Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting Started...

Today I went ahead and did about an hour's worth of work in the yard (who needs to do midterms anyways?). Roxanne and Justin even helped a little, too! Roxanne decided to go after all of the wild onion weeds. I can't get anywhere near her hands now, since the smell is making me nauseated...

I didn't do much, just pulled about an 1/20th of the weeds, and (I think) all of the dead annuals. The flower perennials I pulled the dead parts off but left the roots in the hopes that they will come back and be just as lovely as last year. The stalks were so insanely brittle, they just cracked off with almost no effort at all. I also discovered that one of the camellia bushes that has been struggling had a large vine root next to its' roots, so I got that beast out. Hopefully it will help the bush recover. That being said, this one particular bush seems to have been half dead ever since it was planted. It's weird, because it always has some green leaves, but then lots of brown. It's probably got some really super common problem that if I knew ANYTHING about gardening I would immediately recognize. Oh well. At least that stupid vine is out.

We have vines all over our property, as does our neighbor. The backyard looks like the jungle in some areas, and we spent a lot of time last summer cutting the vines back and ripping them out, etc., but then we realized that even if they are weedy vines, they were giving us more privacy. Which is significant since our neighbor on one side uses a line to dry all of his and his wife's unmentionables, and it's kind of unpleasant to look at someone's underwear during a cookout and/or picnic. The backyard will probably remain neglected for a couple more years. It's functional, and hidden beneath the overgrown stuff, it's obvious it was beautifully landscaped at some point since you can see lines of monkey grass and there is a gorgeous hydrangea bush that I trek my way back to in the summer time to get beautiful blooms off of. The scratches and bug bites are SO worth it. Oh, that's the other thing... There is a slow creek behind our fence (it runs between our house and the one that backs up to ours) as well as some other serious drainage issues that cause our backyard to be kind of swampy for days after it rains. Make that weeks. That kind of water everywhere makes our backyard a mosquito haven. Gross. I looked at getting a bat box, since they supposedly eat mosquitoes, but I talked to several people who have tried that, and they say it's pretty ineffectual. Apparently bats are picky and might not like your bat box, and even if they do, it might take years for them to get established enough to actually make a dent in the mosquito population. However, the county sent us a letter a while back about a proposed drainage plan in our neighborhood that should address a lot of these issues. Of course, the meeting they scheduled to show the plan (which apparently includes taking some of our property) was in the middle of a work day, so we asked them to send us a copy of the plan. No word yet. Shocking, I know.

Wow, I'm rambling today! Back to the yard, I finished up by spraying Ortho Garden Grass Killer. We haven't used it before, but we had the bottle, so I figured I might as well try it before we spend hours and hours trying to dig up the bermudagrass. It looks like we'll need to respray in a week, but then it should work in one to four weeks. We'll see how it's looking, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it at least helps get some of the grass and weeds before we have to really dig everything up... We still plan to get some free mulch in a couple of months, so we are trying to get started on getting the other stuff under control before we get that figured out. Oh, and we do plan to get the plastic divider, too. We thought it would be easiest to try and fight off the existing bermudagrass first...

Thank you again for all of your suggestions! They were very very helpful. I definitely felt better about taking out dead plants knowing that I wasn't ripping out anything that might come back! I also remembered my 1955 copy of the Better Homes and Gardens gardening book. I might start reading in there to get ideas about period-appropriate plantings, etc. It's such a great book, and it was published the year our house was built, so it must be fate.


  1. All the old plants my grandmother always grew in her yard require so much more sun than I have. I'd love to have huge stands of cannas and beds of daylilies and iris, but it's not in the cards at this house.

    I look forward to following your progress. I bet you'll get it back in shape in less time than you think, once you get the bermuda grass killed. If you have family members with green thumbs, I bet they can divide some of their plants with you.

    At my last house, I had someone come out and pour concrete curbing in a really curvy, freeform design as my flowerbed border. It wasn't as expensive as you'd imagine, and it totally kept the bermuda grass out of my beds.

  2. Dana, my grandmother has always had the most beautiful gardens at her homes. It's such a wonderful hobby, and one I hope to get more into as life slows down a little in the next few years. Roxanne does love helping though, and it has always been a hope of mine that gardening could be a family activity.

    And thanks for the vote of confidence! After that time today, I actually feel a little less hopeless. It's at least looking neater out there, which is a big relief. I'm going to look into the previous suggestions you made about plants, too. I so appreciate the help!

    I love the idea of the concrete curbing. I wish they had done it when they had all of the concrete people out here for the show! They had someone skim over a driveway with new concrete, and it's terrible now. It's cracked, uneven and crinkled up, so maybe someday we'll see about getting an estimate for both projects...

    Thank you again!