I'm TRYING to take a lesson from the snails and move at a slower pace in my backyard. This goes against my nature because I like to get things done quickly. But with the current water restrictions, and what I believe could be a total ban on landscape watering in the not to distant future, I'm trying to create soil with good water holding abilities. This takes some time . . . so I must keep reminding myself not to rush! Slow down and be patient! It's all about the journey and not the destination!!!!
In some areas of my yard there is wonderful rich soil where years of leaf matter have decomposed into a pretty nice loam . . . at least by Florida standards. In other areas . . . Compacted soil, red clay or builder's sand . . . Not so great.
These are the areas that I have to work on the most. I've been reading about a permaculture practice where they place sticks and twigs on the soil, add compost on top, then wait for it all to breakdown before planting in the newly enriched raised bed. This is called the hugelkultur method - which is a German term which roughly means "mound culture." You then have to be REAL patient while you wait for the twigs to break down. I'm not that patient, so I dig wide and deep planting holes, line them with the broken twigs, compost and leaf matter before planting the plants. I figure that the compost enriches the soil now, and in time, the twigs and leaf matter will further enrich the soil as they break down.Click here to read more about the hugelkultur method.
Photo Source: Pinterest (www.permaculture.org.au)
I like the permaculurist's idea of retaining as much dead plant material on your property by either composting it, or breaking up the small branches and twigs and placing them top of the mulched beds. It seems to make a lot of sense to retain as much organic material as possible instead of dragging it to the curb.
I once read a book called Zero Waste House which was very interesting and eye-opening ... I highly recommend it if you're into this sort of thing, and even if you're not! I know I could never have a completely "zero waste home," - - - I won't give up my toilet tissue - - - but I wonder if it's possible to come close to a zero waste yard. Sounds like it might be a fun experiment!
Afterall, gardening really is just one experiment after another. Sometimes we're successful, and sometimes we're not. The best part is we keep learning, and when we're successful we get beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables. Who knew science could be so much fun!
Because it's the holiday season, I planted a few containers with some red annuals for a bit of color in my hum-drum backyard. Lucky for me, hummers are attracted to red and it didn't take long for one to show up! A week after seeing the Mockingbird in my fountain, I was standing at the back door looking out over the backyard, as I so often do, and thinking about which plants to plant where when unexpectedly, the hummer appeared just a few feet in front of me. I let out a gasp and watched as he darted from one red flower to another.
At first he visited this container of red million bells . . .
before darting on to these red striped petunias. He then headed for a pot of red poinsettias before changing his mind, and ...
deciding to check out the spike of African blue basil flowers.
When he left the patio he darted all over the backyard in search of more red. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything else of interest, so he headed over to the neighbor's house for a visit. A few days later I moved the red pentas that were planted on the side of the house to the backyard in hopes of enticing this little fella to come more often. Now, I'm going to head to the nursery and pick up a firespike plant or two.
So happy to see the little critters showing up one by one!
One of my goals for 'ma petit' garden space is to fill it full of plants that provide a variety of nectar, berries and seeds for butterflies and birds. I'm blessed with quite a few American beautyberry plants that were already on the property, and many of my favorites - salvias, daylilies, agapanthus, bronze fennel, parsley, roses, pentas, sparkleberries, Simpson stoppers, wax myrtles and several others are still in pots waiting to be planted.
I have lots of these little rascals racing across the top of the fence line, but I really miss the birds and butterflies.
I guess for now I must be content to see and hear the birds in my neighbors' yards which are full of trees. So you can imagine my delight when I looked up from the kitchen sink and saw a Mockingbird taking a dip in my fountain that was full of rain water. There sat the fountain, surrounded only by bare ground and weeds - no seed or berry laden plants. Repeatedly, he jumped in and out of the water, and fluttered all about.
This one simple element in the garden was enough to attract this feathered-friend, who for a few moments enjoyed a blissful dip in the fountain in my garden. It was enough to bring a smile to my face, knowing that soon I'll be watching more birds drop by for a sip and a dip, and a snack on a few berries or seeds. Needless to say, I rooted through my stash of garden items in search of a couple of feeders. So, now I have hung a bird feeder and a hummingbird nectar feeder in my backyard in hopes of attracting more birds into my cozy backyard.
