The making of a unique landscape quilt

I am perhaps the worst photographer known to man; I must ask your forgiveness at my  poor quality of pictures!

I wanted to document the process of creating a landscape quilt.

In the Texas Panhandle putting in flower beds is problematic at best, you can count on half the plants you pray over to survive. It is just the way it is in this region. In fact, after several failures Royce and I nearly gave up any hope of creating a lovely landscape here. But we are of the prescient sort he and I, or we are just plain glutton for punishment because when it comes to having a nice yard we won’t and can’t give up so easily. I began to think outside the box of what I was use to doing as a gardener. In other words I began to accept the arid and dusty landscape, to embrace it, to allow it to be what it is and stop fighting it. This meant a change in plant materials that will work here and trust me, those plants I am in love with and that will grow like weeds in North Carolina and Ohio aren’t the ones that like it here! I have to fall in love with grasses and other drought loving plants that will take this dry, windy, never-wet!, hot-sunny-land.

When I began to consider using less plant material and more ‘hard-scape’ material to create our beds my spirits lifted. The first thought that came to me was to do a hard-scape landscape quilt. I chose to do my first one in the shape of a tree — (although my mother-in-law Ms. Ruth thinks it looks more like an arrow) — Either one, tree or arrow, works for me as long as the few low growing plants I used live to see fall! I first began by raking out the area and was surprised to find that the grass came up easily. So much said for grass having deep roots in this yard, I guess. Poor Royce is working diligently on making a lush green lawn a reality.  I vote for easing his frustration and using pea gravel and lots of it! But, I know the suggestion will fall on deaf ears so . . . . he plants and I pray.

I was so delighted with this first attempt at a landscape quilt that I have two more areas planned for next year. I do believe this is the way to rock this yard!

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I had to deal with sand storms at first before I could even lay out my design. As you can see, the sand is plentiful where Royce tilled up the soil in this bed. First we laid down landscape fabric and then I used a few tiles we had laying around to give me a visual idea and them used some old wooden yardsticks to build the form.

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Next was to lay down some play sand to level out the area and plant the plants I wanted inside each of the four sections. Hens & Chicks in the lower section; creeping thyme in the top section; two more drought tolerant ground covers in the two middle sections. And then I began to play with rocks I had on hand. In this picture I settled on the tree trunk made out of medium sized black pebbles.

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When Royce bought 1/2 yard of pea gravel for this and other beds we are doing I decided to use only pea gravel around the tree form and 86 the other stones in that area; instead I placed the larger stones inside the tree form and around the plants. I know this picture doesn’t do it justice but it is really lovely. We have a frog on a stick that waves hello to  you.  I put Mr. Frog at the top of the tree. He has one hand up waving as a welcome to those who approach our front steps. I think he is happy to live there. Every tree needs a topper!

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A better view……….like I wrote I am the worst photographer know to man — or woman or beast for that matter!

Our Little Yard Guest

yard guest

We are in the process of redoing my mother-in-laws front, back and side yards. And there is a ton of work to do, after years of neglect due to age and health, Royce and I have tackled something we may not be prepared to do. But, we’re totally committed so new fences to new grass and plants are going in over three growing seasons. There is so much to do it will take that long! This year is the first season of our renovations for her. We are beginning by focusing on the lawn. In the Texas panhandle this is a tall order, apparently, especially when her old lawn has laid dormant for nearly ten years. The only spot to show any old growth after a month of watering is this small patch in the middle of the back yard. We are still waiting for the grass seed to sprout (fingers crossed it does — we’ve had more than the average amount of sand storms this season so our neighbors just may be the proud recipient of a new lawn!) This morning Royce mowed this one little patch of grass and this afternoon an extremely plump bunny settled in and feasted on the clippings.  I think I’d best put a fence around the newly planted garden!

garden Yes, folks that is red clay and sand in them there rows! But we have corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, sweet basil, peppers, okra, red onions and even some flowers here and there.

I’m also putting in a few flower/hardscaps beds in around her long front porch and upgrading some furniture she has out there. Early mornings and late afternoons, Royce and I love setting on her front porch and watching all the birds and rabbits — that our dog Spike chases out of the yard — enjoying each others company and the ever present Texas plains breeze.

