Greenthumbing Day Two

FINALLY.

The weather and the fates conspired against me and I was not able to go out into the garden until MONDAY evening.  It’s shameful that “Day One” and “Day Two” should be so freaking far apart.  Stupid Newfoundland.  Spring just does not exist here.  In fact it’s supposed to snow Tuesday.  Of course.

Anyway, I did my raking.  The Pie helped tremendously even though he loathes gardening.  Otherwise it would have taken FOREVER.

Here’s the before.

Here’s the during.  It was the Pie’s idea to put all the leaves on a tarp and drag them to the leaf heap behind the shed.  It was sheer genius.

He grew up in a forest and is thus familiar with such brilliant leaf transport methods.

Here’s the after.  Admittedly it’s rather half-assed, but at this late point all the leaves have disintegrated and are impossible to rake.  The Pie says the rest of them will disappear the first time he mows the lawn.

I hope to have better luck with the slugs and snails this year.  As I’m sure you noticed with my Rodentia posts that I’m not a huge fan of needlessly killing living things that have done me no personal harm.  But these slugs and snails, they’re everywhere (and I mean everywhere), and they’re costing me money (that I don’t have) in replacement plants. My young plants have no chance to grow before they’re literally nipped in the bud by the slimy suckers.

And you can see that the slugs have already had their way with my tulips.

They’ve eaten all the buds on my iris as well.  I nearly raked up the iris while clearing out the beds due to their tenuous grasp on the soil.  I hope they don’t die.

So I caved and bought Scott’s Eco-Sense SLUG-B-GON at Canadian Tire.  Because the name is AWESOME.

But actually because the bait just stops slugs from eating once they eat it, and uneaten bait is safely absorbed by the soil, safe for other animals, children, pets … all that jazz.  I’m excited to test it out.

As far as the actual growing of things goes, I got nothin’.  The tulips, iris, and daffodils are doing their regular thing, but haven’t yet bloomed.  I’m trying to get a cutting from my indoor palm to root to give to Kª, and I’ve started trying to root some avocado pits as well.  If that works I’ll give you a little how-to.  In the meantime, we just wait.

I have been doing my research, however, and have come up with a list of perennial plants that are supposedly hardy here on the rock (shallow, rocky, lead-filled soil) and which I wouldn’t mind having in my garden:

Cornflower/Bachelor’s Buttons (these grew last year but they’re an annual so I’m not sure I’ll plant again)

Fair Maids of France

Hosta (though the slugs had their way with them last year)

Laburnum (which actually grows in huge trees next door)

Lilac

Lily

Lupin

Pitcher Plant (the official provincial flower)

Poppies (we had some success last year.  I’m hoping they appear again.)

Sea Thrift (apparently pretty rare but also native to the island)

Silver Dollar

Snapdragon

Snowball Tree

Viola (Pansies)

Wild Rose

The goal with this garden is to plant all this stuff and set it up so no one has to work on it while I’m gone on my fieldwork term.  Easy peasy is the key here.  Any suggestions (or cuttings!) would be most appreciated, just put your comments below.

***EDIT: I’ll have you know it has snowed TWICE since I wrote this.  The last time it snowed was yesterday morning.  Oh Newfoundland … ***

Advertisements

Greenthumbing Day One

The crocuses on my front lawn have informed me that it is, indeed, spring.

The tulips and daffodils in the backyard are thinking about making their presence known.

For the record, it’s supposed to snow in the days leading up to the day this will be posted (pretty sure it’ll be a Sunday).

*** EDIT: It totally did snow, the jerk.  We got about three inches.  Then it rained the next day.  Nothing like walking downhill in three inches of slush.****

I still haven’t put away my snow shovel, just in case.

However, today is Sunday (what a coincidence), and after a night of rain, the ground is dry and the sun is shining and I decided to get off my butt and do some work this afternoon.  It was way too windy to consider raking up the thousands upon thousands of leaves littering the front and back yards.  Doing things like that on a windy day here is an exercise in frustration.

Crappy back yard leaves.

There is something you should know about gardening in St. John’s: it’s not easy.  The soil is rocky and thin and nobody really cares about it because nothing grows in it.  Everyone in my neighbourhood, including us, has these horrid bushes lining the front of the property.  They are thin and scraggly and get massacred by the snow drifts every winter.  They look like crap but there’s nothing I can do.  I have to clean the garbage out of my front lawn on a daily basis, from the high winds and the drunken students.  Finally, I don’t own the place I live in, so this is why I haven’t taken a more careful approach.

Crappy front yard leaves.

I went out today with the intention of completing one outstanding project and ended up working on four, but that’s just how I roll.  Things tend to snowball with me.

Project the First

The snowplow, at some point in our long and crappy winter, got a little over-zealous and took a sizable chunk out of the lawn on the side of KK’s driveway (Elizabeth has two driveways: ours is on the right and KK’s is on the left).  The turf was still there, and still mostly intact, so it was just a matter of gathering up the pieces from the lawn and the walkway and stomping them into place.  I then watered the crap out of it and in a couple of weeks (when it is less windy, hopefully), I will scatter some grass seed on the bare bits. 

Project the Second

I had to seek out my grass seed just in case I needed it today, so before I put that turf back in place I made a foray into my shed.  The shed in our backyard is technically supposed to be half ours and half KK’s, but in reality it’s about ten percent ours, ten percent KK’s, and the majority is filled haphazardly with crap that belongs to my landlord and my landlord’s contractor, whose storage strategy is to plop all the heavy stuff (like tires) right in front of the doors.