It gives a gardener hope that a barren piece of land can be slowly transformed into a wildlife habitat one element at a time.
Now that the inside of the house is squared away, I've been spending my days outdoors planting away to my heart's delight. And, what a delight it is! With days in the 70's, beautiful blue skies and lots of sunshine ~ ~ it's the perfect time to be outside in the garden.
The plants that spent the summer in pots were really starting to get to me. They were screaming for me to get them in the ground. So, I got busy and moved them to the areas in the backyard where they will probably be planted, and I repotted some plants which I decided to over-winter so they wouldn't freeze. I really missed not being able to plant my vegetable garden, so I did the next best thing and got a few vegetables going in pots. Better late than never!
The pathway through the backyard (which will be finished in bricks) has been established and I started planting around the large oak. A few garden items have found their spots like the bench (mid-way in the photo), the fountain and compost bin (back of the photo). Slowly, but surely, the garden is beginning to fall into place.
The walkway to the back patio been completed because I got tired of dragging dirt into the house.
More plants are waiting their turn to be planted.
Earlier this summer I purchased 4 Sioux crape myrtle trees, and while they haven't been planted yet, I am in love with the red color their leaves have turned following our recent low temperatures. I'm thoroughly looking forward to seeing them in the back garden next autumn when they are a little bigger.
This American Beautyberry, along with several others were already on the property when I purchased it. I made sure to mark each one, so that the builders would not destroy them. It is loaded with berries and is a real beauty!!!! Yes, that pun was intended!
So, while progress is slow . . . I am enjoying spending my days in the garden finding just the right spot for all my favorite plants.
A lot has happened in the last 3 weeks. We're settling into our new home. There's still a lot of boxes to unpack, but that all takes some time. At the end of our first week, I worked quickly at getting the front yard landscaped so the house looked a little more completed.
Luckily, the section between the road and sidewalk, also known as the "hell strip" is only about 18 inches wide. This is a positive in my book because why waste ground on a tough-to-garden area with numerous limitations. Opting to keep things simple . . . and because family and friends rave about it . . . I went with the Asiatic jasmine groundcover. Hopefully, it will fill in quickly in this small area.
As far as grass goes, this and a very small section on the right side of the driveway is it. A small, almost circular, patch of zoysia grass. Zoysia because the city gave me two choices: zoysia or bahia - no St. Augustine allowed anymore. I opted for zoysia because I've grown bahia before, and I didn't think it would perform well in this much shade. So, there will be a learning curve with this new turf, but at least there's a minimum amount of it.
In the last week and a half, I've been feverishly moving plants from my mother and sister's homes. This is a narrow strip on the side of the house, so I'll be doing a walkway and some vertical gardening here. I'm hoping to hang my orchids from the trellis once some vines are established.
There's more plants just hanging out in the backyard waiting to be planted, and
also on the other side of the house. I've definitely got my work cut out for me from now until May when the weather starts to warm up. My plants are not very happy with me after hanging out in pots over a long, hot summer. I'm going to need to work quickly to get them in the ground where they'll be happy once again.
One thing that is certain in life is "change!" A lot of change has happened in the past 2 years, and the time had come to simplify my life... a smaller and more manageable home and garden. A place where I can live for many, many years . . . grow old and still be able to manage my home and yard. So, a small lot was purchased, home plans drawn up and 5 months of construction ensued.
Before I moved from my previous home which was located on 6 acres, I potted up 125 plus plants for use in the new garden. These potted plants were temporarily located at my mother's and sister's homes while my new home was built. My mother kept saying, "I don't know where you're going to put all these plants in your new yard." Sometimes I had doubts about that, too. But I have this vision in my mind. You know. The kind of visions that gardeners have when they're dreaming up their new garden.
The only problem is every time I would walk around my new home being built, I noticed that those visions weren't matching up with the reality of "the small garden" that would soon be mine. If they don't all fit... no problem, I'll share them with other gardeners. But, I'm going to do my best to get all my favorites in my garden. Now, all I need to do is finish unpacking all the boxes so I can get my garden going.