The Gardener’s Morning
The robin’s song at daybreak
Is a clarion call to me.
Get up and get out in the garden,
For the morning hours flee.
I cannot resist the summons,
What earnest gardener could?
For the golden hours of morning
Get into the gardener’s blood.
The magic spell is upon me,
I’m glad that I did not wait;
For life’s at its best in the morning,
As you pass through the garden gate.
– Howard Dolf
30 days of gardening! It has been all consuming since we returned from South Carolina – but in a good way. Plans and daydreams we’d been having all winter have been brought to life. The solution to the heel-to-finger tip soreness I’ve been feeling when I wake every morning after a day or night of gardening/landscaping has been to walk it off – in the yard.
Project #1 Ring Around the Oak Tree
The Challenge: There’s a big oak tree right smack dab in the middle of our front yard. Over time, especially with this winter, and some heavy rains, the soil around the base of it has been eroded to the point where roots were very exposed.
- Shovel 3 cu. yards of soil to create a ring around the base of the tree, higher around the trunk and sloped towards the lawn.
- Add gravel and rocks around the the base to help with the water run off that comes down from the big fork in the tree trunk above.
- Get lucky when googling “Hosta nuseries, halton” and score a whole whack of plants at a hosta sale in a stunning backyard. Wandering this lady’s backyard was like being in hosta heaven. She has 500 different hostas! We took home this haul of hostas, astilbe and painted ferns. All except the largest 9 hostas were planted around the oak tree.
- Add hammer-in edging from recycled tires from Home Depot and 10 x 10lb bags of mulch – problem solved!
A week later, said oak tree shed it’s catkins (those things that hang down from an oaktree – and where the pollen is held) in a constant shower of green-brown strands and just buried the front lawn. It’s a mess to clean up.
Project #2 Cutting Garden
Challenge: I started dreaming about a cutting garden sometime last year, so when we began planning I made sure to reserve a space in the centre of our backyard. This spot gets full sun and is visible from both the dining room, kitchen and patio area. Key challenges in this project was the packed earth and those little nibblers – squirrels and rabbits. In April I started some flowers from seed, but they didn’t do well, although I didn’t have any problems with my veggies seeds growing under the same lights.
- Late May: We bought a hand tiller from Home Depot and I spent a few hours one Saturday morning, pressing, turning and lifting. Triceps, biceps and hamstrings were all feeling it the next day – but the tool worked well, and the bed was ready for planting.
- June: Planting! The hardest part was not overbuying or planting making space for annuals and determining what to put where – as I wanted the bed to nice to look at from both sides. I’ve got my “basics” in now, and soon the dahlias that I started indoors will join them. I remembered to put in a little path so that I have access to all the plants, and to lay down the soaker hoses before planting the more delicate plants.
- The wire fencing is from Home Depot as well, it keeps Shakes and the rabbits out of the flowers.
This is my favorite part of the backyard right now – it’s not even really filled in, yet I already know I’ll probably want it to be bigger in a couple of years, but for now, enough. For a list of plants in the garden – click here.
Project #3 The back strip
Challenge: A 10′ x 40′ strip at the back of the yard, underneath some tall cedars – not much soil there and what is there is very poor with lots of mysterious old glass shards. Apparently our neighbourhood was farm land with a couple of buildings where our house currently sits, the glass looks a lot like old thin window glass. Every time the earth offers some up, we get rid of it. Excavating the area is not an option as very mature cedar and pine trees grow along there as well. The area progresses north to south as full shade, part sun and then full sun, so choosing plants while still having a cohesive look was tricky. The back fence is a central rabbit hang out and the trees are highrise condos and transit routes for black and grey squirrels – sturdy plants are a must.
- Lack of soil: Discover the Dirt Depot – and get 8 cu. yards of soil delivered – pre-mixed with bone meal and blood meal. Our ever gracious neighbour helped with both his time and equipment and together the soil was ferried using a bobcat and two wheel barrows from the driveway to the back strip in one afternoon.
- Plants: Picking out the plants was a lot of fun – the only existing plant from the fall was an end-of-season clematis I picked up in October, and it’s come back strong even after being buried in 3 feet of snow. It lives in the full sun area of the strip, with some foxgloves, some from seed and some from Home Depot (pictured below)
The shed provides a bit of shade at the very back corner, slow growing Hakone grass can hide out there until they come into their own.
At the very front of this area is some creeping phlox, lemon thyme and some varigated iris that I bought because those leaves are really stunning! They remind me of fans.
The part-sun section comes next! At the plant sale the previous week, I had picked out some part-sun hostas and 1 big full sun hosta (centre stage), and they are doing really well, most only had 3 – 4 leaves when I planted them and less than 2 weeks later, some of them have doubled or tripled. Next we planted a row of 9 pink day lilies and 2 shasta viburnum which I picked because I love the flowers, but also because it has a horizontal branching habit that I hope will fill in the space in a couple of years. Lastly, we added some solar lights along the strip – they give off a really neat starburst pattern when lit up, but the main reason is that they help us see the dog when he wanders back there at night in search of bunnies for dinner.
The shade section is the north end of this strip – and it’s also the access point to a utility pole and shaded with trees – chinese astilbe, ferns and bleeding heart got plopped in here and are also thriving. I love these arching astilbe flowers, they remind me of fireworks.
Project #4 The veggie garden
Challenge: Finding time to plant out all the seedlings and watering
Solution: Wake up really early one weekend and plant out tomatoes, strawberries, eggplant, peppers, chard and salad beans! I’m installing a Lee Valley DIY watering system – I’ll post something on this soon. Here’s a glimpse of the veggie garden – the row covers on the left are protecting some asparagus roots and the green fencing on the right will hopefully keep the birds and squirrels off the strawberries and peas.
Project #5 Fence, gate and plantings (Work in Progress)
Challenge: We don’t have gates or a fence is some sections, and this is problematic as Shakes fancies himself a crusading dog. A regular Christopher Columbus. Not a challenge for him, but for us, running across our neighbours backyards during dinner hour as Shakes leads us on a merry chase. Well, that gets old real quick.
Solution: Find a reliable contractor to build a fence and two gates – this is like rocket science. I cannot wait until this project is completed – it’s the most important of any of these projects and yet is the one we can’t seem to get going on. Soon… soon. I’ve already identified some pink roses and hostas to plant along the fence when it’s done.
This weekend I am NOT doing any major gardening – it’s time to sit back and enjoy all our hard work. Maybe with a drink using that mojito mint I planted weeks ago!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go keep Shakes from eating the kale plants!