Sunday, December 18, 2011

Garden Plans and Budgeting

Since budget is on my mind I might as well address my garden plans as well.  Part of figuring out my garden budget has meant figuring out what work I intend to complete in the garden.

Starting at the far end of the property is the crescent garden.  This year I planted it with dahlias, amaranthus and sunflowers and the easiest thing to do is to continue just as it is.  

Next spring I'll put the dahlia tubers back, and perhaps some of the sunflower seeds that fell will sprout.  If there is time I might consider expanding this bed but rather than plan for that I'll just see what happens so I don't overwhelm myself.

The next garden over is the garage bed.

So far this bed has done remarkably well and I have no plans other than to keep an eye on the hollyhocks I planted this year.  Despite cutting back the leaves infected with rust and thinning the plants in late fall I saw new leaves emerging covered in rust.  If things are still bad come spring I may need to pull these plants and think about replacements.  Okay, I'll admit I'm already thinking about putting in some large grasses but I need to give the hollyhocks a fair chance first.  I will put $25 in reserve though just in case some new plants need to make a home in this bed.

The vegetable garden is next and there is always work to do here.

Edging the beds, cutting the grass and weeding take up a lot of time but the biggest chore will be to dig over all the beds and amend them.  I've been doing some reading lately and I think I know the reason why my spinach and beets do so poorly.  It's a combination of acidic soil and not enough manure.  I already have some lime in the garage but I'll put $50 aside for manure.  $20 for seeds as previously mentioned will go to new veggies like peas, turnips and zucchini.  Last but not least another $20 should be put aside for nursery bought plants like rosemary and peppers.

Beyond the vegetable garden is the circle bed.

I started the ground cover Aguja 'Chocolate Chip' here this summer so hopefully that will spread over the next season limiting the amount of weeding I need to do.  Some expansion could be done in this spot but like the crescent garden I'm not going to count on it.  If there's time that's great but I won't plan for it.  The only thing I would like to add here is another evergreen.  I really covet those threadleaf false cypress so I'm putting aside $50 for a fancy new evergreen to add to this area.

The front entrance bed is where all the work is needed this coming spring.  

Removing weeds, moving existing plants, and edging will take a lot of time but it won't cost me a dime if I'm careful.  I bought more than enough plants for this space last year and hopefully they will start to take hold and expand.  I have good reason not to want any more plants as well because I don't want to overcrowd.  Too often I've crammed plants together in the past.  I'm trying to avoid that mistake this time.  If I keep myself in check this area should expand nicely without overflowing.

The final piece of the garden puzzle is trees.

This white birch was planted in spring 2010
To me, trees are the backbone of the garden and our large property needs more trees.  We have decided to allow our meadow (former lawn) to transform into a wooded area.  The grasses are beautiful but trees will provide wind protection and habitat for insects, birds and animals.  We have set a goal of planting 100 trees in our back acre and we've only planted about 20 so far so there's a long ways to go.  Some trees will be freebies, we find them in ditches like the squirrel planted horse chestnuts we have recently discovered growing in the ditch at the far end of our property.  I have a budget as well though for harder to find specimens.  Several local nurseries stock native trees at a price of approximately $10 each so $40 will buy me 4 trees like red maple, ash or balsam fir.  Last but not least I have my eye on a specialty purchase.  We have one dead and one dying apple tree standing in our front lawn.  These trees won't likely be standing much longer so I'm looking for a replacement.

The tree on the left just faded away this season and is now dead
Since this is such a prominent location I'd like something eye catching in this spot.  I've been thinking about Katsura or Persian Parrotia.  A local nursery carries these trees and more for a cost of around $20 for a small tree.

The final budget then comes to $225 which, while still a lot of money, is more manageable than what I've been spending.  And the work is much more manageable as well.  No big expansion plans just take care of what I have and hopefully find some time to enjoy the other pleasures of summer.


