Work in Progress

Tilling the sod under for even more gardenWe’ve decided to go even bigger with the front prairie and vegetable garden than we planned (and blocked off to kill the grass) last fall.  Plants arrived from Prairie Nursery on Friday.  I’ve had good luck with many of the types of plants I tried to propagate though they are small and won’t bloom until next year.  With the aid of a borrowed rototiller, D. tilled the area of the grass that we hadn’t killed by covering it since last October to cut off the light.  The new area still has live grass roots and grass that wants to live, so today we covered that area with newspaper and a layer of leaf mulch.  The plan was actually to plant today, but since we had over an inch of rain last night it would have been really muddy to plant things today.  It was also in the 50’s and it really felt cold.  Besides laying down the newspaper and mulch, we returned the tiller and dug up some unwanted rhubarb at the home of another friend.  We divided the plant up into three.  Hopefully they all survive and hopefully we’ll even get to harvest some rhubarb from these plants this year.  It was good to move them on a cool cloudy day, minimizing the shock to the plants.  Because it was so wet, we also didn’t need to worry about watering them.  Tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny and warmer, so maybe they’ll perk up a bit.

With all the time we’ve been spending out there working on it, we’ve also been getting feedback from people in the neighborhood as they walk by.  One guy who walks his dog frequently told D. that he’s excited to see the progress of the garden.  He also said that we take good care of the lawn.  I actually find that funny since we’ve intentionally destroyed so much of the lawn.  But sure, we keep the dandelions under control just by pulling them.  It’s taken three years to get to the point where it isn’t much work, but I didn’t want to use chemicals in the first place and they are really contraindicated because the broadleaf weed killers would also kill my prairie plants.  We have a couple of other problematic weeds including creeping charlie which is an ongoing battle of pulling and something else with a tap-root but has clover-like leaves.  I have no idea what that is.  We also have clover and violets in the lawn and they don’t bother me in the least.  Another woman walking with her little daughter in a stroller said she’d enjoyed watching our progress over the last two years.  This year should really be interesting since the new area is bigger than the last two years’ areas combined.  I’m relieved that the feedback we’re receiving is generally positive.  I’d rather weed than mow and it’s been good even with the small sections already done to see that we’ve had more bird and butterfly life and even a couple of orb spiders that a lawn would never have attracted.  With all the natural habitat gone to development, I have to think that a little swath of it here and there has to help at least a bit.

If it dries out a bit, perhaps I’ll get the plants in tomorrow or Wednesday.  We have more plants coming from the UW Arboretum sale.  The sale is actually on Saturday May 8th, but I pick up my pre-ordered plants in the afternoon on Thursday May 6th.  Around that time, we should actually be able to put in the plants that won’t tolerate frost like tomatoes, basil and peppers.  Those are all going in front this year because I’m sure we’ll have better results in front than in back since we get so much more sun out there.  The idea is to hide them behind tall native perennials like big bluestem, compass plant, downy sunflower and blazing star.

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