 

Re-Purposing Unused Items to the Garden

Sometimes gardening ideas which are “outside the box” (so to speak) strike me as being a bit silly but here are a few I just ran across which aren’t silly at all, in fact, I consider these to be very smart indeed.  It’s called re-purposing and I think this is the greatest idea I’ve ever seen. After all, why toss out perfectly good rubber boots into the trash bin when you can give them new life in your garden by placing potting soil inside planted up with some posies. It adds a bit of whimsy to the garden to have a row of lined up boots hung on a gate. In fact, wouldn’t this be an inspiring addition to the fence itself? Can you imagine the smiles this would bring! Oh how I love the whimsical side of a gardeners life.

3a 1a

Speaking of fences: Not long ago we had a chipped slat on a fence, right at the top of the slat and right in the middle of the row of pickets. (My mind is always one slight swing away from ”’unusual”’) Seeing these boots hung in the picture above made me think (why I can’t say) that if I were to have taken turned upside down pots I’d painted in colours of gum drops and placed on top of the pickets, wedging them down tight, that the fence would have looked spectacular and the unsightly chipped slat picket would have been perfectly camouflaged.  What do you think?  (wish I could find a picture for you but sadly, I don’t have one)

Of course, if your boys (or girls for that matter) have grown tired of playing with trucks and such, placing them in a flower bed (planted up, of course) would bring a smile every time. I’m sure of it.

Here are a few examples>>>6b1bHere is an adult version>>>3b

 

Is it Open Season yet?

Open gardening season that is because I’m fidgeting my my seat to make my yard look like this here photograph>>>>

The greenhouse is planted up with all sorts of veggies and flowers. And I’m just waiting for mid April to come around so I can get them all into the ground. Our friend Jerry was out yesterday — a real soothsayer to be sure — and mentioned (1) I’m a wee bit too early with the greenhouse plantings and (2) the greenhouse (which if you recall was moved to avoid being blown over by the winds here) is not getting enough sun to be considered a greenhouse and that we need to put a heat lamp inside it. Well-Dag, I never thought of that! Of course we need a heat lamp in that silly flimsy little thing. This morning, I pretended to ignore Royce when he reported his and Jerry’s conversation — I’m good at doing that — and simply knotted my head in agreement. Now, maybe he’ll buy me that heat lamp I asked for a month ago :) Woo-oho, Thank You Jerry!

I write a lot about placement of a vegetable garden in the landscape. I write about it mostly because I can not count the times ‘someone’ has said to me in past years that they didn’t have room for a garden. Naysayers! This is totally not true. You can have a garden in a tiny apartment for Pete’s Sake. Once long ago in the land of Oz that is exactly what happened when several tenants and I along with the on-site property manager converted a weedy patch into a garden. The area wasn’t large but it was long enough for two shorter blocks of three rows each and one of longer block two rows each in the middle. 1912212_10151965465036404_231239209_nThe entire process was fun and very rewarding to all of us. 

As the saying goes: You’re never too old to learn — and in my case never too old to be taught a thing or two. In fact, if the mind lays idle too long the body soon follows and you get cobwebs between your toes and behind your eyeballs! Don’t let that happen!! Stay engaged in life. Growing a vegetable garden sweeps out the cobwebs, for sure and for certain.  

<<<<<diagram of community veggie garden

 

 

When I share gardening information with someone I find that I’m usually picking up a few helpful tips from them as well. I love how that works. So please feel free to leave a comment and share your tidbits with me; I’ll be sure to pass them along.

images2Here’s wishing you a bounty from your garden this year.

Gardening in Shallowater, Texas

Gardening in Shallowater, Texas is going to be a bit different. The soil isn’t as nice as I am use to in the Carolinian’s wonderful region I sprout from nor is it close to what I experienced around the Dayton, Ohio area I gardened in the past three years. Royce will be behind a rototiller digging down into this mix of  soil — some sand, a lot of clay and who knows what else. The earth is so dry he’ll have to soak it right-much to be able to till it up at all. I am thankful his hands will be doing this task!

