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Drip line irrigation

Macaroni projectWhen the house was built, an irrigation system was placed but like most sprinklers, the focus was on keeping a green lawn. I honestly don’t care about a green lawn. My gardening philosophy is benign neglect and my lawn – such that it is – is bahia grass, a native species and it either endures the frost in the winter and the drough in the summer or it gets replaced by wild “flowers” and weeds. The bees are more please with the weeds and their many flowers than the grass anyways.

So, when I inquired with an irrigation company – an independent guy – about reworking my Rainbird zones, he quoted me an impressive number. Being the determined (re: hardheaded) person I am, I set about finding my own solution.

Back in the winter, we made a drip irrigation system using flexible tubing but it laid upon the ground and was a constant target for the lawn mowers. Then we got a dog and Ginger thought the tubing was her giant chew toy. She effectively destroyed that system, which worked reasonably well.

Back to the drawing board.

I had leftover PVC pipe in the garage from the original install. A repurpose/reuser project beckoned. And hence, this irrigation system was born. It is not complete. It is a two weekend project but you get the idea.

 

 

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I am slowly planting monkey grass to define the flower beds around the house. Now that it’s spring, it’s time to re-mulch the beds, too. I prefer pine straw mulch. It breaks down fast but is inexpensive and gives the yard a fresh look so quickly. I have used peanut hull mulch, too but spreading 10-15 cubic yards of peanut hull mulch is very, very labor intensive. It lasts longer but is costs more and I pay a hefty personal price. I am still working on the exact calculation of pine straw bails needed to mulch all the beds. This time I ordered 50 bales but I think I will need 10 more. I mulched all the trees on the swale around the lot, the pecan trees, the rose bed and the birch tree bed. What is left is the chickasaw plum/camellia bed and the Confederate jasmine wall. Oh, and the hydrangea bed. Yes, 10 more bales. Next weekend. Cuz I am tired. Daylily bed Monkey grass borderRear Entrance Swale Rise bed Bearded iris

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Irises

The irises have started blooming. They are lovely, brilliant and delicate. They close up at night and once they are done blooming their petals curl up like the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet in the Wizard of Oz after the house falls on her.

Seminole

Seminole

Iris Iris Iris Iris Iris Iris

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Garden plans

An inaugural year but not enough to yet designate me a gardener. I planted a garden. Initially I planted seeds. I was ambitious or rather, I planned for contingencies. I planned for a sizable percentage of failure. Instead, everything sprouted and I was looking at having enough seedlings for a acre garden.

seeds for tomatoes, basil, lettuces, onions, carrots, and cucumbers

seeds for tomatoes, basil, lettuces, onions, carrots, and cucumbers

I didn’t plan for a hard freeze killing everything.

Frost covered Genovese basilPredictably, I restarted and replanted but I only had the lesser preferred seeds. I planted things too close and the crowding led to pests. I didn’t spray for the pests quickly enough and so I lost much of what grew to aphids. Then the rains started and I lost much to cracking and splitting. The white cucumbers were prolific but I lost all the green miniature cukes. I made lime pickles with what I grew and they’re tasty.

Sealed jarsI planted calliope eggplants and I’ve had a nice outcome. They’re still producing. Next year I think six plants will be enough. I even ate the eggplant, which was a first. I’ve always declined eggplant because of the texture, but finely chopped baby eggplants are indiscernible when added to spaghetti sauce. As I watch and learn from the local gardeners, they are all pulling down their gardens. I still have tons of tomatoes on my bushes, so I delay. But, thoughts shift to the fall and what and when I should start seeds for the fall. What can I grow? I should get my soil tested and see what amendments need to be made.

I’ll fertilize the fruit trees and wait to see if the figs yield enough for a small batch of pure Biddan Ridge jam. I am thinking mostly about flowers and my bees. What flowers shall I plant and where so as to maximize their happiness and honey production? They seem to like the cosmos, zinnias and the oregano that has bolted. I want to trim it back, but the bees and butterflies are having a hay day. I have two large seed packets of dill, which I’ll plant just to please the swallowtail caterpillars. And I’ll spend the off season relocating and trying to domesticate the blackberry volunteers that keep returning to my flower bed around the river birches. I promised to ship some of my blackberries to a friend in Texas so she can give them a try in her yard. She has a much greener thumb than I have; I’m sure she’ll do well. I must admit that summer gardening is hard due to the heat. I weeded a flower bed this morning between 9 and 12 in full shade and I sweat like a prize fighter. But the bed is cleared and the irrigation fixed and all the drip lines are functioning. All that’s left to deep weed is the back daylily bed and the river birches. I’ll tackle them this week while I am off. Keep the body busy to keep the mind distracted.

