Saturday, June 6, 2009

How A Garden Grows

The official drought better be over. The current monsoon has created a dense lushness. The trees look fuller. The wild under growth part of the wild cultivated garden is extra robust. The editing process is an ongoing ritual.

In the long run though, scenes like this are part luck and big heaping of deliberate patience.

The preference for my own baby garden is to spend a lot less time editing. The forest and its smaller inhabitants are a mighty foe. They assert their dominance. Also my baby garden is not starting from a place of suburban bulldozed subdivisions with a blank slate. The forest is here. It must be lived with.

I was very happy to see when I returned home my editing weapon of choice. A full load of fresh wood chips had been dumped on my driveway. Let the smothering mulch be spread.

After a long weekend touring fabulous gardens in Chicago, the one place here giving me a great degree of satisfaction was the vegetable garden. Looking around at the ornamental parts of the garden caused a sense of dread. It is going to take a lot of work to make a fabulous garden in the wild forest.

The vegetables had grown in the week I was gone. That was nice. At least those that hadn't been eaten by the slugs and the grasshopper plague. What was really giving me that sense of satisfaction though was the order and feeling of control I found in the vegetable garden. It is a garden I am in charge of, not the wild forest.

The wood chip mulch is what allows me to shift the balance of power.

There has even been another expansion in the vegetable garden. The next section east was sprayed a couple of weeks ago to kill what was growing there for a strawberry patch next spring. The decomposition of the wood chips between now and then should make for a nice planting soil come spring. If I can wait that long. Maybe I'll need more corn or potatoes and can borrow this space for the summer.

As I wander the wild cultivated garden there is no shortage of plants I see that would be perfectly at home in a more civilized place. A large drift of this native Goat's Beard, Aruncus dioicus would be fabulous.

This un-named, unknown, slightly buried shrub rose is different. Maybe I'll weed around it, mulch it and visit it where it lives. I don't really want a lot of roses in the civilized garden.

Sort of civilized anyway. I have the beginnings of my salvia for a huge swath that can flow down the hillside in a more naturalistic planting design like I just saw at the Lurie Garden in Chicago. That is pretty much what I already had in mind.

The thing is with the wood chip mulch I will have a much better chance of deciding who will be living on my hillside. The editing will be reduced by as much as 90%. I am seeing in my older mulched beds that some of the wild things will germinate on top as the mulch ages. Still, it seems to be restricted at this point to only a few species, far fewer than the whole gang of wild things that are possible.

The wood chip mulch can be refreshed over time. I just need to place a standing order with the tree trimmers that when they are in the area and need to dump a load of chips, I'm their man. In Hawaii I'd pay $85 bucks for a full load of chips. Here they are free.

So I can keep planting things like my first ever Japanese Maple in the baby garden that will be modestly civilized and mulch things when I have the chips.

I need an edge in this forest garden or I could spend my entire waking life weeding.

Sometimes I just want to wander around with the Spots taking pictures and enjoying things.


Ben said...

Yea here in Georgia the Environmental Protection division is meeting on Wed. to discuss allowing outdoor watering. I hope they do :D.

lola said...

You are so fortunate to have the wood chips dumped at your residence. They sure can be helpful with your gardening.
Your garden sure looks good. Uncle Ernie sure did a good job. It's all coming together.

Ben said...

Hey Lola. Most of the time you can get free wood chips from tree service companies. Although they are usually fresh, and you will need to compost them yourself so they do not take up nutrients from your soil. Also sometimes cities offer them for free as well from chopping up trees etc that have fallen on roads and what not.

Gail said...

Hi Christopher, Once those southern grown weeds get a hold in a garden they are tough to get rid of...let me tell you! I have two beds that desperately seek weed removal and mulch! Thanks for a photo of the Spots! Let's hope the droughts are but a memory! gail

Lisa at Greenbow said...

The garden gladiator arrives back at his castle with his weapons stacked and ready for battle. His adoring subjects at his feet ready to follow him into battle.

The first photo looks like a lovely painting. I hope your weather doesn't go from monsoon to drought the next heartbeat. Our area has been unusually wet this spring however the past few days they have been predicting showers that haven't materialized. Just the usual summer oppressive humidity beginning to mount.

Carol Michel said...

It's hard to leave the ground unplanted... I'd put some more potatoes and corn out if I were you. Otherwise, the forest will plant what it wants to plant.

Looking forward to seeing your river of Salvia.

Frances said...

Hooray for the wood chips! What a delightful thing to return home to. You didn't even have to use your bags either. Fighting back the forest must have been a task for Bulbarella too, it is just so powerful. Being in control makes us feel good, but it is so fleeting.

susan harris said...

I'm SO glad you came to Chicago and I got to spend some time with you! Not that I doubted I'd like you - your comments and this blog had prepared me to. Come to DC anytime to visit, ya hear! Susan

Anonymous said...

I think those of us living in the woodland have a different task than people in open, urban or suburban sites. Although sometimes I am jealous of all those manicured, colorful sun gardens, I feel more attuned with nature in my edited woodland garden.Even while I am pulling out the 10,000 white oak seedlings from my 39+ oaks.....


Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog said...

Lucky you to have access to free mulch! I can see rivers of salvia happening all over the U.S. now (although you'd already planned that). I really like that goatsbeard. And I LOVE your cats!

Christopher C. NC said...

Hi Ben, welcome to garden blogging. Have fun with it.

Just so you know, you can put fresh wood chips directly on the soil in garden beds and compost them in place. They will not rob the soil of nutrients, including nitrogen. In fact they will increase soil nutrients rather quickly. The latest science on this is here: Wood Chip Mulch

Lola I was sure happy to get this load and could use plenty more.

Gail I have decided Clematis virginiana, Virgin's Bower is the new Kudzu. Lord've mercy it will be tough to get rid of it.

Lisa two days in a row without rain. Perhaps all my monsoon wailing has had an effect.

Carol, I think your right. I'll need more corn for the raccoon and more potatoes are always good. It will help break the soil for the strawberries.

Frances, Bulbarella has always had a great deal of acceptance of the situation. Only since I arrived has she been actively mulching as she plants. I think one vegetable garden and my two front beds convinced her of the power of mulch and let's face it the resident gardeners are not getting any younger.

Susan I was glad we had a chance to chat and meet you in person. One day I'll be able to say, I knew her when.... What about your Asheville trip to visit your old BF from college?

Bev, it is most certainly a different task and I am still trying to understand how to go about it with the least amount of destruction and effort. Of course my definition of effort may be skewed.

Hi Jean. It was a shame we did not get to meet and chat at the Spring Fling. I find it strange in some ways that that was even possible. I guess 50 is a bigger group than it seems. Wish me luck on my salvia river. I think I need to go buy lots of seeds.

Siria said...

Hi Christopher! Your garden is already a fabulous garden in the wild forest. I know what you mean about weeding full time though. It is an endless task indeed! My problem is I never know what is a weed and what isn't. In fact, I sprayed round up all over my Clematis, which I thought was poison ivy. It hit me the day after I sprayed it, that it was in the location that I planted a Clematis last year. Oh well.... :)

Layanee said...

It is taming that we do most of the time when we garden isn't it. The vegetable garden looks great with its' coat of chips. I still have much to plant. Love the top shot of the orange Rhododendron and the blue jar in the distance.

EAL said...

I think everyone went home wanting to plant a swath of salvias just like the Lurie. You could actually do it ...