Monday, May 9, 2011

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

I've been caught up in spring cleaning the garden lately and haven't been attending to the computer as much.  It's time to let you in on the action around here.  Hold on to your seats as this is a long one.

A Whole Lotta Weeding Going On

I realized last year that I let the weeds get the better of me.  I was new to the property and didn't know what would appear in the flower beds so I waited for several months before doing any weeding.  By the time I decided it was safe to weed the plants were as big as I was and their removal was a losing battle.  Take the knot garden (that's what I've decided to call it now.  It was previously known as that big ass rectangle in the middle of the yard).  It started out like this last spring.

and by summer it had become this

Pulling 5 foot tall goldenrod was impossible.  Although I did manage to make some headway and cleared out two triangles.

Two front triangles were weeded
It's incredibly difficult to get an overhead shot of this bed so I've done a drawing so you can better understand the shape of it.

I'm no artist but you get the idea.  It's meant to be a very formal bed with rock paths and angled beds.  This spring, before it gets any uglier, I decided to weed and mulch the same two front triangles so I don't have to repeat that again.  I also started weeding the first diamond.  Why only one?  Because this garden holds a backbreaking task that haunts me in my dreams.  Under each triangle and diamond there is landscaping fabric.  Weeds and plants alike have grown over it, under it and through it.  Removing this fabric is like neurosurgery.  Exacto knives and scissors have to be employed.  There is time and energy only for one diamond at this juncture.  I have considered clearing the pathway as well but mostly I think this will just be cutting down weeds as opposed to removing them.  No landscaping fabric was used in the paths but under those rocks are two sheets of plastic.  Equally or possibly even more frustrating than the fabric.

Oh yes, and I found the end of the hose.  Well, sort of.  The story is that last year I noticed a hose snaking around the rocks and tried to figure out where it ended.  Buried under weeds it was never found.  So this spring that was it, I was finding the end.  Here it is.

Somewhat as I suspected.  There is no end.  Instead it goes into the ground.  But where does it come out?  Who the heck knows?  We've been here a year and a half now and I've yet to find the other end of that hose.  So I cut it off.  After spending several winters out in the elements I doubt this hose is much good anymore anyway (in fact I can see the voles attacked it thinking it was food, there are little gnaw marks ornamenting it's length).  Now it's being used to mark out new beds.

The side bed (this really needs a better name) was also weeded and mulched.  Again, the premise was, get the weeds while they're small so you don't have to go through this again in a month when they can fight back. 

This bed is mainly dominated by bleeding hearts and I've thrown in the odd plant just to see how it would do.  I'm reluctant to take any real steps to occupy this bed as exterior work needs to be done on the house and any plants would likely get trampled in the course of it.  In the meantime I consider keeping the weeds at bay the best compromise.

And finally the entrance bed was weeded.  This bed started life last year looking like this.

A bit of clearing got done and plant purchases were dumped here for lack of a better place to put them.  Eventually some expansion happened but not enough to suit me.

We spent almost a whole summer trying to expand this bed and still didn't get it finished.  This year I want better results.  The goal is to increase this bed by at least another third by renting a sod cutter.  In anticipation of a larger bed I've begun removing some of the nicer plants from the knot garden and placing them in this bed.  Bell flowers and jacob's ladder have made the switch and when the hostas appear they will be moved as well.

The Back Breakers

Big beds require big rocks.  Lucky me we've got rocks to spare.  Last spring I found that the hedgerow was full of large stones, likely from an old foundation.  I thought they would be fantastic to use in the beds but when I went looking for them in mid-summer they were buried in this.

Good luck finding anything in there.  So now that the plants are all dead it was time to move stones.  Hubby was enlisted for this chore as some of these are a two person job.

I'm not entirely sure how they will be used but I'm thinking of a) as a walkway through the garden beds; b) stepping stones for access to large beds; or c) building up areas of the beds and creating some different levels.  No matter what I do, these stones need to be moved now as they will become inaccessible very quickly.

Hubby was also enlisted for that other annual back breaking chore.  Tree planting.

