Our country garden in July

Well the garden is in full swing even if I haven’t been.

It’s been a busy summer and we haven’t been able to do as much as we would like. Nature is starting to creep in. While the plants are well established, the weeds and crawling ground cover are starting to encroach on my plans.

However a few things are doing alright. The viburnum is in good shape. I think that is what it is called. We pruned it last year and the new growth is doing well. And it is a nice concealer between us and the road.

I have one lowly lily at this point. More are on their way by the looks. The ditches are full of orange lilies which seems early but this year is a bit of a weird one in terms of heat and weather.

These are looking a little sad this year. Last year’s were bountiful and lovely but they need a little TLC on our vacation I think. I think I will flesh them out a bit with some friends in the coming weeks. And you can surely see the wretched ground cover that I pulled out this year and that returned with a vengeance as it damned well does.

Well that is it for now. More to come soon.

If a tree falls… will the neighbour hear it?

Well they didn’t hear it but they did see it.

I got a text message last week from my neighbour with this photo attached and the subject, “Did you know?”

I did not.

I made my way up this weekend. It’s going to be tough to tie a yellow ribbon around this oak tree now. Or the pine tree it took down. Must have been that bad storm everyone was talking about.

No real damage and no one hurt. Only a foot or two away from the powerline into the house though. Close one.

Well my neighbour and I cleared what we could and the pros are coming this week to buck up the rest. We will have campfire wood and my friends who rely on wood stoves will get the rest. Oh and there may even be some chips for the garden that can kill off the rest of my evil vines and general pile of crap near the septic tank.

So I guess just as nature intends, everything comes full circle. From mighty acorns…etc.

Oh poop! What to plant on the septic bed?

When you have a place in the country you think about poop a lot.

Wait, let me clarify. When you aren’t attached to a municipal water system you generally have to rely on a septic system. Or outhouse if you are particularly rustic.

With a septic system comes great responsibility. You yell at people who try to park on or near it. You chuck yeast and yoghurt down the drains to keep it healthy with good bacteria. And you rue the plants with thick, virulent roots that grow nearby in the fear that one day you will have to dig up the whole stinky mess.

This is what we are dealing with now. I’ve cleared out all the vines and junk from this spot last year. Now I need to find some solid, hardy perennials that will not interfere with the septic here, cover up the general ugliness of this side and potentially high “White October” the giant submarine sized propane tank.

I want to keep that Orange Blossom shrub but I’ve got an empty canvas other than that.

I found this great resource from Purdue University. I think I will use a lot of their advice. Of course I will listen to any advice from anyone out there as well.

Landscaping Over Septic Systems with Native Plants

That’s some good poop to ponder.

Growing with hydro (not that hydro): What to plant near powerlines

Our entire front yard is graced with powerlines (or hydro lines as we say up yonder).

While this isn’t the front of our house, it might as well be. Between oak, spruce and pine, there are a lot of powerline/tree interactions.

So we get power but that also means every few years we get the folks from Ontario’s largest power distributor visiting with their chain saws and aerial devices to trim our trees back that grow directly underneath the powerlines. And while arborists are trained and skilled folk that know just how to cut a tree so that it remains healthy and vibrant without interfering with the lines, due to a lack of time no doubt, they seem to just lop the tops off of my lovely trees or cut great gaping holes in their branch systems.

It’s not really our fault. When the property was still a school, I have been told the students would plant trees around the property in honour of Arbor day, which has meant our house is surrounded. Weird since we don’t seem to celebrate it here in  Canada. Let’s see what Wikipedia says about this:

In Canada, Maple Leaf Day falls on the last Wednesday in September during National Forest Week. Ontario celebrates Arbor Week from the last Friday in April to the first Sunday in May. Nova Scotia celebrates Arbour Day on the Thursday during National Forest Week, which is the first full week in May. Prince Edward Island celebrates Arbour Day on the 3rd Friday in May during Arbour Week.

I knew absolutely none of that. Is that true? Anyway I am digressing here…

I understand that lilac are useful in these situations as they aren’t too tall and we certainly see they remain after the cutting crews are done. There’s a snowball bush as well and a couple of apple trees but they seem to be an acceptable height.

The folks at BC Hydro have provided this information for homeowners which I found useful:

Planting near power lines

I am fortunate to work with a lot of folks who know about these sorts of things and have been able to glean a lot of information on this stuff. Generally, just don’t go anywhere near powerlines whether they are above you or below you in the case of underground electrical plant. If there is underground, like in a subdivision, hire someone to conduct a locate. If your trees are too tall and anywhere close to the lines, just don’t touch them. Let the professionals handle it.

If you are going to plant anything near them think about the eventual height of the plants. Trees like lilac, dogwood and dwarf spruce seemed to be the key items during my informal Twitter poll I conducted last week.

Does anyone else have any suggestions? I am going to look at syringa reticulata as I have heard it is hardy to zone 3 and within the limits of the powerlines. In the end this all comes down to the need to have privacy at the front of the house so  passersby aren’t shocked by nude sunbathing and other potential shenanigans. Just thinking of the neighbours!

You know what is harder than blogging about yard work?

Actually doing yard work.

After all of these months dreaming about getting outside and digging into some real work I forgot how tough it can actually be.

