Gardening with my sister

After my garden party, which was great fun with good food and good weather, I headed down to western New York State to do some gardening with my sister. She moved from a suburban house a few years ago to the little town of Warsaw, where she and her husband found a lovely three-acre place, with a house and a medium-sized barn and attached chicken coop. There’s a large hay field out back ending in a stream lined by willow trees. Jeanne really loves to grow food. While I let my husband do all the vegetable gardening, Jeanne does it all, from veggies to berries to flowers and herbs. Her husband and kids help out a lot also, and they have an un-helpful but loveable golden retriever, Scout. The picture below shows the raised beds they put in for the vegetables.026The blueberry bushes are protected with netting and white mesh. That’s the chicken coop on the left. When she went to put in a perennial flower garden, she found that the site she chose, while nicely located with a good combination of sun and some shade, had one big problem–the whole area is lawn, a bit of soil, and under that a layer of really hard clay. So, undaunted, she’s been adding lots of amendments. She even went to the little creek in the back of the property, dug up soil with lots of earthworms, and brought them back in buckets to put in her garden to help with the soil creation and soil improvements. I can attest to their success–there are lots of worms in that garden. She has added topsoil, compost, aged manure, grass clippings and mulch. Here is a view of the flower garden now:023Before I left I packed my car with plants: phlox, daylilies, hostas, astilbe, coral bells, and two large ligularia that needed a better home. 022The shade-lovers went in the nice shady side of the barn where the soil is better and there’s plenty of shade. Here are some pictures of our gardening work:

a nice bare patch where I ripped out some huge, aggressive Jerusalem artichokes.

a nice bare patch where I ripped out some huge, aggressive Jerusalem artichokes.

the same spot with slightly droopy phlox and daylilies. These all recovered very well.

the same spot with slightly droopy newly planted phlox and daylilies. These all recovered very well.

the "barn bed" before renovation

the “barn bed” before renovation

the barn bed with lots of plants removed

the barn bed with lots of plants removed–that one hosta was divided into at least 15 clumps and re-planted under a tree in the yard

spreading grass clippings

spreading grass clippings, with Scout (not) helping

the finished bed

the finished bed–with plenty of room to add more plants later

We also edged the beds, moved some plants around, took out some others that had outgrown their welcome, and put down garden cloth on the paths and covered that with lots of wood chips we got from the town dump. photoWe took a break once to go to a local horse farm and asked for some old horse manure and added that. She got a picture of me transferring the manure from wheelbarrow to tubs in the car, and with horses looking manureWe worked for one evening, two full days, and most of a third. We plan on making this an annual tradition!035

Room in the garden for people to sit!

The patio is getting done bit by bit. Here is how it looked this morning:patio flattenedpatio nearly doneAnd we still have the nice shady spot under the apple tree with a couple of chairs:apple tree sitting areaI’ve been working hard in the garden to get it ready for the garden party this coming Sunday. According to the weather forecast it will be nice. The daylilies are doing their part by being themselves!big rusty daylilydaylily tawny and marroonJuly 10 015The phlox have just started to bloom:bright phloxpink phloxI managed to get a nice photo of one of my little garden friends:spider on phloxThat’s a crab spider. They don’t have webs to catch things to eat–they hang around on flowers waiting for an insect to come along than then they grab it with those long front feet. back yardBack to the garden now…

Three ambitious projects in the garden

One of my favorite garden blogs, cold climate gardening, often has before, during and after photos of garden projects, which I love seeing. So I follow that example when I think of it. There is a garden party scheduled for July 19 (Michele I am sorry you can’t make it!!) o we’re motivated to get a few things done for that. One is the top of the front yard, one is my great patio-off-the-sunporch idea, and the other is the sweet pea trellis. So, first:

The front yard–our instant hummingbird garden

It took me three hours start to finish to pull this off. We decided we wanted to have a fairly low garden right in front of the front porch because we didn’t want to block the view of the rest of the garden or the beautiful meadow we can see from there. Especially in the evenings, it gives us a lovely view of the setting sun. And we wanted beebalm for the humming birds. We decided to put beebalm in the center and my smallest daylilies around the outside, because a. I have lots of daylilies and b. they transplant so well. Here is the top of the front yard a few years ago, before we smothered it with newspaper and hay:july 9 009And after smothering:IMG_9672

Here’s the spot yesterday morning before I started work, with some branches outlining the proposed bed:July 10 025So first I hauled up some rotting hay to create a little wall all around the bed, making a kind of bowl to hold the dirt:July 10 027Then I took the wheelbarrow and pitchfork down to the horse pasture and brought up three heaping loads of mostly rotted well composted dirt. july 7 036Then I prowled the whole garden with my shovel and dug up clumps of four different colors of beebalm and a dozen varieties of short daylilies. I planted them in the bowl of dirt and watered everything like crazy, then added more hay mulch. I was happy to see that this morning nothing was wilted or looked stressed. Here’s what it looked like at the end:July 10 029July 10 028Now it is up to the worms and other critters to make this old hay into actual dirt. It will take less time than you might think!

The sunporch patio!

Before–a few days ago:garden 377july 7 002During:

plants temporarily homeless, waiting to be re-located

plants temporarily homeless, waiting to be re-located

plants mostly gone

half way there

the view from the sunporch door

the view from the sunporch door. Mr Fluff supervising.

all plants and bulbs removed

all plants and bulbs removed

And the plants’ new home:July 10 006The sweet pea plants that had been in that spot got relocated to a “ladder-trellis” at the edge of the meditation garden.

Sweet peas make a move

020This picture is from last year in early August, in the morning. You can see the sweet peas and their ladder trellis, which they usually refused to grow on, preferring to flop around wherever. We disassembled the ladder and put it up against the rail of the newly built wall leading into the meditation garden. Here’s the rail:

held together with grape vines

held together with grape vines

After: slightly grumpy looking sweet-peas. They were looking pretty good this morning. I’ve transplanted sweet peas before, and I have no doubt they’ll be fine. July 10 024And what were the cats doing during these two days of intense gardening effort? What you’d expect!July 10 009July 10 012

Garden updates!

We traveled for a week in mid-June, and when I got back on June 21 I took the following photos of the back yard edge:garden 324My goal before leaving for another week away on June 28 was to clear up this edge. I weeded, edged with a shovel, and then put down newspaper and hay. Here is a picture part way through:garden 338Then when it was done:garden 351My sister-in-law was visiting then and she tackled the meditation garden walkway. After she weeded there, I added shavings from the horse stables. Here’s the before picture for that project:garden 331And here it is after:garden 337When I got back from my most recent trip I spent half a day weeding and edging and mulching the northside square garden. Here are the results:garden 408The edge and the bed itself is covered with old hay. If we get a dry spell (which we have not yet this year) we are ready for it! Here is another shot of the finished edge. garden 410The daylilies, my absolute favorite plants, have started blooming. Mostly they are just buds at this point:garden 379 But some have started to bloom: garden 397And the delphinium are going full 414The echinacea have also started up: garden 431The fence in the front yard is growing:garden 403garden 406And the front yard overall is flourishing. It likes the wet summer we’ve had. garden 405Last night after dinner I relaxed with the cats on the front porch. Mr. Fluff sat on my lap:garden 439Around dusk a raccoon came up on the porch looking for some cat food, saw me and beat a hasty retreat. Later a deer wandered into the front yard and helped herself to some phlox and hostas. I just enjoyed watching her–I have plenty of phlox and hosta to share. Glad to be home!