The weather has been gorgeous here in West Michigan for the last few days. We’ve been hurrying through dinner so we can spend more time outside. In fact, the first thing out of Ben’s mouth this morning when I got him up was a request to go outside!
Last night the boys were happy playing with their toys so Brian and I got a little bit of bonus yard work done. Brian trimmed the back (western) hedge, I weeded half of the kitchen garden, Teddy played quietly in the bouncy seat, and Ben ran around but mostly played with the water table (best toddler toy of all time!).
I finished weeding all the maples out of this bed today during the nearly nonexistent naps that the boys gave us and was able to make some plans for all the empty space I had uncovered. I forgot to get a photo before the sun went down so you’ll have to put up with the partially finished one from last night. I have two small chives to plant yet this weekend and will pick up some lavender soon. I’m going to split and move the hosta that are between the tree and the house to the empty middle of the garden so we have a place to store his outside toys without crushing plants.
My mom and grandma stopped by yesterday and identified some of the mystery plants as different kinds of lilies, astilbe, and columbine. The beautiful (yet scraggly) flowering bush below the window is a flowering almond. From what I read today, they put up with a lot of pruning so I’ve started clipping it back to (hopefully) encourage it to fill in.
I finally got a chance to get back to work outside today. It’s been cold and rainy for most of the week and while I want to get the yard work caught up, I’m not that hardcore!
Today’s projects were to:
Trim the 4 spirea in front of our front entry
Deadhead all three areas of hydrangea since we’ve determined they’ll flower off old growth
Clean all off last year’s growth, leaves, and those dang maple saplings from the large 6′ by 20′ bed
Did I finish? Oh yes I did! I was able to sneak a little over two hours in while the boys napped. The spirea project was over quickly thanks to our electric hedge trimmer. I was able to pull out a lot of dead wood and cut them to a more uniform shape and size.
I quickly moved on to the hydrangeas. We have three areas of hydrangea, two flanking the mess where a spruce was cut down last spring and one really large plot along our back (western) fence. Cutting off dry flowers isn’t tough work so that was quickly finished.
I have been dreading working in the bed behind the garage since we moved in last summer. By the time we moved in, the bed was full of fast-growing weeds and unidentifiable plants. I pulled off last year’s flower stalks but the biggest issue, as with most of our yard, were these little suckers…
Little maple saplings! It seemed like thousands of them! Last year was a big year for errant maple growth because of the really heavy snow cover. With packing one house, cleaning and updating the other, growing a baby, and caring for a wild toddler, I didn’t have enough energy or time to pull them all by hand so they had a full season of growth in their roots.
Now to brag a little, the garden looks pretty awesome now!
Moving from the background to foreground we have lilies, a mix of irises and tulips, mystery plant (that will grow around 3 ft tall and flower purple? maroon? fuchsia?), three peonies, more irises, and mystery plant #2 along the back by the wall. I moved the cement stepping stone to this bed today too. At some point, my grandpa removed the gutters above this bed and the rain cascading out of open end of the gutter system was causing quite a bit of soil loss next to the path. We had a few extra pavers on the other side of the house that I could move over until I figure out a more permanent solution to last until we replace the leaky gutters.
What’s up next? This garden!
The window you can see through the branches of the tree is the window over my kitchen sink and this bed lays on the opposite side of the walkway from the bed I cleaned today. From left to right, we have stray maples, a rose bush, primroses, maples, the same mystery plant #2 as the other garden, a trillium, maples, tulips, maples, a few hosta, and some maples. The tree is a dogwood and the bush by the window is a…. mystery bush. It is about to flower what look to be small, pink blossoms so that’s exciting.
I want to add lavender and chives to this garden at some point and pave the area closest to the house with landscaping tiles to store the boys’ outdoor toys. I look at this garden a ton while washing dishes so I’m excited to get it looking as good as the other’s I’ve worked on.
I’ve been chipping away at the weeds and spring yard clean up during naps and after the boys go to bed off and on this week. I still have so much to do but the yard waste bin is full again!
I wrapped around the house to the northwest end behind Teddy’s bedroom (left window) and the full bathroom (right window). I need to pull out about a million tiny maple trees and other weeds. The majority of this bed is taken up by the biggest holly bush I’ve ever seen. There are a few hostas in the foreground of this photo and then there’s this mystery plant to the left of the holly…
So, any ideas? Is it something that should be growing in a garden or is it a freakishly large weed?
I am not a gardener by any stretch of the definition. My parents enjoy telling the story of how I grumpily told them as a teenager that I was going to live in an apartment high up in a skyscraper so I’d never have to pull weeds as an adult. I didn’t end up in that apartment, however, and my feelings toward yard work hasn’t changed. We are on our second suburban house with loads of planned and beautifully landscaped garden beds. In fact, it’s probably pretty safe to say that we have twice the square footage of garden space that needs to be maintained at this house than what we had at the old house. Cue the sad trumpet noise!
