What a difference a year makes.  Gardening and cleanup on the homestead.

BEYOND, Gardens, Home Renovations

We moved in May 2022, and I did a lot of planting in June and through the summer into fall. I also had a large portion of the yard fenced for the dogs which make the property look a little more loved somehow. I garden both inside and outside the fence and can plant things inside the fence that the deer would usually eat like Tulips. We got quite a show of Tulips this year!

There has been a ton of cleanup required on the property which has made it challenging to make any headway on landscaping or fun things, but we have just picked away at it.

Really I just saw a blank slate. All the before pictures here were from the first day I took possession of the property then we had the new septic and the fence installed right away before moving people and dogs in completely.

Day one…a blank slate.
The hardscaping is starting to take shape. Need more Stone Crop Sedums, Irish Moss, Thyme, Dianthus, Rainbow Rock Cress, Creeping Phlox, more stepping stones, and less grass! Trying to divide some of my own plants but waiting for the right time to do it. Brought some from the old place, and some of those came from friends. Plants can really get around!

Cleaning up deadwood was a top priority as there was a lot of tinder dry deadfall from hurricanes and old Christmas trees etc. in the woods surrounding the property.  Initially we hadn’t really thought about fire risk, but considering recent events I’m happy we took on the task.  The neighbours agreed to let us clear deadwood out of adjoining wooded areas and were thankful for the help. 

My friend Fulton is an avid birder and naturalist, and he suggested that if any wood was already decomposing or had moss on it leave it as it’s becoming part of the ecosystem but if it’s dry and recently fallen clear it out.  You can also cut some of the bottom branches to reduce fire risk but if you do too much the tree will get top heavy and may come down in the wind so you have to try to find the best balance and hope for the best. Over the course of about a year we had controlled fires in our burn barrel on a regular basis and just finished up the last bit right before the fire ban and subsequent NS wildfires so felt very thankful to have completed the project. It didn’t help that 4 giant spruce came down in the last hurricane and we had to deal with those too but it’s in the past now…whew!

Day one and some of the deadwood.
A year later deadwood cleaned up and a fence added.

We also inherited a rotten falling apart Chicken Coop with 2 huge trees laying on the roof that had to be removed before any demolition could take place, along with a bunch of barbed wire, poultry fencing, vinyl tarp, and a bunch of rotten packing pallets.

When I first moved in I thought I would try to turn the old chicken coop into a wildlife blind but the sad reality sank in over time that it was completely unsalvageable and had to be removed bit by bit.

Rotting deck and rotting garden borders meant there were many wasps and ants close to the house, and getting into the house on a daily basis. Rotting windowsills didn’t help much either but we fixed those up and bought some time instead of replacing them. The rotting rail ties that had been used as garden borders have been moved down to the Garlic bed as perimeter marking for mowing and it’s fine if they are full of ants and wasps down there fine spot for them in fact.

Anyway, over the course of a full year, it was just a matter of picking away at it.   Lot of garbage on the property too and in the crawl space so there probably has not been a garbage day in a year that we didn’t have a large item and black bag on every pickup day.

But I think we are at the end of that now and can just focus on landscaping and maintenance of the property.

Rocks are the thing I use most in landscaping as I use them to protect things that have been newly planted from sprinting Border Collies, to cover up weeds I don’t feel like dealing with, and to create definition for random plantings.  I like rocks because they don’t rot, and you can move them later if you want to.  The fire-resistant thing is less of a draw for me but not a bad thing.

This rock garden keeps getting bigger as I pull weeds and spread the rocks out and add more rocks. The goal is not to be whipper-snipping by next year. For now whacking down the weeds takes their strength away and lets other things flourish.

Anyway, dug up some before and after photos and it’s also all a work in progress so will be quite a bit different next year too.  I tend to plant things and as they spread, I drag the rocks out further and make the garden bigger.  Most things have only been in the ground a year or less so need quite a few more years to grow to maturity.  I tried to leave the appropriate amount of space for each plant at full maturity.  I chose dwarf varieties of some shrubs/trees, so they won’t damage any septic.

There is a lot of maintenance this year as I continue to weed and move little bits and bobs of perennials around but it’s starting to take shape.  The last thing we want is lots of lawn to mow and obstacles to mow around but it will take time to get it all right as trees grow into one another and create their own little areas and gardens spread and push out weeds.

This is a little Stonecrop Sedum I picked out of the driveway at my old house. You can often find it along railway tracks and curbs. I think it’s Biting Stonecrop and is a European variety that has naturalized but I’m no expert. It spreads very quickly and is replacing the mess of Dandelions and other weeds that were in this spot.

On that note the lawn has a lot of wild areas.  I may not be able to xeriscape that much area, but we can let a lot of things get one bloom.  So, groups of wild daisies, European Knapweed, and tall Bugleweed all get their chance to shine before being mowed down to refresh for next year. Even with a lawn tractor it would take forever to do it all at once so rotating tall and short paths seems to work well.  We found that the Monarch Butterflies and the Hummingbird Clearwing Moths were especially attracted to the Bugleweed and Knapweed so leave lots of strips and patches of that to flower.  We also leave strips of tall grass and wildflowers, so the Ring-necked Pheasant babies and other birds have places to hide as they cross the property.  Always trying to find the balance between natural and tidy. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one who says the Tri-Colored Bumblebee is their favorite.

