Down the Garden Path Again

I know there are wrinkles. I’ve decided to consider them aesthetically pleasing

This weekend was my weekend to try once more with the path between our deck and our neighbors’ fence. On Friday I had what has now become my yearly biopsy on my tongue (major ugh and unhappiness). That means that until I can no longer feel the stitches and any and all side effects have vanished, I can’t really talk or eat or do much of anything. It’s Labor Day weekend so 3 days off from work and then Rosh Hashanah on Tuesday and Wednesday. No one expecting much of anything from me. No family holiday dinner as there is no family in town at the moment and, as noted, I couldn’t be sure I could talk or eat in time for holiday dinner. The good news is that (1) I can actually chew some food today and (2) the weather cooperated wonderfully for garden work and (3) my husband was kind enough to go lift, buy, and lift the lumber I wanted.

I should have removed all the stones to the ivy side. Had to do it to unroll the screening

We already know the burlap failed to slow rapid growth of the weeds. It did function beautifully for my other 2 criteria: water permeable and bio-degradable. I don’t think I realized how much water collects in that area. You can see from the photos that there is one section there where it is WET. I don’t think you can tell from the pictures but under 3 of the stones the burlap actually tore, it was that wet and frayed. The new plan was again something that sounded as if it should be easy but ended up having nuances I’d not anticipated. This is why you should really hire professionals, or do a LOT of research beforehand (not my forte) or figure it’s going to take much longer than you expected or have a very low threshold for satisfaction with work done. I chose the last option. The plan was to pick up the stepping stones, line the path with nylon screening, then secure that screening with the bricks lining the mulch, with the stepping stones themselves, and with 4×4 poles along the fence. I’d used the metal U-staples on the burlap. I needed a zillion of them and I wasn’t sure how well they’d work on the nylon.

Not sure if you can see but the 3 darkest patches had already ripped through

My first surprise came when I picked up the stones and saw how quickly the burlap was deteriorating. I begin to understand the popularity of that revolting black weed block. My next surprise came with the screening. I’d ordered a roll of 100′ x 60″, enough for 2 layers of screen mesh. I hadn’t realized how SLIPPERY screen mesh can be. This is where the “easily satisfied” aspect of the job manifested. Besides the screen slithering around and bunching up, it’s late summer. Leaves were falling the whole time I was working. Despite using a leaf blower to clear the burlap before beginning work, and after putting down the first layer of screening, leaves were falling faster than I worked. There are leaves between the screen and the burlap, and leaves between the 2 screen layers. Oh well – they are biodegradable. 🙂

Leaf blower, broom – I couldn’t keep the burlap clear of debris

My other miscalculation was my lack of energy. My last solid food was dinner Thursday night. Biopsy on Friday, only water and tylenol with codeine. Water on Saturday. Late Saturday afternoon I was able to – oh, what’s a polite word for what I did? – ingest some pretzels. Little pieces of pretzel. That I could hold in the non-cut side of my mouth until I could swallow. If you don’t eat protein, and have experienced trauma to your body, you aren’t in very good shape to do physical labor. I’ve never let that stop me before and didn’t take it into consideration on Saturday afternoon either.

This is about the point I realized how difficult it was going to be to unwind that roll

I got most of the walk done – I gave up about 2/3 of the way replacing the bricks – the last step. My husband found me on the kitchen floor, conscious, but not very functional. I’d finally given up when the only thing I was aware of was a nearly overwhelming sense of nausea. I was close enough to the bathroom when I lay down that I figured I could get there in time. Other than that, I had no energy. I was drained. You know I must have seemed out of it when he asked me if he should call the ambulance. That’s the point when I figured maybe I should let him help me up so I could get to a chair. Of course being me, I refused to let him help me (he was moving too fast and strong) and I needed to take off my dirty gardening clothes (something he thought was unnecessary). I fell asleep in the chair wrapped in a sheet. Definitely a case of over-doing. I got up early Sunday morning, put on my dirty gardening clothes and went out to finish putting the bricks back into place. 🙂 I’m not loving the look – the burlap looked so much nicer – but I’m hoping this will keep the weeds growing at a slower pace. If not, I’ll think about it over the winter, and call in the professionals in the spring. 🙂

The lilac bush roots don’t play nicely with the bricks, but notice the gently undulating wrinkles

Why We Weed

weeded backyard
After cleanup

I spend a lot of time in my breakfast room at my table. As I’ve mentioned before, that has spurred me to start shedding some love on the back yard. I shared pictures of what I’ve done, but those pictures showed all the weeds and mess. Check out how great it looks now that I went out there and weeded and cleaned!!! I still have more work to do in the part behind the deck, and out of sight of this photo. There is still so much weeding to be done in the driveway as well. But for the moment I’m resting on my laurels and enjoying the view!

