The Naughty Gardener

When city gal moves to country, anything can happen.


by Erika
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Suddenly, October, 2020

This is a year I’d rather forget. First of all, Spring seemed to last forever. So cold and so little rain. Then it jumped into summer with such oppressive heat and humidity.

When we first got down to the hen house, we were greeted with a collapsed rock wall. The intense heat and humidity kept us from working on that wall until things cooled down a bit – so, August. We went through 32 bags of premix concrete – and we’re not finished yet.

To top it all, we had a drought throughout end of May to middle of August. I lost a couple of young trees – the older cedars along the border suffered.  Hydrangeas hardly bloomed and then only sparsely.  The grass turned brown.  Annuals up and died.

Did I mention COVID-19?  My business stuttered and fainted.

Then, everything seemed to go wrong. A bunch of little things too numerous to mention. The van needed new brakes, front door hardware needed to be replaced, a storm ripped some shingles off the highest peak of the gable. Trouble finding someone to climb up there to repair. The list goes on and on.

We did have a nice Thanksgiving, though. Friends came for dinner. After dinner we went down to the hen house where Charlie had built a nice fire. We sat around it and drank Irish Cream liqueur.

I can’t wait for this shitty year to be over. Hopefully next year will make up for the crap that this year caused.

 


by Erika
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Finally, Spring 2020

It took a long time this year. Made you snicker at the Global Warming guys. So, along with the warmer weather, bugs. Oh yes, black flies, mosquitoes, all manner of flying insects. Oh well, gotta take the bad with the good. Right? We had a big storm and lost a few of our shingles. I had a hard time finding someone who would climb up to that gable but a great guy showed up and fixed the roof thanks to a Toronto friend whose ex-husband knew a guy.

Again, sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know.

after the storm

roof, repair

Roof being repaired

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few shots of my garden, so far.

 


by Erika
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Time to Start Seeding

Early February I took the geraniums out of their newspaper wrappers, dehydrated them in a bowl of water for a couple of days, then potted them up. Sadly, only two of the 13 I had wrapped last fall survived. Those two are doing very well, putting on lots of leaves and looking strong.

A couple of weeks ago, I sowed Coleus seeds. They seem to be doing OK. I have repotted 21 of them as I need that many for my various pots and planters. I have backups in case the repotted ones run into trouble.

Yesterday, I received my seed order. Given the crazy times, I wondered if I’d get them at all but they came. I sowed geraniums, marigolds, petunias and lobelias.  Gee, I found it expensive for the seeds, even. This is done inside of course. Luckily, I have a sun room that gets plenty of light. It’s unheated so I can put the seedlings in the sun room provided the sun is shining and warming up the room. At night, I bring them in. Hopefully, they’ll grow and prosper for the end of May when they’ll be planted outdoors.


by Erika
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Early Spring?

I don’t believe it. Today I heard birds singing for the first time this year. It’s happened before – warm March –  then in April winter returned with a fury. That year we had no lilacs. If the same thing happens this year, I’ll have no elderberries. I can live without lilacs but I need elderberries. As long as the warmth doesn’t last too long and the elderberries don’t blossom, we’ll be OK. Otherwise, we’ll try throwing a sheet over the tree to protect it.

This summer’s projects will include creating terraced beds down the steep slope. I will depend on the rocks found on the property and mortar. I want the walls to be sturdy meaning at least 2 rocks deep – maybe more – starting about 3 or 4 feet high. Next, back-fill with the soil from the hill. Make it nice and flat – hopefully 6 to 8 feet deep. Another rock wall etc. I suspect the further up the hill I go, the narrower the flat part. Why? Because the top of the hill starts with a gentle slope, then gets steep, then gets gentle again. So, my guess is the terraces will not be a uniform width.

Some people shake their heads wondering why a woman my age would do this. Well, why not? I like pushing my body to the limit. All those years of weight training need to be paying off.

The other reason is, this has to be done by hand. I’ve called several contractors to get estimates. Most of them just say yes, then never call back. Others want to bring in heavy machinery. Well, you can’t. How do we get the heavy machinery down there? We’d have to go through our neighbours’ land. If we did that, they’d have to cut down trees  that separate our properties. I don’t want any trees cut! So what’s left is manual labour. Then I might as well tackle the job myself.

