A Year in the Yard: Mid May-hem

Greetings all! When May arrives, I have to admit that I find it particularly challenging to keep up with all sorts of things. There’s so much spring growth and activities that I feel I can barely manage…honoring Mothers, tending gardens and yards, teaching, hubby’s work travel, festivals, supporting kids in the final throes of projects, tests, and year-end performances. DAYS. ARE. SO. FULL. Beginnings. Endings. All good things, and all in the same month. Whew!

I’m finally coming up for a little air to update this blog. Thanks for your patience, and I hope you’ve been spending some time outside to enjoy the gorgeous weather of late. We’re a bit short on rain here though, so now’s a good time to invest in a rain barrel for your gardens and then do a vigorous and heartfelt rain dance!

OUT AND ABOUT

So what’s been going out there? Tons! Wood frog and American toad eggs have become tadpoles, birds of all kinds are nesting, insects are swarming, pollen is flying, trees have leafed out, and it’s beginning to feel like early summer, with multi-flora rose and honeysuckle in bloom.

Here’s some of the local wildlife in action over the past couple weeks…

Being a Weed Woman, I’ve been following the progress of our local wild plants and my garden allies closely. Life is bursting! Many plants are in bloom, and it seems like things pop open or sprout up overnight.

Check out our gorgeous wild kin!

HOME SWEET HOME

I’ve been busy on the home front, building raised beds for a veggie garden. We removed an above-ground pool a few years ago that left sand, rocks, and depleted soil in its place, and we finally decided some raised beds would be a good use of that sunny spot. I opted to use cinder blocks as the structure because I was looking for a temporary option. I also needed to be able to build it completely by myself in case my hubby’s work travel schedule interfered with our teamwork plans. (I can’t manage power tools and wood by myself, but I sure can move a bunch of cinder blocks and get in a great workout at the same time!)

For the first bed, we used a total of 32 cinder blocks, which gave us a 4′ x 8′ (outside measurements) bed. We used landscaping cloth on the bottom and filled with organic soil. I wanted the second bed just a little longer, so used 36 blocks for that one. I planted marigolds in the cinder block holes to help with pests and perhaps thwart the neighborhood groundhog a bit, or at least slow her down when she sees the tender greens.

The first bed is doing extremely well. I planted Swiss chard, kale, and butter lettuce from seed right into the bed. I’m looking forward to some greens in the next few weeks!

The second bed is struggling a bit (in addition to having settled in to not being quite level). The tomatoes and peppers I started inside over the winter and transplanted this week are looking a little weak. I’ve been giving them plenty of water, love, and Reiki, and I’m hoping they’ll root in strongly and survive. This is all an experiment this year, as I’ve never started from seed before. I’m sure the plants will teach me what I did right and wrong!

Raised beds 2015

As for the rest of the yard, I made some time to collect wild violets, dandelions, and ground ivy to make flower essences and tinctures.

The medicinal plants around the yard are thriving! Solomon’s seal has spread nicely over the past few years, so I’ll harvest some of the rhizomes in the fall for the first time. Echinacea, bee balm, and balloon flower (all natives) are looking healthy, and lemon balm is already in need of picking and drying (not native and quite the creeper).

I’ve got a beautiful silverleaf willow (native plant I added for her looks) with tiny blue flowers that is the perfect size and looks lovely in May, but it quickly overtakes the front steps with its arching willowy branches, tickling all those brave enough to come past and into the front door. It might be time to move that clumper this year.

Some blue-eyed grass made its home in a crack between the step and driveway, and for some odd reason, stinging nettle settled in at the corner of a bed and the driveway. I have no idea where it came from, but it will find its way into my medicine cabinet. I might let it go for a while and collect the seeds, as it’s growing very quickly. Butterfly weed is coming up nicely behind the nettles, and a few wild weeds snuck in that need plucking. Dandelion and plantain will become medicine, while the rest will join the compost.

I mentioned early on in this project that I want to get the yard certified as a Wildlife Habitat. We have a number of components in place and plenty of wildlife already visits. I wanted to increase the diversity and improve the availability of water, so we’re building a new bed at the back of the house to add beauty and wildlife function and will add a rain barrel. The area is shady and moist, so pots full of Sedum ternatum (groundcover), wild columbine, phlox, wintergreen, Fothergilla, and spicebush are waiting to be put in this week. I’ll post pics next time when that’s complete.

That’s it for now! Keep your eyes open for beautiful butterflies, mammal babies, and increasing insects (we should be seeing fireflies soon). Here’s hoping we get a little rain to moisten the soil and cool things off!

Greenly blessings,

Sue

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About earthgrl

Herbalist, Naturalist, and Reiki Master posts her observations, musings, and hard-earned wisdom about the natural world and how it speaks to our spirit and heals us, inside and out.
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