27 April 2009

Garden Ramble - Finally Something About Which to Ramble!

[Note: This is a long one kids, so be prepared]

"What is it with men and gardening?" the Mrs. asked me yesterday as we discussed our plans for the garden, driving home from church. "Is it because you can't have babies?"

I suppose there's some merit to that hypothesis; that a garden gives a man the opportunity to nurture a tiny seed into a beautiful plant, sometimes over the course of many years (I know I was happy to see that all of my perennials weathered the winter intact). I mentioned it in one of my early garden rambles last year, how it's in my blood. At least 3 generations of Murray men have been gardeners. The 3 I'm familiar with, anyway. It's what I gotta do, to borrow from Rod Farva.
But what of things horticultural, you cry! Cast off the reminiscences and the meta-physics, and get to the plants. Dammit man, you insist, what of your garlic?
And I reply, the garlic I planted, taken from cloves given to me by my father, is doing nicely. Better than expected, but thou the vegetable garden was planted first, let us begin on the front porch and then move to the back porch, the herb garden, vegetable garden, dog-garden, and the in-progress flower beds of the sidewalk. That last a mighty tale of heroism and long struggle.
But first, the set up. We went shopping for stock with which to garden yesterday after church. Home Depot gift cards were put to good use (Wedding presents - woohoo!) in purchasing flowers, and mulch, and plants, and potting soil. We bought pots at the Lowe's, since none of the Home Depot pots that we saw inspired us. Though while at Lowe's I made to take down an up-turned urn for closer inspection, and got a shirt-full of water for my trouble. The base of the urn makes for a capable holder of water itself. In the 95+ degree heat it made for a pleasant surprise, oddly enough. And a much-needed laugh, as heat wore us down. We returned home with our treasures, and set forth to work on garden things. I transplanted and planted as the Mrs. pulled and tore at vines and branch - more on her later.
The front porch will be gorgeous in a month, if I keep the window boxes and the hanging baskets watered. Flower seeds from last year that I gathered have been planted in the boxes out front, and shade-loving flowers (fuchsia and a mixed-pot) have been hung. The pony-tail plant that I inherited from Mrs. Krumpe has found a new home in a larger pot, and much needed. The poor plant was root-bound, so I freed up the roots and gave it a generous shot of water. Given the oddly arid nature of the front porch, it should be just enough water for the plant to get established in its new pot. We may add more to the porch; I may buy some more flowers as transplanting has found me with many empty square pots that would do very well out front. But that will be then. For now, let's move on.
The back porch is primarily a staging area for potting, transplanting, and plants in transition. It's almost like my own like plant hospital - much to her dismay. I try to make it look as decorative as possible, for a work area. Right now there's a hanging strawberry plant in need of planting, a window box with out a home with flower seeds, and a maple tree sapling that just sprouted. Inspired by my parents I want to nurture it and plant it in a corner of the yard, where I hope it will grow into a big tree. Well, a tree, period, really.
Stepping off the back porch and ignoring the patch of bare ground that I think is poisoned because grass refuses to grow there, we step into the herb garden. Perennial mums sprouted up, giving floral beauty (eventually) to these fragrant rows. Lined up behind these silent sentries (get it, mums, silent?) on the left is Peppermint, freshly planted rosemary (a mistaken purchase. I had a pot of rosemary from Dad that I will discuss later, for some reason I thought it was thyme.), lemon balm, self-seeded chamomile, oregano, chocolate mint, and then more flowers wrapping around to my butterfly bush (weathered the winter much better than the potted butterfly bush Mark I) and flower garden. Eventually - this week - along the fence I intend to plant sunflower seeds.
Walking back to the top of the right row you'll find freshly planted basil interspersed with cilantro and an anise-smelled leafed herb whose name, I am embarrassed to admit, presently escapes me. It smells like licorice, though. Old friends sage and Other Peppermint (spreading like the weed it is) are still strongly represented.
On the patio there is a new player, a nice wide yet low pot into which I have planted lavender, and transplanted my other oregano and the aforementioned rosemary, the latter two refreshed after wintering in the kitchen. Our plan is to move this large pot indoors come cold weather and have fresh herbs all winter long. We plan for a second pot to contain mints and other herbs suitable for teas (perhaps the lavender should have gone here?)For now, however, we must concern ourselves with vegetables.
