Confessions from the yard: I found it difficult to work outside and then manage the time to come inside and blog about it. So, here’s my summary of the second half of the year, filled with pictures of the growing season. This has been a steep learning curve in many ways – most significantly, to simplify.
Raised Garden Beds
Win! Cinder blocks served as great boundaries. The marigolds planted in the holes were lovely and tenacious guardians till late in the fall, and overall, the veggies were abundant. The beds really became a hearty ecosystem, with insect eggs on the leaves, worms and other invertebrates in the soil, and pollinators and butterflies visiting the flowers. Such a beautiful sight all season long! After overhauling the kale bed, I added some medicinal herbs: parsley, calendula, stevia, self-heal, and spilanthes. I think it was too hot for the calendula and not moist enough for the self-heal, but the parsley, stevia, and spilanthes thrived! There was an unintended addition – evening primrose was apparently in the same pot as the self-heal. It grew tall and proud and flowered long into November.
Oops…Too many tomato plants. They didn’t look like they were even going to survive when I transplanted them, but every single one did. They went crazy while I was on vacation and didn’t get thinned. We did have a pretty good harvest though, with the cherry tomatoes being the most healthy and prolific.
Back Foundation Bed
Fothergilla took to the soil easily, and her fall leaves of gold and purplish-red were breathtaking. Spicebush is hanging on – we’ll see how she fares through the winter. The sedum did ok; it had minimal growth, but seems to be settling in. Phlox did well. I added Heuchera and a maidenhair fern in the fall. The fern was gorgeous till it died back, and the Heuchera continues to look great. A great blue lobelia sudddenly showed up one day, and it made my heart jump with joy as it nestled in next to some mosses that have moved in and created a little green heaven. I think it’s my favorite spot in the whole yard.
Also of note: columbine is apparently delicious to one of the local residents. One plant got nibbled little by little until there was nothing left.
The carrots took a long time to get to full size and were very strong tasting; we’ll try a different species next year. The leaves provided wonderful nourishment for the swallowtail caterpillars, and it was a joy to see them and giggle as we debated which one of us was going to have carrots for dinner. The beets did not do well.
Around the Yard
Lemon balm was prolific. I got three full harvests this year and could have had more; she was bright through mid-November. Echinacea only had two blossoms – not sure what happened. Perhaps disturbing the soil to remove the blackberry caused her some harm. We’ll see what happens in the spring. Joe-pye had a short bloom time this year and went to seed earlier than usual.
Goldenrod (moved in on its own a couple years ago) was brilliant and played host to many different pollinators. The leaves did not look great, so I just harvested flowers this fall. Poke (another volunteer) did not seem to get as tall as in the past, but held many rich purple berries to entice the birds.
Butterfly weed did exceptionally well and was a welcome sight as we came home each day. It’s spreading nicely, and looked great against the new yellow coneflowers. The silverleaf willow next to the front steps needs to be moved – it’s way too big for that spot now. I trimmed it way back and will attempt to transplant it in the spring.
Spikenard put out deep scarlet berries this year. The birds almost ate them quicker than I could get a picture!
It has been an interesting year for sure. The temperate fall and unseasonably warm December graced us with visions of dandelions, violets, daffodil greens, cherry blossoms, and forsythia blooms. It has felt and sounded more like spring than winter, and Christmas day began feeling like the tropics here because it was hot and humid! Now that the chill has moved in, who knows what our spring will look like from this topsy-turvey weather. Everyone out there seems a bit confused…animals and plants alike.
One thing I learned from all this is to focus on one project at a time. I tried to do too many things at once, dispersing my attention and efforts. I need to simplify. I will scale it back a bit this year, and will forgive myself for all the mistakes I make while I’m learning. I look forward to brighter and warmer days and the chance to try again and again!
So this project is now officially put to rest. What’s next? I’m not sure just yet, but I’ve got some new ideas brewing this winter. We’ll see what beautiful gifts the spring will turn up.
May your days be filled with sparkling sunshine, sweet whispers on the wind, and heartfelt connection to all that this beautiful world offers. Give yourself a little time outside each day, and discover your worries melting as you breathe in nature’s goodness. Watch to see how this winter shapes up and keep your eyes open for how spring saunters in this year!