managed to find are flimsy and tear easily. One stick can easily puncture the bag, and I've never once managed to have a completely unblemished bag full of yard waste. Several have gone to waste because they were unusable after a few unfortunate snags on rose thorns. And they're expensive. At the first place we went, Buffalo Hardware, they were something like $6.99 for five bags. Or we could buy 75 for $85. At Kroger, there was a bit less highway robbery at $6.50 for 10 bags.

When we got home, I started planting things. Most of the plants were destined for the various pots and containers on our deck, so I added compost to most of the pots first and then got to work with my trowel. It turned out that the broccoli plants that I had thought were dead were still alive, but had totally been de-leafed by some creature. Graham suspects squirrels. I have no idea. Two of the broccoli plants were fine, the two on the deck. But the four on the potting bench were totally devoid of leaves. I decided to give them some compost and fertilizer and hope they recovered from their ordeal. Planting wasn't that difficult, though of course it was time consuming. I learned my lesson about the amount of room that eggplant needs last year, and I'm hopeful it will behave itself in the pot this year. A lot of the dianthus that I planted last year made it through this year, so my basil will have a bunch of dianthus around it. The strawberries and dill were easy to place, and I'm really curious about how the leeks will do.

Celosa helped me with the coleus. I spread a bag of compost under the palm tree and Celosa would helpfully put her paws on the areas I needed to put a plant. I put a whole flat of the dark, dark purple plants there, and I'm hoping that they grow tall, because that area gets infested with weeds every summer that are a pain in the butt to get rid of.

After planting everything, I sprayed everything, including my roses, with a diluted liquid seaweed that is supposed to help encourage growth and heartiness. I was amazed when I first tried this stuff last fall. The difference in my roses was just breathtaking, and I really think it is something that will become regular in my future gardening endeavors.

I moved to the front yard after planting, so I could prune the fairy roses that line the sidewalk. They are somewhat disappointing, in that they've been there for about five years, and they still don't seem to have taken very well. The other roses in that bed, a Puerto Rico and an Iceberg, are fine, as is the amazing gardenia bush and the dianthus. The soil in that bed is AMAZING, because I put a lot of work into it before anything ever went in. I just can't seem to get the fairies to fill out and become the roses I know they have the potential to be. Still, I'm hoping that the seaweed and the pruning will help. The fig trees are just budding, and the two citrus trees in front seem to have made it through winter ok.

I was totally done right about the time night fell, except for some asparagus I forgot to plant. Those were easy enough to get in, and I was pleased to see that the asparagus I put in last year is beginning to sprout. I've heard it takes a couple of years for asparagus to really get going, but I have a good feeling about them.

I celebrated my victory over my garden by laying down in the hammock for a few minutes with Celosa. She loves the hammock and thinks it is in the back yard for her own benefit. She can't get on it by herself, though; she flips off if she tries to jump on. So she takes any opportunity to get on if someone else is on it.

I wandered inside and took a much needed shower. I totally forgot about the Oscars until Graham flipped through the pre-ceremony pomp. I fed myself a tomato salad and then sat listlessly on the couch and watched pretty people get awards.

I think that the yard will look really nice in two weeks when we have our party. We still need to fix the floodlamp, and we need to replace some of the solar lighting we got at IKEA three years ago. We're going to string up LED Christmas lights around the back yard, and I'm going to drape my saris around the yard, to give a whimsical flair. We have roughly twenty people coming for dinner, but I think we have enough chairs and tables to accommodate everyone.

I just hope it doesn't rain.


( 1 comment — Say something )
Feb. 28th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
oh, your garden sounds wonderful!!
( 1 comment — Say something )