Hell Strip to Esplanade

Planting the roadside strip

Lisa & Myke at work, photo by Margy Dowzer

Last month, Margy and I were talking about the crabgrass that has overrun the lawn in so many places, including the strip between the sidewalk and the street. This strip seems to be referred to by many names–from “hell strip” to “esplanade.”  She is working on other strategies for other places, but I had the idea (after some internet research and an appreciation of what someone in our neighborhood had done to theirs) to see if hardy perennials might eventually outcompete the crabgrass and solve the problem. Then it truly would be shifting from a hell strip to an esplanade!

I started off by moving some turkish rocket from our backyard garden to the front. Turkish rocket is a fast growing perennial vegetable with beautiful yellow flowers. I had planted some last year, excited to try it, but this spring discovered that I didn’t really like the taste of the greens–they were too sharp and bitter for me.  But the flowers were amazing.  So I decided that I’d move it from the food forest to the strip.  Another friend came by and transplanted some yellow day lilies and blue cornflower that needed a new home!

I put out a call on our permaculture meet-up, and was gratified when another member, Sandi, responded by saying she had a lot of perennials that needed dividing and we could have them. That’s the thing–so many wonderful perennial flowers multiply of their own accord and expand out of the area they are originally planted.  So why not use that spreading habit to achieve a better use of the roadside space–for pollinators and for beauty. So I went out to her house and we dug up a whole bunch of plants.

That weekend, our friend Lisa was visiting, and she jumped in to help me with the transplanting effort.  And it was a big effort!  In the end, we had 24 new plants along the strip, mostly with blue or yellow flowers, which we tended to alternate.  Several patches of Siberian iris and several patches of allium; anise hyssop, heliopsis, calendula, white ruffled iris, goats beard, astilbe, mallow, and lady’s mantle.  The other day, I added some catnip–another plant that can spread, but hey, maybe it will outcompete the crabgrass, and we’ll also have catnip for the cats.  The whole thing doesn’t look like much yet–a bunch of scraggly transplants, only a few with any flowers right now–but we’ll see how it goes next summer.  If we can get a load of wood chips, we may put down some cardboard and wood chips between the plants.  But that can happen later too.  I will let you know how it goes.

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Asparagus Update

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What a pleasure to finally complete the asparagus beds, along with setting pavers and stones into the area under our outdoor water spigot! With so much always “in process” in the garden, little completions are quite satisfying. That is also true for me in other areas. Yesterday, I finally figured out our financial budget for retirement, and that feels so grounding as well, like I am really retired now.

Asparagus Bed BeforeI blogged about planting the crowns last April, near the walls behind the house and next to the garage. [Here is a picture of the “before” trench behind the house.] The instructions were to let the asparagus plants grow in the trench, and add compost and soil bit by bit as they got taller, keeping at least 2 inches above ground.  This was complicated by the fact that some of the plants bolted up in a flash, while others were tiny babies for such a long time–even still.

Asparagus protectorBut last week, with more compost and soil, I finally brought the beds up to level, and then finished them off with a layer of wood chips. In the bed near the garage, I actually created two little pockets with cut out pots for the ones that were still too small, so I could fill the soil around them up to level. They would have been buried! Hopefully, they’ll get enough sun and water to keep growing and come back next year with a flourish.

I also moved our lemon balm plant from near the cherry tree over to the small area just left of the water spigot.  It looks and smells so cheerful there, and will be nicely contained for a plant that I learned has a spreading habit.

We are in the season in which life is bursting out all over, even as we can start to feel the shift toward the autumn.  Days are shortening, and everything seems to be growing as much as it can.  It is amazing to think that all these green plants die back in winter, seal themselves in their roots, and hide as if they didn’t exist at all, only to re-emerge in spring.  So now they are making the most of sun and heat and rain, turning sunlight into sugar for all life in the neighborhood.  The asparagus will die back too, in the winter, but come to life again in the spring–and we’ll be able to share in their bounty from that season forward. I love perennials!

Emergence

Daffodils OpeningI love this week of the year in Maine!  The daffodils just opened today around one of the cherry trees.  Everything is late this year, the weather has been colder than usual.  But they are also just in time, because I am going to New Mexico tomorrow, and I was worried I would miss their grand openings.

Rhubarb opening

[Rhubarb]

I have also been watching the emergence of the perennials we planted last year.

Who knew that rhubarb looked so weird as it comes out?  Like a translucent reddish egg splitting open with wrinkled up green brains inside.

Sea Kale emerging

[Sea Kale]

 

 

 

 

And the sea kale is purple and wrinkly too.  It will get much bigger as it grows!

The turkish rocket looks healthy and multiple.  This will be the first year we can really taste these perennial vegetables–I hope we like them!  I’ve also now planted some lettuce and carrots, and the snap peas are just breaking the surface of the soil.  Margy is going to water them while I am away for these next few days.

turkish rocket

[Turkish Rocket]

What We Leave

Our current home is now officially on the market.  This beautiful acre of trees that has been such a wonderful place for us for the last ten years.  I have so many powerful memories in this backyard.  The morning songs of the cardinals, the four baby chipmunks who came out to play one afternoon and let me sit near them and even film their antics. The many deer who wandered through. The chickadee I held in my hands. The mornings of prayer in the screen tent, as the sun began to peek out through the spruce trees.  The golden slug crawling through the grass on its way to a mushroom. The turkeys, the neighbor’s chickens, the porcupine.

This place has been such a blessing for me, and for us.  We’ve planted daffodils and violets and day lilies and many other perennial flowers.  We’ve planted forsythia bushes, and a small hemlock tree to stand alongside the two larger hemlocks. We’ve planted raspberries and blueberries, and eaten wild strawberries that came up on their own. Of course, all that is hiding now, under a blanket of snow, but we included spring, summer and fall photos in our listing, so folks could see the loveliness of its other seasons.

We still have a couple of days before there will be any showings.  Time to do more de-cluttering and cleaning, so others might be able imagine their own lives here.  I hope that someone will come along, really soon, who will want to love this place and care for it, and be cared for by it, as we have.

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Chipmunk babies