Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Beginnings of a Japanese Inspired Garden

When I moved here over seventeen years ago, the north side of my house had a brick retaining wall, a Scotch Pine about 20 feet tall, a four foot tall white pine, a pink spirea, and a built in bench and grill. The shade was lovely and the area was always a few degrees cooler than my super sunny southern facing deck.   It seemed like a great place to make a garden that would remind me of a Japanese garden.

I began by making small garden beds on all three sides.  I added a peony, hostas, a rhododendron, a couple Japanese ferns, and a clematis. It was a nice place to sit in the shade on many mornings and we have even had some cookouts on the grill.

After a couple years the Scotch pine succumbed to sawyer beetles and wilt.  It was a quick death and the tree was literally dead in two years.  The third year we were planning to remove it and got an unexpected blessing when a windstorm lay it down perfectly and didn't damage a single plant or the house.  That bed was extended to include some annuals and I added the hydrangeas on the end. A dogwood tree, brought home from school on Arbor Day over eight years ago, holds a special place in the garden.

The pine grew and became a favorite as mentioned in a previous post.  It had to be take out this summer due to its size and surface roots.  It provided me with a good deal of mulch for my veggie and flower gardens.  Without the big pine, however, the garden has lost its cool shade and that calm feeling is gone, for now anyway.

A new red bud is growing to take its place which will provide that spring blossom feel of a cherry tree.  The large heart shaped leaves of a red bud also reminds me of ginkgo trees.  Therefore, I feel like I can regain that shady calm garden that I am without at the moment.

The loss of the pine has also inspired me to extend this garden area and add a water feature.  I have decided that rather than dig up all the grass, I will use the No-Dig method and lay down sheets of cardboard and such and cover it all with a good layer of mulch.  Hopefully, this will make a good foundation for additional plants and pathway to be added between now and next May.

I would love some ideas for my zone 5a or 5b area.  Temps can range from lows of -10 degrees F in the winter to some summers seeing temperatures at 100 degrees plus.  Luckily there are downspouts that will direct water to this garden when we do have rain and without the shallow rooted pine, the area should not be as dry of a shade as it was.

The video below will give you a tour of the current space.  Your ideas are appreciated.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Moving to a No Till, No Dig Garden

After watching my fair share of Charles Dowding YouTube videos, I've decide to move to a no till garden.  There are several things that precipitated this move and aging is definitely one of them.  I am inspired by all of the older gardeners I see and meet and I find much happiness in the fact that my hobby is pretty ageless. Although gardening may be ageless; I am not.

Last year I decided to enlarge the garden as I felt that the raised beds, although nice, required a lot of water during dry times.  Originally when we moved here, eighteen years ago, the previous owner had a nice garden area.  The soil was nice and things grew well for us, however, fighting the deer and other wildlife was an ongoing annoyance. 

I decided to go to raise beds that we could then fence in and somehow protect a bit better.  My husband helped me build raised beds from fir that were 4x10 feet.  We initially made four and then added three more the next year.  I have been gardening in them for about ten years. We put up fencing around them so that the area was narrow, about 12 feet wide which served as a deterrent to the deer. Although I cut my gardening space by two-thirds, it was more manageable for me as my children were still young.

As GMO crops and pesticide use have become rampant, I knew that I need to try to go back to a bigger garden and grow some more of our food.  I decided to go back to the original size of the garden and to plant directly in ground and fore go adding more raised beds. 

Two years ago, we began tilling the area that we had let return to lawn was quite a chore.  I did a little of it and hubby did a lot.  We didn't get the fencing up so I just put up a makeshift fence on a small part of it and planted some sweet potatoes and luffah gourds.  They grew well and let me know that I was making a good decision. 

Last year we had to re-till the whole area and I took the top soil from the paths and put it on the rows for planting.  sweet potatoes, corn, red noodle beans, and cucumbers were planted and did great until we took a two week vacation.  In June we found out a family friend had cancer and we wanted to help and she passed at the end of August so the garden was not a high priority.

This year, tilling was better and the little Mantis tiller could handle what weeds were there.  It is a pretty powerful little tiller but still shakes your body up a bit and requires a good deal of strength to control it.  That made me ponder my future in the veggie garden.  Could I do this in ten years, in twenty or more?

No Till, No Dig seemed the way to go for me as well as for the soil.  I started putting any cardboard I could find down in the pathways.  Then purchased the landscape fabric.  I bought about 20 bags of mulch, although not all has went down into the vegetable garden.  I have used about five bags on different flower beds.  The tree I mentioned in the previous post will provide the remainder of the mulch for the veggie garden.

The crabgrass has been my biggest adversary this year.  I try to pull some everyday and it is a challenge in the current heat to keep the seed heads off even if I don't get it all pulled.  I do think next year will be better and the goal is for each subsequent year to be better than the one before.  I will eventually cover the planting areas with mulch or compost also so that there is no bare earth.

You can see a tour of the vegetable garden and the current progress on the new TurtleBCrossing YouTube channel below.