Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Clean Up

I meant to write a Triumphs and Tragedies post this past weekend but the Triumph was that the weather was so beautiful I got caught up in gardening and didn't have time to write the blog post.  It was a positively glorious weekend and I was thrilled to finally be able to get outside and get my hands dirty.  We even managed to drag out the barbeque and cook some hamburgers to welcome the start of spring.  As is often the case with Triumphs and Tragedies, you can't have one without the other.  I found more vole damage. Three Diablo Ninebarks are in ruins, another white birch decimated, and several perennials appear to have met their demise.  My only consolation is that with the snow gone the cats are now making short work of the wee vermin.  Perhaps more cats should be adopted?

My first task of the weekend was taking a look at my compost.  Unfortunately I discovered that it was frozen solid.  I hadn't thought of that.  The large bins that hold my compost together to keep it warm are also very good at keeping it cold.  All the snow that blew through the wire mesh over the winter has compacted and solidified into a giant block of ice.  Chipping at it with a pickaxe did little to fix the situation and now my arm is quite sore.  It seems I will have to wait for warmer weather and some rain to dissolve the contents.

Since I was getting nowhere with the compost I decided I would do a bit of raking next.  Our large birch trees spray down branches all winter long and in order to mow the grass in the coming months all the branches must be picked up.  It took no time at all to find out how a winter of inactivity can affect one's body.  I was winded almost immediately which was quite disapointing.  So I moved on to another project. 

Suddenly I realized why I never seem to get any one task accomplished in the garden.  I tend to get tired and switch to something else halfway through.  Not quite sure what the remedy is to that.

Well the next task turned out to be more branches but without the raking.  The apple tree branches that were pruned in February had been left to lay where they fell in the snow.  Now with the snow gone it was time to pile the branches in a far corner where they can spend the summer drying out.  In a few months they will be cut up and taken into the basement to be used as firewood for next winter.

Something that struck me this weekend as I puttered about and found I was quite pleased with is that, opposed to last year, I now know where everything is located in my garden.  Last spring I was scared to touch any of the beds for fear I would damage flowers that I didn't know were there.  This year I was able to dig right in and cut back foliage without a care.  The first bed I decided to clean up was the smallest one given my aching muscles.  I started with the tractor tire.  Yes I have a tractor tire sitting in my yard.  It's even painted white to match the house.  This a before photo.

Although it was mainly dominated by weeds last year I discovered there were some pretty pink flowers and a trailing sedum growing there.  When I looked for these plants this weekend the sedum crumbled in my fingers and the stem of the pink flowers was gnawed down to a nub by mice.

Last year this sedum was quite happy but this year it crumbled in my fingers
I left the nub in case the roots decide to push out some growth but the rest of the tire was dug up.  I have some Lavatera seeds that might do quite nicely in this spot.

Cleaned up and ready for planting
After that I still had some energy so I moved onto another nearby 'bed'.  I'm not quite sure if you would call this a bed or not.  It's really just a pile of rocks sitting in an obscure spot that doesn't appear to have any relation to anything around it.

That tuft of weeds is the 'bed'
Masses of lovely purple sedum have been planted here and thrived beautifully last summer despite the masses of weeds.

Last summer's sedum from this bed.
This year I decided to do away with this spot.  It serves no purpose and doesn't work with my landscaping plans.  I began digging up clumps of sedum, moving some to the tractor tire and some to beds alongside the house.  Then I raked up the masses of dead weeds so I could clearly see what I was dealing with.  With the weeds gone you can see it's really just a small pile of rocks.

Weeds removed, there is just a small pile of rocks left.
Hubby suggested the dirt and rocks be used in other beds that are being created which is a fantastic idea.  I'm not ready to move them yet but it will be a relatively easy chore to dig the last of the sedum up and move the plants with the accompanying dirt to a new bed.  Then we will just mow over this spot and it should eventually blend into the lawn.

When I was done enjoying the great outdoors there were still chores to be completed inside.  The Amaranthus seeds have sprouted their first true leaves and were beginning to crowd each other so they were moved to their own individual containers. 

More mystery seeds from MIL were planted and the black currant and Beauty Berry seeds that I had begun cold stratifying in January were brought inside to see if I could revive them.  The red currants unfortunately got knocked over in the wind so I'll have to try those again next year.  My seedling set up seems to have done quite well thus far and my only complaint now is space.  As the seedlings have been potted out to larger containers the table has become more and more crowded  Seedlings have now filled the entire table and many are living in window sills.  And I still have one more month before I can think of planting them outside.  I guess I should have waited a bit longer before getting my seeds started.  We'll be living in a tomato jungle by the end of May.  Perhaps I should think of building a cold frame this summer to accommodate seedlings next spring?

