Garden Log, Week of 4/26

Southeast Garden Bed

At the start of the week, I installed the landscape fabric along the inside of the edging. This tactic was something I came up with when I put in the first wattle-woven edged bed, and I’ve had a whole year to see it was a good solution to keep the soil from bleeding through the weave during rainfalls and waterings.

A few things I did differently this time around: I used a different landscape fabric: instead of the black plastic weave, I went for a tougher-level sheer fabric. Instead of cutting into strips, I folded it into thirds. Instead of using landscape pins to keep it in place, though it was a little trickier, I only used the pressure of backfill to press it into place. Overall: I’m pretty happy with the result.

Previously I had left about a 1-1.5 foot gap between the dumped soil and the edging so I would have room to install the fabric. Now that the fabric is in and the soil has been re-allocated to fill the gaps and been re-leveled, I’ll need to get more bags to deepen the bed… but this time, I’ll be mindful to make a choice other than peat.

Northeast Garden Bed

Not THIS year, Slugs!

This year I’m determined to protect my hostas and hollyhocks from the appetites of slugs. Last year was a challenge as I tried to find store-bought solutions that were non-toxic so as not to put our outdoor kitty at risk. Putting out mini dishes or basins of beer did nothing, and I was a little late in finding some organic pellets that seemed to work but had to be diligently reapplied after a rain in early mornings. Needless to say, the hostas and hollyhocks suffered many nibbles. I continued to search online for ideas and finally at the end of the season came across a video on YouTube that experimented with coffee grounds as a slug repellant – with significant results.

In addition to being impressed with their true-to-the-scientific-method approach testing other repellants and comparing results at regular intervals, I was really excited to see their rate of success with the coffee grounds. With that in mind, on Sunday I called a local coffee shop and asked if I could pick up a bag of used coffee grounds each day this week. Between the one bag left over from last season (workbench clear off), and the first fresh bag of the week, I was able to lay a moat of coffee grounds around each of the hostas and one row of hollyhocks.

I am trying to figure out how I might approach the alliums. The foxgloves were untouched last year – I think because of their own naturally toxic properties. I’m interested to see how the coffee holds up.

Sometimes burying your mistakes is a good thing.

Last season I was proud of myself for finally starting a little DIY compost bin, and was excited to have significantly less guilt regarding leftover food scraps. Initially the bin was kept in the garage, so it was set inside another bin to capture the water or ‘compost tea’ and not spill out over the concrete floor.

But it wasn’t long before swarms of fruit flies took over the bin and it had to be moved outside. The bin filled up quickly, and once full, it was difficult to properly turn things. Another new challenge being outside: catching extra water from rain and snow fall, and because of its location outside, it wasn’t turned all winter – and there was no more room to add to. By this spring, it was a squashy, stinky mess (though luckily – no flies!)

On one hand, I feel like I failed at composting. I hadn’t kept up with turning it, things had not broken down like they should, and instead of being simply moist, it was a sopping mess steeped in it own ‘tea’ for months. On the other hand – I couldn’t bring myself to waste any of it either. The ‘tea’ is full of nutrients that would be good for the garden, but the bin had to be dumped.

Compost fail redeemed: I dug a drench alongside the transplanted daffodils and tulips, shoveled the stinky compost slop into the wheelbarrow, then into the trench, and buried it all. Problem solved!

I rinsed out the bins (and wheelbarrow), and this time, I’ve got the holey bin set up on two posts so it can drain onto the ground. The other bin previously used to catch water I’ll use to store grass clippings and leaves to layer until I can get a larger scale composting situation sussed out.

Willow Bed – MOAR Willow!

The last of the willow arrived this week and I was excited to get them all into the prepared bed. What’s interesting about this batch is that they have buds (which honestly I don’t remember noticing when I looked them over when taken out of the mailer, so I wonder if they sprouted during their time in the fridge). I also found that for 3 of the 4 varieties, they sent me one extra cutting, so there were 6 to a variety instead of 5, and now I have a grand total of 33 willow cuttings. No complaints.

