Tag: home gardener

Digging a New Garden Bed – A Literal Bed of Nails

Now with BONUS crazy story!

I’m so excited because we’re finally creating an herb garden! I’ve wanted one for years but the few sunny areas of our yard are out of sight and mostly out of mind. Recently, a wind storm took down a pear tree near our house, opening up the perfect place to grow herbs.

RIP, pear tree. You were a good climber, from what I hear.

First, we determined the size and shape of the bed. I wanted an interesting shape because this bed is smack-dab in the middle of our front yard. At the center of the bed I stuck a weeding tool into the ground and tied a string to the handle. I marked the string at 8.5′ and used that as my guide to spray paint the perimeter line. (This is my very unscientific method, and I’m purposely avoiding using words like radius and circumference here. I have to trick the right side of my brain into participating in math and science.)

Anywho, then we got to diggin’. Closely following the painted line, we dug a very deep border edge (8″ – 10″) and transferred that sod into a wheelbarrow.

Resisting the temptation to turn or till it under, we removed the sod layer entirely. This layer is full of seeds (grass and weeds, in our case) and they will sprout in the garden bed. We could have moved it to our compost piles, or filled a few low spots in the yard, but we chose to create a small berm instead, and we’ll have to aggressively weed it going forward.

Dig, remove sod, repeat. Dig, remove sod, repeat. Go to bed. Get up and do it all over again. You can see the berm taking shape in the back of the picture below.

Now that we’ve cleared away all of the sod, we’re ready to begin amending the soil. But for now, it’s time to stand back and admire our handsome new garden bed.

Crazy Story Time:
Soon after we bought this house we noticed that whenever it rained, shards of broken glass and tile would work their way to the surface of the lawn. That discovery was quickly followed by a “no bare feet outside” rule. The debris that has surfaced since then seems to have no end.

Broken tile

Almost with the first shovelful of soil that we turned over in this bed, we began picking up rusty nails and other debris. The first day we threw them out. The second day we started tossing them into a 5 gallon bucket just to save a few steps.

We found half a license plate, bits of wire, metal springs, screws, a Willard battery cap and beer can tabs. Not surprising, since the original owner ran a neighborhood garage from our property.

That green blob on the right is proof that balloons don’t biodegrade.
The Great Archaeological Dig of 2019

We unearthed half of a broken, plastic cup, two table knives, four glass marbles and a tiny, blue game piece. Also not surprising, because the Thompson family raised fourteen children here. I can just imagine Mrs. Thompson raising Cain as her utensils slowly disappeared from her kitchen, never to be seen again!

And oh, my word! The nails that filled this bed! It’s been a week since we finished digging, and we haven’t found more nails, but I’m not deluding myself into thinking we’ve found them all.

Guess how many nails we dug up from the herb garden? Can’t imagine? Here’s a hint:

We picked up seven. hundred. and. eighty. two. rusty. nails!
782!
I would love to know what on Earth happened here, to have so many nails in the yard!

And then there is the glass! Our nieces and nephews have played on this patch of lawn forever. They’ve chased lightning bugs, played What Time is it Mr. Fox?, Tag and Toilet Tag here. They’ve scoured this area for hidden Easter eggs. This is where we have our New Year’s midnight silly string battle. Our nieces turn cartwheels here. It’s really amazing that no one has been injured by a glass shard.

I told my sister-in-law that we’d never be able to work in this bed on our hands and knees, and she suggested that we use a small bag of soft mulch as a kneeling pad. Great idea! We will certainly do that.

The best discovery of all (the only good discovery?) are these two glass bottles that my husband dug up. The larger bottle is absolutely perfect with no chips or cracks. I cannot believe that it survived undamaged, considering that we used shovels and a mattock to dig this bed! The smaller bottle has a chip on the lip, but is otherwise in good condition.

Is it just me, or does that white marble remind you of a glass eye?

So that’s your crazy story for the day, kids. Now, go update your tetanus shot!

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Ground Cover for Steeply Sloped Banks

We’ve got two driveways and the banks next to the first one are steeply sloped, shaded and have horrible, clay soil. When we moved in 15 years ago, we planted several flats of variegated ivy on one bank hoping that it would scramble up the bank and cover it quickly. The ivy proved to be slow growing and while it has spread, it’s not doing the job.

Ivy going nowhere.

