alternate pathways, tree roots and looking up

front walkway through vegetable beds integrated among perennials backyard pathway leading to wooded area and driveway pathway al...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

roots, shoots and patience

The three year plan

There is an old saying about perennials:
The first year they sleep
The second they creep
The third year, they LEAP!
That is how long it take for the roots to develop the proper symbiotic relationship with the soil organisms.
Those who know my personality know that I am not particularly patient - and gardening has taught me that I have to let things take there course.
"nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" - Lao Tzu

When starting a new garden plan it is often hard to picture what the mature landscape will look like in 3-5 years. My first garden took 4 years to establish, so I know this is a 3 year plan at best.

When asked what I would have done differently with the last garden my answer was "plan more." This time I have really tried to focus on the plan layout, soil building and drip irrigation lines to help keep things in perspective. I have also read a lot and asked a lot of questions.
Some of the things that I am growing are new to me and I am experimenting with different soils and locations for best place. Other plants are tried and true and I just need to sit back and wait!


1. Hostas: I brought two hostas with me from the old yard and divided them last fall. I planted the divided plants through two shaded areas in the yard.

In this section you can see that I left ample space between plants for future growth. I planted ajuga beneath the hostas in a contrasting chocolate tone, again leaving spacing for them to creep. A single astilbe accents one end of the bed and at the other end a hellebore finishes off the bed. In the pot an annual, lotus, adds a splash of color for the season - and not yet visible is a rapid growing annual vine. I chose to plant annuals in this area because we have already planned for a pair of arctic fig trees in the fall.


2. Strawberries: While we did bring the three large strawberry pots from the old house the starts in the bed are new. Clip the runners the first year to ensure a strong root system. Let the runners take off year two.


We have been picking strawberries now for several weeks - we prefer to eat them straight from the bed.

3. Perennials:
Surprisingly, many of my perennials have sent up new shoots. This could be because they were transplanted in the fall. However, I did fill in a few perennial beds with a tried and true favorite annual - Tithonia. I have had it bloom into October before and it is one of a handful of annuals I seed each year.
4. Odd starts from friends:
Once you have been gardening long enough you find yourself always traveling with a bucket for you never know when a friend will yank something out of the ground and "share."

These spirea starts will fill in nicely to hide the AC lines in a few years . . . and I have other twigs thrust into a pot here and there as well . . .

5. Milkweed:
Two years ago we got native milkweed starts from the Monarch Society. Milkweed has amazingly long roots and I now know from experience that the plant can take up to two years to establish. I was thrilled when the start I brought actually sent up a shoot this year! Often the first year will be all root development and you will not see any above ground activity!

6. New perennials:
I found this "Evan Saul" Echinacea this year and LOVE the color. I actually divided the pot immediately and started it in two different beds. New perennials need lots of space so read tags carefully and allow proper spacing - it may seem sparse the first year, but you will be glad you did by year 3.
7. Ground covers:
Ground covers are terribly frustrating because they can take some time to establish - but favorites like Irish Moss, Red Star Creeper (red creeping Thyme) and others will eventually do their job. Make sure to pay attention to whether or not a specific cover is evergreen and/ or a rapid grower so that you do not have any surprises.
While many of my perennials thrive directly in the lasagna beds with microbial mulch, creepers often require finer planting compost for their shallow root system.