Friday, May 19, 2017

Darwinian Gardening Takes an Interesting Turn

Soooo... for about 20 years now, I've been slowly working on converting my front yard from grass (which is notoriously difficult to grow in this arid region) to xeriscape - AKA low water plants.

I'm slow and not terribly deliberate in this process, and my approach is decidedly "Darwinian" in nature. By that I mean that I don't put a lot of effort into it, and I figure that whatever can survive with a fair degree of neglect gets to stay, and if a plant dies out, it means it's not intended to be here in the first place! I'll admit it's a process fraught with fits and starts, but I have had some success.

My general plan has been to put plants around the edges, and leave a small patch of grass in the center part of the yard...

However, as you can see from the above photo, it would appear that mother nature has other plans! Apparently the neighborhood has been invaded with some sort of lawn fungus, and the majority of the grass in my front yard is dead.

Slightly out of focus, but you get the idea
Basically it was just dead brown grass with LOTS of bindweed poking through.

Soooo... I decided that since the grass was already dead, there wasn't much to lose by digging out the bindweed roots. Holy Kazoli folks! I didn't take any pictures, but there was a rather incredible network of roots about as big around as my little finger running horizontally under all that dead grass, with tap roots going straight down every few feet.

I'm under no illusions that I've gotten it all, but it's gotta make a dent, doesn't it?

Anyhow, my initial thought was that I'd just dig out the bindweed, and in the process I'd aerate the grass, and perhaps it would come back to life. And after a week or so I started to see all sorts of green sprouts in the parts that I had dug, so I thought perhaps it was working.

But on closer inspection I realized that the little green sprouts were not, in fact, grass - but rather... wait for it....

Yes! Those are marigold sprouts!

This presents a rather interesting situation. And after thinking about it for a few days, I've decided that in keeping with my Darwinian tradition, I'm going to "go with it" and just let the whole area be taken over by flowers!

There will be plenty of grass to dig out, especially since I didn't remove the grass when I first started digging out the bindweed - but that's OK.

And... I decided that this might be a good opportunity to see if any of the dozen or so packages of flower seeds that have been languishing in the land of good intentions out in the garage for the past 10 years or so have any growing potential left in them.

Sooo... I've been digging out the remaining dead grass and what feels like miles and miles of bindweed roots, and sprinkling a variety of flower seeds in the area. I've also got a bunch of wildflower seeds that I gathered along the bike path last fall, so I added those to the mix.

I bought some more soaker hoses - although at the moment things are pretty wet out there as it's been snowing (seriously) and raining for the past 48 hours or so.

I'm sure lots of the seeds won't take, but that's OK - the yard can't possibly look worse than it does now, and at least I won't have to haul around the sprinkler and mow the darned thing! Plus, I've got a bunch of plants that need to be separated, so I can fill in any blank areas with plants.

Any way you slice it, I think it's gonna be an interesting experiment!

So, does anybody else out there have any experience with Darwinian Gardening? I'd love to hear what has and hasn't worked for you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Whether it's Cold or Whether it's Hot...

...We Shall Have Weather, Whether or Not!

You know, Colorado weather is many things, but boring is not one of them!

So... let's see here. Where to begin. Our spring snow melted off quickly, and the weather turned beautiful again... well, mostly beautiful! We have had a bit of sever weather...

You'll have to pardon my mutterings at the end of the video - I fear I'm too lazy to figure out how to edit them out.

Anyhow, I'm feeling lucky in terms of the hail because neighborhoods a few miles north and west of me got absolutely clobbered with hail stones that were baseball sized!

Other than that little adventure, it's been mostly gorgeous.

Random shot from a bike ride last week

And I seem to have gotten my gardening mojo back a bit.

I planted radishes for the first time this year, and I have to call it a huge success!

They were super easy, and I'm already harvesting a few!

Turns out I LOVE radishes! You can eat them either raw or cooked - and the greens are edible too!

I haven't planted anything other than the "cool weather" stuff yet... which is probably a good thing because, get this, we're expecting more snow later this week! Oy!

I probably shouldn't complain since we need the moisture, but honestly, I am ready for summer. But in the meantime...

The snow peas are looking good, though they haven't bloomed yet.

Snow peas
I've been harvesting green onions for months now. They're going to seed, but still taste good. I've kept this batch alive for 10 years now. When I dig up a clump, I separate them and re-plant the smallest ones. As long as they have roots attached they'll take hold and keep growing & spreading.

Green Onions (with a few catnip invaders!)

The garlic patch has been totally invaded by grass and creeping bellflower. I haven't tried to dig any up yet, so we'll see how it goes. I don't have a great track record with garlic!

garlic patch

I wintered the rosemary over by keeping it in a Wall-O-Water. Just took it off a few days ago, and it seems to have weathered fine. I'm thinking I should probably cover it up again what with the snow coming!

Rosemary looking a bit scraggly but not too bad.

I kept frost cloth over the greens all spring - not because of the cold, but in an attempt to keep the leaf miners from laying their eggs on them.

Covered greens.

In terms of keeping the bugs off, it seems to have worked OK

Chard and Spinach

However, the spinach doesn't handle the crazy temperature swings very well, and most of it has bolted after putting on only a few leaves. Sigh.

Spinach starting to bolt.

BTW - my attempt at growing indoor spinach was a complete bust. The LED grow lights turned out not to be powerful enough, and when I moved it to the window sill Smoky ate it all. Gah!

And speaking of Gah! Here's my asparagus patch...

Asparagus fail!

What? You say you don't see any asparagus? Just some volunteer chives and a few sprigs of bindweed trying to take over. I know! Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but I'm about to throw in the towel with this stuff. I even caved and bought a dozen more sets of roots this year, but only two of them sprouted (which you can see scant evidence of in this photo.) Perhaps I'm just not meant to grow asparagus!

Anyhow, the only other thing I've planted is a garbage bag of potatoes.

Potato experiment
This is a bit of an experiment. I've had mixed luck with growing potatoes for a combination of reasons. Our soil is mostly clay, so I think that gives them some trouble, and I haven't found a good way to properly mound them as they grow. Sooo... in theory, growing them in bags lets you add prepared soil rather than clay, and it's easier to mound. Plus, you don't have to (ahem) worry about destroying half of them as you harvest.

I've tried container potatoes before, but I over watered them, so I cut some nice drainage holes in the bottom of the bag, and I'm gonna be more careful this time. We shall see...

So that's the news from the Mile High city! Have you planted anything yet?