Friday, September 30, 2016

The Endless Quest for AutoPilot

So, back in January, I decided that I needed to put some effort toward trying to reduce the "chaos quotient" in my life.

In case it's not completely obvious from reading my blog, I am not a person to whom organization come naturally. Routine bores me to tears, and systems generally feel a lot like prisons to me.

In many ways I am grateful for these traits because they infuse my life with a sense of individuality and adventure. But, this tendency also leaves me vulnerable to chaos, and it's easy for me to become overwhelmed.

So this year I set out to try to find ways that I could incorporate systems and organization in a way that would serve me rather than the other way around. And as the seasons are changing and summer is coming to a close, I thought I'd write a series of posts to share with you a few of my successes.

First up: The Garden and Yard.

Now, in some ways it's sorta hard to describe my garden as a "success" this year. I've been so busy riding my bike, dealing with carpet beetles, and redesigning my websites, that the garden has really taken a back seat. I basically threw some plants in the ground inside my "hail house," set up my homemade drip irrigation system, gave it a bit of organic fertilizer once, and that's about it.

But you know what? Even though it looks like a complete mess, I never got the tomatoes tied up, there are weeds everywhere, and a few of the plants died, it's still producing a ton of food!

Typical day's harvest - not including the Zucchini!

I've had sauteed zucchini every single day for the past 3 months, I've got a pile of cucumbers waiting to be made into pickles, I've got more tomatoes than I can eat, and even about a half dozen bell peppers. Not bad for something that took very little effort.

Moving on to the front yard. I did actually manage to get a bit more of the "lawn" (a generous term given the weed patch that is my front yard) dug up and converted to xeriscape. I decided to take a page out of my garden book and set up some drip irrigation for the new section.

My plan was just to help the new plants get established but Holy Moly - look at the results. Can you guess which side got the drip irrigation and which didn't?

So... it will be easy to expand the drip system to the entire xeriscape next year, and since the weather is cooling off a bit, I may even try to add a few more plants this fall.

With any luck I'll have a front yard that's downright presentable without the need for daily attention!

So that's it for the garden. Stay tuned for further adventures in making my life easier.

So what do you do to help make your garden easier to manage?


  1. Um, I let my husband and kids plant and tend to it???

    You had great results with your garden and yard!

    1. Now that's a plan... if only I could train the cats to take care of the garden and yard! :-)

  2. I love your hail house! (I have hail-house envy, now!) And what a healthy looking crop of vegetables. I would love to be able to grow red peppers because we (I think they need the right temperature and humiditity for pollination?)

    I had to look up 'xeriscape' but now I've realised that we are xeriscape gardeners! At our old house, we pulled up half the lawn at the front and planted it fully with native grasses, shrubs etc. so there was no lawn. We've hardly ever had to water that in 15 years, or weed it. But it does have to be pruned heavily once a year.

    Around the back, we have one big slab of lawn which just needs mowing. Around the edges we planted native plants again (mostly bird and insect attracting.)

    It's really popular here to make 'dry-river beds' lined with weed mat (i.e. a stone river-bed, that often doubles as storm-water overflow when we do get a heavy downpour.) It is far easier to maintain than an ornamental garden as we have water restrictions and semi-drought a lot of the time where we live.

    1. I fear I was sorta pushing the limits on the xeriscape this year... treating it more like a "zero-scape" - meaning it got zero water! I think it's only rained once or twice since June. Even some of the succulents that are supposed to survive anything have died back. Sigh.

      I keep meaning to bring some envelopes or something with me on the bike path to gather seeds. There are a lot of native flowers that grow wild along the path and they seem to do quite well without any irrigation. Since many of them are going to seed about now, it would be the perfect time to collect some to plant next spring. Alas, I keep forgetting! Perhaps I'll go put an envelope in my bike helmet right now so I don't forget!

