Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Front Yard Garden, Part Two

So I took a break from the garden, mostly because we had stuff to do for a few weekends, and with it being dark an hour before I get home from work every day, it made weekday gardening impossible.  So, last weekend, I was determined to get a good bit of gardening done. 

My intent was to take the same work I'd done with the snapdragons and cast irons and continue the same theme around the front of the house.  Husband insisted that the front needed "some visual height" or whatever, so I did it for him if nothing else. 

Saturday morning, I went to the nursery to get more cast irons.  I'd also intended to go get 2-3 more snapdragon bushes to put around the mailbox, because that area needed to be spruced up badly.  Except the nursery I went to had crap for cast irons (they looked like they'd all been been on the losing end of a fight with a shiv and some hungry animals), and no snapdragons.  So I drove to the other nursery and voila, cast irons everywhere!  I also looked for some elephant ears to plant in the back yard (no, not the animal, but I know that's what you were thinking!), and ended up wasting a lot of time looking at palm trees instead.  Still no snapdragons, so I was starting to go into panic mode.

Then the lovely nursery guy was like, "These Cyclamids will do well for your winter garden, and they're on sale!" Done.  I bought 8 when I was sure I only needed 5, but I was sure I'd find a place for the other three somewhere.  (And I did.) 

Purchases complete, I drove home, prepared for some gardening!  I decided to start with the mailbox.  Why you ask?  Let me explain.

When we purchased the house, we did not have a mailbox.  Well, technically we were provided one, if you count a mailbox with a broken post laying in the middle of your newly-purchased yard as "provided".  Some jerkfaces must have decided that knocking down the McLazies' mailbox was a lesson learned.  (I honestly don't blame them, y'all.)  Regardless, we had to buy one of the cheap plastic ones, and then randomly knock the tiny, cheap piece of wood into the ground, where it wobbled perilously around every time you opened or closed the mailbox.  It needed an intervention.

So I dug up the area where I planned to place the new mailbox.  I do not have progress photos, because I was covered in dirt and my phone died twenty minutes into the process.  I only have after photos, but trust me.  It sucked.  At least this time, I had a wheelbarrow, so that was a definite improvement.  After I got rid of the crap topsoil and dug out enough good dirt to mix with the garden soil, I knocked the mailbox into its rightful place (with the butt of the shovel, because that's all I had on hand.  I'm a resourceful gal), then started adding the soil back.  To ensure the mailbox stayed in place, I hard-compacted the soil around the mailbox post and then wet the soil enough to make it stay put.  It worked, and apparently my mailman was extremely pleased, because he drove by at that time and looked at me like I'd just handed him some freshly-baked double chocolate chunk cookies.  He was like, "Yes!  This is good!  Your old mailbox was very wobby."  New favorite word.

Once the soil was down, I started planting the cyclamids.  By "planting", I mean arranging them just so, getting a ruler to ensure they were evenly spaced, then starting to dig more and discovering that there were about eleventy billion huge rocks down deeper than I had dug, making planting impossible.  Super awesome.

Those three loose rocks?  Dug them up.

Also dug up these four rocks.  ALL FROM ONE LOCATION.
 I took comfort in the knowledge that at least I wasn't digging up dead bodies.  I honestly wouldn't put it past the McLazies.

So anyhoo, I planted everything on Saturday and then once I was done, I realized I hadn't put enough of the soil in, so I had to take them out, put the rest of the soil in, and then repeat the process.  Then I spent an hour making the damn garden border, and mulching.  Final product?  Worth it, I think:

The mailman will be so pleased!

The best part so far is that they still haven't died yet.  It's been almost a whole week and they still seem really perky.  The pink one on the far right was laying down like it was dead yesterday, but this morning it was perkier than it was in this picture, so...way to play me, pink cylamid!  

The snapdragons are not faring as well.  I don't think we planted them with enough soil mixture, and apparently they needed a lot of aeration which doesn't work for clay soils (which I have).  Still, they are alive.  They just aren't budding...except for one.  

The rest of them look like this:

Sigh.  So I dead-headed them (which apparently means to cut the buds off once the flowers have spent), except I did so about a week past when they needed to be done.  Le sigh.

The only solace I can provide these poor fellas is that I have purchased a circular stake that will hold them up, so at least they'll look like they want to be alive instead of being spread out like a five year old who hasn't brushed their hair in six weeks.

While I was in prune-mode, I pruned all of the cast irons and the palm tree of any dead material.  Only green is demanded here at the Clark Castle. 

Before (before we even moved in, but you get the point.  There was yellow everywhere):


Much better.

After all of this, I began to dig.  And dig.  And dig.

I dug up the random growth seen above at the bottom corner of the picture (which turned out to be a tuber of some kind, which looked enough like a daylily that I will now call it such).  I dug up some atrociously unruly weeds with roots deeper and wider than some trees.  I dug up a large (and this term doesn't do it justice, because it's everywhere) patch of clover-like groundcover, and raked up about ninety pounds of pine needles.  Basically, I turned this:

Into this:

Then I saw a snake come out at me from a burrow. It was a blind snake, so after my initial shock and thanks to Google, I realized we were cool and quietly got back to work, until I ran out of wheelbarrow room and couldn't move it because it was too heavy.  Good work, Taylor.  Now I refer my husband to the front yard to handle the removal of dirt.  This is why I have him.