Our stuff is of course in the back right corner, so I spent about half an hour or so moving things to and fro.  I didn’t take a picture of the interior after I had done clearing up, because it still looks chaotic, but now there’s a nice clear space in the middle and a path to the back where our stuff is.  I managed to dig up my gardening tools and lawnmower and put them in a place I can get to them easily.  I wonder how long that will last.

Project the Third

This is what the front bed looked like when the Pie and I moved in in August 2008.  This photo was actually taken in the spring of 2009, because I obviously hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with it.  That’s not true.  The bare patch is where I moved the struggling astilbe to the back.  The rest was a wash, a weird combination of grass, tulips, baby hostas, and lots and lots of weeds.  I was hoping it would just grow over.

At the end of the summer I had completely dug it up and planted some evergreen bushes.  I planted some sweet peas, too, but they never survived.

It had always been my intention to mulch this bed with red cedar chips to combat the creeping weeds that are incredibly tenacious in this part of town, and although we had purchased the mulch it had sat in the shed all winter.  Today I decided it would be the day to lay it down.  And it was pretty easy, once I got enough mulch out of the bag that I could lift it.

Project the Fourth

Then I realized that I hadn’t made a very good edge on the sides of the beds before laying down the mulch.  It looked ragged and messy.  I had an edger that I found while shuffling through the shed but the soil wasn’t deep enough for me to get a decent edge.  In the end I did what I did to the backyard beds last year and edged them with rocks.

The backyard after I rocked the beds last year.

My quarry in the backyard leads to the scary basement of our house, and consists of the crumbling foundation of a previously collapsed back porch.  I have pulled hundreds of rocks out of this area over the past year and I am only now starting to notice a decline in the availability. I actually had to dig some of the rocks out of the deteriorating concrete matrix.  It was kind of fun, but hard work, jimmying the bigger ones out of the old foundation.

Quarrying from the matrix.

In any case, today I had to do some searching to get some consistency in my rocks.  I put larger ones at the corners of the beds and the Pie helped me to carry them from the backyard to the front. 

I also took some of the larger chunks of concrete that had a flat edge and made a little stepping area for people who don’t want to go all the way around the bed (like me).  You’ll notice that I scaled the rocks down near the stepping area so clumsy people wouldn’t trip (like me).

I’m no landscape artist, but this wasn’t bad for an afternoon’s work and all four tasks took me just under three hours.  I was quite pleased.  Now I just gotta figure out what else to plant in that bed.

Greenthumbing Take Two

Happy Spring!

Well, not quite yet.  We had a blizzard last week that set things back a pace or two.  The above photo is one I took last spring around this time.  In fact, all the photos in this post are from my garden last year.

Last spring I had all sorts of plans for my garden.  I was going to create a simplified version of a wildflower garden, and plant things that I could name off the top of my head and that I knew how to care for.  I had all my seeds planted indoors, soaking up the sunshine from the warmth of my kitchen.  I was ready to go.Things did not work out the way I had hoped, however.  It was a cold spring and we had a last-ditch blizzard in late May.Most of my seedlings died because I had ignored the frost warnings.  The rest were eaten by slugs.  Even my marigolds, which I planted as slug repellents.  Who knew?

I did have some successes, however, and you can see the results here.

My failures were many, however, so this year I plan to start afresh: no seedlings, just mature plants, and everything will be simple and hardy enough for shallow, rocky, lead-lined soil.

Stay tuned!

Ottawa Style Loves My Parents’ Garden

My parents’ garden is more famous than I will ever be.  But I’m okay with that.  Now you can see what I have to live up to in terms of DIY.

My parents' garden, as photographed by Ottawa Style Magazine

Unfortunately that’s the largest image I have, so I’ve transcribed it below:

Why:
All the exuberance of spring. Peonies, irises, lupins, and poppies.
Best Time to Visit: Mid-June
What: When Janet and John Bell moved to their grey clapboard house 12 years ago, there was no garden.  But they brought the backbone of a garden with them in plastic bins from their house near the Rockliffe airbase.  Hostas and peonies, irises and lupins, 13 varieties of thyme, clematis, lavender, honeysuckle, and pink poppies now thrive in this garden that wraps around two sides of the house.  “We started from the house and worked outwards toward the road,” says Janet, an artist who works in fine detail in pen and ink.

The garden is a history of their marriage.  The peonies, a colour card of pinks from deep to pale, were all given to the couple by the minister who married them 34 years ago.  There’s also a hosta that came from John’s father and is over 20 years old.  These plants have travelled all over Canada with them as they have moved from coast to coast for John’s work.  Irises are a particular favourite of the couple — there’s a spectacular example of the pink bearded variety ‘Beverly Sills’ — and they have grown several unusual varieties from seed.  In high gardening season, they spend about three days a week keeping up with the exuberant growth, and in fall they fertilize their sandy soil with sheep manure and peat moss.  The secret to this splendour is simple: “If it doesn’t thrive, get rid of it,” says Janet.

The Shining: This garden is a riot of colour in early summer, with peonies, poppies, irises, clematis, and all manner of perennials.  Irises (show to full advantage at right) are a particular favourite of the couple, who, over the years, have dug up and taken their favourite plants with them whenever they moved.