Planting, Round 2

After the beach interlude, it’s back to the garden. I’m counting round 1 of planting as when I put all the trees and shrubs in the ground a few weeks ago. Round 2 consists mostly of perennial flowers and herbs that will be edible at least to some extent, and fulfill various functions — confuse pests, attract beneficial insects, accumulate minerals, provide habitat to beneficial insects. It doesn’t look like much at the moment, but hopefully in a few weeks things will be considerably greener.

I set up a small tunnel to germinate seeds in, of which I’ve acquired many over the last few months. In the end it was too much of a pain in the ass to start all the seeds in trays and pots, and I ended up just broadcasting most of them throughout the yard and hoping for the best. Seeds started in the tunnel: Russian comfrey, sweet cicily, bee balm, garlic chives, pumpkins (for Halloween), and corn. I think that’s everything; I was a bit hung over yesterday morning and was on autopilot for a good chunk of the morning. The hangover may or may not have contributed to my decisions to broadcast most of the seeds…

Speaking of which, seeds that were broadcast: creeping thyme, German chamomile, hysop, dandelion, yarrow, borage, basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley. I’m probably forgetting something in there. Some of these were broadcast in only one space, and some are sprinkled throughout the yard.

So here’s a rundown of what I planted, and where. Starting by the pond, I planted a mix of sunflower seeds in the big driftwood beds. Around the edge of the pond I planted a wildflower seed mix. I wanted something easy that will at least look nice and get some bees into the yard. My neighbors kid promptly kicked his ball into the yard and trampled through not only the wildflower bed but into the pond itself. It’s pretty low on water at the moment but the bottom is muddy and slick, and he nearly made a mess of himself.

I still can’t tell if the cattails are growing or not. Something’s protruding from the bottom of the pond, but I’m not sure if it is new growth or stubs left over from the original plants.

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In the side yard, I haven’t done anything in the keyhole bed yet — that will have veggies and it’s still too early for those. In the long bed next to the walkway I planted asparagus (more on that in a moment), and in the round bed I just broadcast a bunch of seeds. I’m thinking that next fall this will be my garlic/onion bed, so I decided to plant some kind of green manure for the summer. I intended to use red clover, since I have a giant bag of red clover seed, but I can’t seem to find it at the moment. So for now it got a selection of the seeds I mentioned above.

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Regarding asparagus, I always see seeds for sale and that’s how I intended to grow it. But this year for the first time I saw asparagus crowns for sale, and that seems like a faster option than starting from seeds. If you aren’t familiar with asparagus crowns, they look like this — I guess they are the root systems of asparagus plants.

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You dig a trench and spread out the crowns, then bury them, and wait a year or two.

Moving on to the front yard, up close to the house I planted a few kinds of potatoes. You can sort of make out the beds running along the row of rocks. I’m rolling the dice a bit by just sticking them in the ground rather than mounding up the dirt like I’ve always done. I started mounding it up but it would have entailed re-grading all of the beds to maintain proper drainage, and like I mentioned, I was a bit hung over. The soil is plenty deep enough, so we’ll see how the taters turn out. I’ll plant daikon here in the winter.

It’s hard to see in the picture, but along the fence at the far end of the yard I planted the Jerusalem artichokes and some myoga, which is a type of ginger.

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In the remainder of the beds, I planted the edges with seedlings of: wild strawberry, sage, oregano, artichoke, rosemary, lemon balm, St. John’s Wort, Penny Royal mint, Mallow, and chives. Now I just need to figure out how to use half of these things!

The open spaces in the middle of the beds got a mix of the seeds I mentioned earlier.

I got a nice surprise this evening when, just for the heck of it, I checked the Shiitake logs.

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I was under the impression that it would be at least a year until the logs started producing mushrooms, so I’m not sure what’s going on. No complaints though.

It’s looking warm and sunny for the next few days after a little rain today, so I hope there will be a whole lot of germination going on around here. May my yard never be this brown again!

By the way I’ve been being hounded by children throughout the writing of this post, so apologies for what I’m sure are ample grammar/spelling/nonsensical English mistakes, but there’s no way I’m proofreading this right now.

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Last Hurrah

I remember a few years ago when I thought ‘Man, my life would be easier if my son could use a computer mouse and dial up his Youtube videos all by himself.’ Well he knows how to use one now, and put his talents to delete the original version of this post. So here’s the abbreviated rewrite: Took a nice drive today to the Kaga region of Ishikawa (about 30 minutes from my house), found a beautiful stretch of coastline heretofore unknown to me. Can’t wait to go back when it’s not snowing!

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Another picture that I’m fond of from a local beach a few weeks ago.

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Warm weather’s coming — the garden is poised for action!

Pond Drainage 2.0

Well, the ghetto pipe system that I showcased in my previous post started not working so well, and it was clear some modifications were in order. The pipe itself was too short, plus it was rather unsightly hanging out over the road and draining dirty water onto the sidewalk. I’d like to be a little less conspicuous than that. But more than that, not enough water was draining, and the garden was once again flooded after a few days of steady rain.