The eventual goal is to have ground cover at the edge of gardens so if you mowed up to the edge it really wouldn’t matter too much.  Otherwise, I will surely run out of rocks and we’ll go crazy trying not to mow down perennials.

Well, that’s enough talking now for some pictures of pretty things!  Some areas before, after, or just because. Oh and I definitely think it’s a goal to have cut flowers from my own garden in the bathroom whenever possible. And to fill all my vases for that matter!

It’s been raining here for almost 2 weeks and my Peonies are rotting faster then they can bloom, so when the sun breaks this week, I will just watch birds, bees, and flowers and take photos.   There are so many species of bees, wasps, hoverflies, etc. and most of them are benign like the Dark Paper Wasps.  One exception is the Bald-faced Hornet which is a beautiful wasp with an amazing facial pattern, but super aggressive, in fact the most aggressive member of the already aggressive Yellowjacket family.  The Queen was around trying to make a nest for a few weeks she was docile, but we kept discouraging her and not sure where the nest is but hopefully in the woods somewhere we won’t get a surprise.  It’s handy to have binoculars or a long camera lens to identify stinging insects.  They are good for the garden, but you don’t want to be stung so don’t let them build nests near your outbuildings or other areas you will need to access to.  Last year the Bald-faced Hornets took over a rose bush on the front lawn and we had a 6-foot radius around that bush we couldn’t mow and the end of the summer the Pheasants ate all the hornets up!

Chicken Coop on day 1 and before the fence was put in.
Yeah, maybe I held on too tight, that thing was rotten!
Now the Chicken Coop area is being turned into a sitting area outside the fence where I can put a bird feeder out sometimes and not be disturbed by the dogs when I want to take photos. Going to leave a lot natural so moss and ferns can grow in but will add a bit of deer resistant perennials for color for photos. Balance is hard to achieve as I wanted the property fairly wild so I try to add, not subtract and keep things from going rogue/invasive.
Day 1 the blank slate.

When I looked at the house in March 2022 I thought it was a sign that I should buy it since there were lots of crocuses in bloom. This year on February 19th the inherited Crocuses started to bloom. There were hundreds followed by Grape Hyacinth a lovely show.

Followed by the 70+ Tulips I planted.

Then the perennials started to bloom. The Lungwort Dad gave me was an early bloomer on April 23rd. It was a small transplant and is starting to root deep and spread out this year.

Garden year 3 will be the showstopper but enjoying this year immensely!

I like to rescue sale plants from the slow death of the clearance shelf. It can take plants a while to recover. This is a White Rhododendron. I’ve never seen one and it’s actually a zone 7 plant but we are now 6B and I think it’s going to make it. Been in the ground just over a year and sloughing off the dead wood and has tons of new growth. Fingers crossed for white Blooms in summer 2024. I like to use my blog as a diary of sorts btw.

These are Narcissus which are just fancy Daffodils I think. Anyway, they are deer resistant and was great to have some early spring colour outside the fence and around the larger property so will plant some more this fall.

The big project will be a bigger spread of the bulbs the deer really hate, Garlic. I planted about 80 last fall and will probably do 200 or so this fall if I’m able to pull it off and sell some depending on how much we use this winter. In truth, I just can’t figure out what more to plant in that area that the deer won’t eat so for now more Garlic, and more flowers.

Just a little deer resistant flower garden next to my Garlic bed where I can sit and take a break or just have a bit of color near by when I’m digging in the dirt and need some inspiration. Alium, Coneflower, Beebalm, Lamb’s Ears, and Sage.

I thought I would plant Potatoes there because the deer aren’t very fond of them, but they are prone to blight and pests that can spread to other plants so for now will stick to my Tomatoes and Peppers and such in pots inside the fence.

I did plant some really nice Sage shrubs at the 4 corners of the Garlic/Vegetable garden though and the the Rose Marvel Meadow Sage is a real showstopper. Dad gave me some Lamb’s Ears which are apparently deer resistant so I planted those next to the Sage. Deer really don’t like Sage it smells very strong and they don’t like Lamb’s Ears because they are fuzzy. The plan was to surround some veggies the deer might eat with things they don’t like but you know I’m just going to have a big Garlic garden surrounded by deer resistant flowers right? Maybe one day I’ll put a greenhouse down there which will be dual purpose. In no rush even though it seems like I’m gardening like a woman gone mad, gardening is a lovely, slow, hobby.

And in the end, it’s all to get photos of my dogs in the flowers inside the fence, and birds in the flowers outside the fence.

Macy, my rescued Border Collie mix.
Milo, my working lines Border Collie, young crazy boy.

It’s hard not to keep reaching ahead and my new mission is to find some Abelia in good shape at a price I can afford, and maybe some Barberries as they are showy and deer resistant so can have some colour further from the house toward the road for cheerier arrivals. And definitely need to get a pair of Jack and Jill Hollies. I don’t think I quite appreciated until I had this rural property with lots of wildlife how great it is to have broadleaf evergreens that are deer resistant and also have colour in the winter. Holly gets a bit lost in urban subdivisions but is going to be wonderful here on the homestead. Apparently it’s better to plant it closer to the fall so lots of time. Well there is never enough time, but I will try to be patient.

What are you growing? Drop me a line. Happy Summer from Angela (and Macy & Milo)