Archive for the ‘garden plans’ Category

Afraid of the dirt

February 13, 2010

Yes, I am afraid of the dirt. Or, more specifically, I am afraid of messing up the dirt. And not just the dirt, but the plants, animals, bacteria, and everything else that makes dirt so wonderfully dirt-y. If you’ve seen any earlier posts you’ll know that I’ve barely conquered this fear and merely covered it over with cardboard to wait out what is turning into the longest, coldest and most uncool Austin winter yet. But I must get back to my point here. Gardening can be very scary when you’ve never really grown anything at all and then find yourself the owner of a big wonderful space where you can finally grow your own organic vegetables but haven’t the slightest idea of what to do. And that is why I urge all of you to make friends with a garden designer or someone who can help you measure and PLAN.

This blog is quite truthfully an homage to dear Chloe who braved the Texas heat in August to measure, draw, discuss and dream up the current plan. And this brings me back to the importance of a good plan that reflects the garden you want to spend the sweaty hours making into something that might be considered more than just a patch of weeds.

Not too long ago I spent my lunch hour reading garden blogs and came across this post at J Peterson Garden Design that highlighted Rachel Mathews, a British garden designer, who has an awesome blog and newsletter you can sign up for all about garden design. The most recent email I received is all about how the interested novice can design a fabulous garden (and perhaps make it better than a professional could) and it reminded me of my fading fear.

Chloe and I spent the week and half she was here looking through gardening magazines, websites, blogs, and books. (We also ate tons of Texas barbecue and Mexican food, saw the bats and enjoyed other Austin highlights. I’m not a terrible hostess!) We stood in the yard at all times of the day to see the shadows and walk our imaginary paths to get a feel for the structure we had sketched on paper. And we discussed the virtues of geometric shapes over organic free form and I argued for circles instead of a series of rectangles. (Chloe is an architect by training and she put her foot down when it came to aemoba-shaped beds. She simply could not make her pencil draw those forms.) We had a ball. If you’ve read Rachel’s post you’ll see this the advantage novices have over hired professionals.

After Chloe went back to her more temperate northeast life and it cooled down to the mid-nineties in Austin, I decided to tackle the garden. Part of my strategy involved contacting Jeremy who owns BioGardener for some pint-sized help. Maybe he thought I was a bit nuts. I showed him the plan Chloe and I had made along with a long list of carefully research perennials for the butterfly/hummer corner and he looked me in the eye and asked me what I thought he could do to help me. Secretly I was hoping he would look at the plan and my list of carefully (obsessively) researched plants and tell me he could whip the whole garden into shape for a little bit of money and we’d be finished. Ah, silly girl, a garden is never finished. Instead, he affirmed that the shade-less area was indeed full sun, had great dirt, and I should get some plants into it posthaste.

I’m working on it and will someday have all the beds outlined, seasonally planned and planted, and include those fun sculptural accents and other touches that personalize one’s outdoor space.


To catch a butterfly

January 26, 2010

I went out to the Wildflower Center last October and noticed some wonderful shrubby boneset plants that were covered in flutterers. After a bit of research I realized it was the same thing that Jeremy of Bio-Gardener had recommended as a good plant for the still-unplanted butterfly corner. I found a few places that sold seeds and wondered if local nurseries carried the plants and then forgot about it altogether since is was getting to be fall and there was leaf raking to do.

We were raking and bagging leaves in the front yard when I noticed this bush by the front door…

I think it is a shrubby boneset and plan to transplant it to the potager section in February. It is in a pretty shady spot by the front except when the pecan trees drop their leaves. It started blooming and growing when it got some light so I think it will be happier in a sunny location in the back. I’m pretty psyched because it will help fill out an empty corner (I plan to put mistflower in the same area) and make the garden look more mature. This butterfly was nearby so that is a good sign.

I’d been told that much of gardening was digging things up and moving them around. I’m beginning to understand!

Updated garden plan

January 25, 2010

I spent the day clearing out cardboard and marking some path/bed edges. Here is a look at the updated garden plan. The shaded areas are the paths . My thought is to use mulch for a few years as a pathway material in case I want to change some of the dimensions or sections.

