Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First Things

"Beware of planting a bigger garden than you have time for."
"Observe your property for a while before planting."
"Mulch, mulch, mulch!"
"Gardens for wildlife should be a little messy."

There's so much advice out there, especially for a novice gardener.  Like anything else, some of it is good and some not so good.  At the end of the day, it's up to each of us to sort out all of the advice and apply it as best we can.  While I've always considered myself to be a fairly wise and reasonable person, it's become clear that when it comes to my garden, I an neither!  I have much more enthusiasm than good judgement.

For the past six and a half years, since our younger son graduated high school, my husband and I have lived on a four-acre property in a rural subdivision southwest of Houston, Texas.  Our front yard is a native pecan grove; our backyard is a treeless field or, at least, it was.  There was almost no landscaping around the house.  Even the large front beds merely showed the standard hedges.  Almost immediately, my husband and I set to improving and enlarging the garden.  Despite many mistakes and outright fiascos, our hard work produced some worthy results in the way of landscaping.  We created flower beds where there was only grass, built arbors and beds, added birdbaths and benches.  At the same time, we are still struggling because of some of our early mistakes.  We created a much larger garden than we knew what to do with, arranged plants in all the wrong places, mulched those plants half to death, and created a wildlife garden at the entrance of our house.  We are now endeavoring to rectify the various situations at a reasonable pace, having already leapt from one mistake to another many times over.  Our landscape is indeed ever-changing and evolving in more ways than one.  At this point, I'm not sure if I would have it any other way.

I've been through a wonderful Master Gardener program, attended conferences, lectures, and workshops, read many, many books and blogs and visited many websites. I have also enjoyed plenty of hands-on experience the past several years.  I am not uninformed; I am not going through this blindly.  My engineer husband is willing and able to help, naturally being more willing at some times than others.  But I did take a sort of mini-hiatus from gardening that lasted for over a year and we're dealing with a rather large space, heavy clay, and harsh weather conditions.  Our summers are long and scorching, we are just emerging from a drought, and our winters usually have at least a few days below freezing, sometimes more.  Moreoever, we're dealing with me, a plantoholic.

Those are our challenges.  My basic approach is native, organic and with an eye out for wildlife.  My goal this year is to reconstruct our beds so that the formally arranged ones look prettier and a little more formal and to begin a wildlife hedgerow along our south fence where there's just grass and a ridiculously close-up view of our neighbor's property.  I would appreciate suggestions, anecdotes, stories.  I'm willing and eager to learn from others' experiences.  It's surely much easier on the back, wallet, and spouse and probably even easier on the plants.         

Here's to 2013!

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