The minimal time I’ve been gardening at my home (7 years) I’ve learned to have, if not a strict budget, at the very least a focus of what I wanted to accomplish that season. The first year or two I was buying and collecting with abandon. It was a good start (but I did burn a hole in my pocket book). The best choices I made didn’t come from nurseries but through collecting and trading. I’ve acquired some tried and true specimens that I already knew would work well in this corner of our world. Hostas, daylilies and iris from my mom, roses I’d known grew well from childhood memories at my grandmothers’, native grasses, mints, sedums and thyme.
Now that I’d found some stuff to work with I moved onto more foundation plantings like shrubs and trees. Having all of ours wiped out by dutch elm, blight and scald those became the focus the next couple years. To save money we went to the nearly-annual city surplus sale and donated to the Arbor Day Society – for a minimal donation you get quite a few trees, though tiny, it’s worth it even if only a couple survive. We only splurged on the two trees planted the day our kids were born. Investing in perennials, trees and shrubs will always be a better deal as they, hopefully, come back year after year needing less and less maintenance as they become established.
Last year (and the year before) we put up a fence to enclose the backyard both for our kids’ and dog’s sake and to keep rough-n-tumble kids from breaking, beating and stomping the stuff we had planted. There is just something way too appealing about breaking branches.
Bringing us to this year’s focus:
- Dirt — basically building up the veggie garden, raising or mounding the beds. This will help them heat up faster, drain better and hopefully provide more of a path to get to things. I’d love all raised beds as it would make the work easier but the building materials would probably be out of our range. By bringing in a mix of compost, dirt, peat etc. we will improve the soil quality. Before all of this I should finally get soil samples sent into the extension office so that I know where I’m at as far as pH and basic nutrient needs.
- Water conservation — rain barrels and soaker hoses. Our old soaker hoses need replacing and they really are the smartest way to water. I’ve been talking about rain barrels for a few years and have never tackled the project. To buy one premade will cost a minimum of $150 from what I’ve perused in catalogs, but there are easier ways to make your own. I just need to find large plastic food-grade barrels that have never held any chemicals. They could be used as is by dipping watering cans into, or I can add spigots and drain hoses for greater ease with some strategic holes, faucet and hose attachments. Not only do you end up with free water, it’s actually much better water for your plants. City water around these parts is more alkaline and will increase soil pH. Just remember a couple mosquito dunks to kill the larvae.
- Lastly, another tree splurge as there is another Pharris on the way to make his/her appearance in April. We haven’t nailed down the type of tree we want yet but I’m leaning towards an evergreen of sorts or an oak. I’ll have to call the nurseries and check on the availability of bareroot vs. container in early April.