22 April 2006


Hrm.. might regret that in the morning..

We moved gardens today. (And just what were you thinking..?) Or rather, we .. hauled a whole hell of a lot of rock. And some very large and surprisingly heavy plants.

There might be a quick version of this.. this might be it, actually.. we'll see how prolific I get as I go.

We slept sort of in this morning - meaning Jack's alarm went off at 6:15 and mine went off at 7:15, both tuned to NPR, and we managed to alternately sleep through and snooze one alarm at a time through until about quarter of nine. Which made for some interesting recollections for both of us from listening half-conscious to Zorba Paster (doesn't he look *exactly* like you pictured?).. Jack remembers something about lobsters having to pull their exoskeleton off as they grow, which is only particularly hideous when he elaborates that part of their stomach is *attached* to the exoskelton...

Anyway, we got up, showered, made a butterbraid and coffee and called Judy (Jack's mom) and Adam & Bec to let them know that even though we got rain last night, the day was s'posed to be mostly cloudy with no rain, so we were still planning to do the garden overhaul.

Shortly thereafter, I wandered out to start hacking down the raspberry canes from last year. Before today, this was one of few things I felt competent enough to do in my own gardens. I can't kill the damn things if I try, so I clearly can't do much harm just cutting away the dead bits, right? So I'm stooping and bending and setting the old canes in nice neat little piles so we can bundle them later to take to the local green dump and Jack is out and about with our new edge trimmer (did I mention that we got a Home Depot credit card..? Yeah.. my dad has his own card for our account. He doesn't get it until he retires though..) and the sun is coming and going and it's generally a rather pleasant morning.

And I hear the back gate open and Jali grumph a couple times and assume it's just Jack. And after a few minutes of Jali continuing to grumph, I turn around to tell him to stop teasing the dog and realize that the Mayor is not my husband. I promptly introduce myself and he (the Mayor, that is) does himself and we chat about yards (his is to *die for*.. it's amazing and beautiful and did I mention the stream and the pond and the waterfall?) and about his little boy "stealing" raspberries off our plants that grew through the fence last year.

(The Mayor lives behind us. We've known this for some time, but never met him. Today we did. I rather like him. And it has nothing at all to do with covetting his garden. Nothing. Even though his garden is, did I mention this, *to die for*.) He was out cutting sod to make the pond bigger and noticed we were working in the yard, so came over to introduce himself. Oh, and he's getting some of the raspberries for his very own, but I told him if his little boy (who's almost two and very cute and very blonde) ever wanted to come get some more from our bushes, they were welcome anytime.

Um.. right.. so yeah, I finish with the raspberries and head in to refill my coffee and spend a few relaxing moments soaking up some mid-morning sun on the back patio before Judy arrives. Which is, as always, a bit of a flurry. I love my mother-in-law, truly. She's a bit scattered and a bit flakey at times, but I do have to admit I genuinely enjoy her company.. at least when I know to expect it. (There are times when I'm stressed (like when we moved into the house a year ago) when I don't deal well with unexpected "hostess" requirements and I'm still a new enough newlywed to feel a compulsion to "host" my in-laws. I'm getting over that. Days like today help.) (And yes, I do realize how fortunate we both are that we each do actually like the other's parents.)

In relatively short order, we have toured the yard and laid out the (rather ambitious) plans for the day. To my surprise, Jack states that he's going to clear all the rock out of the garden beds. (Really, this was a surprise. Jack was forced to tend the lawn and garden as a child as punishment and really doesn't enjoy spending time outside puttering. So his offerinsistence that he would clear the rock from the three rather large garden beds was a bit of a surprise. A welcome one, but a surprise nonetheless.

A bit of lay-of-the-land is necessary here. We bought a house with well established gardens.

  • There is a side garden along the south side of the house that blooms constantly throughout the summer (we closed on our house a year ago April 28). It runs pr'bly forty feet and contains, among other things, hostas, bleeding hearts, tulips, several varieties of lilies, coneflowers of a sort, phlox and a handful of other bits and pieces. The hostas and bleeding hearts are *very* overgrown for the space, so one of the goals for the day was to break them up and make room for other things (like, oh, I don't know, annuals or something).

  • There are established rose bushes at the front corner, along the side fence, and along an entire wall of the garage. Most of these are "old fashioned" roses that are unavailable for sale today, though the plants at the front of the house are newer hybrids. Intertwined with the roses along the garage are at least a couple varieties of hollyhock (and at least one black walnut tree that we're trying to kill, along with another in the midst of the largest rosebush in along the side fence). One of the minor goals of the day was to relocate the roses - though I knew this likely wouldn't be able to be accomplished.

  • There is also a "small" garden on the north side of the house (outside the fence - did I mention said fence is about 7 feet tall? - and along the property line) that we *never* see. It runs maybe twenty feet and contains some red plants I can never remember the name of, hostas, and rhubarb and at least a couple other things I can't remember at the moment. One of the major goals of the day was to relocate this garden bed to somewhere we actually can see.

  • There is a third established garden bed inside the fence in the backyard, but it's never actually had plants in it other than weeds as long as we've lived here.

