Jonesing for My Garden

Low Impact, Low-Maintenance Yard

This is the time of year that I start getting seed and bulb catalogs. In this zone the first week of December is the ideal time to plant spring flowering bulbs. That is if you’ve had a freeze first. We’ve had unseasonably cold weather around here, so it would be an awesome time to plant tulips. Tulips love cold weather and won’t achieve their ideal height unless they’ve had a cold winter. Whit and I agreed when we moved to this house that we wouldn’t do anything outside until we’d lived here a year. That’s always a good plan because we need time to look at native plants and see what does well here. Drought tolerance is crucial here as we are on water restrictions for the forseeable future. Native plants have adapted to the environment and so would be accustomed to the local rainfall. (I suspect in the coming years we’re going to lose most of the azaleas that southerners are so famous for. They’re absolute water hogs and we can’t afford them anymore.)

Zone maps are at best a guideline. It’s always possible that your home is in a micro-climate which can affect your plant choices. For instance, in our Huntsville home we had lilac bushes. It’s supposed to be much too hot to grow lilacs there, but we did and they thrived. We learned very quickly that we were able to grow things that are not supposed to survive Zone 7 and that some things that were supposed to be perennials were annuals for us. My mama was a strong advocate of ignoring zone maps and planting things you liked. She always said that the zone people didn’t live at her house. She was legendary for growing things that no one else could grow, and also for rarely buying plants. Her garden looked unbelievable for very little money. Whit and I spent a fortune and our garden didn’t look half as good as hers. 

I was looking at the This Old House website and saw this fabulous garden in Seattle. It’s totally self-sustaining and she uses no artificial chemicals or insecticides. I really like that, we were green at our old house and I’d like to maintain that She has rain barrels and, of course a composter. I think both will be crucial to gardening in this area. I haven’t investigated rain barrels all that much, but suspect we’ll be putting one in before we do any substantial gardening. We were lazy composters and basically just collected our lawn clippings, leaves, sticks and such in a pile in a back corner of our yard. We’ll probably do something more formal here and build a real composter. I’m excited about that. Compost is so important especially since we have heavy clay at this house. We worked like dogs at our old house to improve the soil, and we’ll have to do it again. It takes a while to turn heavy clay into a decent growing medium, but it can be done with lots of compost. I’d also like to put in a bat house. Bats eat their weight in mosquitoes every night and bat guano is primo fertilizer. 

Isn’t the maze in the photo terrific? I want to put one in, but I have no idea where. I’ve been doing some sketches and know more or less what I want to put where, but the maze has me stumped. It can’t go in the backyard because that’s where Luke plays and he would destroy it. Plus, I’ll probably have my kitchen garden back there. I’m thinking the the front yard. Of course, every time I show the maze to Whit he asks the burning question, “Who’s going to mow that thing?” That guy has no romance in his soul. Ours wouldn’t be as large as the one in the photo, but I think they’re beautiful. Oh well, back to the catalogs and my dreams.

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