I arranged the batches in alphabetical order, because how could you not? As you go down the row, there are the 187’s, Americana, Belgian Red, Delphnoides, and Green Dicks.

Workbench Spring Cleaning

One of the perks of spring cleaning and clearing off piled off spaces is the opportunity to re-discover everything you already have. By patching up the last bare green-grassy spots poking up in the southeast flower bed with cardboard I had stored, I was able to reclaim additional shelf space in the garage for my pots and collection of DIY cloches.

It was also a good opportunity to review what fertilizers and repellants I have on hand. In short, I don’t think I’ll need to make any new purchases this season.

In the process of cleaning and reorganizing I also came across the set of cloning balls I received for Yule from my MIL, and decided now would be a good time to try them out.

Experiments with Cloning

I’ve been meaning to collect cuttings from my clematis plant to start growth on the opposite side of the arch, but missed my opportunity last season. I don’t know how well the cloning balls will work with the clematis vines, but that’s why this is an experiment. I prepped 3 balls with a mix of peat and garden soil, made a centimeter scrape/cut in the vine and pressed it into a ball and closed it, reinforcing with a twist tie.

Three other clone balls have been set to my successful rose plant, Gene, and I’m curious to see how that turns out. I chose a couple spots on the plant and am hopeful for success. It seems it would be best to check the balls in 3-4 months time (end of July or August), and if roots have formed, I’m to cut the limb off below the ball and plant the new root ball and stem in their new locations with just enough time to settle before the first frost in October.

MOAR SEEDS

The first sowing of Delphinium has resulted in no sprouts, so I re-sowed(?) another batch. (In future, I don’t think I’ll ever use coated ‘easy sow’ seeds again.) I also added more strawflower and larkspur since germination was low. The snapdragons I actually DID thin out, but need to do so again. In the previously empty cells to the right, I sowed more hollyhocks.

In the repurposed aquarium, in the cups are foxglove seeds, and the other seed sells are red poppy (low expectations – super old seeds, but hey), the last of the ‘all season color’ mix of seeds, chamomile (which is already sprouting like crazy, and lobelia.

I think I need to make a better set up, especially as I’d like to get into succession planting to extend bloom times. Hopefully my trip to Aldi’s is successful today and I can acquire one of the pop up greenhouses. I’d like to turn it into a seeding rack with light.

Highlights of the week

Early this week my husband broke out the lawn mower and made the inaugural mow of the season!

One of the Angelique tulips are beginning to bloom and it is just STUNNING. I definitely want to get more of these to plant in the fall, and I can’t wait to see the rest of them pop open!

I’m also very happy that the transplants from the backyard (the ones with the bulbs intact) have been blooming! It would probably be wise to make little markers now to indicate where things are before they die back at the end of the season as I look forward to future plantings…

I came across some videos recently that have been inspiring:

This (combined with the nearly completed southeast garden bed) led me to sitting down with my catalogs and instead of circling things with a sharpie, I’ve compiled the list (on a spreadsheet of course) of all the things that have caught my eye. The sheet also notates not only the cost and bulb or plant count per price, but the color description, sun/shade needs, and bloom time. I was curious to see how much the wishlist would actually come to if I ordered one of everything.

I’m not yet done browsing and compiling, so currently, the total is sitting at $401.57. Which… given the sizes of the flower beds I’ve installed, seems somewhat reasonable to me… but as large as the beds are, I don’t think all the plants would fit. So this is where the whole “checking bloom time” comes in (layered planting) and heights, color scheme… weighing pros and cons… And also: I’d like to investigate how many of the plants (aside from bulbs, roses, and evergreens) I can find seeds for rather than purchasing plants.

It’s also helpful because I’m able to list out from WHERE I’d order what plants. And that has also led me to discover that I could purchase a batch of 15 Angelique tulip bulbs for WAY cheaper at one vendor, than what I would pay for only 8 bulbs at another.

I’m excited to finish wishlisting in a way that helps solidify the plans for my dream garden!

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