Thursday, February 17, 2011

I’ve Got Worms!

You have to celebrate every small success when you’re tackling monster sized problems and a major landscape overhaul.

Rhubarb is worth growing  for its ornamental value alone. It was a bonus
when just this plant yielded over 15lbs of fruit last year...
although my family would beg to differ.

If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning you will have doubtless felt my pain as I’ve told you about our battle with crazy invasive weeds, boggy areas the size of Lake Washington and the mountains of moodoo I have added to a new border in an effort to improve the soil.

Even a solitary crocus is cause for celebration
A few days ago it actually stopped raining long enough for me to get outside and see what was going on in my garden. I wasn’t expecting much. The front border has been completely emptied of every tree, shrub and perennial as I lie in wait for each sprout of Bishop’s weed that dares to rear it’s nasty variegated head. In another part of the garden a pre-existing sunny border remains largely untouched (although I do have plans….) and the new ‘moodoo border’ backs onto this. This freshly mulched area will need to sit fallow all season as I once again play hide and seek; this time with reed canary grass. Even heavy duty cardboard and a thick layer of organic material won’t stop this grass but it will slow it down and give me a fighting chance.

I rescued this Hellebore from being engulfed by
the virulent Bishops weed.

It is the still barren ‘moodoo border’ that I’m most excited about however. It is riddled with long red slippery worms! These little rototillers will take the mulch down to the subsoil and as the two begin to mix the soil texture and fertility will vastly improve. Last year I don’t think I saw a single worm in that part of the garden – a common problem in clay soil that has not been amended regularly with organic material. Yet even this initial dose of rich mulch has made the soil come alive in preparation for me to plant in fall. A small but significant breakthrough for me and hopefully an encouragement to all those who have poor soil and have wondered if the time, effort and expense of adding compost was worth it.

New foliage on the Spiraea 'Ogon' -
a promise of spring.
Other welcome discoveries were two yellow crocuses in bloom in the front border where I thought I had yanked everything out. My Spiraea ‘Ogon’ (Spiraea thunbergii) is showing chartreuse buds, my Hellebores are in bloom and both my 'Peach flambé' and 'Creme brulee' Heuchera still look fabulous despite the snow and endless rain and are beginning to display their bright spring colors. Bluebells and daffodils are peeking through the soil and my rhubarb is beginning to unfurl, revealing thick crimson stalks beneath its giant crinkly leaves.

All this from my ‘Before’ garden which I was thinking of as more of a desert landscape than a real garden. I know it’s not much and most of you will be celebrating far more than just a few worms, but if you’ve been gardening a few years you’ll understand my smiles.

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