Finally the water level went down enough for me to excavate a channel in the bank of the pond and put in a longer, wider pipe.

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All the while I was filling up the pond to the point where it would overflow into the pipe. Over the last couple of days I had been monitoring the water as it slowly drained out, and when it was at the level that I hoped to make the new high-water mark, I jammed a pole into the pond and marked the water level on it. I tried to make sure the drain pipe was at approximately the same height. Almost there…

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Inconspicuous drainage! Especially considering that this thing will only be working when it’s raining heavily, and the rest of the sidewalk will be wet as well.

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Here’s the final result. Once those beds are overflowing with vegetation and three’s some water-loving greenery in the pond itself, you’ll never know there’s an unsightly pipe seeping water onto the sidewalk.

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There are a few problems with this setup. First, it’s such a waste to just lose water that I could potentially store and use in the garden itself. I’m hoping that once my garden is established, the many plants will be soaking up more water and less will be draining off the land. As it stands, there’s nothing really to do that job, and gravity is just carrying all the water away. If I’m still losing water at such a high rate even with established plants, I’ll tweak the system so that I can capture more of the water.

The other issue is that, even though I packed the bejesus out of the dirt as I filled in the channel around the pipe, some water still seems to be seeping through. It’s not horrible, and I’m hoping that as the dirt settles and compresses (are those even different things?) it’ll seal up.

But cosmetically a hell of lot better than what was going on there before… And we’re forecast for a day of rain tomorrow, so it’ll be a good test to see if this system actually works.

I think in the next week or so I’m going to get a bunch of seeds started, so that’ll probably be my next posting.

Bring the Spring

Lots of good things happened today. It was beautiful, first and foremost. I got up early, watched an exciting Bruins’ game and had a nice pump sesh. I followed that up by unloading that damn fridge from the porch, at long last. Had the house/garden to myself all afternoon, so got in a bit of yard work and went for a freakin run, followed by a trip to the store to get all the wine I’d earned. Came home and had a cocktail on the fridge-less porch in the late-enough afternoon sun and then played some guitar. Eventually my wife and kids came home, and I’ve long since lost my cool, but lots of good things happened today.

Action around the garden has been limited lately. Part of my reason for wanting to get everything set up landscaping-wise was to have some time to assess any flaws with my design while I still have time to correct them before really going full-on with plantings. In particular, I wanted to make sure I had proper drainage.

In that regard, it’s great that the weather has been complete shit for the last week, with rain for days on end, because I got to see that this is what happens when it rains a lot:

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My ‘pond’ is actually intended to be more of a wet, swampy corner of the yard that sometimes achieves pond status, but more often is just soggy enough to support the cattails I planted (which are showing signs of life, by the way!). I’ve been mulling the idea of some sort of outflow for the pond when it gets too full, and seeing the water infiltrating so much of my re-designed garden finally spurred me to action. So off to the pipe shop I went and procured some pipe. The section I bought was a bit too short, and when I pounded it through the bank of the pond nothing happened. When I pulled it out, however, water came flowing forth. The only problem with this was that it was now pouring into the beds that lie on the other side of the pond, and also running beneath the timber retaining wall — all kinds of erosion. So I jammed the pipe back in about halfway and ta-da…

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This system needs a lot of improvement, but for the immediate future it will do the trick. The biggest issue is that I’m disposing of valuable water that I could store and use when it isn’t raining every day. The good news is that all the channels I dug leading to the pond worked like a charm, and the upper portions of the garden shed water nicely.

The other area that has been majorly retaining water is the entry path to the keyhole garden in the side yard. I tried make a channel for water to run out, but it wasn’t working at all. So I un-retired my rock-stealing gloves and nabbed a few of the largest, flattest stones I could find at the beach during my last driftwood scavenging trip. Realizing that I’d racked up a pretty hefty karmic debt in the rock-stealing department, I actually sprung a few yen this afternoon to buy some gravel to fill in the gaps around the rocks. So this area will still accumulate a good bit of water, but the stones and gravel should make entering the keyhole garden a less-muddy task.

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Last, and definitely least, I gave the driftwood treatment to a couple of beds on the side of the house. Garlic and red onions are growing there now, but once I harvest those in a few months I’ll put the finishing touches on this design.

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I’m still waiting on my Black Locust tree. I stopped by the nursery on Thursday and they said it would be in on Saturday. Today is Sunday and I still haven’t heard from them, so the gaping wound in my garden where a tree should be remains festering. (Is that dramatic?) Just as well though since we’re forecast for snow most of the week, so not great weather for planting trees anyway.

I also ordered and received a bunch of seeds, but I’ll save that for another post since there won’t be much garden action for a bit. Until then… happy daylight savings Americans.