Sunday, July 16, 2017
Front Yard Island
I've mentioned finally setting up a front yard planting island before. I bought 60 bare-root Astilbes in early Spring. I thought they would do fine planted in Spring instead of Fall since they were dormant. I nestled them down into the 3" of 50/50 compost/topsoil mix and expected great result.
Well, for one thing, a site I visited that listed deer-resistant flowers mentioned Astilbes. And for perennials, Astilbes bloom a really long time. Most perennials bloom a couple weeks and are done. Plus, it is a shaded spot both under a small Saucer Magnolia Tree and shaded in the afternoon by tall trees in the neighbo's yard. Seemed perfect.
Well, deer have a funny way of eating. The don't nip leaves off, they just bite and pull. And, apparently, deer don't mind eating Astilbe at all. But when they pulled on the new plants, they just came out of the ground. So I had to keep replanting them every few mornings. The deer got nothing from them, but they kept trying. So I draped chicken wire over the plants so the deer couldn't keep pulling them up.
Sadly, the constant air exposure to the roots killed about half of the Astilbes. But the remaining ones seemed to be surviving. With that problem solved (until they grow higher), I ignored them while doing other projects.
Weeds are insidious. They grow just a little each day. So one day, they are a few small ones and you think "I should pull those weeds" and the next week it looks like overgrown lawn! And the weeds were suddenly 12" high with 4" tall Astilbes hidden among them.
So I went out to weed then Thursday (I'm a bit behind on the posts). Naturally, Thursday was the hottest day of the year so far. 96 and a heat index over 105 with 90% humidity. So I thought, OK, I'll do some today closest to the Astilbe and water the whole areas.
I did 30 minutes and then went inside for 15 (a good habit in hot weather). Then did another 30 and 15. Then another. Well, to my surprise, I had done the entire 30'x15' island!
Some of the Astilbes are surviving with only a leaf or 2, some had been pulled up and I didn't notice so I planted them again deeper, most of the surviving 30 of the original 60 were healthy and 6" tall. I will plant new ones in the gaps next Fall, but my focus this Summer is on the survivors.
Having ridded the entire island of weeds now, I am hoping that the 3" of compost will smother most new ones, BUT I will watch them more carefully the rest of the Summer!
And THEN there are the 30 Astilbes I planted in the back yard! No deer there, but more sun. And different weeds too. The front island weeds were mostly crabgrass that came up easily in the loose compost. The backyard weeds are some kind of grass that spreads by runners under the soil.
I let that get away from me earlier, but it was a smaller area. I went in with a trowel to get the runners out. I din't expect the sun to be causing a problem, as there were some older Astilbes that do just fine there. It seems new ones are more sensitive.
So after digging out the fewer weeds left, I shaded them. 2' metal rods supporting shade cloth (like a loose-weave cheesecloth) attached with twist-ties. And I'm watering them deeply every few days. The good news is that some are doing just fine, a few are recovering, and the ones with only a couple weak leaves seem to be starting some new ones. I only lost about 25% of those. New planting are always difficult.
One thing I didn't realize was that the area received more sunlight than it used to. One reason is an huge mature oak tree I had removed 3 years ago. It was losing large branches and I became convinced it was dying. And it being on the west side of the house (from where the stormwinds blew) it might have fallen on the house. As it turned out the top half of the tree was hollowing, so it was a good decision.
But that meant more sunlight (where I didn't need it). And when I rebuilt the deck (25 years old and deteriorating) that gave more sunlight to the Astilbe bed. I may put up a shade fence or move them in Fall, but again my focus is on keeping them alive through Summer.
One project of many, LOL!
And, BTW, the Astilbes in the front only cover 1/3 of the island. In the Fall, I am going to move most of the several dozen Japanese Painted Ferns I have elsewhere to the island. Deer DON'T like those at all.