  • The aforementioned raspberry patch is toward the back of the yard, behind the garage. Said raspberry patch also hashad assorted other things (mint, phlox, violets, one or another variety of lily) growing amongst the raspberry plants. It iswas so overgrown, though, that we didn't really know what was in it.

So, Jack started cleaning the rock out from the garden bed on the south side of the house while Judy and I went to explore what, exactly, was in the garden bed on the south side. I knew that anything salvagable from this bed needed a new home by the end of the day. Period. So after a quick survey, we decided that most of the plants would fit in the interior - and currently unplanted - garden space inside the fence, but that we'd need to clear the rock out before we could start digging anything up. We removed the brick "retaining wall" bits that had been placed to establish the edge of the bed out of the way to the grass on the narrow strip of side lawn on the north side of the house.

This brought us back to the south garden bed (by far in the best shape of the three), where Jack was clearing rock. We helped clear some rock, broke up the hostas in the corner, dug out a bleeding heart and a rosebush that threatens the life of our mailperson from time to time, and pulled out all the black plastic underneath the rock to discover a rather nice garden bed - if a bit heavy on clay (we live near the Mississippi River after all) - once the weeds were dug out. We left a small stretch of rock in the tail end of the bed as we were impatient to move on to the north bed.

The rock on the north side was more troublesome. Not only was the black plastic underlying the bed more deterioriated (making it harder to gather up large swaths of rock and dump them in the wheelbarrow), but it was harder to discern what might actually be salvagable plant from weed as this bed gets considerable shade and therefore was a bit slower to pop up than the bed on the south side. Several wheelbarrow-loads of rock (which were brought to the side of the garage where we usually park one of the cars) later, we started digging up plants to prepare for transplant. We dug up a *huge* rhubarb - *huge*! - and moved several clumps of the red plant to the interior garden bed. We left the hostas sit until we had a place to put them.

And then we had lunch. Hamburgers on the grill. Mmm...

And then we sidetracked to the raspberry bed where we cleaned out a rather large and nasty infestation of nettles. (And discovered that my body is, yet again, bizarre - as an adult, I've noticed that I don't appear to react to mosquito bites - they itch for about twenty seconds when first bit and then never again - and this appears to carry over to other traditional skin irritants. While I haven't tried it with something so noxious as poison ivy (which I admit to never having, though I'm sure I've walked through it before) or poison oak, nettles appear to bite a bit when I first come into contact with them, welt up about twenty minutes later, and then completely disappear within an hour never to bother me again. *shrug* I'm not complaining, mind you, but it does tend to be a bit odd.) We then cleared out several plants from a central aisle in what we hope will become a way for us to actually *reach* the berries in the middle of the patch this year. We also removed three patches of one of the mints (two of which went to fill holes from the aforementioned hosta that was removed from the south garden bed) and a couple patches of phlox, and Judy strategically relocated some violets throughout the process.

Adam and Bec arrived as we were finishing the raspberry patch and we proceeded to clearing the rock from the interior bed. This was a little easier, even though there was more rock, because we didn't have to work around any established plants that we didn't want to damage beyond repair. Once we got half the bed cleared, Bec, Judy and I started replanting things from the north garden. We went to dig out the hostas (huge, mind you) and broke each into four clumps to be replanted (I told you they were huge). The red plants line the fence, with a row of hostas in front of them and the rhubarb at the east end (where it'll get the most light).

(The rest of the plants (several hostas, a bleeding heart or two, one rosebush that we expect to live and one that we don't, some mint, some phlox, some rhubarb, did I mention several hostas?) either went home with Bec and Judy or will be taken to Deb's farm tomorrow to be distributed to the women in the Korean drum ensemble.)

The rest was mostly tidying up while Jack grilled up some Italian sausage and cheddar brats for dinner - I threw some poppy seeds in a bare patch of the south bed, put some extra dirt around the mint that got transplanted, cleared the rest of the rock (and most of an infestation of sweet potato vine) from the south bed, and bundled and tied the old raspberry canes for delivery to the green dump.

In the end, I'm pleased that we made as much progress as we did - especially as moving the rock proved to be the most onerous and time-consuming chore of the day. We still need to reseed what was the north bed with grass, and we never did get around to most of the roses, but the bulk of the major moving of plants I wanted to accomplish for the day is complete. I have room in the interior bed to put in some tomatoes and cucumbers (though I might put the tomatoes where the sweet potato vines were as I think they'll get more light) and all the plants of any viewing-value have been moved to places where we can actually enjoy them.

We still have a lot of work to do on the yard to get it where we want it - we have several manyyearsold arborvitae that need to be cut down and removed and the fence and rosebushes need to be dealt with - but we've made noticeable progress. I have no doubt that I'll be wincing with some stiffness as I load the car to head out to the farm tomorrow and pr'bly stifle a yawn or two while attending the NCA reception tomorrow evening, but I can't help but admit that there's something satisfying about having dirt under your nails and the slightest hint of sunburn on your shoulders to mark a productive April weekend.


Rae said...

you probably know this, but... keep an eye on your transplanted mint, else you might find yourself with a garden of mint and only mint by the end of the summer.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow. How do I hire you guys? :)