Blog-o! Notes from latte.ca

Mon, 18 May 2009

This is our third summer in this house and I'm finally starting to get some inkling of an idea of what to do with the garden.

Today we dug up some of that unreasonable raspberry patch and replaced it with a blueberry plant that Blake bought on impulse this weekend. we should probably mulch it, but we don't have any mulch. I also moved a few of the ostrich ferns which had been stranded between the fence and the deck when we built the deck. They were on either side of the pathway you see on the bottom right there, and they were in danger of being trampled. So I dug a nice new bed on the opposite side of the garden, by the fence about halfway back, and moved five of the ferns over there. I'm going to get some huechera to go in between and it should be quite charming. I love ostrich ferns—I told Blake I would be happy if our garden was, like, forty percent ferns. They even smell good.

We spent a lot of time cleaning out the hedge in the front yard. I don't really want that hedge but I haven't come up with anything better to do there so we're keeping it for now, but it's a mess. Lots of different things growing in it, to the extent that I had to arbitrarily decided which species was the "real" hedge and then yank out anything that wasn't that, including a truly irritating number of maple treelets. I'm not sure what the hedge is made up of, but I've noticed a few hedges of it in the neighbourhood so it must be something pretty standard. While I was checking out other people's hedges I noticed more than a few which were lousy with maple. One was mainly maple.

The last big accomplishment today was moving the composter from the neighbour's yard to ours. They are shiny urban hipsters and composting isn't really their thing—the composter was left by the previous owner—so they said we could have it. We tucked it just behind the new fern bed, not too far from the house that we won't use it, but not too close either. It's not terribly ugly and I think once the ferns grow up more it will be mostly concealed.

Incidentally, having our own compost will yet further complicate throwing stuff out, because now we'll have two categories of compost: backyard compost (fruit and veg scraps, tea and coffee, and yard waste) and city compost (leftovers, meat, kleenex, all that gross stuff). So we'll need two containers on the kitchen counter. There's gotta be a good way to do that but I haven't figured it out yet.

The Plan

Okay, "plan" is a little grandiose for something that's not much more than a collection of notions. First, as you can see I've covered a fair bit of ground with that giant playstructure. For now I'm happy to have that area be weeds and dirt, and it's happy to oblige. So that's a good 320 square foot I don't have to worry about. (Well, I planted some scarlet runner beans to grow up it just for fun.)

I want to create a path between the back gate and garage, and the front gate (which is where the path by the deck leads). Ideally that would be some kind of cool flagstone path, either with rectangular flagstones or crazy paving, but for now we'll have to settle for the leftover Unilock from those same neighbours' previous front path. It would also make sense to pave the area around the laundry dryer since I stand around there a lot and lawn doesn't stand a chance. Plus that way if I drop something it won't get all muddy.

We've got the vegetable garden going by the deck there, and I expect it will stay there because that's one of the sunniest parts of the yard, unless we give up on it altogether and just grow food in the planters on the deck.

For the rest of the garden, I'm going for a low-maintenance, woodland, bird- and butterfly-friendly mainly-native plant vibe. The only specific plants I have in mind at the moment are a Saskatoon berry plant for the birds, and something evergreen for winter interest, of which I have none at the moment. I'm finding it really hard to source native plants but I suspect I just don't know where to look. I need to keep researching them so that I have the names of native plants in my head, so I recognise them when I see them. Most garden centres and catalogues don't have any comment on whether plants are native or not.

That's the plan. It's going to take a while to get there, but at least I have some idea where I'm going so I'm no longer paralysed by my garden. Onward!

[Posted at 22:41 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 07 Apr 2008

Spring has arrived with an unlikely two sunny warm days in a row, over a weekend! We celebrated by playing in the muck. We raked most of last fall's leaves off the front and back lawns, and I cleared off and weeded some of the north border in the backyard. I pulled out about a ton of creeping charlie, which is surprisingly satisfying to uproot when the ground is soft; you can get hold of a bit without breaking the stem and then reel in about a foot of plant and roots, like a magician pulling scarves out of a hat.

We also uprooted some of the many raspberries, and I cleaned out some of the raspberry patch. There are dozens of plants there and it's hard to get the leaves and twigs and weeds out from between them, to say nothing of trimming out the dead canes, pulling out the millions of little suckers, and removing the raccoon poop. I think the smart thing to do with the raspberry patch will be to thin it out as well as reduce its overall footprint. The previous owners must have really like raspberries.

There are lots of little things growing, but the only things flowering yet are crocuses. I'm not sure what the other things are so I'm looking forward to their flowers. Some tulips I planted last fall are coming up in the front yard; Delphine is very excited about that because she helped me plant them.

Perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment this week was that Blake built a frame for our Square Foot Garden. That's a technique for vegetable gardening whereby you plant your entire garden in one (or more) four-by-four foot squares. We picked out the spot for the garden and Blake was poking around in the shed and found four perfect four-and-a-half foot planks, which he screwed together into a frame to delineate and protect the garden. I say this casually, as if Blake screws things together to make other things all the time, but if you know Blake you know that just isn't so. He is not what you might call "handy". However, he made a perfectly lovely frame without swearing or drawing blood, so I think he might be handier than either of us suspected. The frame is gracing our garden and waiting patiently for some nice compost and lots of seeds.

[Posted at 14:48 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 30 May 2007

I was out inspecting my garden this afternoon and I found that two of my zucchini mounds are growing little seedlings! I realize growing zucchini is not normally considered an accomplishment, but it's the first of the things I have put into this garden that has actually grown, so I am fairly pleased with myself. Especially considering I caught a squirrel on one of the mounds munching on a snack of zucchini seeds a couple of days after I planted them.

There's also a couple of things coming up where I planted the sunflower seeds. I'm not sure if they're sunflowers, but they were cute and hearty so I left them.

In other news, the latest thing the maple tree is flinging at us is little green caterpillars. Oh, and we have golden dung flies, which are really pretty cool as bugs go, apart from the obvious dung implication. Stupid neighbour's dogs.

[Posted at 17:50 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 29 May 2007

I was in the garden this morning hanging out some washing. It's a nice sunny day and the kids were enjoying themselves in the garden, so I decided I would water the plants (as per J'Anne's advice, and the strawberry was looking a little limp). I know midday is not the ideal time to water plants, but when you have little kids you go to war with the schedule you have, not the schedule you want.

First, though, I cleaned up a dog poo in my garlic patch. (Must see about getting fences on the back and front.) After I watered, I was pulling up weeds around the garlic and cherry tomatoes when I saw two more dog poops, and then immediately was stung by a huge stinging nettle plant growing merrily by the maple tree.

So I gave up, rounded up the children and we're going to stay in the safe, cool, low-UV poop-free (mainly) indoors for the rest of the day. And I will figure out how to tackle the nettles. Unless we go to Starbucks.

[Posted at 12:22 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 28 May 2007

When we bought this little house it came with a garden. A big garden. A big, intimidating garden which used to be really well-tended and loved. I, on the other hand, have never gardened before and have no idea what I'm doing. This poor garden doesn't know what hit it.

So far I have spent a lot of time cleaning up; we have a maple tree in the backyard (oh, and another one in the front yard) and apparently the primary occupation of maple trees is to drop crap on you all year 'round: blossoms, maple keys, leaves. I can only assume that the maple syrup is by way of apology.

Blake's aunt J'Anne, the family gardener, was up a couple of weeks ago and we did a lot of work moving plants from the backyard to the front -- there are lots of plants near the back door where the deck will eventually be, and we are going to try and rescue as many of them as we can. We also weeded the front border, especially under the hedge. The hedge is doomed; I am going to get rid of it sometime in the next couple of years and plant something pretty in its place. But in the meantime it harbours a lot of crappy little weeds, and maple saplings. Stupid maple trees.

Since J'Anne was here I also added a bunch of hot pink impatiens to the front, mainly because Baba told me to. I think they will look nice once they fill out. They're cute now, but small.

In the back yard, I haven't done much; I am paralysed by the sheer size. I did plant a bunch of vegetables: zucchini, corn, sunflowers, and lettuce seeds, and squash, tomato, strawberry, basil, sage, lavender and mint plants. There are already what I thought were onions but I now suspect are garlic, as well as a huge patch of raspberries. So far I don't think anything that I have planted has, oh, say, grown at all, but Manuel's stuff (the previous owner) is doing fantastically. The previous owners had some serious green thumbs, considering that most of the garden gets at best partial sun. But then they were retired and by all accounts spent all their time gardening.

Other stuff that is growing from last year includes a glorious patch of ostrich ferns, some cosmos, violets, daylilies, a rose, bleeding heart, more ostrich ferns, sedum, daffodils, and some stuff which might be weeds. And lots of stuff which definitely is weeds; I have been preparing the ground on an as-needed basis, which means there are still lots of messy scrubby patches.

I am overwhelmed by the learning curve ahead of me; there seems to be so much you need to know to be a successful gardener. The nice thing, though, is that it's almost consequence-free. The worst that can happen is that I could buy a plant or some seeds and have them fail. No-one will be disappointed, no-one will get hurt, and I'll get to spend some time outside getting dirty.

[Posted at 22:05 by Amy Brown] link