Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Four P's Of Gardening

I believe I may have finally learned my lesson.

I had heard that there exists a subset of gardeners that actually make plans for their garden - mapping out plant locations, drawing detailed plans, creating 3D renderings.  Yet other gardeners do soil tests, bring in mounds of compost and create luxurious soil concoctions.  These industrious individuals have always amazed me.

I, on the other hand, stare at the empty places in my garden and ponder.  After some time spent in this meditative state, I'll create a list and go plant hunting - sometimes actually purchasing the intended botanical wonders.  Then I'll eventually get around to digging a hole, mixing in some amendments and pushing the once-potted plant into the dirt.

But the times they are a changin'.

I have come to the conclusion that my gardening exploits will forever more have to follow the four P's of gardening: Prepare, Plan, Purchase, Plant.

Prepare: Pick the spot for the garden bed, and then prepare the soil in the entire area.  Dig it up and out, mix in all the amendments, identify where substrata prohibits planting.  Then one knows the true planting area and it's all ready for incoming vegetation.  And this can be done any time throughout the year.

Plan: Now, from amongst that wide plant palette, determine what will grow in the actual planting area based on light conditions, soil depth, water requirements, personal desires. Work with whatever helps you picture the final product - be that photographs, scale grids, whatever.   Make the shopping list.  Another gardening activity that is unrestricted by the calendar.

Purchase: Go on a plant safari.  This may take a bit of time and is, of course, impacted greatly by the season.  Finding the desired plant in the middle of a stretch 100 degree days is equivalent to not finding the plant (unless it's a succulent, then celebrate!).  But buy what you can during the planting season (in my parts, that would be late fall, winter, early spring).

Plant: As you bring 'em home and time permits, get 'em in the ground.  And the benefit of all that preparation is that this process won't take that long - so if you strike it rich with a really good nursery hunt and come home with a stockpile of plants, it won't take a month to finally get 'em in the ground.

What, you may ask, has brought about this earth-shaking paradigm shift in my gardening activities?  It's really quite simple: Limestone.

I had actually decided to dapple in this whole planning concept, even going as far as creating renderings of how I envisioned the space (รก la Philip at East Side Patch).  Several of the plants were hunted down and purchased.  Then the planting begun...and "The Battle of the Stone" was joined.  After titanic struggles involving sledgehammer, rock bar and the occasional stick of dynamite (okay, perhaps a minor exaggeration there), some plants were actually planted.

Then I discovered The Rock that will likely forever change my gardening technique.  It now stretches to a length of eighteen feet across the garden bed and measures five foot at it's widest.

Excavating in a new direction with the silly hope that actual soil might be discovered, I instead found yet another large slab of connected limestone.  Though not completed exposed, it presently measures seven foot by five foot.  And beyond it, yet more rock has been uncovered.

Needless to say, my imaginary rendering of the area lays in shambles and before additional plans can even be considered, I actually need to determine if there is any portion of this area capable of sustaining plant life (I'm pretty sure at least some soil will be required).

Thus far, I have removed 20 wheelbarrow loads of soil (which is more clay-like than initially assumed) - and feel that the entire area will have to be exposed prior to preparing the area, then planning the actual final planting site, purchasing the needed plants (some of which have already been bought and are presently shriveling in their pots but will hopefully have a place in the garden - not to mention ones that may need to be dug up and moved from their present planted location) and planting them where they have a chance.

The excavation continues...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Flower Power: GBBD December 2012

Sponsored by May Dream Gardens

Established Plants

 Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)

New Plants in the Garden

 Pam's Pink Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii 'Pam Puryear')


Pansies (Viola tricolor)

 Nasturtium 'Alaska Mixed' (Tropaeolum majus 'Alaska Mixed')

 Flower Wannabes

Flowering Kale 'Chidori Red' (Brassica oleracea 'Chidori Red')

Dwarf Buford Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana')

Possumhaw (Ilex decidua

 Chile Petin's (Capsicum annuum var. aviculare)


Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis sp.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Annuals & Excavating

I finally got around to potting up my last annuals: Flowering Kale 'Chidori Red' (Brassica oleracea 'Chidori Red'), Viola cornuta 'Babyface Ruby and Gold' & Nasturtium 'Alaska Mixed' (Tropaeolum majus 'Alaska Mixed').  Not really sure if the Nasturtium are winter-hardy, but the nursery assured me it was - I guess time will tell.

I like the way the purple coloration repeats itself between the Violas and the Kale.  And I couldn't pass up the cascading variegation provided by the Nasturtium.

The excavation of "The  Rock" continues.  My last posting noted how I had finally found the other edge of the giant stone only to discover another block of limestone laying immediately adjacent to it.  Further digging has exposed that rock (with a nice thick root growing across it) & it's edges, followed by yet another adjacent stone (including one more root growing immediately between the two).

At this point, the overall length of the stone layers measured nearly twelve feet across the front.  The limestone block in the upper left part of the picture is actually the rock excavated from planting the Rusty Blackhaw (noted in a previous posting and considered quiet massive at the time - its actually so heavy I have not been able to budge it with mere muscle & leverage - I will likely have to get out the come-along again).

At this point, the stone was fast approaching the trunk of a Red Oak Tree - so I thought surely its root system would mark the end of the lengthy block of limestone.  But even though initially it appeared that a break had finally been found, deeper digging showed that only the top layer had a gap.

Six inches down the solid rock layer still existed and appears to be forging onward.

Thus far, the length of exposed stone measures fifteen feet.

I'm still amazed (and worried) that I've been able to plant anything in this area.  As you can see from the picture below, plants have been placed into the ground within feet of this massive limestone layer (Aucuba in the foreground, Rusty Blackhaw behind it).  Between the soil removal and the existing stone, I really wonder about room for roots!

The digging continues.