Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Problem Areas to Tackle in 2012

It has been much too long since my last post. The holidays got the best of me. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the garden, though. Winter is a good time for planning – for assessing and reassessing different areas of the yard. All too often my blog focuses on the things that are doing well in my garden. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all look that good. There are some areas I haven’t tackled yet and others that I can’t seem to grow anything in.

I’ll start with my largest “problem area.” This area is in the back yard next to the screened-in back porch. It literally takes up 1/4 - 1/2 of the back yard. It is an overgrown mess of ivy, honeysuckle, hostas, grasses, various weeds, and my least favorite weed of all poison ivy. (I have two other areas in my yard where poison ivy grows and I think I found them all the hard way. Now I know enough to spot it before I jump into it with pruners in hand.) This is where that gorgeous, old tree used to be (see my earlier post called “Mourning the Loss of a Tree.”) Once the tree was gone, the invasive vines took over. I get in here and hack at this mess a few times a year. However, with the amount of poison ivy I discovered in it earlier in the year, I admit I didn’t readily jump in there too often this year. This mess extends from the porch to the back property line, roughly 20' wide x 60' long. There’s a fence (the neighbor’s fence who lives to the left of our house) that you can barely see due to the tentacles of greenery.

(Note: The following photos were all taken in October and November of 2011.)

Overgrown mess next to the screened-in back porch.
Here is the same area as seen from the back end of the yard looking towards the screened-in back porch.

The same overgrown mess as seen from near the back of the yard looking towards the house.
It also extends to the very back of the property. I had cleared out this area at least twice in the past couple of years, but it always comes back. I keep having to dig out the woodpile.

The overgrown area is not as wide at the very back since I cleared out some of it
when I created the Kitchen Garden.
Obviously, the most difficult part about tackling this area is to get all the roots so that it doesn’t all come back. As I mentioned, I’ve already experienced a bit of that. I have come to the conclusion that I think I need help with this project. I may have to get a landscaper to clear it out. I hate to admit that since I am the kind of gardener who takes pride in doing things on my own. I already had some help clearing out the area where my Kitchen Garden is. There used to be an overgrown hedge where the so-called fence (aka The Invisible Fence or The Fence Farce) should be. Our neighbor’s friend cleared out most of that, however, I spent a lot of time digging out stubborn roots that he hadn’t gotten out. Unfortunately, from spending many weekends doing that, I developed chronic tendinitis and an inflamed nerve in my left elbow. Yep, good times. So I think I learned my lesson. There are times when a scrawny-armed girl needs a little muscular assistance. What will I do with this large area of land once it is cleared? Good question. And one I’ve been thinking about for quite awhile. It’s a nice sunny spot. We talked about wanting a patio for grilling and lounging, perhaps with a fire pit. However, that’s a big project and we’ll probably have to wait a bit on that. For now I may just plant some grass and put in some garden beds. But my plan is to have more bones and structure on this side of the yard – some evergreens, conifers. things that won’t require a lot of maintenance and that will screen the neighbors.

Another problem area that I have been trying to improve for the past five years is an L-shaped area next to the lean-to greenhouse. This spot does not get a whole lot of sun, as you can tell from the lack of grass. It also suffers from poor drainage and poor soil. I have been working on improving the soil over the years and finally have gotten a few things to grow – some Winter Gem Boxwood, a spirea, a hellebore, Castle Spire Holly, an anemone, an Aureola Hakonechloa grass, a VERY slow growing hydrangea, some daffodils that don’t really bloom much, and some hostas (the hostas were already there – I’m not sure you’ll ever see me willingly planting a hosta). I won’t go into the long list of things that I’ve attempted to plant here over the years that died. It would fill a mini graveyard.

L-shaped problem area next to the greenhouse.
The hostas seem to party it up in this space. Maybe I should swallow my gardener pride and plant a few more. Pretend you don’t see the mold on the siding of the house. I really need to do something about that. As I mentioned, this area doesn’t get a lot of sun, so hence the mildew and mold.

Happy hostas with a happy Hakonechloa grass next to them.
Here’s the Winter Gem Holly on the right, spirea on the left, and I think that wiry looking shrub is a type of Viburnum or maybe a Pagoda Dogwood. There’s a couple of thin looking ferns in there, too, along with some Rubrum Epimedium (barrenwort). The Epimedium has actually done pretty well in this low light area.

Sad looking, isn’t it?
Another difficult area has been the side yard that is in front of the shed/workshop. When we first moved in this was a mess of overgrown weed-trees and ivy. I have spent a lot of time digging out roots and amending the poor soil over the past five or six years. On the left I have some dwarf English Boxwood (ah, the smell takes me back to my grandfather’s house in Virginia), a rhododendron that has never bloomed, and a ground cover perennial that blooms little blue flowers in the fall. Directly in front of the shed are two Knockout Roses and a Clematis on the trellis. I had some catmint in front of the roses, but something seems to have eaten it all. On the right there’s what I think is a Sassafras tree and still some ivy, along with an ornamental oregano (Oreganum Herrenhausen),  a grass, some daylillies, Chelone Hot Lips (the pink flowers are seen blooming here), a Wine & Roses Weigela, and some Joe Pye Weed (the last two are cut out of this photo on the right). So at least I finally have some things that are growing here. Gives me hope for some of the problem areas mentioned above.

The side yard, in front of the shed/workshop.
One of my goals for the new year is to work on these problem areas and make them less of a problem! We will see how that goes. In the meantime, I’m busy planning for my 2012 vegetable garden and plotting what new plants I can find and where I can fit them.

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