Gardening is known to be very therapeutic and has gotten me through some pretty rough spots. If you are feeling a little helpless these days it might give you some sense of control while things seem to be spiraling.
I’m lucky enough to have a fenced in yard and a side garden, but if you don’t have as much space rest assured there is all kinds of container planting you can do. And if you don’t have that, you can even grow herbs in sunny windows so please do not despair.
My little friend Macy likes to be outside in the yard when I’m out there of course. She has the backyard mostly to herself, and the side garden is double-fenced so she can’t be in there unless I bring her in with me.
You can see the two moods of Macy depending on which side of the fence she is on. If only she understood I’m really trying to keep her from eating bees!
Anyway, I’m a bit of a taskmaster when it comes to household lists for myself so naturally, I have a long list of things to do in my garden which is very welcome at the moment. We are all fighting pandemic angst, and this is my panacea of choice.
There is the list of “never do again” plantings which are based on complete failures from previous years. The list for “try again with improvements” for things that failed with good reasons, such as not observing our full moon in June planting rule for last frost. Last year was completely unforgiving to anyone who relaxed that rule in the past few years. Noted and oops! Finally, there is the “do more of” list, which is full of successes to expand and improve on. The easy for me veggies like Beans and Peas and Garlic go here along with flowers from Bulbs and easy seeds like Cosmos and Marigolds.
It’s chilly out there so I like this time for heavy work like digging and pruning. I dislike grass as a ground cover (boring, does not improve soil, gets full of weeds, requires way too much maintenance and has to be mowed!) so have been working slowly over the past few years to decrease the amount of grass on my property. It’s not easy as you really need to plant something non-invasive that will spread (with a healthy speckling of big thirsty Hostas in spots that tend to be damp or mossy) and stay healthy and durable in its place or you get weeds moving in very quickly. I have some Bugleweed in the backyard which is great for a dog yard, but the front lawn is very sunny and there is a lot of shale under the sod. I may have to make a raised bed for my perennial dream.
Wild Parsnip or some similar nastiness is trying to take over the dream slope near my curb I’ve been trying to do something with so it might be time to completely dig it up and replace it with Clover. I planted 4 large Hostas there, and some Spurge and recently added some Honeysuckle which flower and feed a neighbor’s hive residents all summer I think.
The slope is a tough area to mow. Clover doesn’t get very tall. It’s great for the soil, and the bees love it. It’s thick and pushes out Dandelions and other lawn invaders. Going to be great filler for now, and will be on the next Halifax Seed order.
My dream for “the slope” is a perennial rock garden but I will have to build that slowly because I don’t have the rocks, and I don’t have the perennials. Seems I forgot that the beautiful flowering ground cover I love the most like Phlox and Dianthus and Aubrieta should have been started inside months ago or planted last summer to bloom this spring. Nursery transplants are expensive so I will take it in baby steps which means cover in clover now and gradually create small rock garden components adding more over the years. Well that’s how I do things anyway because I can’t afford a landscaper and a bunch of materials, so I take things slow and move little bits and bobs around over time.
These are three of the “hardy perennials for zone 5” I tried to start indoors last year, or to seed directly in spring, but failed miserably. I hope to have some started outside late summer/fall this year that might look like these photos next year. In the meantime, at least I’ll have Clover and no Wild Parsnip. Baby steps.
The side garden is the main event now anyway. Last year I installed some natural flagstone and started planting in the spaces. I couldn’t have known at the time how much I would appreciate it this year.
Many friends donated perennial treasures for the spaces, the most fun ones being Hens and Chicks. I did a bit of Irish Moss from seed. Some of that I started indoors, and some direct to soil. Not as successful as I had hoped but cheaper than nursery pots. If you get those, they spread quickly if you split them though so either option will work. Creeping Thyme is much easier to grow and spreads quickly. Mother of Thyme works well too and smells divine. I inherited some of that with the house too and split some off and planted more.
On a side-note, I recommend if you get donations from friends gardens you rinse the roots and use new dirt so you don’t get invasive rhizomes. A bit of a learning experience. That being said, take all the gifts your friends will bring from their gardens and please return the favor.
The side garden was a large part of the reason I purchased the house 12 years ago as there were several established shrubs and perennial flowers:
- Azalea (probably Chinese Golden Sunset variety)
- Pink Beauty Potentilla
- Euonymus, Emerald N Gold aka Japanese Spindle Tree
- Euonymus fortunei ‘Variegata’ – aka Wintercreeper
- Sundrop Primrose
- Grape Hyacinth
- Bleeding Hearts
- Mountain Cornflower
- Columbine Aquilegia
- Heather (Winter Heath)
A good start indeed and I’ve been busy with them every year since.
For a good number of years, I only did maintenance, but one day my old Lab/Setter cross, Nelson, got into the garden unattended for a while and dug up a bunch of the perennial flowers. No point crying over spilt milk they say so I planted veggies in their place in the empty spots. Mostly just Peas, Beans, and Tomatoes to start. Over time Garlic was introduced into the mix, and some salad greens.
These days I’m more careful about keeping the gate closed with my Border Collie, Macy. Here she is with one her best friends, Herk, demonstrating yet another reason that dogs are not allowed in the garden unsupervised!
Last year I decided I would do all the veggies in containers and start flowers from seed. That was pretty much a disaster. I tried some indoors and some direct to the ground and the only things I had success were Lobelia (started indoors), and Marigolds and Cosmos (which I’d planted from seed lots of times and are super easy and forgiving). I did have some success with Alium Bulbs, and the drumstick variety attracted a Monarch Butterfly who stuck around for a couple or weeks. As well I did well with Begonia Bulbs for summer plants.
Based on that I decided no more posy seeding for me, but I did plant 4 varieties of Tulips which are coming up nicely and will bloom at varying times over a 6-week period close to the end of April.
For the first time in my life, and because I was so pleased with my flagstone hardscaping, I splurged and bought some perennial plants from a local nursery:
- Bee Balm
- Butterfly Bush
It’s too early to tell if they will come back this year, but the Geum is greening up already so that one’s a winner.
I’m a bit of a frugal gardener so tend to relocate weedy type perennials such as Forget-me-nots and other things instead of turfing them. I’m not sure what these little mossy guys are that pop up around the garden but I take the teeny pieces and put them between stones and concrete blocks. The leftovers go into a spot to thicken up until I need more. They look a bit like Irish Moss but they are not as they never flower. If you know what this is please let me know, it’s fantastic stuff.
Since veggies have traditionally done the best for me, I started some seeds indoors late March / early April this year – Tomatoes, Sweet Peppers, Broccoli, and Brussels Sprouts. There is no guarantee, but seeds are cheap, and if I get my 8 bucks back out of the crop I will be thankful and welcome the diversion either way.
Flowers are still the stars of any garden, so I just picked up some summer bulbs from Halifax Seed. Two I’d never heard of but looked pretty enough to pop into my online shopping cart (they are doing local pickup orders) – Freesia and Zephyranthus. And being the eternal optimist, I’m going to try Sweet Peas from seed which will hopefully tumble out of pots on the fence.
I took a video on November 9th so I would know what I planted and what to weed in the spring. It’s keeping me busy so far, but I can’t wait until I can show you a video of some things coming to life.
My blog is a bit of an online journal/diary too so it’s as much for me as it is for you and it’s a bit windy I hope that helps you to understand.
This is my front door from July 2019. There are things to look forward to if you plant the seeds and tend your gardens, I promise.