When it comes to soil in Shallowater, I have yet to decide exactly what I am dealing with. I do know one thing for sure and for certain, the weeds (tumbleweeds and rag weeds) will be a nuisance as will the amount of clay in the soil. I’ve dealt with clay before and done well with that soil but then I have also amended the soil to suit each plot of veggies I planted. For instance, carrots like a more sandy/loamy soil while okra will do fine planted in soil which has clay in it.

I am reminded of the very first garden I helped plant. It was with my Granny Roxie Donnell. She was an avid gardener and a true friend to any living creature and/or plant, a true gift to Mother Nature she was. Besides teaching me to quilt Granny taught me to garden, or as she put it, farm a small section. Her section for vegetables was a 4,800 square foot rectangle between her house and the one we lived in. In addition to the vegetable plot she had a 2,400 square foot one planted with cutting flowers. Gosh, I remember how wonderful her house always smelled. The summer we lived in the small two bedroom house in Danville, I wore out that path through the vegetable garden between Granny’s place and ours. Granny always smiled when she saw me coming, never complained about my presence and just took it in stride that she had a little admirer she could mold.  And mold me she did! I owe my love of gardening to the time I spent stooped over one plant or another learning about its, as Granny put it_ likes and dislikes to make it happy.

When I first began to garden, away from Granny, totally on my own, during my early twenties, I had two pots on my patio, one of some flower I have long since forgotten the name of, and one large pot for a big boy tomato plant. Each was such a success I was on the telephone claiming my bragging rights to my granny, and any one else that would listen for that matter. My love of gardening grew from there. Yours will as well, if you give it time and effort. Even for a first year garden if you lay out a vegetable garden properly, the garden will produce a high yield bounty of wonderful vegetables for you. Make sure to test the soil for pH and amend as needed for what you will plant in each section …. don’t worry about ”being fancy” about design your first year out of the gate. Over time your garden will take shape. Begin small and build upon your success each year.

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It’s important to factor in how much sun your vegetable garden will receive each day. Most gardens require a minimum of six to eight hours to produce well.

Charting your garden area for proper sun exposure is key to a successful vegetable garden. It is as important as water! Vegetable plants need good air circulation, good hydration and good sun exposure to grow into healthy plants that will produce a bountiful crop. Don’t give  up — you’ll get the hang of it sooner than later. Be sparing with the garden hose. Most vegetable plants only need one inch of water per week. Water requirements are easily obtained on the Internet or at your local extension office, who will also do a soil test for  you. Plant vegetable companions for best results.  For years I have planted sweet basil and marigolds in amongst my tomato plants but kept any broccoli a distance away. Look at it this way: I never served, or had served to me tomatoes and broccoli  in a the same bowl — these two are a foe! (see chart below for more suggestions)

FRIEND FOE FRIEND FOE FRIEND FOE
BEANS CORN ONIONS
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Peas
Potatoes
Radishes
Squash
Strawberries
Summer
savory
Tomatoes
Garlic
Onions
Peppers
Sunflowers
Beans
Cucumbers
Lettuce
Melons
Peas
Potatoes
Squash
Sunflowers
Tomatoes Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Lettuce
Peppers
Potatoes
Spinach
Tomatoes
Beans
Peas
Sage
CUCUMBERS PEPPERS
Beans
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Corn
Lettuce
Peas
Radishes
Sunflowers
Aromatic
herbs
Melons
Potatoes
Basil
Coriander
Onions
Spinach
Tomatoes
Beans
Kohlrabi
CABBAGE LETTUCE RADISHES
Beans
Celery
Cucumbers
Dill
Kale
Lettuce
Onions
Potatoes
Sage
Spinach
Thyme
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Asparagus
Beets
Brussels
sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Onions
Peas
Potatoes
Radishes
Spinach
Strawberries
Sunflowers
Tomatoes
Broccoli Basil
Coriander
Onions
Spinach
Tomatoes
Beans
Kohlrabi
CARROTS TOMATOES
Beans
Lettuce
Onions
Peas
Radishes
Rosemary
Sage
Tomatoes
Anise
Dill
Parsley
Asparagus
Basil
Beans
Borage
Carrots
Celery
Dill
Lettuce
Melons
Onions
Parsley
Peppers
Radishes
Spinach
Thyme
Broccoli
Brussels
sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Corn
Kale
Potatoes

 

March Winds

This morning I ventured out to the greenhouse to show Ms. Ruth the progress of my lovely start-up plants for the flower and vegetable gardens. This was her first trip out to see the inside of the greenhouse after we’d relocated the greenhouse to a less windy spot in the yard. We wedged the greenhouse between the garage and the fence to the west side of the property. Not putting it even with the edge of the garage, but back a bit further we though surely this would protect it from the damaging winds we have in this area.

