Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Secrets can be found in any old garden

With the current Seattle climate--a yummy, springish warmth, even though the sky has been gray at times--I've been taking advantage of my meteorological good fortune. The past few days I've puttered around our place and spent time playing in the dirt. Our suburban gulch is in the middle of a transition, with our wall building projects. Lew found a reliable fill dirt guy, with a truck (hurrah!). He's been hauling away pick up after pick up loads of dirt and rock. I'm looking at doing some more terracing in the established garden on the north side of our lot. I started last summer, and it's been a good thing so far.

One of Rosie's most favorite books is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. If you're not familiar with the story, at it's most basic level, the book is about a bratty little girl who learns how to relate to people while investigating the wonders of a forgotten garden. That's what gardening is for me, salve for my bratty disposition. I always feel more relaxed after spending time out among my plants.

I'll let you in on some of the secrets in my garden. Every garden clutches a few close in to her chest. Let's start with the numerous grape hyacinths that surround the small batch of white candytuft I trasnplanted two years ago-- I have no clue where they came from. I have no recollection of ever planting them. I remember transplanting the candytuft-- I felt extremely guilty that the plant blob I dug up from the spreading blob on the north side of my lot sat in a recycle container for almost a month before I plopped it into the ground. And no, I didn't bring the hyacinths over with the candytuft; this is the only spot they're found in my garden. The purple and white are striking together. I love how they compliment each other.

There is a small lady's mantle plant growing under the every increasing blob of candytuft on the north side of my garden. I've known about this secret for a while. I discovered it last summer, but I thought it was a bit too small to transplant during the heat of August. It's thriving and ready for a new home. I'm thinking of moving it under the weeping cherry tree. I have another lady's mantle in the back yard that I brought home from the nursery before I uncovered my hiding jewel, so I think I'll save it from further tramplings, courtesy of Miss Virginia, and relocate both of them to the same spot.

The lavender start that sprung up right next to the sidewalk grew over the winter. I uncovered it when I scraped away the dead leaves I left to serve as mulch. It's about two inches high and ready to move to a sunnier location.

You know the two miniature roses crowded out by the rosemary? It turns out they're each two rose plants, so I had four to transplant around the "coolest rose bush ever that won't die, despite the odds."

As I've dug around the yard the past few days, I've been greeted by earthworms. This means that the icky, sterile soil that covered our yard when we moved in is living and breathing again. The beauty bark that smothered the dirt and weeds is almost completely decomposed and when I turn over the soil it's brown or coffee colored, instead of a sickly gray. Who would have thought that wiggly earthworms would crank my jack-in-the-box? Back in the day, it would have grossed me out, but today I can't get enough of those critters. They mean my work (or lack there of, as with the leaf deal) and methods of gardening without chemicals are paying off.

The time I spend reading about gardens has ramped up, too. Sunny, over at TCF, told me about the blog Urban Ecology, Renewing the World One Backyard at a Time. It's written by Howard Malone, who has "a B.S. in Environmental/Conservation Biology, an Associate Degree in Horticultural Science, and some 10 years professional experience as a landscape contractor." Two other cool garden/gulching blogs are Urban Agrarian (caution for dial-up people-- slow loading photos) and Road Kill Cafe at the MYOB Gulch(this is Morrigan's blog about the gulch she started with Jeffersoniantoo; they hang out at TCF sometimes).


At 11:32 AM, Blogger Gospazha said...

So how would you plan to avoid blackberry intrusion without chemicals?

My neighbor has some substantial vines that are now producing some healthy offspring in my yard. Additionally, a couple of the larger vines have taken to branching out rather than sending their spawn, and they're just too big to pull (and are not on my property entirely).

For now, I'm taking the "chemical bomb the hell out of it" approach with a spray specifically for blackberries, but I'd love any suggestions for non-chemical alternatives. I've just never come across any plant that kills blackberries.

At 12:57 PM, Blogger lewlew said...

I read somewhere a long time ago that blackberry bushes (and raspberry) could be contained by being vigilant at cutting it down to the ground every time it starts to grow back. It's supposed to kill the roots, because there's no leaves to produce food for them.

It's worked pretty well for me so far. The old place we lived, and here, suffered from many,many blackberry vines. I go out and cut them back when I see them start to resprout, and while they aren't completely gone, they are very few and far between now.

When I started, it was a bit of a chore, but it does work about as good as a spray, with the bonus of no chemicals.


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