Monday, May 12, 2014

Cleaning the beds

Hello all! I hope your Mother’s Day was wonderful!! It’s always a bittersweet day for us – it’s tough to see photo after photo of mom’s and daughters all day when the relationship with your own mother is strained. And my husband lost his mother years ago – so it carries some sadness for both of us. But we did see my stepmother and my husband and boy made my day SO wonderful. I count my blessings every day. :)

And I get a what WHAT for the weather this weekend? It was SO AWESOME! I mean seriously, Saturday was divine. Our flower beds in the back were needing some major attention so I took advantage of it and spent six hours straight working outside.

Here’s the thing – I love gardening and working in in the yard but it’s not for everyone. My BFF would rather poke a stick in her eye than plant and putter around in the yard. For real. When we added all these beds years ago I knew it would be a lot of work…and it is. But it’s work that I love to do. At least when it’s 75 degrees out and not 95 degrees…

It seems every fall we’re surprised with the fact that all the leaves fall off the trees. :) We don’t do a great job of keeping up with them and often leave the mess till the next spring. This year was no different. In our defense, winter kind of came on like a beast last year so we didn’t have much of a chance to get it done.

So I was dealing with leaves EVER.Y.WHERE in the back. And lots of pruning to do as well. I shared what I’ve learned about growing hydrangeas here – I read somewhere to wait till May to prune them (the type that blooms on new growth) so that’s what I do. Here’s how they looked before pruning: 

pruning hydrangea

That plant in the bottom of the photo is a peony – more on that in a bit. The hydrangea are the three in the background – it’s hard to see that there’s actual growth there because of the dead wood and the leaves covering them.

I trim down that old wood and can’t believe what a difference it makes -- they grow like mad. You’ll notice the peony also has some dead stuff underneath and I cleared that out. You’re supposed to cut them down in the fall but I never do. :) I just wait till spring to clean them up. I read that peonies actually do better after a cold winter because it helps their bud formation. I believe it – this one is busting with blooms and my two others around the back are booming as well. Those two have never bloomed in all the years they’ve been planted and they are finally covered with them. This is THE most gorgeous spring flower – absolutely stunning. (If you follow me on Instagram you’ll see them a lot over the next few weeks.)

So check out the “after” – I took the photo above last weekend. See how much they’ve all grown?:

pruning hydrangea

Can’t wait for cut peonies in the house!

So someone…I will not say who (sister) told me you don’t have to prune knock out roses. Uhh. I think she was wrong:

pruning knock out roses

OK, in her defense, I’ve grown knockouts for years now and never had to prune any dead wood or anything. We had a mild winter year before last and they just bloomed so fast I didn’t even notice that I had to I guess.

This year is different. That rosebush was nothing but dead wood, so I cut it all back, and it’s already busting out two days later:

pruning knock out roses

This is one of my favorite times of the year – every day I walk around the beds just to see the progress on everything. Seeing how fast plants grow this time of year is fascinating to me.

I planted this big hydrangea last spring I think? Maybe a couple years ago. And the climbing hydrangea behind it as well:

growing hydrangea

The climbing hydrangea has never bloomed. I was told it would take a couple years – anyone know about that? This will be the third summer so I’m crossing my fingers for some flowers! I’d like to plant some Boston ivy back there too but I’m wondering if it will choke out the climbing hydrangea?

The dead wood isn’t great for the plants and the leaves don’t help either. I dug tons of them out of the middle of the hydrangea – they hinder their growth for sure. I swear the hydrangea has grown by two inches in the past three days:

climbing hydrangea

Sometimes I plant things and don’t do good research. I mean, I always check on the sunlight they need, things like that. But I had no idea I’d need to trim my butterfly bushes back in early spring, and they are barely coming up because of all that dead wood:

pruning butterfly bush

Now I know. :) And really…it feels like winter just ended two weeks ago, so there hasn’t been a great time to get out to do all this till now.

I’m hoping they grow fast – when I planted them last year they were about three feet tall:

pruning butterfly bush

It’s a learning process for sure! I have big plans for that little area, can’t wait to get started. (That is clematis in the pots and I’m so excited to see what they do!)

After all the beds were cleared out I focused on the patio. Again with the leaves. For this I use our leaf vacuum to suck them up. The potting bench area was a mess:

Lovely eh? Classy.

And now it’s clean and ready for some herb planting:

DIY potting bench

You can see how we made that bench here – it was surprisingly easy! It’s cedar and has patinaed to a lovely grey color. I need to sand it down a bit to get some of the stains off.

My last area to tackle was the vegetable garden. It’s pretty obvious the winter kicked my butt: 

It’s like I just threw up my hands, ran inside and hibernated for four months. Oh wait, I did. :)

I cleaned up the mangled mess of tomato cages and dead plants, weeded, put down two bags of fresh soil and planted this year’s garden:

square foot garden

I’m going simple this year. You can see that my strawberries are already shooting off everywhere. I didn’t want to pull them up since they’re already blooming:

growing strawberries

I’m just going with it this year – I’ll actually get more than five strawberries, so bonus! Strawberries are a good investment if you have the room because they are a perennial and will come back every year.

