I live on a hill covered with bad clay, and have read that a whole lot of work must be put into soil amendment to grow anything in it. That’s not necessarily true; field peas and wildflowers will grow in anything, even if mixed in with a lot of weeds and grass. As for growing anything else, I like to think I’ve been given an endless supply of in-ground clay planters. I dig out sections of clay about eight inches deep, a foot wide, and three or four feet long; add several inches of water, then fill with a mixture of potting mix and peat moss, as well as adding a buried fertilizer strip (reminiscent of planting an EarthBox). I add my plants, keep them watered, and they grow like crazy. I also use my bad clay as a sculpting medium; with it, I shape “pseudo-terraces” shored up with paving stones set in a clay channel. The stones dry in place, giving me terraces that help with the conservation and channeling of water. Here’s the slideshow showing how I do it:
How does a garden get out of control? The easy answer is: it just keeps growing. I become so attached to all of my little plants that I am loathe to pull any of them up, or even prune them. And I spend so much time a few inches from the ground that I don’t see The Big Picture. Fortunately, I have neighbors to help me with my tunnel vision. There’s a man who comes by every day, walking his dog; and he asked me several days ago, “When are you going to do something about this jungle?” I felt immediately defensive, but I decided it was time to step back and take a few pictures from across the street. I discovered that he is right: it is a jungle, and the time has come to prune and pull up plants. Ouch, ouch, ouch. But before I start whacking away, here is a slideshow of the untamed wilderness:
The front of our house has disappeared behind a wall of sunflowers, bush beans, and pole beans.
Extra-vigorous marigolds in terrace two received a nitrogen boost from the bush beans planted behind them.
On the trellises: Painted Lady Improved beans, Blue Lake pole beans, and assorted morning glories now hide the front porch.
Terrace one rises up the hill, a seemingly impenetrable thicket of African marigolds and sunflowers.
How did it get so...wild? Sure, I planned to have 800 square feet of wildflowers here; but I didn't realize it would look like a jungle.
Rows 1 and 2 of the wildflower garden have grown a lot more grass than flowers. The city issues citations for grass over a foot tall: time to clean up.
Row One Cleanup: almost all grass has been pulled from row one; marigolds have been planted along a curve; and a paving-stone border has been started.
I rescued several wild sunflowers on the fourth of July from their death camp: a construction site that had been bulldozed for the building of yet another strip mall. I had pulled up several more of them the previous week for transplant, but there was a huge hill of fill dirt covered with hundreds of sunflowers that I couldn’t save. When I came back ten days after my initial rescue, the hill had been flattened and all the sunflowers destroyed. There were a few survivors around a storm drain that the bulldozer could not reach, and I pulled up four of them. That’s the good thing about wild sunflowers; they are exceptionally tough. I simply yanked them out of the ground. The roots are so strong that they retained a lot of their native soil for a root ball. When I transplanted them to row five of my wildflower garden, I just dug holes slightly larger than the plants’ root balls, filled the holes halfway with water, set the plant in the ground, and filled the dirt back in. In less than a week, it was impossible to tell the plants had ever been moved, and some of them were blooming! That’s about as close to an instant wildflower garden as you can get; the plants were three to four feet tall already, did not have to be cut back, and the existing buds remained viable and bloomed as they normally would. Absolutely awesome!
There’s been a delay in gratitude-list postings while I learned how to use a slideshow plugin for WordPress. I’ve still been going out to the garden every morning with my camera, however, and as usual the garden has more to give than I know what to do with. So here goes with the slideshow gratitude tour:
Portulaca blooming on perimeter of wildflower garden.
Small Sugar Baby watermelon, just discovered under the branches of an African marigold in the fifth terrace.
A Red Ruffled eggplant is blooming! This one is growing in a 10-inch pot along with a Clemson Spineless okra. Apparently, a good companion planting.
Pearly Crescentspot Fritillary which held still long enough to have its picture taken on the outskirts of the wildflower garden.
Autumn Beauty sunflower in row three of the wildflower garden.
Sweat bee on wild sunflower. The sunflower was transplanted into the fifth row of the wildflower garden last week.
Strawflower blooming in a pot on the back patio. The petals make a papery, rustling sound when stroked. Very cool.
Purple Hull pea seedling coming up in second row of the wildflower garden; the first two rows are doing double duty, growing both field peas and flowers.
Native bee on annual phlox. The phlox started blooming in April and some of them are still going strong three months later.