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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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]