I have a lot of fun planting flower gardens around the house, but we also do two large vegetable gardens. One plot is only for sweet corn, and the other plot is for everything else. Many years back my flower gardens were enormous. I had 40 rose bushes, not to mention the thousands of other plants. The hours spent in upkeep were incredible, so when the garden was at its peak I began to downsize. All the roses came out except ten of them. Many of the flower gardens were removed, and I began planting colorful shrubs and lots of hostas. So much easier to take care of! I still have flowers, but they are in areas that are easier to maintain.
Starting in late March I start seedlings inside. Thousands of them! All flowers! But they are annuals so I must do it each spring. The reason I love the annuals is that they bloom all summer long, unlike the perennials which might bloom for two or three weeks and quit. I plant the annuals for the hummingbirds and butterflies.
In trying to get anything growing around here there were some serious problems to overcome. Our home was built into the side of a steep hill. Since hills are usually very rocky with thin topsoil (as it erodes downhill, depositing richer soil in the valleys), it took years of backbreaking work to establish lawn and flower gardens. When the hill was gouged out to make room for the house, it resulted in a steep, rocky shale bank rising behind the house and one descending in the front of the house. Within two years weeds had taken hold and were coming up between the rock. It was impossible to weedwhack and it looked absolutely horrible. Additionally, without being held in place the banks would erode rapidly. I realized that the only way to make then visually and practically acceptable was to dig the rock out from the shale, and then replace it onto the banks with mortar. I began a long job of mortaring the rock in place, leaving “wells” or openings for plants, and adding stone stairs to access the higher, grass-covered parts of the bank. I worked many long summers to get this accomplished.
I wish I’d kept track of all the bags of mortar mix I went through. On the other hand, maybe it’s better I didn’t! At this point, though, I’m sick to death of mortar and rock and don’t think anything could convice me to buy another bag of it!
As mentioned earlier, we are sitting on top of shale and rock. Consequently, we had to haul soil in from elsewhere on our property to provide a base for lawn. I wish we could have hauled in enough to make it two feet deep, but we were only able to get about 4″ in the back yard.
The photo below shows the hole which had to be dug to put in the post for my new bird feeder. There is a little bit of topsoil around the base of the 2″ x 4″ brace on the left, but look at the pile of shale and rock that were dug out of the hole. That’s what the entire back yard is. Trying to keep the grass on it looking good takes twice yearly fertilizing and constant watering, as the rain just soaks through the topsoil and drains into the shale. Thankfully, the back yard is very small!
The backyard has the thinnest soil. To the east of the house, it’s bit better, but in order to plant I had to constantly add composted manure. Thankfully, we always had enough horses to oblige. I began replacing some of the flower gardens with hostas several years ago. So easy to maintain! They also do a great job of suppressing weeds.
I once had someone ask me about planting roses, and I told her, “Don’t put a twenty-dollar rose into a ten-cent hole!” What I mean by that is that if a person takes the time to really prepare the hole and the soil before planting the rose, the rest is easy sailing. I make the hole three times larger than the root ball and three times as deep. Put the soil into a pile and then add a LOT of composted manure, rotted leaves, about a cup of Epsom salts, and a big portion of peat moss. I try to aim for about 60% original soil and 40% additives; less additives if the soil is rich, more additives if the soil is poor. Once you’ve got a great hole established, with plenty of room for the roses’ roots to spread into it, you’ll be rewarded with great roses requiring only a shot of manure each spring, although a bit of Epsom salt helps too.
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A collection of photos through the years of our animals, wildlife, family, and farm.