 Again we were wrong —- again the winds were strong —- and our little greenhouse had had a tumble. This time only on one side but the damage was done and as a result I lost several nice terracotta pots along with what I planted in them. After the clean up, I turned to Mom and said “Well, at least I have enough shards now. I don’t think she quite knew what to say. And all Royce could do was to hug me. And cry with me! And understand when I said: “I hate Texas” as I walked past my wonderful companion in life to gather up the hose to water what was left in the greenhouse. (I’m thinking his thoughts were: surely she doesn’t mean it) Well, Mr. Royce, I did. Double did!

Nothing around here looks like anyone gardens. I wonder why? I’m certain everyone is thinking “why bother” and this is why yards are dead brown and chocked full of tumbleweeds. Except for the few landscapes I see with grasses (dead grasses by the way) and brittle looking shrubs I can spot little effort in the way of beautifying the landscapes on most folks parts.

Hello March

It is said by Shallowaterians that if March roars in like a Lion is will leave out like a Lamb. I’m counting on the Lamb because I sure don’t like the Lion.

But, I guess I’m glutton for punishment, because as an avid gardener, I must bother. If I am to live in this neck of the woods I must adjust to what nature throws at me to have a garden that I can be happy with. One that feeds my soul; gives me solace; quietens my mind. Provides beauty when I set on the back porch whilst I sip my morning cup of coffee hoping to watch the birds and butterflies flutter about. Quiet. Peaceful. Deep-Cleansing-Breaths of Morning Happiness. This is the ultimate goal I seek.

Dear Mr. Royce is busy wiring down the greenhouse as I write this entry. This time he has wired it to the fence! Lets see if this does the trick. If not —– I understand Southwest has some cheep rates and has flights between Lubbock and Dayton.

Oh, Dayton. My second home away from my Carolina Home. Green grass and fields of clover (well, maybe not exactly clover) and wildflowers (okay, okay, it’s actually wheat) to run through! The openness of the land between Huber Heights and Troy. Fresh air to breathe, air that doesn’t include dust or sand taken into your lungs. I remember thinking the past three years that I’d eventually adjust to the short gardening season of that far North of the Macon Dixon line. Now I’m thinking as a person who loves to grow things, will I ever adjust to this part of Texas, where the wind can blow a Giant Bean Stock over!

All I can think of right now is that my corn will look like this:wind damaged corn rowInstead of like this:rows of cornAnd that the rest of the garden will look like a rats nest!

hydrangea — a spectacular plant to grow

I’ve always desired to grow Hydrangea in my yard. This lovely plant has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid and my Aunt Joy Flowers and Aunt Nell Peeler grew several of these plants around their homes in Northern California. The plants were tall and lush and Aunt Joy was able to get them to change colours as she wished them to do which made her quite the envy of Aunt Nell, but that’s another story. Aunt Joy was a wonderful gardener. Naturally, I have always wanted to grow some Hydrangeas of my own but, the thing is: I have never, as in N-E-V-E-R, been able to grow them! Perhaps it is due to the fact that I only tried after leaving California for the state of North Carolina many many years ago and found that the soil around our homes in North Carolina was unsuitable. The poor little things were so puny and none of them ever grew higher than a grasshopper could jump in a downpour. No amount of gardener’s prayers worked, they just would not grow. Finally, I pulled them up and grew lots of Azaleas.

After I moved to Ohio, I thought I’d try again but I never did. Now that I am in the great state of Texas with the love of my life I’m thinking that things might change in the Hydrangea growing of department. There is a fence out back (of the property) that is calling for some vegetation. I’ve pondered what to plant there and finally have decided to ask Royce to help plant me some Hydrangea for a display of extraordinaire vegetation along the back fence. I think they’ll grow here and I think they’ll look spectacular. Keeping my fingers crossed over this!

What are you planning on planting this Spring?