First, all the snow has to melt – then it has to dry up a bit so I can start leveling the first row using a pick-ax and shovel. This is an artistic endeavour.  If I do this myself, I will have bragging rights.

I have lots of other projects in mind too. I just have to keep remembering that Rome was not built in a day.


by Erika
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February Blahs


It’s mid February and it’s hard to think about gardening at this time of year. The weather is unpredictable. We’ve had lots of snow and ice. I wish it would stay cold but no such luck. Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. My poor plants don’t know what to do. Oh well, this too shall pass.

Summer Memories

 


by Erika
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The Rockery – from Idea to Reality

It was a fine Spring Day that May in 2012. While walking down the slope beside the house, I had a terrible fall. It was as though the hill had risen up and thrown me down. I broke my ankle in three places and spent the rest of the Spring and Summer in a wheelchair.

As time went by, I grew to feel resentment for the hill especially after having a couple of near falls again. All in the very same spot.

An idea formed in my head. What if instead of it being a hazard, I could make it into a feature. I could create steps down the hill and make something pretty with same hill.

The summer of 2018, friends helped us create a new concrete path to the front door since there had been damage to the concrete which presented a safety hazard. They worked hard, jackhammered the old concrete and carted it away. Rather than tossing it down the neighboring hill, I thought it best to save them thinking I could use them in my feature.

It wasn’t until 2019 that I actually got down to it. Well, I had to think about it, didn’t I? Charlie was very supportive of the idea but made it clear this is my project. Of course, it was. He also told me not to hurry. If I couldn’t finish it this year, it could be left to the following year. Good to know. However, with a project such as this, once you start you have to complete it. Had I left part of it over winter, it would have been a wreck.

I proceeded to study the natural contour of the hill. Then I went to the shop and bought a roll of landscape fabric. That was June 16.  I started laying out the fabric and holding it down with small rocks.

The large concrete slabs taken from the walkway were laid down first.


There were times when it seemed pretty daunting. It was July. It was hotter than Hades – and oh so humid. The only way to get the rocks from the bottom of the hill was by hand. No other means of transportation worked. My first idea was to use the dolly to hoist the rocks up the steps. That was discarded as it was too hard on the steps plus the rocks had a habit of rolling off. Then I thought I’d simply carry a rock under my arm and up the steps. That would have taken too long.

Charlie came up with the idea of the cloth grocery bags. That way I could put several rocks in the bag, therefor making it more efficient, so I stayed with that.

Dig up rocks, place in cloth grocery bag, climb up the hill to the steps. Climb the steps to where the dolly was parked, tie grocery bag to the dolly. Sit down and rest till panting and wheezing stopped and breathing returned to normal. Then up the hill to where the wheelbarrow stood. Empty into wheelbarrow. Lie down on grass until rested enough to get up and do it again.

All this time, poor Charlie was suffering with Shingles. Oh, the poor baby. He was in so much pain and all I could do was stand idly by. I carefully dabbed various creams on his blistered back where he couldn’t reach. That’s about all I could do. I went through a lot of latex gloves during that terrible time.

Despite the pain, Charlie insisted on helping me. At first, he took his crowbar to dig up rocks. It helped me a lot because I didn’t have to use my pickax. Another time, he’d carry the really big boulders up the first hill, stairs and second hill again. I couldn’t dissuade him and he never complained. I was happy for the help, truth be told.

I always placed the rocks – first from the bottom. Later from the top. It was tricky since the slope took quite the dip and there was always the risk of falling or slipping on the landscape fabric. At those times, I used the dolly to roll the rocks in place always breathing a sigh of relief with every placement.

All this time, our road was chopped up, a lot of digging going on, dust, traffic, noise, you name it. They started in May and didn’t finish till end of August. With the heat and humidity, noise and sweating, it was quite a summer to remember.

One by one. Day by day. Rock by rock. The project was finally completed. All in all, it took about 10 or so weeks. Had Charlie not pitched in to help, it would have taken much longer.

People marveled at the finished product. They all asked the same question: how did you get the rocks up the hill? I don’t know why they found it so unbelievable when I told them about the fabric shopping bags.

I’m still not happy with the steps but I will deal with them next year. I really want rock risers.