      Anyhow, your yard sounds lovely. I can't imagine not having to weed the garden! Somehow the weeds always seem to choke out even the hardiest of low water plants if I don't keep ahead of them. I'm sure it doesn't help that I've got bindweed that's been running amok for a good 20 years or so - the roots probably go to China by now! We'll see if my bindweed mite experiment pays dividends in that department!

    2. Oh, BTW - I've never had much luck with peppers either until a friend told me the trick. They don't do well in the ground - in fact, they don't do well in anything much bigger than a 4 gallon pot. I don't know if they need to be root bound, or if the pot helps the roots to heat up or what, but it made all the difference for me. Not sure if that would work in your climate or not, but thought I'd toss it out there. :-)

    3. Peppers do quite well here in the ground, so I don't think they need to be rootbound. Also, I've had problems with bindweed and I read once that they can have roots 30' deep--almost to China!

    4. Very interesting! Hmmm... the mystery deepens...

  3. Oh, my garden sucks (mostly). But I do have some strategies for making it easier to manage.

    1) Plant native and other well-adapted plants. They like this kind of weather. And it helps to actually get them in the ground the same day you buy them and then actually water them a few times until they get established.

    2) There are certain weeds that will take over the universe in my yard, especially this one really sticky thing and a thing with pretty white flowers that turns out to be called "beggar's lice." If I pull them up whenever I notice them, say once a day on my way back from a hike, that helps not only for the current year but also future years.

    3) After mowing, move the excess grass from the sidewalk to act as a mulch around my bigger (than grass) plants.

    Where I live, chile pequin are native and grow just fine in the ground. Even my boyfriend doesn't really eat them, and he likes really spicy food, but they are super pretty (bright green leaves, nice white flowers, berries that turn from green to red), plus birds manage to like them.

    But it was good to read your hint about more edible peppers.

    1. I think native is something I should explore, rather than just "low water." I'm wondering if I could find someplace to buy native wildflower seeds or something. Hmmm...

      The weeds I struggle with most are:

      Bindweed - hopefully the mites will help, but honestly, it's not looking promising.

      Dandelions - these are the easiest to deal with, you just pull them up once and they don't come back.

      Thistles - UG! Thankfully, they only have a 2 year lifespan, but NO amount of pulling will kill them in that first year, your only hope is to wait until year two and then pull them once they shoot up really tall but before they go to seed and spread their evil spawn.

      Recently we've also seen something called "spurge" that's been taking over. It's also easier to deal with because once you pull it, it doesn't come back.

      Honestly though, I think the main thing my yard could use is water!

    2. I find that dandelions usually have a deep bifurcating root that makes it hard to get the whole thing. And if you leave any of the root, they come back. Do you have trick for pulling them?

    3. I just have an old fashioned weed digger - basically a metal stick with a handle. The dandelions seem to come out quite easily. Maybe it has something to do with our clay soil? Or perhaps I'm just assuming they don't come back when they really do! :-)

  4. I will follow your progression toward chaos management. We are kindred souls!

    1. Here's hoping I have something useful to say! :-)

  5. I will follow your progression toward chaos management. We are kindred souls!

  6. Gardens are a lot of work and I have been lagging this year. Partly because of the exploding bug population. Here in the middle of the country we are infested with a thing called Oak mites. I worked in my flower beds for maybe 45 minutes and even though I was heavily sprayed with a repellent, I still managed to be covered in bites. Itch is way more than chiggers or mosquitoes. Now I am not being the conscientious gardener that I usually am.

    I love drip irrigation systems. I have the standard Hunter rotor type of system that keeps the turf looking beautiful but over-waters parts of the flower beds. I typically run just the turf zones and hand water the gardens....which adds to the amount of work my gardens require.

    1. Yikes! Those bugs sound really unpleasant!

      I have no sprinkler system, so I generally boomerang between ignoring the lawn altogether, and drowning it because I forgot and left the sprinkler on! I keep thinking I should invest in some sort of a system, but I always want to wait until I "finish" (wink wink, nudge nudge) the xeriscape! We'll see what I come up with for next year, but I believe I'm on the right track!


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