And later that night, I discovered that I pinched a nerve somewhere that made the inside of my left arm all the way to my fingertips filled with shooting pain, pins and needles, and varying degrees of numbness. 

I hate you, gardening!  But I WILL PREVAIL. 

Part three, hopefully coming soon!  Here's a sneak peek of my plan:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Front Yard Garden - Part One

Good afternoon!

Sorry to those who were "anxiously awaiting" more pictures.  Between planning for my work Halloween party on Monday and viciously fighting off a bout of sickness (oh it tried to take over my body!  But with the help of my trusty sidekick Zicam, we triumphed), I was not eager to start a pic-post-athon.  But now I will post pics for you.

Shall we do a before?  Yes, we shall.

From the door, left side

From the door, right side

Right side, palm tree
These were all photos of when we first purchased the house.  After two five months of neglect, it was covered in pine needles and leaves, and a few weeds had popped up, along with an overgrowth of English Ivy that actively tried to strangle the life out of the palm tree.  With the help of my parents, we extricated these buggers, dug viciously, discovered that I had a nice level of moist soil, and deep beneath that, clay.  I didn't realize until after we'd planted that clay was one of the worst soils you could have, and most stuff doesn't survive.  So after all this work, we'll see how the flowers get along.

My husband and I chose six healthy Cast Iron plants, and some purple and white/purple pansies.  However on Saturday morning, the pansies were not looking happy, and next to each other, I didn't think that the mix was going to be a great fit for this area.  A few days earlier, I'd eyed some gorgeous fuschia SnapDragons at Kroger (of all places).  They were a great price and very healthy looking, and after checking out the prices at the discount nursery, I discovered they were actually a really great deal. 

So Saturday, the parents and I drove to Kroger and got 6 Snapdragon sets.  (Then later, at my insistence, we bought two more :) .)  After hours of digging, weed pulling, fertilizing, cleaning, and dirt-transplanting, this was our progress as of Saturday afternoon:

A healthy improvement over Friday afternoon.  

After being such troopers, I blew the whistle and took the parents out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants (mmm, Chuys).  Then we had to part ways, as Husband and I had a Halloween party to go to, and moms had cats to get home to. 

Sunday, after falling out of bed cursing God for the pain he'd afflicted on my body, I dragged myself back outside and kept going.  I started building the garden border (a super cheap but well-made border that I got on Amazon - see here).  They suggested using a rubber mallet, but I didn't have one, so I used a meat tenderizer (the flat side!!) instead.  No one said I wasn't resourceful when needed.

All you had to do was insert the groove for the second section into the first section, and "gently tap in". 
Gentle was a term used loosely, because it is plastic, so it required more "banging" than "tapping".  It was a trial for a set that was really long, because once I got about six pieces together, I'd start tapping in the seventh piece and the first piece would start popping up out of the ground.  I also had to account for the various tree roots that blocked the path of the border, so I have a few spots where there are small gaps.  Luckily the snapdragons hide these so it's not visible.

In the end, it came out looking great.

Next came mulching.  I chose an organic black mulch for many reasons, the highest priority being that black is the best color of mulch in the whole world and it just makes plants POP.  Husband asked why I didn't use red, and I was like, "Because that'd be ugly.  Now go shush and build something."

I used two- to three-inches of mulch all around, and it came out looking great.  Below is a shot of midway progress.  You can see that the right has been bordered and mulched, and the left has been not touched. 

More mulch shots!

I took a break to silently curse my body for hurting (including my head and stomach, which were not garden-work related and should not have been happening - curse you, sickness!  I will have my victory).  Then it was back to work on the second side.  Shots below:
Apologies for the shot - it was starting to get dark and I couldn't see how well the shot was being taken on my phone.

I am particularly pleased with how well this turned out, given that it was my temporary stopping point and I wasn't sure how it was going to look against the stone/palm/ugly dirt.  But I am proud of my work.

And bonus - there were a few huge tree roots that were making my clumsy baby-giraffe self trip every single time I walked on the grass.  Dirt transplant was successful in making this trip-hazard disappear.  No before shot, but it's dirt.  Why do you care about what it looked like before?

Now I just trip on the dirt when my shoe-heels sink into the soft dirt and then make me fall forward.

So here is the shot as of this morning, after I rinshed off the sidewalk as best I could, pruned the flowers, watered, and let them settle for a few days:

 I think we have a winner.  (Ignore the pansies, they are going in the backyard but I wanted them to have sun in the interim.)

Next step: Get more plants, soil, border, and mulch this week, so I can do the same thing all over again this upcoming weekend.  The plan: continue the planting/mulching around the palm tree and across the front yard. 

Can't wait to see the finished product!  And just in time for the cold snap that will make the snapdragons happy.