Sunday, October 28, 2018

The lazy gardener

This summer I was beginning to think that the yard was becoming more than I could handle. Then a neighbor gifted me with a used compost bin (my old one was dying a rather ungraceful death), which forced me to dig out the compost, which took three hours on a lovely sweatshirt kind of day. That's when I realized it is not the yard work that is too much, but the HEAT. The temps this past summer were too high for too long, leading to abbreviated dog walks and no desire to leave the air conditioned comfort of my home. The trick going forward will be to figure out how to yarden despite the heat. All the wood chips we mulched with this past spring is a good start, as that labor has paid off in reduced weeding.

I planted some goutweed (a.k.a. bishop's weed) under the 'Limelight' hydrangea a few years ago. It has spread around the front of the shrub, just as I planned, but the area behind is still rather barren. When the goutweed blossomed, Jason at gardeninacity suggested I cut off the blossoms before they went to seed. I did this, but tossed them behind the hydrangea, in hopes of filling in that area without any real work.

While we were in Columbus IN this past summer, we stumbled across an alleyway with a long bed of Northern Sea Oats (or River Oats). I love River Oats, especially in fall when the seed heads turn copper-colored, but those seeds spread. The "prairie sampler" I planted on the south side of the house was an epic FAIL, so I plan to transplant those plants elsewhere, where they will get more sun and rain, and fill that bed in with River Oats from the front yard. Toward that end, this fall I cut the seed heads off and threw them in the back of the prairie sampler bed. Hopefully, some of them will sprout and take root.

What kind of labor-saving gardening methods do you have?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Another way to feed the birds

As I have mentioned before, I stopped filling bird feeders because of the sparrows. My backyard is too sparrow-friendly, to the point they were the only birds I saw. Also, they were stripping bark from the limbs of my tulip tree, to the point the limbs were dying. Bad birds! So I put away the feeders, at least for the time being.

That does not mean there is nothing for the birds to eat in my yard. During the summer, there are seed heads of course - sunflowers, coneflowers, etc. - but there are also berries, starting in the spring with the serviceberry crop. That tree is stripped clean in no time at all, by robins. As other shrubs and trees produce fruit, some is eaten right away, some in a more leisurely fashion, and some remains into and over winter.

Aronia melanocarpa, a.k.a. Chokeberry

The size of the crop can vary greatly from year to year as well. I have never had more than a few berries on the 'Blue Muffin' viburnum, but its cousin 'Chicago Lustre' went all out this summer. The 'Wentworth' highbush cranberry and blackhaw viburnum bloomed well but neither produced much fruit even though I don't think we had a late frost. It's a puzzlement.

Viburnum Dentatum 'Chicago Lustre', a.k.a. arrowwood viburnum

I'm really impressed with the crop on the hawthorn. This tree is not that old, but it is loaded with orange fruit. It's a delight to view through the picture window.

Crataegus viridis 'Winter King', a.k.a. hawthorn

The 'Perfect Purple' flowering crab is young, too, but trying to do its part. My dad had a flowering crab that held its fruit all winter along, to be descended upon by a flock of robins in early spring when there is not much of anything else to eat.

Malus 'Perfect Purple' , a.k.a. flowering crab

I do miss feeding the birds from bird feeders, though, and am trying to figure out a place in the front yard where I (and the cats) can watch from the window. My indoor/outdoor cat is also a problem, but the older he gets, the more indoor he becomes.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


My daughter sent me this pic of what I assume is a swallowtail caterpillar on her dill plants. She says there are four, chomping away. I offered up my butterfly habitat, but she declined. It's one thing if Mother Nature ends their lives, quite another if they die from neglect.

My dill is long dead, so now I am thinking I should plant it successively, to increase the likelihood that I will attract some egg-laying swallowtail butterflies.

Monday, October 01, 2018

As the worm turns

A few posts ago, I mentioned doing an entry on failures. But today I decided that there are no failures in gardening, just experiments and lessons learned. Also, one's goals may evolve over time.

The other day, I found myself gazing on the yellow, orange, red, and purple blooms in the backyard and thinking, "I like to look at these flowers, but the work involved is getting to be too much." So while most of my gardening over the years has been about expanding, now it's beginning to contract.

When I first bought my house, the northwest corner of the backyard had been used as a vegetable garden by the previous owners. It even had a rabbit fence around it. I continued that tradition until the nearby silver maple grew large enough to provide too much shade. Then the plan was to convert that area to a hosta garden, but that never came to pass. For one thing, I was not excited about the idea. For another, I had the silver maple (and three more next to the house) cut down.

For a while, I referred to that corner as The Meadow, but it was mostly Canada thistle. More recently, I started an orchard there, planting four cherry and four apple trees. This year, my SO helped me tote a ton of woodchips to the area, which I thought would keep it at least weed free, but volunteer milkweed popped up all over. Initially, I thought, Cool! But after a storm, all the milkweed fell down. And then the bindweed took over. Ugh.

Now that breeding season is over for the monarchs, I cut down all the milkweed. Today my SO helped me clear out the bindweed. Then I want to move the woodchips elsewhere and turn that corner into lawn.

I'm taking a hard look at the rest of the yard, figuring out how to make it attractive yet manageable. Stay tuned!