Yesterday was about tomato-planting.
Separately, I've gone big on Red Astilbes this year ('Fanal' if you
want to know). I've planted 75. 25 in the backyard when an entirely
useless flower called Teucherium was growing for 10 years and never
looked much different from weeds. 50 in the new front yard island I
created last Fall surrounding the Saucer Magnolia tree and a 3' boulder I
have delivered in 2006.
The island is irregular
shaped, but about 30'x15'. I set in 6" edging all around last Fall and
covered the area with 3" of wet fallen leaves and covered it with 3" of
50/50 compost and topsoil mix to smother the grass. You know that brown
paper that is used for shipping boxes? I saved it, smoothed it out
(pull it as smooth as you can, put it on the driveway, and use a push
broom on it; flattens it out nicely). I considered putting that down to
cover the grass before putting the leaves and compost mix on it but
decided that it wasn't necessary. Wrong. I had to rake up a lot of the
leaves and compost where the grass grew through and do it right the 2nd
time. Always do it "right" the 1st time. It would have been SO mush
I got most of the patches of grass that managed to grow up through the leaves and compost mix covered with the 3' wide paper. It will degrade by Fall but it won't be needed by then. Any new weeds will be surface ones that blow in. You can't stop THAT.
So I had a routine for planting the Astilbes. First I planted landscaping flags (endlessly useful things or marking spots anywhere). I stuck the flags every 2' along the top (closest to the house) edge. I used a bulb planter to make the holes. They don't need big improved holes like tomatoes and the lawn soil was "decent" (after 30 years of gradual improvement here).
At each landscaping flag, I laid out a bare-root Astilbe. I brushed away the compost mix, pushed the bulb-planter to full depth, brushed in some compost mix, set the bare-root in just below soil level and backfilled. Then a 2nd offset row (I tend to make triangles). Then a 3rd (and none within 3' of the Saucer Magnolia because I intend to put a 3' carpet circle around it).
Carpet is great! It is water and air permeable, lasts forever, and weeds don't grow up through it. Just don't use "outdoor" carpet. It is rubber-backed and air and water won't get through it. Look for a neighbor renovated the house or talk to a carpet installer. To them it is just trash. You can get it free of cheap.
So I planted the last of 50 front yard island Astilbes this afternoon (listening to the Washington Nationals baseball team game against the Philadelphia Phillies on radio - We won). Then I soaked the planted area thoroughly. 50 Astilbe 2' apart don't use up as much space as you might think.
As existing plants go, they are relatively inexpensive. I got the 1st 25 for $60, unhappily sprung for 25 at $90, and found the last 25 for $60 on ebay (those last arrived in outstanding condition, BTW). Yeah, that seems like a lot of money, but try to find Astilbe SEEDS. :)
And those only covered 1/4 of the island! I chose Astilbes because the area is 1/2 shaded. I need something else to cover the rest. The front yard is open to deer and we have a LOT of them here. Astilbes are considered deer-resistant and they already pulled 2 up. They didn't like them much and I was able to replant them.
I need something more deer-resistant. I found some lists that suggest good choices. Most aren't shade-tolerant, but Heucheria (Coral Bells), Oriental Poppies, and Japanese Painted Ferns seem good. I have a lot of Japanese Painted Ferns scatterred around, so I think I will consolidate them to the streetside of the island. I might add some short ornamental grasses in the mix.
Tomorrow, the small garden crops...