Is anyone else running out of room for their seedlings?  Where do you put them when you're still waiting for warmer weather?


  1. Sounds like a productive weekend! You'll soon get your puff back. As to space for seedlings... I have what I can only describe as a Space Crisis! I have to move some things from the warmth and safety of the greenhouse into the relative coolness of the plant house so that I can pot on the way-too-many tomato seedlings that are thriving, not to mention the seedlings inside that need to go to the next step. Coldframe sounds like an excellent idea - best build two, you know you will need them.

  2. Hi Marguerite, I do the same thing and switch tasks mid-way. I think it has a little bit to do with being overwhelmed with all the chores that need doing at this time of year. I also change tasks when muscles get tired. When my arms ache from raking, I switch to digging etc.. Sadly, this means that very part of my body is usually aching by the time I head back indoors.

  3. Janet - LOL, you're right. Why have one cold frame when two will be filled just as quickly!

    Jennifer - I know what you mean. There wasn't a part of my body that didn't need soaking in hot water by the end of the weekend.

  4. Marguerite I'm glad you had such a nice and productive weekend, I too switch jobs as I work about the garden, I love the cat paw in the first photo and I hope they get the little varmits that have eaten your plants, moles sound worse than rabbits!!! love your sedums, Frances

  5. Well Marguerite it seems that we introverts are much better with written communication than verbal, so I guess it makes sense so many of us blog. I'm not half as articulate in person!!! lol
    I WISH I had some seedlings growing - yours look so green and healthy!
    You've got me worried about the voles - I wonder what they've destroyed at my place!

  6. I, too, tend to quickly get bored with a project and move onto another one before completing the first one. What works for me is to find 2-3 projects, do a little on one, do a little on the next, and a little on the next. Then, I will return to project #1 and start over. It works inside the house, too. It keeps me from getting too bored - or sore from being in an awkward position.

  7. Hi Marguerite: It's such a joy to read your blog, we share "such" a love of gardening. My husband laughs at me as I start one job and change ten times what I'm doing..if I go out to the front yard from the back yard to get something I might be there working for 3 hrs.! I call voles, moles but what a mess! I mix topsoil, cow or sheep manure and grass seed together and start repairing..have all the front flowers bed raked off and the whole backyard to do..hubby started a bunch of pepper seeds, call them the traveling seeds, they get moved three times a day..I lost two large forsythia branches so cut them smaller to bring inside, hope they bloom..happy gardening Lannie..

  8. isn't that the beauty of gardening .. that it's a never-ending project, and that there are so many tasks to do it's not worth it to focus on one thing when so many are calling .. for me, that's the fun of it, too .. our tomato seedlings look good .. mine are at about the same stage .. do you think i could move them to a cold frame when i pot them up again .. that would be so great .. i guess i thought it would have to be warmer outside .. might try that .. thanks ..

  9. Frances, I've never had to deal with rabbits either so I'm not sure what's worse. Unfortunately there are also rabbits on this island so I may encounter them yet!

    Jane - I'm still shocked at how many introverts came out the woodwork with that last post. I had no idea what I was instigating there but it makes sense to me that introverts like to write. I wouldn't worry too much about your house as the trees and shrubs there are likely all mature and therefore unaffected by voles. They seem to like young plants as opposed to established ones.

    On My Soapbox - great idea. I have too many projects on the go so I tend to just keep going from one to the next. I need to keep the list smaller.

    Lannie - I know that story! I go to pick up a tool at the garage and come back 3 hours later. Now with a larger property I'm that much more likely to go missing.

    Jane - I've never used a cold frame but my understanding is that it can be used as a transition spot from house to garden. I have at least a month before the tomatoes can go outside though I might push it a bit as I bought some of those funny frost jacket things to try out. that should be interesting.

  10. Lannie again: I was excited to find lots of old storm windows in our garage in I mentioned to hubby, "how about a greenhouse" and he thought it a good idea..once we replace windows on the house, we'll have even more..I'm looking forward to planting on the island, hopefully it will be a longer growing season than here..frost hits here mid-Sept. we are supposed to get snow Sunday and Monday, how discouraging at this time of year..I have miniature purple iris blooming, hyacinths and primroses so hope they make it through.:)

  11. That is a lot of seedlings! Sorry to hear about the voles and your Ninebark and Birch. They are rotten creatures.

  12. Lannie, what a wonderful use for those old windows! A greenhouse will really help as the growing season really isn't all that long here. Of course, it depends a bit on your location. I've discovered this year that living at the bottom of a hill means we're one of the last to see our snow gone.

    Janet - I'm amazed at the damage inflicted by the voles. I've never had to deal with them before and I had no idea they could do so much damage.