Vegetables. Delicious, healthy, fun to grow! Yes, friends, the third year of the vegetable garden seems to be the most promising year yet. A path was dug, allowing for beds, compost was mixed in with soil that had been worked last year, and minor expansions were made to reclaim ground laid bare from creeping weed removal. Thus far radishes, lettuces, spinach, peas, and garlic have all sprouted and are in the process of sprouting (about half the pea sprouts are up. I am looking forward to fresh peas this year). Carrots and broccoli are taking their good sweet time. Ah! I bought crook-necked squash at the Home Depot yesterday, and planted those three seedlings, hopefully spaces far enough apart. Double hopefully that the peas and broccoli will grow faster than the squash so that they might share some ground. There is a patch of ground where I planted old seeds that didn't do much last year. I felt it was a waste to not even give them a shot, but nothing as of yet. Hopefully dad will have some peppers for me to transplant in soon, and this is the spot reserved for them. Otherwise I'll have to keep peppers potted until the spring veggies come out. I have to consider what to put in when the spring stuff comes out. Maybe additional peppers? Maybe beans? No, beans are too much work for too little return. I do want to get some onions in the ground, but I fear it may be too late for them and tat they'll have to wait until fall. Anyone have any thoughts as to what to put in the ground after radishes, carrots, and lettuce have come out? Dad will have good ideas, for certain. Oh! Maybe zucchini.
I know you're dying to hear about the hedge monster we're slaying, but first, some fun news from further into the yard. Yes, formerly the domain of dogs, dandelions, and not much else, I have decided to spruce up the back half of the yard a bit. My first decision was, when cutting the grass for the first time (what a jungle) this year I decided to not cut back those few clumps of grass that are of a wildly different species than the rest, looking almost ornamental (Though definitely accidental). It gives a garden feel to that patch of grass. At the back center of the yard I've put the bird bath, with the only working solar lamp, and a small garden that is kind of the step-child of gardens, but I plan to put some work into it after getting the rest of the yard into shape. But Rob - you say - won't we have to walk a potential mine field (try as you may, you never get it all when you have dogs). Nay, nay, I say, Nay! For the brick path that runs between herb gardens bisects the yard nearly to it's lengthwise extent. Alas it is covered with grass for half that length. Well, only about a quarter now. There's some back-breaking labor in the heat; digging up ye aulde sod that covers a brick path. I plan to have that done by week's end also, using the sod to cover the dead patches in the part of the yard that I wish I could just pave over. Hey, that's not a bad idea. Nah. So yeah, brick path all the way back, fun little garden (and eventually tree) and some ornamental grass. Finally, our own green monster.
Photos will show you the hedge that serves as privacy barrier between our yard-garden and the world. Those of you who have been to our house know of it. My parents have helped me tame it in the past. The Mrs. and I have spent long hours on weekends bringing it under control. This Spring our mission is to pull out the ivy (we'll never get it all), and put in flowers and mulch. Thanks to the ivy and birds nesting in the hedge above, the earth on this 37 foot long, 3 foot high, 60 degree incline on the side of out house is fairly rich. I don't plan to use any fertilizer, because this stuff is loam, baby. It's also, however, a pain in the arse to clear out, and apparently the city's auxiliary trash dump. Thus far we have found:
  • several plastic bottles of cleaning chemical, liquor, and soda variety
  • a complete set of metal flatware
  • pieces of plastic flatware
  • a basketball
  • the blades from manual edging trimmers
  • several pens (someone call Papermate, 'cos one of them still worked)
  • shards of glass bottle
  • cans of soda/beer
  • various food wrappers / plastic containers
  • a cassette tape of The Judds
  • a cassette tape of Mariah Carey
No one was nice enough to toss in any money. We've filled 4 yard bags with plant waste, and 1 trash bag with the trash listed above. We are about 40% done clearing the ivy and assorted mess. It would be nice to have the flowers planted by week's end, but this project might carry into May by a week or so. I was tempted to offer $20 to the kids riding by on their bikes to help out. I should make them do it for free because odds are some of the crap belongs to them (or their parents in the case of the flatware). As is the case in such gentrification projects, it appears that we are making homeless several spiders, roly-poly bugs, and centipedes. Likely a salamander or two, as well. Ants and worms are welcome to stay, and all the other bugs are welcome back once the mulch is in place. Especially the spiders. Better them there than in the house! I ask you, though - what possesses people to dump their garbage into a hedge like that? She's going to injure anyone she catches using our hedge as the Resh Rd auxiliary, and I don't blame her. We're putting a lot of work into this. We're putting a lot of work into the whole thing, and that's okay, because come some sultry August evening when the herbs are tall and the flowers radiant we'll sit back - tired from an hour's weeding and picking - on our porch and gaze into the West, into the garden, and feel a distinctly parental pride at what we've made.

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