The circle in the middle was originally conceived of an herb spiral (they are very cool!) but I have changed my mind and now plan to add a stock tank pond. Pam/Digging has awesome posts about these and the ones I’ve seen at the Wildflower Center are fantastic. Callahan’s has a 4-foot diameter tank that matches the planned dimensions perfectly so perhaps in February I’ll tackle water gardening!

The other changes since Chloe and I came up with the original design are the addition of roses to the back edge near the deck. I planted Zephirine Drouhin roses in October and have since added garlic since they get along so well. We had a Communist Cuba dinner party with roast pork (yum!) and I had tons of ordinary garlic from Fiesta around. I did the overnight soak with baking soda and a quick dip in rubbing alcohol and into the ground those cloves went (pointy side up)! They are growing well, but I am not harboring high hopes as they were leftover bulk garlic. I did try to order fancy-pants garlic but I was too late in the season. Alas, no pictures of that yet.

Here is some dill that was planted from seed over by the coral honeysuckle. It is there for the caterpillars.

Here is the coral honeysuckle. It is doing very well despite being ignored during most of the winter. I like plants that can survive on their own.

What Lies Beneath

January 24, 2010

This morning I checked my email and found I had my first two blog comments ever! One was from Secrets of a Seed Scatterer in Georgia, and the other was from Pam at Digging here in Austin. They found me through Blotanical. Think back to when you first realized that someone was actually looking at your blog and multiply it by a lot to get a sense of my excitement!

I am going to try to do a much better job at this blogging. I started this one weekend when I was sick and haven’t posted since.

Today I began to remove the cardboard that has been covering the garden since last August/September and found some pretty cool specimens. Here is a bunch of snails I uncovered among some sprouting greens that looked like baby spinach. I hope they (the snails) are not harmful since I let them be.

I also found this caterpillar.

It looks like a ball of fuzz, but it really was a caterpillar. I hope it enjoys the butterfly/hummingbird corner.

Mostly what I found beneath the cardboard was Bermuda grass. I was somehow hoping it would have disappeared entirely but there it was taunting me with its interlocking tentacles and deep-rooted outposts. I know every gardener has to go through this conflict-ridden stage of eliminating unwanted Bermuda grass from the garden and I am prepared for a long period of pulling out unwanted grass.

I raked and pulled as the wind blew little pieces all over the rest of the garden. I finally got tired of all this and started setting out the border to see if I liked how it looked. I think I will finish the border of the vertical section (that is what the part along the fence is called) with the concrete blocks and then put willow branch fencing (there is some from the previous owner) alongside to soften the harsh appearance of the concrete. Here is a look at the overall garden plan.

You can see my beloved hammock in the background. It was a little cool when I finished gardening, but I still managed to enjoy a Negra Modelo with some chips and salsa while reclining in the hammock. (I wore a ski jacket.)

Chloe to the rescue!

January 9, 2010

I somehow convinced my friend Chloe (who is a master gardener and urban farmer up in Massachusetts) that August was the perfect month for planting a new garden in Austin. She came down for ten days to help get things rolling. We quickly realized that it was waaay too hot for any real hands-on gardening and spent the time reading, planning and having lots of fun. This was of course during the hottest summer on record and the temperature soared above 100 degrees every day that Chloe was here. I don’t think this trip made her want to move here.

Chloe is also an architect so we got a scale ruler and she went to town on the garden plan. We were inspired by the French potager-style gardens that combine vegetables, flowers and herbs in pleasantly arranged beds. She left me with this wonderful garden plan and lots of ideas about what to plant when and where. Now that I am looking at this plan carefully I can see that it has already changed slightly. I’ll try to mark up one of the copies of the plans with current plantings or ideas so you can see the evolution so far.


January 9, 2010

Happy New Year! Last June I was lucky enough to buy a garden (along with a house) that had been lovingly planted and cared for (even won some awards from the City of Austin!) by some master gardeners. It is now in my hands and this year it will (hopefully) be making a comeback from its current weed-ridden state. I’ve got big plans, so stay tuned and please offer advice when you can!