Cold Weather is Upon Us, Finishing Up For Winter

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

Getting Ready for the other side of the walkway

Getting Ready for the other side of the walkway

This may be the last weekend A Nerd In the Garden can actually garden. We’ve gotten cold weather this last weekend. Rain is one thing, a good raincoat will get you through but cold weather is quite another.

The last thing I need to do is prune the roses now that the weather has turned. I try not to prune the last bloom of the roses so that the plants can set fruit and get ready for winter. Then when I’m fairly certain they won’t start leafing out again I do a hard prune to get them ready for winter. I’ll do that and melt candle wax over the cut stems to keep the borers out.

One Side with Elephant Ear plants

One Side with Elephant Ear plants

It had been my intention never to buy a plant that would have to be dug up to winter over. However; I was looking at the growing instructions for the beautiful elephant ear plants I’d put in the side yard and to my dismay, discovered that they shouldn’t be out in weather colder than 50 degrees F. Eeek! It’s been high 40’s for the past couple of weeks at night and now about to get much colder.

So I had to race home from work and quickly, but carefully, dig them out of my garden. They are in buckets in the garage. I hope that stays just warm enough for them. I hesitate to bring them into the house proper but it may come to that.

This weekend I dug up the Crocosima Lucifer and moved the bulbs. That took a lot more work than I had anticipated. I only got 2 clumps done before I had to call it a day. There are at least 3 more clumps to be worked. I’ll just have to move them in the spring. There is still quite a bit of weeding to do too. I’m about 1/3 of the way done with the area I wanted to clear, so around 100 sq ft.

The raised beds for the vegetable garden are just about ready for winter. I wanted to put some landscaping fabric over them but I’m not sure I will.

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

With the Crocosima in place I was able to replant some of the bearded Iris I saved while cleaning the area out. I don’t know what colors are in the box but I know they’ll be beautiful. I’m kind of hoping for a peach one I had blooming in the area years ago is one of the ones that got saved.

Lastly I got started on the east side of the walkway border. I ran out of bricks to do the edging or I would have gone farther. In clearing off the brick walkway I discovered that the west side was around 6 inches to far south and didn’t come all the way up to meet the north edge. I debated leaving it but couldn’t. So I extended the channel a bit and slid each brick up to move the entire run the distance it needed to be flush with the patio.

crocosima bulbs dug, cleaned and ready to replant.

crocosima bulbs dug, cleaned and ready to replant.

Digging through cardboard to plant bulbs

Digging through cardboard to plant bulbs

Vegetable garden ready for winter

Vegetable garden ready for winter

A Nerd In The Garden: Crocosima Lucifer, Carnations and Laying Out Your Flower Bed

Hummingbird in Crocosima

One Month Ago

One Month Ago

In the Garden the soil can be worked right up until the ground freezes. Take care not to compress it too much if it rains and the moisture content gets high enough for that to be an issue. So there is a fine line that has to be maintained when pushing the garden work deep into fall.

As you may recall, gentle reader, I had a section of the front flower bed I really wanted to get weeded out while the soil was soft enough to pull roots and all. That’s fine in theory but even with soft soil, grass roots are difficult. I did the best I could and actually rototilled the area and still there are some very tough and persistent roots that I could not get out.

That’s where the cardboard mulch layer comes it. I only use a single layer and it gets completely soaked and stays soaked for months so it breaks down quickly. Cardboard won’t improve your soil quality but it will kill the majority of weeds. Since I’m battling grass right now that’s my best, least toxic, option aside from digging everything out which I just don’t have the time for. Nor do I want to destroy the slope I’m working on.

Yesterday

Yesterday

I’ve put nice hazelnut shells over a part of the area as a real mulch and I will use my cat’s claw/hoe tool to plant the bulbs right through it. The forecast is calling for rain for the next week and that will soak everything quite nicely. Then I plan on digging up the Crocosima bulbs and planting them on the east side of the bed. That will be quite a job.

The nice thing about the Crocosima is that they will naturalize quite nicely wherever I put them. The bad thing about the Crocosima is that they have naturalized where I tossed them so many years ago.

I had no idea how tall they would get or how much they would spread. I got only 5 little bulbs of Crocosima Lucifer free in an order of tulips or something one year. I did not expect them to become one of the centerpieces of my flower bed. While I am glad they did, now I need to put them in a better place.

That being said, let’s talk about laying out the garden. When I first started this flower bed, lo those many years ago, I took a rather haphazard approach. I planted what caught my eye at the time, wherever I felt like planting it. While there is a certain freedom and whimsy to that approach, I would not recommend it. That is the kind of planting approach that leads to 5′ Crocosima in front of 2′ Bearded Iris and 3′ Gladiolus in front of 6″ Dianthus…um Carnations. And that is what leads, seasons later, to having to replant an entire bed.