Finally Attending to the Back Yard

IMG_3547
Path at noon (standing on the rocks under the breakfast room bay window)

As you can tell by my photos, I spend A LOT of time on the front and side of the house. There never used to be much reason to spend a lot of effort in the back as I never really saw it. We have a huge deck (I think it’s 14′ x 20′) attached to the house and we entertain there. You’ve seen the photos of the trellis all around it with the ivy thick on the trellis. The only view of the back yard is from my breakfast room window or when you are walking from the driveway up to the deck. Since I never sat in my breakfast room facing the windows, I didn’t really care about that yard. I’d tried various methods to tame the weeds. I tried putting down burlap covering the dirt so we could get to the composter. I tried using bamboo fencing as a pathway. My goal was about walking to the composter, not about having a nice view.

view from my window including hanging sculpture
view from my window including part of the hanging sculpture

Once we redid the kitchen 2 years ago, I ended up with my wonderful round counter-height table. I sit there all the time. In front of me is the glass wall and door to the deck. To my left is the back yard. Which looked terrible. I began working on it last summer. There are a few problems with the area. The first is the lack of sun. Because of the trees, house, garage and deck that area gets almost no sun on the back property line and very little between the deck and the garage. The soil is poor and complicated by the fact that over 25 years ago I had landscaping done. Why is landscaping a problem? Because landscapers put down that horrible black weed-barrier material, which is nearly impossible to cut. It doesn’t prevent weeds, either. I had the area around the deck completely mulched. I had visions of my son and his friends climbing on the deck rail and falling off. The mulch deteriorated, we replaced it many times, and it became and accumulated dirt. The weeds grew in the dirt. There was easily a minimum of 2 inches of dirt above the weed barrier. I began trying to grow plants back there. They’d die because they couldn’t get roots down far enough. That’s what led to the burlap and bamboo paths.

view from the composters
view from the composter (spiderwort, behind the deck)

I finally realized last year that if I wanted plants I was going to have to do battle with the weed block. First I need to determine the battle site, excuse me, site for the plant. Then I need to push all the dirt to the side to uncover the weed barrier. It is now over 25 years old, so sometimes it yields fairly easily to the box cutter knife. Other times I could swear the barrier was made of steel. Not only do I need to clear the barrier from an area sufficiently wide to dig a hole, I have to slice it for a distance from the hole so the plant can spread. I’m not sure that I always do a sufficient job of slicing to enable spreading. It takes a lot of strength and energy to cut that material, even as aged as it is. I’ve started looking for shade-loving plants (I should move the cilantro back here) and ground covers that will spread. I really don’t want to have to deal with this yard with the effort that the front requires. I’m very pleased with how it’s looking these days, although you can tell from the photos that it is due for a massive weeding. I was planning to do that this weekend but I ended up tackling the rhododendron and the weeds on the side of the house, and then weeding the driveway. Oy. Exhausting.

Early morning sun (8:30)
Path early morning (8:45 or so)

I’ve ordered another 5 stepping stones for the walkway. The bugleweed is doing GREAT. It looks beautifully healthy and has already begun to spread. My only reluctance about it is that it is not native to this area. Besides supporting pollinators, I’ve tried to grow native plants. The lamium (dead-nettles) is doing well also. The 3 smaller plants closer to the house are all from last year. The larger one I bought this year (and did indeed buy a larger plant than I bought last year). There is a small coral bells near the entrance to the garage that is still struggling – I planted it last year. There are 2 larger ones back by the ivy. The curly grass was a transplant from my sister’s yard this year. The tag on it claims it likes shade whereas the site I linked says sun, so we’ll see how it makes out. I need to prune the dead curls and figure out if it’s struggling or doing alright. I added a fern this year that is thriving (it was fairly large to begin with). That was the site of a major skirmish with the weed barrier, complicated by 2 huge tree roots. I forgot to mention that the tree roots are yet another complication in the back yard. I’d planted ivy last year (the solid bright green) and then added more, smaller plants this year. Considering how well ivy does coming up on the deck trellises, I’m hoping they will cover the barrier hiding my neighbor’s garage. 🙂 I moved some spiderwort 3 years ago, as well as some goldenrod. The spiderwort is holding firm but the goldenrod gave up the struggle.

path in the afternoon
Path in the afternoon – after 3pm

The fuchsia are hanging from a pole that I used to put in the front, in the middle of my rudbeckia. I decided it worked much better in the back. When we first moved into the house, the front of the house was shaded by 3 large trees that are no longer with us. For years I’d hang huge baskets of fuchsia on the front porch. Once the trees were gone, so went the fuchsia. I’m very happy to have them back where I can enjoy them. The vine along the deck trellis is a new experiment. It’s adlumia fungosa, also known as Allegheny Vine or Bleeding Heart Vine. I got this (along with my usual butterfly-attracting plants) from Heritage Flower Farm this year. I didn’t really understand what it means to be a biennial plant. I gather I’m not going to get any flowers this year but next year the flowers will come. I thought it also meant that it flowers every other year Apparently it will die at the end of the 2nd year. If I’m lucky, it will seed itself and repeat the cycle. I’ve had limited success with self-seeding plants (note to self: STOP hiring the yard cleanup crew in December). In addition, what I’ve been reading seems to imply that Allegheny Vine is a bit finicky. Given the poor soil back there, I suspect that I’ll be lucky to even get flowers next year. It was worth a try, and maybe it will turn out better than expected! Sometimes plants do flourish when you least expect it. *laughing* ESPECIALLY in the cracks of my driveway!!!

bleeding heart vine
Allegheny Vine (bleeding heart vine)