Critters

I knew the mess was from racoons

I knew the mess was from racoons–CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR LARGER VIEW.

Pretty much every time I go into the garden I see the holes dug by hungry big cute rodents. They’re turning over all that turf that I carefully dug and up-ended to “self-compost” under the wood chip mulch. And seemingly throwing around the edging bricks. They’re heavy!

But I didn't really thing about the entire family--clearly mum's been teaching them how to dig.

But I didn’t really think about the entire family–clearly mum’s been teaching them how to dig.

But with at least four of them, it does explain how they can make so much mess.

Following the path to the stairs to the deck.

Following the path to the stairs to the deck.

They know their way around the territory.

Tried to scare them away-- but we knew racoons--especially mummy racoons-- aren't really afraid of humans!

Tried to scare them away– but we knew racoons–especially mummy racoons– aren’t really afraid of humans!

Giving me “the glare”–you’d think I’d taught them!

Anyone else having the same problem? Anyone have any suggestions? I don’t want to do them any harm, just protect my labour investment.

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Tips for Post-Spring Clean-up

DSCN1027Your crocuses and daffs and tulips were lovely, but now they’re just a mess.

The candytuft really filled the space, but now it’s all just one big mess.

The early peonies were bright and bold, but now they’re really a mess.

What to do? Cut, cut, cut. But cut with care!

Let’s Start With Peonies

I didn't stake these up, so this is the consequence. I managed to cut a few for a bouquet before losing the rest.

I didn’t stake these up, so this is the consequence. I managed to cut a few for a bouquet before losing the rest.

You can cut off the flower stalk, but leave the rest of the foliage. It’s lovely right now, will furnish cuttings for bouquets through the rest of the growing season, and will probably turn a bit red in the fall before they finally succumb. A lot of your larger non-bulb spring plants can be treated the same.

Spring blooming bulbs and rhizomes

Most of your bulbs need to continue to grow and photosynthesize even after the         flower fades in order to replenish the bulb, and in some cases multiply the bulb. So you can cut the flower stalk and leave the foliage until it turns completely yellow. Problem is, of course, it begins to look unsightly pretty soon after the flowers are done. Your best solution is to plant bulbs in among other perennials that will grow up alongside, or soon after the bulb, so the new growth of the companion plant hides the dying foliage of the bulb.

This is the same spot as the picture at the top of the post. Grasses, lilies and (not visible in the picture but off to the left) coreopsis--all hiding the tulip leaves. I won't bother cutting them off, they'll be compost by the end of the year.

This is the same spot as the picture at the top of the post. Grasses, lilies and (not visible in the picture but off to the left) coreopsis–all hiding the tulip leaves. I won’t bother cutting them off, they’ll be compost by the end of the year.

Irises (a rhizome) are easier because they maintain their sword-like foliage into the late fall. All you have to do is cut down the flower stalk.

Last bloom of the irises--can be sacrificed for the sake of getting rid of the unsightly stalks.

Last bloom of the irises–can be sacrificed for the sake of getting rid of the unsightly stalks.

Some faded flowers are definitely worth keeping. This allium (‘Purple Sensation’) is setting seed, and usually that means that it isn’t putting it’s energy into replenishing its bulb. But why cut down something that looks this good?

Allium 'Purple Sensation'

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’

Ground cover

Aubretia, Creeping Phlox, Iberis–all ground covers that bloom like crazy in the spring, then really NEED to be trimmed after blooming so they’ll maintain a nice neat growth habit. Otherwise they get woody, or sprawl all over the place, or grow out the ends and die in the middle. Trimming is exactly what it sounds like–grab a handful and CUT.

You can just see (it's ll the same green unfortunately) the faded flower stalks that are setting seed.

You can just see (it’s all the same green unfortunately) the faded flower stalks that are setting seed.

I've taken a good handful here and I'm cutting well below the beginning of the faded flowers, leaving just a bit of old growth. It'll grow back in no time, and increase in size.