Hummingbird in Crocosima

Hummingbird in Crocosima

Either get some graph paper or make some in Excel (it’s super easy to do) and you can plan out where you want to put your flowers, or vegetables if that’s the kind of garden you’re planting. I used graph paper for my raised beds in the back because my space was limited and I wanted to get as many beds as possible.

Last Week

Last Week

I planted a full 4’X 4′ bed of carrots and I’m loving just going out and pulling a few out of the bed whenever I need them. It’s going to be gorgeous to have these heirloom carrots for Thanksgiving this year.

This week

This week

While I am enjoying this massive project of mine, I’m also looking forward to being done and having just maintenance to worry about. There will always be weeding to do. There will always be flowers that die off and need to be replaced. But there will not always be this huge multiple month weed-fest and border building and replanting. Also come spring this flower bed is going to be breathtaking.

When the weather forces me, at long last, indoors I have some home repair and improvement projects that I intend to get going. I’m not sure where I’ll start just yet, but there is plenty to be done to improve our home.

I also need to get working on my next cosplay. It ain’t going to make itself and comic con season is right around the corner. K.

A Nerd In The Garden: Weeding, Iris and More Math (Math Is Fun)

Iris Saved

Weeding and building in the upper left corner

Weeding and building in the upper left corner

In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned that the verge on the side of the driveway is fairly large. This week I did a rough measurement of it’s area and it’s approximately 400 square feet. This was a fairly easy calculation that follows a well known formula. My driveway is approximately 40 feet long and the verge is approximately 10 feet wide. 40 X 10 = 400. Your units are feet and feet X feet = Square Feet. Putting it all together: 40 ft X 10 ft = 400 sq ft.

Before weeding 11/7/15

Before weeding 11/7/15

There’s about 60 sq ft up by the garage that I have not included in this measurement. There are two reasons for that. 1) the utilities are there and I don’t want to damage or block them. 2) Due to the layout that area gets very little sun so not a lot of plants will grow there. With these two things being the case I’ve decided to wait on that bit and see if I get inspired. Also I cleaned that up once earlier this year and mulched a good part of it. It should just need some follow up and maintenance.

After weeding 11/7/15

After weeding 11/7/15

This week I weeded around a 10 ft square space. My neighbor offered to let me use a tool to make the weeding easier but I chose to do it by hand. Not because I love backbreaking work but because I know there are some gorgeous Iris languishing in that part of the bed and I wanted to salvage what I could of them. The Iris have been overgrown for so many years that I didn’t expect too many of them to even have survived.

So far it is looking very good for the Iris. I’ve found quite a few rhizomes that had growth on them and could be saved and replanted. This will save a ton of money since I can plant them in areas where there aren’t currently flowers.

Iris Saved

Iris Saved

My goal is to clear the area along the east side of the flower bed and plant the Crocosima there. The neighbors like the idea of some kind of screen between us and the sword shaped leaves of the Crocosima get to be around 4.5 ft tall. In front of them I want to put the blue Dutch Iris I ordered and some bearded Iris. There is enough room in that bed with 10 feet on the cross section to put some shorter flowers in front of those without crowding them.

I want to keep the Crocosima because the hummingbirds love them and I love seeing the hummingbirds. Also they naturalize beautifully. The Crocosima also give the garden a bright spot of color that lasts long after the spring tulips have faded.

You might wonder about that cardboard that is down on the ground there. It’s a very good mulch and weed barrier. It’s cheap since you can use boxes you already have, rather than throwing them away and it cuts down on the grass and weeds that grow back. It also biodegrades. Right now it is protecting the bare soil from erosion due to the rain and from bad compression as I walk on it. Once I have the area planted I’ll put down the hazelnut shell mulch that I like but for now cardboard boxes work great.

It started raining so I didn’t get a picture but I scraped the mud off of some more bricks on the pathway on the west side of the house. I’ll need one of the border bricks I bought cut because I need a piece of one in two places. I called my local Home Depot and they didn’t have the equipment to cut concrete. I’ll have to see if my neighbor has something. Otherwise I may have to buy a different kind of border brick that is the size I need for the two spaces.

Next week I plan to do the other side of the walkway border and finish cleaning up the raised bed garden out back. Today I pulled the last of the tomato plants and put them in the compost bin. I need to rake the beds, do a final weeding and put landscaping fabric over them. Then they can rest for the rest of the winter.

Lastly this weekend I scraped some of the weeds out from the expansion joints in the driveway. There is a lot of work to do there and it is hard work. Like the large flower bed, I’m tackling it a little bit at a time. There is a lot to do, it’s true, but chipping away at it a little bit at a time will see it all done. And I still have time to get some writing done. K.

Weeds in expansion joints

Weeds in expansion joints

Scraped out of the joints with a tool

Scraped out of the joints with a tool