Friday, May 15, 2009

Sore Fingers

After several weeks of on and off work, I finally finished removing the "ditch lilies" (orange daylilies) from the side of my house on Friday. They were lovely, and I enjoyed them, but they are monstrously hardy, spread like the worst kinds of weeds and aren't edible (as far as I know). Rather than waste the sunniest spot on my yard with something that is more or less a weed, I decided to remove them. The process was, in a word, awful.

But now I'm done, thank God. Once all the plants were removed, I graded the whole area by mixing the existing dirt with compost and peat moss and raking it away from the house so the rain water would drain toward the lawn and away from the foundation. I planted chives, garlic, shallots and red and yellow onions in a long stretch of the bed but left parts unplanted for now. Then I laid down a thick layer of hardwood mulch over the whole area.

I also removed some wayward peppermint. Last year I planted two tiny baby peppermint plants in August (purchased from the West Allis Farmers Market) and they have since become a veritable crop of mint. I saved a small clump of it to plant in a pot, thinking at least this way I can manage it's growth a little better, then composted the rest.

I took some of these pulled plants to the composter, but those that had gone to flower or seed and those that had really heavy duty, long lasting root bulbs (i.e. the daylilies) I threw into paper bags for the city to compost with our yard waste removal program.

One important lesson I learned from all this plant removal is how critical it is to go deep when removing weeds. Pulling -- even pulling carefully to remove the roots of a plant -- often only gets a small part of the root at best. I discovered it is better to get the roots by shovel and then shake off all the extra dirt and worms before discarding or composting.

On Friday I also decided to plant some of the squares in my One True Square Foot Garden. I left about six squares empty, but planted beefsteak tomatoes, a watermelon plant, cilantro, cabbage, pepperoncini, jalapenos, and bush beans. I'll probably plant the rest of my seedlings and start seeds next week.

I should note that I like the grid on this raised bed that I think we are going to add similar grids to the three other raised beds.

On Friday night I slept over at my parents' in northern Illinois, then got to work on Saturday morning with my dad -- we transformed a dormant garden on his two acre lot into three (slightly) raised beds outlined with bricks.

For this space, I'm going to get a little experimental. I have a bit more room to work with than I do in my own yard, so I'm going to grow a variation of the "three sisters" combination of corn, beans and squash. We'll see. Incidentally, I came across this really helpful website that outlines various plant combinations.

When I came home Saturday afternoon, I jumped into yet another yard project -- removing more wayward plants (I think they're Lobelia) that had spread beyond the bed in which they were once planted years ago by a previous homeowner. Many of them were under a barberry bush, which meant getting my hands mauled by barberry thorns. I must have been pricked about 50 times. I have at least ten tiny splinters in my hands from those cursed thorns. It was so bad that now I can barely move the middle finger on my right hand, where I was pricked on one of the joints. OWWWW!!!!

Overall last night was mixed. My fingers were in pain and I lost my cell phone after having a delicious meal at hotch-a-do. We ended up driving from Tosa back to the east side and then to Tosa again and I still don't have my phone. Still, despite these things I'm thrilled that we got so much accomplished in the last few days. Plus, Steve is almost finished with my new compost bin, which I've been anxiously awaiting for weeks now.

As soon as my fingers are back in working order, I'm going to post some pictures.

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