I’ll cut them down in a few weeks after they’re done and plant something else – I couldn’t find red peppers over the weekend so I may try those.

I loosely use the square foot gardening technique for my garden. It opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t need to have a ton of space to grown a lot of food. You just need a small area – and you will get a LOT of food. Growing food is actually pretty darn easy – I plant and then water if we don’t get rain for a few days and the food grows. No special anything – just Miracle Grow soil, six+ hours of sun a day and water.

So far other than the strawberries I have two cucumber plants, two tomato plants, four arugula, lavender and rosemary. The latter used to go in my herb planters but they get pretty big. At least rosemary – this is my first attempt at lavender:

DIY garden markers

I saw the cork garden marker idea at the Katie Brown site a couple years ago and finally did it. It was so simple and I think it’s pretty darn cute – and FREE. Well…after a few months and a few bottles of wine anyway. :)

Six hours and five lawn bags later – the beds are cleaned out and the vegetables are growing! Now I can plant a few new plants and then mulch everything. I’ll share the backyard tour soon, after that’s all done and things have grown in a bit more. You can see last year’s tour here.

Do you enjoy working outside? A favorite plant? It is gratifying to see the plants grow and bloom – I love it. It comes with a lot of work in the spring but after that it’s smooth sailing.

33 comments:

  1. It's tough when a special occasion is all we hoped it would be but it looks like you handled it pretty well. I'm working my way through a tough yard mess after this winter, too. It feels so good to see some progress being made now that the weather has finally warmed up!

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  2. Hydrangeas are funny. It really all depends on your soil whether or not they bloom. We actually planted pink and blue ones and only the blue ones bloom. They're finicky little flowers.

    Good luck!

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    1. Maura I'm pretty sure the color depends on your type of soil -- I can only grow the pink ones! :)

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  3. How do you cut down on weeds? Your beds look awesome! Mine are just full of weeds.

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    1. Connie I did remove some but overall they stay decent. I think it's because we keep the yard fairly weed free. I have a tool I use to remove them that I plan to blog about soon.

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  4. I am THE gardening addict. Love, love and more love. Some girls do shoes and handbags. I do plants. My blog this time of year turns full-on plant lust.
    I have a climbing hydrangea and I've decided they are the slowest growing plant on the face of the earth. Mine has been in the ground for several years and it's just now gettin' goin'. My goal is to have it completely cover our ugly metal shed. Yours will take off - it just takes time.
    Happy gardening - or what I like to call free therapy at my house. :0)

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  5. It froze here in Idaho last night and the night before. A pretty hard frost. I thought my pansies would be OK mid May. Wrong! I'm ready to start planting stuff that can't take frost. We just moved into this house, and the previous owners did some weird stuff in the yard. I'm so ready to take over and rearrange things! I'm curious to see your tips on edging your beds. And keeping grass out. Do you spray, use Preen, hoe, etc. Hopefully you can share when you give us a tour again :)

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  6. Soooo I love gardening too. It's so frustrating though when I spend hours gardening in the spring, summer, and fall and then winter decides to ruin all of my hard work. We had a rough winter here in Nashville and I'm waiting to see how many of my plants survived. It looks like my gardenias are not going to rebound.

    For the hydrangeas, I've been told that the only time you are to prune them is in late summer, after the current summers blooms have died. If you prune them after August, then you are cutting off the blooms that would be for next year.

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    1. It is taking a long time for stuff to rebound here! The pruning depends on your hydrangea -- I removed all the dead wood on mine because they grow on new growth, not old. On my limelights and pee gees I don't really prune at all because they grow on old.

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  7. I LOVE working outside, but this year I am finding it super overwhelming. I was so happy to do some research on most of my plants just in time to know when to cut them back, but now I am fighting with all the weeds coming up and the kudzu coming back. Not to mention we actually have to rebuild our yard on a very tiny budget

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  8. Your garden looks GREAT! Wish I could grow some of those thing here in Colorado - we have such a short growing season. It snowed yesterday and today - yep this isn't April Fools Day snow - 6+ inches yesterday and who knows how much we are getting on top of that today. Be careful if you ever plant mint in your garden - it will take over. I had that happen to me so I always use pots for mint. Lavender is easy, lots of sun and some water and you are good to go - you may need to cover it in the winter to keep it though - check with a local nursery. I get the strained relationships with parents - my hubby doesn't really have a relationship with his mother it does make it a bittersweet day. I am glad your close family could make it special for you!

