May 29, 2014

A Very Long Yard Update

Oh... the yard. I have been SO busy with upkeep in the yard, and yet progress is so slooooow. It just takes so much time to widen garden beds and time these days is so precious. I spent almost a whole day digging outside in the dirt and several evenings when I’m not working on the kitchen set. And yet my progress feels like molasses.

In the front yard, a few weeks ago I completely underestimated the size of our gigantic astilbe when I added new flowers. Full sized it completely swallowed up the columbines and they were suffocating from lack of light. We had a weird wedge of grass between the bed and the driveway (I’m not totally sure why except that we arbitrarily chose to line up the edge of the bed with the edge of the stairs) so I decided to widen the front bed all the way. I didn't take a before picture, but you can see the weird grass wedge in this picture:

I dug up the sod and moved the flowers so now they have plenty of room. I added more black mulch to finish things off. There’s a pretty big hill here, so I also put in a few leftover patio pavers down along the edge to keep the mulch from washing down the driveway in the rain. It’s not the most attractive option but it was free - maybe I'll spray paint these with leftover bronze paint so that they are dark and blend better? Or maybe when we do the mailbox garden we might invest in a real border.

In the back I’ve been slowly widening the long perennial garden bed, along with weeding and mulching the existing beds. I’ve had to widen everything because our plants have grown so much! After 3 years they are now “mature” and need more space, so I’ve been creating new curved lines with my shovel, removing sod and widening the entire thing by 1-2+ feet all the way down (depending on the curve). My progress has reached the back astilbe - I have a long way to go. You can click on the panoramic below to enlarge it.

I’ve also been including a nice clean edge with a small trench all the way down. When I mulch the new section of the bed, I always put down a layer of newspaper (2-3 sheets thick) first and then cover it with mulch. It acts as a weed blocker - essential if you hate weeding like I do!

You can see where i stopped more clearly in the picture below where grass meets plants again (at the astilbe next to the rhubarb). The widened mulched beds just look so much better!

I was convinced my poor little fig tree was dead. I cut it way back, hoping to find signs of life, but it was all dead wood inside. My neighbor’s giant fig tree had to be cut back to very sad looking 3 ft high base and they wrap theirs in real house insulation and plastic. This winter was just brutal. Our crepe myrtle was seriously damaged and had to be cut way back, but it survived thanks to the radiant heat from the house. I’m seeing crepe myrtles all over my neighborhood being cut down (big old ones that have survived decades of winters). So if all those trees were gone or that damaged, I figured that our brown turkey fig with all that dead wood (from being wrapped in only leaves and burlap), was definitely gone for good.

So I did some research and found the Chicago Hardy fig tree that can survive zone 5 winters, up to -15 degrees. Some nursery on amazon just happened to have one on sale for $5. Perfect! So I ordered it and when it arrived I went out with my shovel to the old fig tree to replaced it… and I saw this:

Yep. Those green things are new branches coming from the root/base of my tree. We might not get figs this year with so much die-back, but the tree isn’t dead. It’s very much alive! So now I have two fig trees… at least that means we’ll eventually get twice the figs? Maybe? I’m running out of patience - I want figs already!

Old brown turkey fig tree, completely trimmed back with new growth:

New, teeny tiny Chicago Hardy fig tree:

So now that I have an island of mulch with two fig trees in front of the astilbe, and the astilbe bed needs to be widened next, I’ve decided to just have the curved bed jut out all the way to the trees. When I rearrange the plants, this will be a good place to create some nice layering. So that’s next on my gardening to-do list… followed by widening the bed in front of the lilies and blueberries, then around my fothergilla bush, the dogwood, the river birches in the way back and finally up the thuja bushes that I ignored completely last year… there’s still a lot to do!

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