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I woke before the sun and set coffee to brew and then headed to the southern property line just as the sun crested the distant eastern horizon. Blackberries destined for my Le Creuset kettle and a fancy half pint Ball jar needed picking. The season for berries is early. For every small cluster of black berries, there was an adjoining cane full of red and ivory berries. The season will be long and if the rains keep coming each afternoon, the berries will get bigger. I put up 7 half pints of pectin free seedless blackberry jam. I bought a Roma food mill two years ago; the hand cranked device makes a quick transformation of 10 cups of berries into seedless juice. I will repeat the berry collection and put the seedless juice in the freezer.

Then off to the farmers’ market I ran to get eggs and a whole organic chicken, orange juice ambrosia and to peruse the other fare. I bought four pints of blueberries, some chevre (not for human consumption), purple onions, agapanthus, sweet shrubs and a few butterfly bushes. The sweet shrubs are a special find and I am so happy to add them to my garden. They will die back in the winter, send out runners and spread out over the years. Evie likes the agapanthus; he calls them fireworks flowers. He has an affinity for blue and indigo flowers in the garden and I will indulge him.

Tomorrow we will rob the hive. I am excited to see what my bees have produced in the last 10 months. I have recipes collected to use with my honey and may start with a honey challah tomorrow to eat with my black and blue berry jams.

Wild blackberries

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I recently read an article on Grist about women farmers and ranchers. I’m not a farmer but I want to grow some of my own food. I am rational, though. I don’t have the time to devote to a large kitchen garden. So, I pared down my goals and focused on a few things. I want to grow tomatoes to can. I am not a fresh tomato eater as much as I am a cook that uses lots of tomatoes, mostly chopped tomatoes. So, I planted tomatoes and basil and peppers. My larger idea of food production is to grow fruit on trees to make jams, pies and cobblers. As fresh as can be from ground to plate (or freezer or water bath).

TomatoAnd so this is a bit of what I have planted: three pears, six pecans, a loquat, six arbequina olives, a Meyer lemon, a peach, eight blueberry bushes and a tended, cultivated, replanted swath of wild blackberry brambles. The blackberry canes grow wild all over my yard and I mow them over. They also grow inside my landscaped beds. So, I dig them up and replant them into a band in the southern side acre. One day, the other 23 lots in Hawk’s Ridge will be built out and the wild,  chest-high blackberry brambles will have gone the way of pine bark mulch and concrete pavers, but I will have a stripe large enough to satisfy my yearly jam making and pie baking.

Blackberry brambleI also grow herbs for cooking: rosemary, oregano, thyme, garlic chives, sage, leeks and dill. The dill is currently serving at food source for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. I bought two large seed packets of flower dill just for this purpose. I will plant it in the late summer out in the rear acre far away from my herb garden for the kitchen.

Flowering dillCaterpillarLastly, I have bees. And honey that tastes of wildflowers and berries. The bees have plenty to forage with the lilies, asters, irises, cosmos, zinnias, blackberries, wildflowers and blooming grasses.

Zinnias with blackberriesIt hasn’t been a year. I can envision the house and yard in three years, five, 10. The trees lush and grown, the garden mature, the beds packed with perennials leaving me to weed and transplant.

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Good Luck

Red CloverAlong my front walkway is a bed seeded with red clover. I bought the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange a full year prior to moving into the house. The day we seeded, it rained and the seeds floated away, or so we thought. I now have clumps and mounds of large leafed clover growing and Irish Eyes are smiling upon Biddan Ridge because we have found five four leaf clovers with minimal searching. Evan also found a FIVE leaf clover. We have set them to press so they can be framed in glass to hang in the house. I do not believe in luck. I think you make your good fortune through hard work, tenacity, perseverance and a clear vision of your dreams. But, it is a lovely discovery to find abundant validation even if it is in the form of shamrocks.