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  9. Another garden enthusiast here, hubby has stopped buying a Mother's Day gift/Anniversary/Birthday (all in the spring) and just keeps his mouth shut when plants start showing up ;) As far as Knock out roses all my neighbors looked at me crazy, and some even questioned me if I was trying to kill them (which you can't ;) ) when I took my pruners out and cut them off right at the root ball or the base of the plant. Mine look awesome...theirs look like yours and very green with envy at mine. Can't wait to see your backyard when everything is blooming!

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  10. We have climbing hydrangea's under our deck and I remember wondering if they were ever going to bloom....they did eventually! Now they have climbed all the way up each of the posts of the deck and across the beams under the deck. We have a porch swing under there and it is so nice to relax back there....like a little green room. The flowers are not a full as a typical hydrangea bush, more like little snow balls.

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  11. I also live in the Indy area and I've loved my knockout roses for 7 years. This is the first year they've ever died back to the ground. I'm not looking forward to pruning back all of those branches--ouch!!

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    1. OK well it sounds like maybe this is just a weird year because of the cold? I don't remember having all that dead wood in the past!

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  12. I'm hoping your knock out roses haven't died out and that is the original root stock growing out again. I don't know a lot about roses, but I know they will do that, then you have wild roses. As far as the buddleia (butterfly bush) the winter was very hard on them. Some of mine came back, others show no signs of life. I may have to replace a few. The harsh winter was hard on a lot of plants that normally survive. Including the fish in my pond - none of them made it. :( Ohio zone 5 here.

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  13. Your gardens look great! A friend gave me some lillies, black-eyed susans, ferns and other plants from her gardens on mother's day. I replanted them today in my gardens - my gardens are so full now! Can't wait until everything blooms.

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  14. Great before & after pictures of your cleanup! Very motivating ;-)

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  15. Everything looks wonderful, don't worry about the butterfly bushes. You can practically hack those to the ground and they come back. Let the buds come in and take out some of the dead stuff. On another note, please, please don't plant boston ivy. It will be a mess to take care of, strong and ANNOYING roots all over the ground, taking over everything. Trust me, it's a nightmare. You'll regret it, unless you love dealing with plants that misbehave that it! Once again, your yard looks great.

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    1. I had english ivy that I removed -- I thought the Boston ivy was supposed to be better? No? Thanks for the warning!

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  16. I'm afraid I'm like your BFF....hand me a stick. Your flower beds and yard look great after so much hard work. Wanna come to my house????

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  17. Hydrangeas flower on old wood, meaning the old branches from the year before, so you should never trim the old wood off of a hydrangea unless it is right after they bloom, otherwise very little flowers will result. Hydrangeas do not take late frost well, and it will kill the blooms on the old wood. A little maintenance is required to keep them flowering in a picturesque way. In the winter they need to be covered and not uncovered until the last frost is gone. The easy way to do this is by staking around the plant, then covering the plant with burlap. Use leaf litter or pine needle mulch inside the burlap, and the flowers will be protected. Hope that helps!

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    1. The pruning depends on the type of hydrangea -- the ones I pruned down were dead wood and they grow on new. After I remove that dead wood they thrive. I don't prune my limelights and pee gees down at all though and they bloom like crazy every year. I hope those do OK after this winter!

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  18. Climbing hydrangeas r not anything like the huge flowering bushes you see everywhere. I had one that took over an entire fence once it flowers that first time no stopping it from season to season. Beautiful delicate lacecap white flower

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  19. Very dense thick woody vine do not prune just train each season upward or it will grow out in the yard. Needs plenty of space to spread

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  20. The lavender will get just as big as the rosemary, unless you bought a dwarf variety. Unless the photo looks deceptively small, I am thinking that those two will choke out everything else in that bed. I planted lavender last year and it grew to be about 4' diameter. And it did not like me transplanting it in the middle of the summer when it was that big either. Just food for thought. Garden looks great!

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    1. Good to know! My rosemary was fine last year but I'll watch the lavender! That's huge!!

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  21. This is beautiful. We're in a rental and have a postage stamp sized patch of dirt out front, but I'm going to try and make it pretty.
    -Ash
    www.stylizedwannabe.blogspot.com

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  22. I'll echo another response - do not plant Boston Ivy...you'll be sorry in a few years when it invades everything including your lawn with long runners. Butterfly bush is very slow to come back here in my zone 5. Your garden is looking good!

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  23. I was told regarding climbing hydrangeas that the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. It took mine about 5 years to really bloom beautifully but after 13 years now it is gorgeous. It covers an old stump in one of the beds. I love it.

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  24. I love to garden, but very bad rheumatoid arthritis has kept me from it the last several years. Last year we moved to the California high desert (over 3,000 feet) and although there is no grass in my yard, the desert wildflowers have taken over and they are wonderful! I never knew there were so many blooming plants in the desert, and this is an unusually dry year! For several weeks I was able to keep cut flowers in the house just from the wildflowers.

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  25. I do love to work in the yard. I love it more when it's not 100% humidity & 90 degrees though! We spent the entire day Saturday pressure washing the patio, weeding & trimming. Everything just looks so good!

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