  1. Such a large property, how wonderful. You made great strides this year and should be congratulated. YAH! My heart did do a little jump though, when you wrote about planting Ajuga in the round bed as I would say, I love it love it, but M, expect to see it in your lawn and all around in four or five years. It just can't help itself ;-). How I regret being seduced by it's beauty but not always. The bees love it and the blue flowers, look gorgeous under any yellow hue plants.

    Again, Bravo...great job and great progress. Have so enjoyed reading your blog all year and wish you and your family the very best East Coastie Christmas.

  2. Sounds like you are moving into a less expansive phase of your gardening. Nice to sit back and fine tune a little. :)

    Looking good!

  3. Marguerite it sounds as if you have been very thoughtful planning your garden for the coming year, I love the idea of your wooded acre, the trees you buy locally are they pot grown larger trees as I have found it much cheaper to look for bareroot 1 - 2 year old trees,
    I'd not heard of either Katsura or Persian Parrotia so just did a search they are both beutiful trees I can see why you would chose them,

    re the veggy beds and lime, I learnt early that most (not all) veggies like a bit of lime but not potatos as it increases the possibility of scab, are you using a rotation system with your veggy beds most of the experts seem to recommend it?

    good luck with your plans, Frances

  4. Very smart of you to budget - it makes you priorities what's most important to you in your garden. I've often thought I need a budget, just to keep me from buying plants that catch my eye that I really don't need!

  5. Yess!! on the katsura for your specimen tree. It grows quickly, so your $20 will be rewarded. The persian parrotia is also a grand choice. Can you plant one of each?

    I too have planted Ajuga Chocolate Chip to cover some bare garden ground, so I'll be interested to see how yours spreads.

    You are making good choices with a limited budget. I particularly like your plan for trees. So many gardeners don't focus on the bones of their gardens, just on the blooms. I will want to see updates on your tree plantings next summer!

  6. That is a big task you have set yourselves planting all those trees. Apart from the expense it is lots of work looking after them, watering, until they have settled in and can look after themselves. :) But it is great that you are doing it.

  7. Brenda - Merry Christmas to you too! I hadn't thought much about the ajuga spreading into the lawn but that wouldn't necessarily be such a bad thing. The lawn is already full of weeds and the grass does miserably in that area so this might be an improvement? I loved the dark colour against the various evergreens and a yellow tinted variety would be a great addition.

    Ms.S - Although I have tons of ideas for more expansion I'm trying to sit back a little and take care of what I've already done. I found the garden a little overwhelming this year so felt the need to step back.
    Fine tuning is a great way to express what I'd like to see this year.

    Frances - there are both pot grown and field grown native trees available here and the prices are actually almost the same. I understand the potted stock is done by the province and sold essentially at cost so that's why it's relatively cheap. I find the field grown
    trees healthier but it's a long drive to get them. The potted trees have some good buys if you buy early and pick through. I really didn't think my soil was that acidic but it seems the likely explanation. This
    island is known for potatoes, obviously the acidic soil is no trouble for them! I have been rotating and after having blight this year will definitely continue the practice. Will be interesting to see how my tomatoes do this year.

  8. Holley - I feel like my garden consists solely of plants that 'caught my eye' right now. I need to focus on finding plants to complement each other now.

    Laurrie - I think that katsura is going to win out, they are just such stunning trees. There's certainly room for more than one and it will be hard to come home with just one so we'll see how my willpower holds up.

    Melanie - I had no idea how much time I would spend watering trees, that's one reason to cut back on other garden plans right now. There have been days where all I did was water trees in the back field but after a couple years they will survive on their own so I'm willing to spend the time there right now. Eventually they will make their presence known and I'm hoping it will be worth the wait.

  9. Good luck battling hollyhock rust. I quit growing them because the rust came back every year. You're wise to budget. The garden will be more enjoyable if you're not stressed about paying for it. Do lilacs do well in your climate? They would be a beautiful addition.

  10. You are so right on adding trees. They will add so much value to the property, both monetarily and aesthetically. Also as you mentioned, for the birds and the enjoyment you will get from having them visit and nest. My tiny lot has five big trees. It is probably too many, but, one is scheduled for a new home. They are invaluable in winter for the birds for food and shelter. A few nests were built this summer too. 100 new trees should be wonderful to have.

