Success and Failure

Sorry about my 2 week hiatus-between the flu and too much to do I got a little burned out…

So, time for an update! 70′ of the back 100′ of fence line is completely done: I have 15 Green Thuja Arborviate’s planted in a zig zag spacing on 5′ centers, and then to guild it, I planted Prairie Nursery’s Wildlife Mix Prairie as the groundcover. The Thuja’s spacing is a little tight (they get to 50′ with a 15′ base) but I am going for a tight sight/wind break within 3-5 years. The zig zag means that viewing from the house the spacing will only by about 3′. The trees look a little spindly, but 18″ tubelings were cheap and if I can get them established they will hopefully double in size this year and almost double again the next. The purpose of the praire planting is pretty straightforward-provide low maintenance beauty to us during the summer, nitrogen and biomass to the cedars, maples, and sycamores, and introduce some ‘wild’ into our backyard by attracting birds and small mammalls-hopefully even some snakes. The Wildlife Mix is already pretty legume intensive, but I still added more Blue False Indigo, White Prairie Clover, and Purple Lupine to ensure that the n-fixing is in Full Effect. So: Prararie Restoration, trees to block the freeway, and 5% less lawn-not bad for one bed and 2 weeks!

Speaking of the lawn. We had planted a Care-Free seed mix from Olds Seed Co in the hopes of drastically reducing the maintenance, and environmental impact, of our .25 acre back yard. The grass came up great last year, but even with diligent applications of organic weed preventer the weeds were winning with some very large areas 50-75% filled with dandeliones and broadleaf plaintain due to the really poor quality soil that we had brought in (bait and switch by our contractor). No Problem, right? I don’t mind pulling weeds and it gets me outside with the kids. So for 3 weekends I pulled literally 50 gallons of weeds a day until I filled my 1 cu yard compost bin. The front yard looked great, but the plaintain was almost impossible to pull even with my great new Fiskar’s weedpuller and even devoting 10+hours a weekend to pulling weeds it would be July before I got thru the backyard with the dandeliones going to seed infront of me to reseed the large holes in the turf I was making trying to get my lawn weed free. I had no doubts that I was losing this battle.

To back up I would like to explain why I want a weed free lawn to begin with-I love clovers and sporadic dandelions add interest to a lawn for me, but the larger weeds were forcing my ‘care free’ fescues to stand up… so I had large sections standing a foot high instead of falling over beautifully as intended. Standing up like that puts me in direct violation of both my Home Owner’s association (not good for the President!) and the city (really not good for a member of a city commitee!) codes for grass length. So I had either get rid of the weeds of buy a real mower to replace my reel mower. I had given pulling the College Try and, at least in the back, failed. After some agonizing discussions Mia and I decided the lesser of the evils was in a one time general herbicide to knock down the plaintain and quack grass back to manageable levels vs buying even an electric mower. So I bought some Preen (poison without the fertilizer) waited until we had a 5 day stretch without rain and did it. Over the past week the plaintain has withered, the fescues are rebounding and some of the clover appears to be surviving. I am not over it yet, but the deep depression following the application seems to be abating. Compromise can be a bitter pill to swallow, but as Toby Hemingway says in Gaia’s Garden-sometimes you have to break some eggs to make an omlet.

Other bright news-I have all 25lbs of Sunchokes planted, the shade garden is done and we added another 50sq feet to our front perrenial beds. Rasberries are growing well, the 125 stawberries are in full bloom, and I will be eating a few handlfulls of currants within 2 weeks! Yes!

Next project is the Big Rain Garden, planting the hazelnuts, and getting the veggie gardens up and running!


3 Responses

  1. VERY glad to see you back in action. It has been a rough couple of weeks.

  2. Sounds like you’ve gotten quite a bit accomplished, despite the various setbacks. Too bad about the lawn, but I know about quandries like that. It doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to. I’ve learned a lot from reading books, and even more from trying to implement what I read about and having it not work out as planned.

    It’s also helpful to hear about what other people have tried, and what worked and what didn’t. It’s a long way off, but I’m really interested to see how your thuja guild pans out…

  3. Speaking of books E4-bought Contrary farmer and though I want to find a more vegetarian way to cottage farm (less baby beef more cheese) I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mia is in it now.

    Found my first Lupine sprouts today while walking the guild, but then we took 1″+ of rain in less than 45 minutes this afternoon-that may have done some of them in.
    I am equally interested in your 300lb goats!

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