I’ve taken a good handful here and I’m cutting well below the beginning of the faded flowers, leaving just a bit of old growth. It’ll grow back in no time, and increase in size.

Most of your similar low-growing spring bloomers can be handled the same.

I’ll have more tips for pruning in future posts. Post some questions below about your own pruning needs–I’ll answer what I can, research what I don’t already know, and ask my more expert friends if I’m still in the dark. And as always, click on the “Follow” button, and “like” on Facebook.

 

Starting from Scratch? Tips for a Newbie Gardener

I just read this great beginners’ tutorial on starting a garden from Houzz. This isn’t for the person who is building a house and installing a garden completely from scratch, but rather for the person who looks at what they’ve got and has no idea where to start, or if they even want to garden at all.

So here’s the Reader’s Digest version: Clean up. Weed and Edge. Stepping Stones. Mulch.

1. Clean up.

I have three unsightly cedars on the edge of my front yard. They drop detritus like crazy in the winter, hiding everything that’s of any interest or beauty underneath it. By clearing that away, I see all kinds of things that I can’t see until I clean up. Even if there’s only lawn (even crappy lawn like above), or even only “dirt” (which gardeners call “soil”–dirt is a dirty word!), neatening it up will give all manner of gratification (as you can see above), and hope for what’s to come. Cleaning up may include pruning–I’ll get to that in a future post!

2. Weed and Edge.

To begin with, weeding may be quite intimidating, and not a little work. But once you’ve cleaned up the site (as above) so that you can see what’s there, and tackle small areas at a time, it’s not nearly as bad as anticipated. And definitely gets easier as you keep at it. Mulching (step 4) REALLY helps.

Then take an edger–or even an old long serrated knife will do nicely–and cut a sharp edge to the garden beds. You’ll be surprised what  an effect it creates. And in the same way, neaten the edges next to sidewalks, driveways and paths.DSCN1333

3. Stepping Stones.

Randomly positioned repurposed pavers

Randomly positioned broken, repurposed “grass pavers”.

One of the chief things about getting going in the garden is accessibility. The easier it is to get to all areas of the garden, the more you’ll wander in there, and the easier it is to do whatever needs doing, whether it’s weeding, planting, evaluating, watering…

So find something that will serve as stepping stones, and then find lots of places to put them. Your  goal is to make all the little nooks and crannies of the garden easily reachable. Bricks will do, flat stones, tiles, concrete rhubarb leaves (my favourite!).

Rhubarb leaf stepping stones in the veg garden.

Rhubarb leaf stepping stones in the veg garden.

4. Mulch.

Once you’ve dealt with the current generation of weeds, you’ll want to prevent more growth as much as possible. This is (one of the many areas) where mulch really shines. Put 2-4″ of some kind of (preferably organic) material that covers the soil. My choice is wood chips, that I got free from a local tree service. Compost or composted manure will also do, as will bark nuggets if you must. Pea gravel will work if that’s the look (modern, edgy or desert) you want. The further weeds have to travel to reach light, the weaker they become and the easier they are to pull. There will always be weeds, so let’s make them as little work as possible. And covering the ground, especially with organic matter, improves its quality, always a good thing. Better soil is a less desirable environment for weeds–they are generally opportunists that take advantage of empty or poor soil. Or not:-P

An area in permanent shade that has never been mulched or in any way improved. Weedy!

An area in permanent shade that has never been mulched or in any way improved. Weedy!

Does this help you get a sense of where to start in your new space? Let me know in the comments section, and as always, ask questions, make comments, share to FB or whatever.

NOT Low Maintenance Gardens

I DON’T  want a low-maintenance garden. This morning I went out and wandered around, and there wasn’t much to do, so I looked at blossoms, cut a few for a bouquet, watered some plants I recently transplanted, and then came inside. Later I went out again, still not much to do, so I fixed the hose, watered a little more, filled the bird “cup”, looked at the same blossoms I looked at earlier, in case they’d changed, and came in.

I really enjoy doing stuff in the garden!Image