The New Home Economics

Back yard project: update

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It’s now been a full year since we “finished” our back yard project. Click here for the project plan, here for the detailed plant list, and here for a couple fun pictures of my kids helping with landscaping. So how are things looking, 3/4 of the way through 2013’s growing season?

Raingarden, relocatedFirst of all, we re-located the rain garden about 3 feet away from the garage, and properly tested it this time for overflow. Crossing our fingers that we will have better luck with flooding next spring.

A dry shade garden, via The New Home EconomicsUnder the large silver maple tree on the north side of the back yard, our three viburnums are all doing wonderfully. We planted two American Highbush Cranberries (viburnum trilobum) and one large Nannyberry (viburnum lentago). Two of the three flowered, but no berries have been seen. I’ve read that berries are fewer in deep shade.

Map of dry shade garden, via The New Home EconomicsI cannot tell you how valuable a resource these maps have been to me this year, as I anxiously checked for new growth this spring, and also tried to figure out which plant was which. As you can see, we lost some plants. Most notably, we lost ALL of our bunchberries (Cornus canadensis) and all of our cardinal flowers (lobelia cardinalis). My hypotheses: I read somewhere last winter that bunchberries prefer acid soil. Mystery solved. Ours is very alkaline. As for the cardinal flowers, I had originally intended to put them in the rain garden, but they ended up in this dry shade garden in a VERY dry year (2012). Cardinal flowers are usually found in low-lying, swampy areas, so that mystery is also likely solved.

I thought I had lost many of my ferns, but it turns out that they’ve been victimized repeatedly all spring and summer long by rabbits.

Tiny maidenhair fern, via The New Home EconomicsThis maidenhair fern is less than 3 inches across, and was hiding under some wild columbine leaves, probably the only reason it’s hanging in there! I’m hoping that if these ferns can get a little bigger and more established, that they’ll be able to withstand the nibbling a little better.

Lady Fern, via The New Home EconomicsLady ferns seem to withstand the nibbling easier.

Another dry shade garden, via The New Home EconomicsBecause this garden on the south side of our yard (and under a different maple tree) is closer to the rabbits’ hideout, it’s received the brunt of their damage. On the left side, several virginia waterleaf plants came up this spring, but they got eaten so many times I think they gave it up. Fortunately the celandine poppies, Christmas ferns, and lady ferns are hanging in there along with the pagoda dogwood, which has made a very impressive comeback indeed.

So, progress is slow, but everything is staying alive and getting established. I’ve noticed that native plants can sometimes take a bit longer to get established, so I’m trying to be patient. We’re now planning phase II of the project for this fall, which will involve building a grape arbor over the deck and eventually putting in a flagstone or paver patio (and thus eliminating a rabbit habitat). Next year, grape vines. 2015: my own wine?

Apples, via The New Home EconomicsI picked a handful (or rather a shirtful) of apples tonight. They’re starting to turn red, but a little tart still. Hoping that the squirrels don’t take our whole harvest; they’ve already thinned out at least 2/3 of them. The kids were sitting outside with their toy bows this week, shooting (nerf-tipped) arrows at the squirrels in a last-ditch effort to get some applesauce. We’ll see!

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One thought on “Back yard project: update

  1. Lovely to read your reflections on your backyard project. I find notebook sketches so useful too. Hope you get to enjoy your apples!

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