Oh spring. I always think it is best to wait until spring to rake until I actually get there. I am generally wrong. And I broke two rakes.

I started out ok, donning my new and very cool wellies, gloves and spring jacket. But by the end I was boots up on the couch, too tired to even crack a bevy.

Oh and I only got about 1/4 done at best. Needless to say I’ll be back soon to get another tiny corner complete. I guess I’ve got more work to do.

Does a garden grow if I am not there to see it?

We really want a vegetable garden at the schoolhouse but can weekend warriors do it if they aren’t there to water?

Now I’m no stranger to growing stuff. We always had a garden and I was in it a lot.

We’ve got the space, we’ve got the sun, we’ve got good dirt and access to a whole lot of mulch but if we only go up on weekends can we keep plants alive?

I’ve been doing a little research and we may investigate doing some square foot gardening. Or traditional gardening is also a good choice given what we have to work with. I’ve also found this:

Gravity feed watering kit

Lee Valley rarely lets me down so this could work. The combination of rain barrels and irrigation may be ok though the garden isn’t likely to be anywhere near the rain spouts. But access to water isn’t really the issue. With two wells I am sure we can keep the (rain) barrels full even if the rain gods aren’t our friends.

However it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take some advice from those who deal with drought on a regular basis. I cam across this blog post from a Californian gardener more acquainted with water issues.

Tips for a drought-friendly vegetable garden

I really like the irrigation of the tomatoes. Seems like it could work. It appears as though this may work if we plan ahead and do this right. We’ll stick with some containers on our condo balcony and a vegetable garden and herb garden at the schoolhouse.

Hmmm… Now I want a salad.

Bye bye birdies

I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn’t stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?

— Mrs. Bundy, elderly ornithologist, The Birds, 1963

Mrs. Bundy didn’t know her Woodcock from a Bearded Tit. Yeah those are real bird names. Look it up.

 Blue Jay

This past weekend while at the schoolhouse I realized I miss feeding the birds. It was a daily chore at our house to fill the metal bowl with sunflower and other seeds and head out to the bird feeder. It made for a pretty view in the winter, with Blue Jays and Chickadees flitting about and in the spring it was always nice to see the return of the Robins of course.

And while it was a constant battle to keep the squirrels at bay, we didn’t mind when this fat fellow stopped by and ate until he waddled off after a flying leap to the nearby picnic table.

We're not sure how he got up there but gravity helped with the descent.

Here in condo land there are strict rules against feeding the birds. Though there was that one time a wayward Canada Goose made its way to a third floor balcony in search of lunch. He left unrewarded.

And now it seems a bit of a tease to feed the birds on the few weekends we visit in the winter. Perhaps come spring we’ll get back into the habit.

When I do start again I’ve found some good information from the US-based National Wildlife Federation.

Create a bird-friendly habitat

All good ideas. And as for brush piles… we’ll let’s just say we have that one bullet item covered.

Spring to do list

At this time of year it is hard to be inspired about spring planting when you’ve got a few cold hard months ahead.

Here in Ontario we have been damned lucky that there really isn’t any snow. It’s only been below freezing a few times which is unusual for this time of year. You can see in the photo below the shovel waiting with trepidation as it knows the onslaught that approaches.

For now, however, it looks like the crappiest part of fall. Without snow all you see is unraked leaves and sad brown stalks where plants used to be.

It was a good growing season but what to do with the front gardens next year? hanging baskets? Tall stalks? Heritage perennials? Oh and I guess a little painting too!

At the schoolhouse we’ve got lots of naturalized bulbs that populate the front of the house without any help from anyone. My grandmother collected tulips and daffodils for a long time and over time they have made their way to many a nook and cranny.

There are many lilies and I’ve installed a few different hostas as well. Oh and some phlox (white) along the left side there.

Things are quite overgrown these days and basically unkempt. I need neat and tidy but low maintenance if such a plant exists.

But what else? I had some hanging baskets out this year. Should I opt for the same? I need inspiration people! Please send me your ideas. Detailed landscaping designs are also accepted.

And hey, it still looks better than the summer we had a toilet on the porch. Good times.

The garden is closed

Screw you rain I gotta garden.

That was my philosophy this past weekend. I don’t rake in the fall but there were phlox to transplant before the frost and my mint and chives from my balcony garden had to go in before it was too late.

It rained like a cow pissing on a flat rock (when you are in the country you can use these kinds of quaint expressions). We (mum and I) did get a few hours reprieve on Saturday so we gav’er (another charming local parlance) and got the herbs in the start of a new bed.

Here is the mint and chives. It's mojitos and omelets for us next spring!

Of course much of what we transplanted looks like crap at this time of year but the phlox and black-eyed Susan and daisies will look good next year. We’ve moved them over to fill in some holes that have been created by that horrible life sucking ground cover we can’t get rid of. Damned dirty weed! (said in Heston-like fashion).

Yeah it doesn't look like much now but you just wait. Those pink and purple phlox will rock.

So now the garden is closed for another season. We had a good run guys and we will see you next spring. Stay warm and don’t listen to anything the squirrels have to say. They are lying bastards and they’ll take you down if they want to.

I want a repeat of this, next year.

Oh yeah and when we got there we discovered that indeed our party friends the mice had been and left their mark. Or rather thousands of tiny poopy marks. That’s the job for next time.