  11. Marguerite, I only assummed my soil was acidic because everything I read says peaty soil is acidic but then I realised that the wild flowers were almost all ones that grow on acidic soil, I have since read a good indication of the type of soil is to look at the native plants growing and your wild flower meadow has several of the same wild flowers I have, the sheeps sorrel we both have aparently only grows in acidic soil, one day I might buy one of those soil testing kits, Frances

  12. Marguerite girl .. If truth be told I would be afraid to figure out exactly how much I have spent each year .. I always say "budget" but it seems to run all the way through the garden season ? LOL
    I have a thing I do when handling "rust"... at the end of the season and annuals are cut down that have had rust(even in perennial areas) .. sprinkle garden sulfer over the soil, so all winter it works at the bacteria. It seems to help.
    You have such a pretty house .. I would think of cutting down those shrubs and replacing something that is light an airy or a special planting to mirror each side ?
    I know you have so much area to cover it can be truly daunting but you are doing a fantastic job girl!

  13. You must have a very large garden.You plans sound very exciting and as you say manageable.How fantastic to have space for all those trees.

  14. Wow, great planning Marguerite! I wish you all the best for the holidays!!

  15. Tammy - from what I've heard hollyhock rust is likely a battle I'm not going to win. That's why I decided to put a little money aside should I pull them. I have some plants in the front garden that might be pulled into this bed, I was thinking about the Monkshood but I also have two lilacs up there. Maybe a lilac should be moved to this spot?

    Donna - thanks for the vote of confidence. At first I was a bit attached to the idea of a meadow but the trees will add so much more value I think.

    Frances - I've been told my island soil is definitely acidic and apparently the effects of acid rain only compound the problem. You can definitely tell a lot about your soil by what grows there. One of the reasons I like to try and identify wildflowers is they give me an idea what my soil is like. I've done so well with herbs in my garden I can only assume the soil is quite lean, which is why the big load of manure required.

    Joy - a few people have noticed those shrubs and they haven't escaped my eye either! They are definitely going to be taken down in the future as there are plans to create a larger porch area around that front entrance. I love hollyhocks so I'm tempted to try the sulphur but part of me also thinks it's just more work to keep a plant that won't cooperate. I pulled my phlox this summer when the mildew got so bad. With such a large space to manage I'm trying to keep it as simple as I can.

  16. Kentish - it really is a huge space, almost 3 acres. Nice to have so much room to spread but I'm realized a lot of work to keep up with.

    Jen - Happy holidays to you too!

  17. Hi Marguerite, I admire your determination to set a budget and to stick to it. I am surprised that you are able to purchase trees for $10 and $20. Prices here are quite a bit higher.
    I think you are wise to focus of the bones of your garden and spend most of your budget on larger items/trees. I look forward to following your progress in 2012!
    I have a package for you that I will be sending shortly. Have a great Christmas and all the best for the new year!

  18. Jennifer - I'm lucky to be able to get trees at that price but keep in mind these are small trees, only 1 - 2 feet high. I can't afford large trees but the small ones don't require staking so it all works out. A whole package! wow, now I"m intrigued.

  19. Marguerite, I'm finally catching up with some blog reading, and I've been interested to read about your planning and budgeting strategies. I'm an inveterate budgeter -- a habit I learned literally at my father's knee. When I was a child, he got paid every Thursday. On his way home from work, he would stop at the bank and cash his paycheck. Then in the evening, he would sit at the desk and count out money into budget envelopes, a separate envelope for each budget category. At the end of the whole process, a little pile of coins would go at the back of the desk for each of us children -- our weekly allowances. Since I was eager to get my allowance, I would stand riveted through the whole budgeting process; it occurs to me now that this was a great way of providing children with some financial literacy. So I have a monthly budget amount for gardening. I love the way it piles up through the snowy months of garden dormancy, allowing me to splurge on some new plants in May and June. I must admit, though, that I've never had to buy trees -- which means that I can make my budget spread much further. -Jean