There are several pockets of trees on our property and small seedlings can be found in these areas.  Thus far we have dug up 16 small trees from these pockets and redistributed them to more open spaces.  Eventually I would love to see a windbreak of trees along our roadside and filling in our yard.  The trees moved included two maples of unknown heritage, an elderberry, white spruce, white birch, red osier dogwood and what I believe is a grey birch.

Bits and Bobs

The compost has finally thawed and I'm turning, turning every chance I get.  I'd love to get my hands on some compost for new flower and veggie beds.  Not to mention the pile next to the bin has grown to catastrophic proportions due to excess sawdust from hubby's shop and ashes from our wood boiler.  It would be nice to get this extra material into the bins so it's slightly less messy looking in that area.

And finally.  Remember those sweet little seedlings that were planted not so long ago.  Well they're all grown up now and beginning to make their way into the great outdoors. 

The process of hardening off has started.  Presently these plants are spending a half hour a day in the great outdoors and I'll be slowly building the time up from there.  Some of the plants have done well and some, as you might notice, are complete wimps.  Of the twenty tomatoes at least 4 can't stand on their own two feet. Once again, thank goodness for overseeding as I can remove these weak plants and keep the strong sturdy ones instead.


  1. OH I so enjoyed being caught up on your garden and beds and experience and ups and downs and promise!! When I saw the goldenrod I said aloud..OH NO... glad you are younger than I am as I don't think I would have the enthusiasm to do all you plan. But you'll get there and I'll enjoy watching!! As for your wimpy tomatoes..they will be fine..just plant them deep in the ground like half way (removing leaves)..all those little hairs on the stem make roots! You can even plant them a bit sideways but the ground should warm up first. They will sulk if it's too cold for their toes.

  2. Good for you for getting some of this stuff done before the weeds re-emerge. Love the mystery hose! :)

  3. you have been very busy Marguerite, what a pain with the landscape fabric and plastic, that's why I only use several sheets of newspaper or thick cardboard as these breakdown in the time, it makes me smile that a dandelion is a flower but golden rod (which I would love a bit off) is a weed, I've heard say that a weed is a flower in the wrong place, the hose looks like it was probably put in for instant watering and the tap end has been cut down and closed off, I have a light in my side porch but couldn't find the switch, neither could the electrician, when work was done in the kitchen 2 years ago the switch wire was found behind the facings around one of the doors, your stones can be used on the windiest side of new plants to give some protection to the crown and roots, good idea to reposition trees to where you want them and as they are from trees already growing you know they can cope with the conditions,
    have fun, Frances

  4. It all seems a little overwhelming at times huh? (and I don't even live there!). But bit by bit it will get done. This is why gardening is a hobby that lasts until death.

  5. I know you don't want to hear this but, the goldenrod is beautiful. I made a wreath for my front door with it one year.

    You have made some excellent progress with your property.

  6. Goldenrod is the state flower here in SC. I like it....but then I haven't had to remove some that is 8 feet tall. What a job.
    You have a lot of tomato plants. Enjoy!

  7. Ah, so THAT's what that big tall yellow stuff is!

    I've never see the like for weeds as here in PEI. Come summer, we can't even stroll in the back forty as the weeds are waist-high and impenetrable!

    Congrats on all your hard work - I am impressed!

  8. Oh my, I am overwhelmed with how much you have done and how much to do! You are truly reclaiming areas that have been neglected for ages (I am mystified by that unending hose).

    You are absolutely on track with weed suppression early in the year. If I can keep ahead of it early, it works and I am much happier in August!

  9. I just wrote a note in my PEI Blue Book about buying or building a composter - this is an absolute must to get started this summer when we're there. We did a lot of transplanting seedlings from our forest (and not at the right time of year) so am very anxious to see if they survived the winter!

  10. Bren - thank you so much for the advice on the tomatoes. I knew I could cover the stems when they were small (and did so when planting them into larger containers) but didn't realize I could still do this at this stage. Some tomatoes were just spared because of you!