We’ve planted vinca minor on a third bank and discovered vinca major growing wild at the other end of that same bank. It has mostly filled in, and is beautiful when covered in periwinkle blooms. Vinca has glossy, evergreen leaves and looks great year round. It is on the Virginia invasive plants list, but we haven’t found it difficult to control.

Bank covered in vinca minor. This is such an easy care plant and forms a good weed barrier.
Vinca major in bloom.

In an effort to cover the other two banks, I’ve been researching evergreen ground covers. The banks are steep enough that withstanding foot traffic is not a concern. This will likely be a multi-year project because both banks are large. The first one is 52′ x 10′ and is under an ancient, oak tree. We’ve successfully grown Solomon’s Seal there, but it dies back in the winter. The second bank is 125′ x 22′(yes, that’s 2,750 square feet!) and has the slow-growing ivy on it.

Solomon’s Seal is perennial and gorgeous during the spring and summer.

With such a large area to cover, we need a plant that is inexpensive and will quickly spread to fill in. Last fall, we transplanted about a dozen plugs of liriope as a test to see if it would tolerate the deep shade, extremely poor soil and root competition from the oak tree. Surprisingly, they survived and are thriving this spring.

Test liriope.

This spring, we’re transplanting liriope from two other areas in our yard; an unruly border and the bed of black-eyed Susans. Aside from lots of sweat equity, this project is free. My favorite price!

Liriope marching out into the lawn from a border planting.

Because the test plants grew well in our poor soil, we’re not amending the planting holes with garden soil or compost. With thousands of holes to dig, it would only increase the time needed to complete this project. And I don’t think the extra expense is necessary.

We’re transplanting the liriope bare root so that we do not have to move a lot of soil. This enables us to dig smaller planting holes, and to tuck the liriope in next to the tree roots without damaging them. We started by using a trowel, but switched to a hand weeder to dig the holes.

Until they are settled in to their new home, we’re watering the transplants daily. We’ll mulch the banks once the transplants are established. This project is slow-going, but we’re hopeful that this is the tough-as-nails ground cover these banks need.

New transplants!

To read more on vinca:
https://www.thespruce.com/vinca-minor-vines-2132217

For more information on liriope:
https://www.thespruce.com/liriope-plants-popular-varieties-of-border-grass-2132483

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Grow Free Hydrangeas Through Layering

We have five large Nikko Blue hydrangeas, and I’d love to create a long sweep of them in our yard. They’re planted just opposite my kitchen window and bloom from June through the first frost. Last fall, I layered them in the hopes of gaining loads of baby plants (layers) for free. I layered 20 branches and 16 of them have taken root.

The layering process is super simple and I hope you will give it a try. A note about timing: I do this at the end of summer, while the branches are flexible enough to bend to the ground without breaking. In Virginia, this means mid-late October. I’ve read that you can layer plants in the spring, but I haven’t tried it.

You will need:

  • An established, healthy “mother” hydrangea – ask a friend if you can layer theirs if you don’t have one
  • Rocks, bricks, small children or other heavy object(s) for weight
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Wintertime and patience

Find a healthy, lower branch of the plant. I select branches that are leafy, with no flowers. Without disturbing the leaves at the tip, break off the next lower set of leaves down to the branch. The place where you removed the leaves is the node.

Gently lower the node to the ground, loosen the soil under it and then pile at least an inch of soil on top of the node. Place a rock or brick on top to weight it down securely. Water the mother plant occasionally if needed.

Wait until Spring and check on your plants. New growth at the tip of the branch indicates that your baby plant has taken root.

Leaving the rock or brick in place, snip the branch between the weight and the mother plant as below and give the baby a few weeks of living on its own before transplanting. Be sure to water the layer baby daily until it is established, more often in hot weather. If the baby is very small, you might wish to delay transplanting for an entire growing season.

When transplanting small plants like these, I dig a hole about 12″ deep and 12″ across. Make sure the roots have plenty of loose soil to grow into. I like to mix in a little garden soil to lighten up our heavy clay soil. Once you’ve transplanted the babies, they will need some TLC. Water them each morning for a few weeks and then as needed until they are established.

I’ve only done this with hydrangeas, but I understand this works for other plants such as forsythia, rhododendron, azalea. I would love to know if you try it and how the process works for you.

Happy gardening!

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.