I guess it was the weather, the blooming stuff, and the noisy birds, but I got totally inspired to get the backyard ready for spring this weekend.


Of course, that entailed the boys and Daddy J assisting with various gardening and cleaning chores, and I was pleasantly surprised with the low level of whip-crack taskmistressing I had to break out to get the teenagers to help. Picking up fallen branches and burning them, weeding, tidying the side porch, power washing (until the newish power washer broke,) and lots of plantings in the ground and in pots. Yessss! And Papa took Rainbow for several long walks, so we could all get down to business.

Fireplace swept out, hummingbird feeder filled and hung.

My backyard theme this year is Things That Survived From Previous Years Plus Impatiens, which I am hopeful will work out well for me, since the impatiens went nuts last year. The soil of our backyard is clay that is sticky-stretchy when wet, and crumbly-hard when dry. It’s pretty lousy. Also, I suspect it’s got some residual toxic funk from when the house burned. And it’s really, really shady. All of which goes to say that nothing much grows there.

I’m starting to view that as a kind of twisted bonus: very few weeds! And I feel pride in the things that make it and thrive. I want to high-five the brave little hostas and hydrangeas and monkey grass. Good job, Fellas.

This year we bulked out the mulch section on an area of lawn to the side of the deck, after the turf we put down last year croaked. I added (with friend J’s digging assistance) a redbud, two forsythias, and a rhododendron in that new area. It’s kind of a multi-purpose zone; Rainbow has a blow-up bouncy item and a sandbox there, and I’ll get him a kiddie pool in a bit. It’s nice to have a mulchy area that doesn’t get muddy. J also brought us a big, potted Japanese maple that he had grown from a seedling, and that’s planted on the other side of the deck.

(Note: that green stuff you see poking through the mulch is mostly this strange, rapidly spreading bulb we get in our backyard in the spring. It makes the yard look all lush for a few weeks, and then it dies back, like daffodils. Some of it is the reckless spawn of our randy maple trees, which I wish would just give up. Every year they produce a million seedlings that I have to pull up. I wish they’d learn: You’re NOT going to be allowed to reproduce, dudes. Spend your energy elsewhere.)

I forgot about the spiky purple grass that I put in my patio pots last year, along with the impatiens. I really liked that stuff. I kind of want to buy some to poke in the middle of the pots I’ve already filled with impatiens, but at the same time, I’m feeling mostly done with the planting. I do think I’ll get some zinnia seeds for one of the raised beds, just so I can have cutting flowers. I had Brad weed and cut back the rosemary and oregano in the the raised beds for me, so they are ready for a little something in there. Maybe some cilantro as well?

I’m done with veggies for now, though. I love a perfect garden tomato so very much, but I think that growing them requires more energy (read: tilling, cow manure and frequent watering) than I am willing to expend. Same goes with yellow squash and zucchini. OH, I love yellow crookneck squash, grated and cooked with onions, garlic, butter, salt and pepper, with sliced heirloom tomatoes and cottage cheese.

(Maybe I’m not done with ALL veggies. Hm.)

I am no master gardener, by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do love a lovely garden, and have learned a thing or two over years of trying to get stuff to grow with minimal skill and effort.

Random Gardening Tidbits

1. Container gardening rocks. Especially in a death-zone yard, the containers give height and interest, and you can fill them with good soil. Added bonus: kids and dogs can’t trample them or go to the bathroom on them.

2. Monkey grass, impatiens, and hostas for shade. Creeping phlox, marigolds, and perennial daisy-type flowers for sun. Buy Miracle Gro planting mix to blend in with your yard soil when you plant.

3. Let people who are successful at growing vegetables know how wonderful you think they are and how much you want them to give you vegetables.

4. Compost.

5. Bird feeders look charming nestled in amongst your flowers, but avoid placing them there. The fallen seeds will sprout underneath them and you’ll have extra weeding. Hang them somewhere that gets mowed.

6. Morning glories are evil. Beautiful, but evil. I love them, partly because they grew on the banks of Plum Creek, but I have learned through bitter experience that those things are even more eager to reproduce than my maple trees, and their babies last through repeated winters. If you have a structure (or creek bank) that you want to blanket in morning glories, go for it, but DON’T plant them in a flower bed.

7. Yard art rocks.

Last, let me share a gem of hummingbird feeder wisdom that I learned a year or two ago. My hummingbird feeder had turned into a wasp feeder, which was pretty much the bizarro world version of what I was going for. The wasps ran off the hummingbirds and then hung around to threaten visitors. The solution: SPRAY OIL. Coat the holes of your feeder with spray canola oil and the wasps stay away. It’s like magic! When I refill the feeder, I rinse the old oil away with scalding water and then reapply.


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