Now that spring has established itself (and summer is rapidly approaching), I have been spending much of my free time outdoors. This time investment has included mowing lawn (not my favorite homeowner's chore), landscaping and gardening. This is my third year in my house so I am still getting the greenscape up and running. What have I been doing?
When I purchased my home, there was only one tree in the yard, shading the southwestern portion of the house. The summer sun is hot and I have no shade anywhere else. I planted one tree in autumn 2006 for more south shade, two in spring 2007 (for the east and west shade), lost the eastern tree and decided to plant two more trees. One tree would replace the eastern tree (the exact same species I planted before and lost) and one tree would be planted between the sidewalk and the street. Trees add value to the property so the more the merrier, in my opinion. Five trees reach the limit for my lot. Any more and I would really tangle up the cord for my electric mower.
Digging holes in suburban lots after a dry spell is no picnic, but I did work hard for the holes and both trees are planted.
Landscaping around the foundation and the front yard.
When I first moved into my home, the foundation plantings were the first things I worked on. In late summer/autumn 2006, I removed the unwanted juniper bushes and cotoneaster from the front yard, added some red and purple daylilies to the already present orange and Stella d'Oro daylilies around the house and put in five hostas around the foundation. In spring 2007, I gave away the Korean boxwood bushes along my driveway (they just broke under the weight of shoveled snow so really needed to go) and replaced them with plants that die back: two hostas and a bleeding heart.
However, the front yard had bare dirt where I had bushes removed. Spring 2007 saw me planting two wild rose bushes and two blueberry bushes in the vacant area, but these would not be enough to fill in the exposed dirt. I had plans to add more native plants, but did not get around to it. In fact, I was fighting bunnies for my plants (they liked chewing on the blueberries) and only planted some petunias at the perimeter to disguise the empty space.
Now I have covered the bare dirt with free bark mulch, helping keep the weeds down, and have slowly been accumulating native plants to put in the front. Right now, I have columbine, nodding onion and butterfly weed planted with some black-eyed susans waiting to go into the ground. I have determined I do not need to have all the space filled right now especially if I intend on putting in a rain garden this year. Future plans include filling in the remaining space, determining the outline of the garden space (the shape is quite irregular and not in a good-looking way), and growing some of the plants for the native garden.
Growing my own fruits and vegetables
I mentioned I have blueberry bushes and a raised strawberry bed, installed in 2007 and 2008 respectively. The blueberries will not be allowed to produce berries until the third year and the strawberries I might get this year in the later part of summer. With only 13 plants alive of the 50 planted, I am not sure how many strawberries to expect. However, the house came with a 9' x 9' raised garden bed on the southwestern portion of the property. It was a tired, unproductive thing I ignored the first year and started planting the second. My first try at gardening was not very successful. My stunted corn had smut on it, my pumkins were small and my onions from seed tiny. The volunteer tomatoes were good and the lettuce was fine if earwig-infested.
While things did grow, I tested the soil fertility and it was extremely low on nitrogen and moderately low on phosphorus, two elements needed for healthy plants. This year, I supplemented the poor dirt with composted manure, dried blood, good topsoil and any organic material remaining on the bed (read: weeds). I have started onion from seed, lettuce, cucumbers and planted tomato plants. I intend on adding green beans to the raised bed. I started tomato plants started from seed indoors with only two surviving. My current plan is to install them in a five-gallon bucket and add to the bounty. I would like to can tomatoes this year, making my own ketchup and sauce. My mom has a hot water bath canner and I bought pint-sized canning jars at a garage sale last fall. The green beans will be frozen, the lettuce and onions consumed (I love onions!), and the cucumbers both eaten and grated (and frozen). I do not have a chest freezer, but should have enough room for the small harvest from my garden.
What I keep on forgetting until I am in the middle of a project is how much time it takes. The soil amendments, the turning and digging of dirt, the planting, the watering and all the physical labor are strenuous. I could use a good workout and my outdoor work is giving me that. In the end, I am rewarded with food, shade and beauty even if the gratification is delayed. Of course, when there is nothing left to do around the house, then I should really be worried. Does this mean I need to find a new home?