Because I haven’t spent much time in the yard since my forced labor as a kid, I can’t identify very many plants nor do I know much of how to take care of them. Join me this growing season as I explore the jungle that we bought! I’ll make some guess, use Google a ton, and ask people who know more than me and hopefully not kill off everything in the process. By recording my work here, I hope to have a long list of completed projects that I can be proud of by the time snow flies later this year.
I headed outside today to start attacking the mess that is the front landscaping. Our house was vacant for several months last spring and we didn’t move in until the heat of summer when I was already uncomfortably pregnant so much of the yard hasn’t been weeded for more than a year. My goals for this afternoon were to get as much cleaned up during Ben and Teddy’s afternoon naps as possible including:
Trim the last of the ornamental grass before the new growth takes over
Cut back the butterfly bush in the front yard
Trim whatever else comes back as new growth in the front bed
Pull out invasive grass and tiny maple trees still growing from last spring
How much did I get done, you ask?
This is what the corner of ornamental grass looked like when I started and…
…this is what it looked like when I was finished. I cut out last year’s growth, cleaned out the remaining dead leaves, and yanked out the surprise baby maples that were hiding under the leaves.
I don’t know what this plant is (do you?) but it grows from new growth every year so I needed to cut off all the dead stuff from last year.
This is how that area looks now that the plants are uncovered. I can’t wait to clean up the edges of the garden and put in mulch to keep the weeds from taking over!
This is our butterfly bush. It has gorgeous purple flowers when it blooms and caps off the western end of the garden bed. It is another plant that sends up new shoots every year so everything you see in the photo had to be cut back. This was intimidating to me because some of the branches were an inch thick!
Here she is in the lower left corner! I cut off all the sticks from last year, dug out a surprise maple tree hiding inside that had gotten to nearly 3′ tall (yikes!), and pulled out the chunks of wood that had started rotting and were soft.
I worked on the middle of the garden bed but didn’t make as much progress as I had hoped. The bed is supposed to be kidney bean shaped but the middle was choked with invading grass. Grass in the yard = good, grass in the garden = awful!
I got about half of the grass removed before I started running short on time and needed to move on. There wasn’t a whole lot to uncover under the dead grass except a few lily bulbs and what might be hostas. I’d love to widen the bed a tad through the middle and add a few more flowering plants that can handle full sun yet this year.
As a bonus, I dug out two more 2-3′ tall, self-seeded maple trees that were growing along the north side of the house and tested to see how much effort it would take to clean up the bed below our eastern bedroom windows. The answer, a lot of effort! Depending on how sore I am when I wake up tomorrow, I may have another post ready soon!
I finally got my vegetable garden planted last week. Yes, I know it was super late!
I never plant any early producers that need to get in right away (no asparagus, leaf lettuces, strawberries, radishes, green onion, etc) because May is historically a horribly busy month for us. Between birthdays, our anniversary, and preparing for our first reenactment of the year at Greenfield Village, there is never enough time to get myself to the farmers’ market, weed, spread dirt, put up the rabbit fence, lay weed-blocking fabric, and get the plants in the ground between the frost-safe time (usually around the second week of May) and Memorial Day.
The contents of the garden varies from year to year, especially since I was largely pregnant last summer so I did the bare minimum to keep things from getting overgrown. This year I weeded and prepped both sections of the garden; the south bed where we pulled out 3 large trees planted only inches from the house the summer after we moved in and the L garden next to the driveway. The L garden was here when we moved in and I have fond memories of my Grandpa coming over first thing on the morning we moved in to weed, put up fences and plant a forest of bush beans. Grandma told me that Grandpa always planted too many beans in their garden too! Now that Grandpa is gone, cleaning out the L bed and planting my beans (vine on teepees, not bushes) makes me feel a little closer to him.
In the south bed, we have a patio tomato, a yellow pear tomato, a purple sweet pepper plant, a yellow sweet pepper, two squashes, a yellow crook-neck and a zucchini, and my experiment of the year, two sweet potato vines. The time needed until maturity for sweet potatoes is longer than I anticipate having left this year (I think it’s close to 140 days) but it’s worth a shot! There is also a largeish lavender plant and chives at the far end of the bed. Since those are perennials, I don’t have to worry about them much.
The L bed will have 2 bean teepees with 3 vines planted at the base of each leg; 18 total, and Brian’s one request, the pumpkin plant. That space needs a bit more work before I can say that it’s actually finished but that should be done tomorrow if the weather holds out.
I’m going to mulch the south bed but I read somewhere that I should hold off on mulching until the plants are established (3 or so weeks) so they don’t feel too crowded and die. I don’t mind delaying mulching at all! It’s one of my least favorite outdoor chores.