    Ms.S - kind of a fun thing about taking over someone else's garden, the little mysteries that present themselves along the way.

    Frances and TufaGirl - I guess I should have explained a little more clearly. I actually don't mind the goldenrod BUT only when it's in the meadow. If it stayed with the other wildflowers I would be completely happy but it has a tendancy to want to live in the flower beds. and it's quite aggressive about it. Because we have so much goldenrod (I'm sure people must think we're cultivating the stuff, it's everywhere) what's in the beds gets pulled like any other weed.

    Jess - I was overwhelmed a little while ago and then I made a list. What needs to be done and in what order. Made everything much more managable and now I'm not worrying too much. But thank goodness we can think of gardens in the grand scheme of things and that if it doesn't get done this year, there's always the year after and the years after that.

    Janet - it really is a lovely flower but tough! Very tall and very strong stalks. The only way to remove it is before it really gets growing.

    Kim - it's a bit crazy isn't it? Last year we let the back field grow wild and by mid-summer we couldn't access it anymore. This year we intend to cut paths so at the very least we can get to the trees we planted for watering.

    Laurrie - I think Frances (comment above) is on to something with that hose. It looks like it was put in place for easy watering but somewhere along the line the part that attached to the house got removed. I'll just need to remember that if we ever do any digging in that area that I might come across a hose!

    Jane - Although a compost bin is nice you can also create an open pile as well. It will look messy but there's no cost. Another possibility is using straw bales (if you can get them) to create a 'bin' and contain the materials. I hope your seedlings made out okay. This fall we'll be purchasing some cheap plastic hose at the hardware store to protect our trees.

  11. Good grief Marguerite, you have been busy! I suppose this is not the time to tell you that I rather like the Golden Rod... Great to have recovered the large rocks, they are sure to come in useful, and enlarging that bed sounds like a great idea. Good luck with battling the weeds. You are making loads of progress creating a garden from the large bareness.

  12. Enjoyed a good giggle over the mystery hose! We had a few of those snaking around this property when we first moved in. Good luck waging war on the weeds. I let them take over last autumn and now I see I've got my work cut out for me. If only my perennials could be as hardy as the Bermuda grass...

    PS: Please send that Goldenrod my way... :))

  13. Lisa and Robb - I secretly love it too... in the meadow. But it loves the flower beds.

    Janet - I agree, the goldenrod is pretty. It's just chosen an inappropriate spot to spread out in. Rocks are one of those things. I saw them and knew I had to have them. No idea what for but I'm sure I need them.

    Kate - I should look into collecting goldenrod seed. Spread some of that yellow goodness to the many of you who have expressed your love for it. goodness knows I've got more goldenrod than I know what to do with.

  14. Marguerite, Wow I am exhausted just reading this post. It is so funny about the hose. Now I want to know where it goes. You will probably cringe, but I love golden rod and thin your stand is beautiful. Carolyn

  15. Wow, I love the vastness of your property. It's so inspiring! Incredible work going on!

  16. Carolyn - I'm going to have to do dig up all that goldenrod and send it out across the country! Everybody seems to love it. The secret is I like it too but when it's in the hedge and the meadow. The goldenrod has other plans though and insists on living in the flower beds, crowding out everything else.

    thanks Jennifer. the space is both a gift and a curse :)

  17. Marguerite, I love those before and after shots. Spring clean-up is such a satisfying activity. (I love the goldenrod, too, but I can understand why you don't want flower beds full of it.) -Jean

  18. GOOD GRIEF Marguerite, how do you do it all? I am exhausted just seeing what is going on.

    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, good old tools are friends to me too. You just need to start reassembling your collection slowly, attend a few tag sales, etc. You'll do it.

    I've been bad about using the computer the past two weeks too. Lots of gardening, lots of work, lots of confusion.


    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  19. Hi Marguerite, You have been busy! I am having my own struggles with landscape cloth at the moment, so I feel your pain.

  20. You have such a gorgeous, gorgeous home. And what a dream to live on Prince Edward Island!~