The garden is happening in a much bigger way this year. By that, I mean that I’m planting vegetables in more appropriate locations (no backyard shade tomatoes this year!), topping off the beds with mulch so the yard and garden areas are better defined, and tackling the flower bed weeds head-on.
In the front yard, we have 3 beds: one by the sidewalk that goes along the front of the house (1), one by the driveway that extends to the mailbox (2), and one in the middle between two trees (3). I guess the plethora of potted plants on the front porch could be considered another bed (4).
Previously, Bed 1 contained bushes, a small tree, the remnants of last year’s eggplant, bee balm, and pepper growth, two roses (the surprise roses), a butterfly bush, fennel, oregano, and a carrot. It was also bordered by out-of-control monkey grass. Bed 2 contained roses, a lot of weeds between the roses, some mystery bulbs, tulips, a few mystery plants, remnants of marigolds and some mulch from Mom’s improvements. Bed 3… that was a mess. That’s the one I worked on so much last year, removing weeds, planting flowers, and mulching like whoa. Five months later, it contained a bunch of matted weeds (something like burweed and something with little white flowers, just a big carpet over the mulch), and more weeds that I hadn’t gotten out the first time. The top half (the part I didn’t get to last year) was worse, but it also had some bulbs, a hosta, a small azalea and a bunch of dog poop. Yay, dog poop! Bed 4 had a bunch of pots of dirt, mint, catnip, a tomato vine skeleton, rosemary and parsely. How the parsely made it through the winter, I have no idea. It also contained a carrot.
I first tackled Beds 1 & 4, since they clearly needed the most work with the skeletal vegetable remains. I cleared those out, dumped the dirt-only pots into the wheelbarrow, ate the carrots and decided that maybe I didn’t want the bee balm any more anyway. It occupied a lot of space in the bed and I didn’t get any obvious benefit beyond getting to clean up the messy remains each year. So, when I dug up that section, I removed all the roots I could find. I removed the tree growing in Bed 1, hacked back the butterfly bush (BB) and trimmed down the roses. Because the roses are planted behind the BB or practically under a shrub, they grow really long stems before blooming, with some coming up through the hedges, some growing though the BB, and some going around the BB, into the previous year’s pepper area. (I don’t think they were planted there on purpose, and it wasn’t until the second summer that we even knew they were there.) I also cut the shrubs down and really went after the hydrangea, since I hadn’t trimmed it much the previous year because of some really big moths on the dead flowers when I still had some time to garden before wedding mania set in. In the plantable portion of the bed itself, I dug up all the areas besides that around the fennel (keeping it), dug out half the row of monkey grass (was invading the garden and needed to be thinned), mixed in some compost and dirt and planted okra seed, peppers (mixed variety of seeds, it’ll be a surprise), and tomatoes (mostly seeds, one purchased plant). Angus has a talent of killing good plants, so I moved the fence previously located around the peppers in front of the front step to around the peppers in the walk-through area. I’m hoping that this will give the peppers a chance to grow until they’re big enough that Angus avoids them. Then, I’ll move the fence to around the okra section because I think I planted my okra seed too early and will need to re-plant once the ground gets warmer.
Bed 4 saw most of its pots refilled and planted with starter seeds that will eventually go into Bed 1 or 3 once the plants and beds are ready for them. I put a strawberry plant (June bearing) in the large pot next to the door. I like being able to see the front porch now that the BB is cut back and thought the tomato by the door was too large. Plus, TCB doesn’t like the smell of the tomato plant.
Bed 2 got attention next. There, my problem was mostly weeds and leaves, so I raked out the leaves I’d piled up last fall for grass-killing purposes and started digging out wild violet rhizomes. I cleared around the tree and much of the bottom part of the bed, then planted the gladioli that I’d removed from Bed 1 (did I mention that I found a bunch of gladioli bulbs that I planted 3 years ago?) and the cannas from Mom. For the rose portion of the bed, I trimmed the roses waaaaay back and decided not to try to dig out the carpet weeds between plants. Instead, I covered the areas around the roses with cardboard and newspaper, then added some dirt and mulch on top of that, and the bed looks pretty good! I’m going to rake out some of the mulch in the bottom area that contained the annuals, put down some newspaper, plant some more annuals, and then re-mulch, but other than that, this bed should just need water and trimming, but not much in the way of weeding. I’m hoping the lantana will grow back, but I’m not hopeful.
Bed 3 hasn’t gotten much attention besides a little clearing of mats of weeds in the previously-mulched area. I’m thinking of raking it out and putting down newspaper for weed control, and only planting established plants (no seeds) in the bed. I’m going to have to wait a little to see what comes up this year, but I feel like this approach will leave me with the most manageable garden area with the least amount of frustration and work.
So, that’s the front yard garden report. Everything already-established seems to be really happy- the roses responded really well to their extreme haircuts (and fertilizer) and are sending out more leaves. The sprouting-in-the-box cannas are growing, the strawberry is flowering and has many berries started. I had feared that I’d killed the mint by leaving it on the edge of the front porch all winter, but it’s coming back strong. I can see my tomatoes and peppers sprouting, the pre-established tomato I bought has flowers, and the pot garden isn’t full of spiders and loose dirt. I still have some work ahead of me in the front yard (much more trimming, grass overseeing, weed boiling) and the backyard garden has barely been touched. We had a delayed start due to a tree taking out part of the fence behind the garden, making planting or digging ill-advised until TCB replaced that portion of the fence. He finished that last weekend, so I’m thinking of raking out that bed and getting compost and dirt mixed in this weekend. I’m also considering re-using the old fence pickets to make semi-raised beds back there to combat the high clay content and thinking of using the cut-off ends of the new pickets to edge front yard Beds 1 &2. But that’s something to think about tomorrow.