Gneiss House

Low-pressure home metamorphism


Meadow maintenance

Aside from occasional light weeding, the side yard meadow has taken off really well! The areas I planted this year are lush, and the whole thing is very green and flowery and pretty. I also have had a pretty successful vegetable and herb garden so far this year.

Unfortunately, the meadow was invaded by white clover, which took over large sections of the yard and aggressively obscured the walking path. So I did some maintenance to clean the whole thing up and to help the other perennials see the sun again. I couldn’t really remove it all–it was too quickly established to do that without killing everything else–but it was easy to trim back, and I will just have to do that periodically going forward. So aside from occasionally weeding the garden beds, pulling the rare weed that sprouts up through the meadow, and trimming the ground covers next to the path and the bushes a few times over the warm months, the only maintenance work the yard now needs is 1) refilling bird feeders and 2) spreading out BTI granules over the low lying and thickly vegetated areas every three weeks or so to [very safely] keep the mosquito population under control. Oh, and harvesting and eating the garden plants!

IMG_1415

Freshly trimmed walkway in the foreground, looking towards the back of the yard with a very green wildflower meadow. You can see that the lettuce bolted while I was out of town–too bad, but I’m sure I’ll find some cooking use for bitter greens.

IMG_1416

Closeup of the bolted romaine lettuce. Immediately behind it and to the left are a few leeks, and behind that is cauliflower.

IMG_1419

Looking into the keyhole garden. This is where the creeping mazus has gone a little nuts after all the wet weather we’ve had. It’s easy to pull and trim back, though, and I’m going to use the extra to plant the sidewalk strip.

IMG_1423

The back area up against the house has a lot of happy herbs, and wax beans in the center and on the right that have already produced a bunch of beans! In the foreground keyhole bed are several happy tomato plants. That keyhole also contains rosemary (just at the far right edge of the photograph) and onions just out of view.

IMG_1425

The other keyhole bed also has a few more surviving tomato plants, and all the way on the right are some very healthy carrots–the greens have gotten huge and they should be almost ready for harvesting! In the background bed are more beans (left) and two surviving cauliflower plants (center), along with the crazy lettuce (right).

IMG_1427

I planted cucumbers (big leaves on the right) and straightneck summer squash (yellow flowers on the left) right in the meadow at the top of the slope, so they would be in the sun and could vine down the slope. So far they are really happy! My only worry now is that I put them too close together, and they will cross-pollinate to make something that is not very tasty! There is also lavendar a little further down the slope, doing well and flowering this year.

IMG_1429

A very comfortable picnic area in the meadow!


Plants!

Once the path and garden beds were more or less in place, it was time to plant! It was pretty late in the season (and very hot), so my goals were to get some of the things I planned established for next year, and to help reduce erosion as much as possible.

I planted plugs of creeping mazus along the stone path. Mazus will spread well to fill in between the stones, making a lush, low, walkable carpet. It also has pretty blue flowers! It does prefer some moisture, so if we have a midsummer drought I’m not sure how well it will do, but last summer it held up pretty well during some dry weeks, so I am hopeful.

IMG_0467

Groundcovers and wildflower meadow, a month or two after getting them in. The clumps of green mats interspersed and close to the path are mazus. The rest are some pansies (which are hardy and should survive at least one more season–they’re not really single-season annuals) and the wildflower mix.

On the slopes I added a few things: some lavender plants, some transplanted lilies, and some perennial seeds (aster and dianthus, if I remember right). Hard to tell if all of those took, but I’ll know for sure next year.

Otherwise I used a lawn-alternative wildflower meadow mix from American Meadows. Unfortunately, it was too late and too hot for it to germinate quickly, but I had the advantage of bare, untouched ground with few weeds. Some of the seeds were washed out of higher or more gravelly areas before they germinated, so the cover is a little patchy, and I will be oversowing this coming spring to even that out. This year the perennials weren’t ready to bloom, but I had a nice show with sweet alyssum, creeping daisy, and roman chamomile flowers.

IMG_0470

Early plantings.

In the keyhole gardens, I got some preliminary vegetables and herbs going, because why not? The herb seeds I scattered around took off like weeds, and they haven’t died back during our mild winter this year so I’ll have to do some transplanting in the spring! The rosemary took well and I had a nice late crop of peas, plus some tiny and delicious late carrots!

Carrots!

Carrots!

IMG_0475

The right keyhole had a transplanted lily that I saved and some herbs this year. Those onions got in too late to produce much.

IMG_0474

The left keyhole has the rosemary in the middle, with some herbs around the sides.

IMG_0485

Transplanted chives and sage from my previous residences off to the right. The gravel bed is a trench I dug to help control drainage from the house gutters. Previously it was falling right over the house foundation, and I added a drain extender to move it away from the house. Once the area is better planted I hope the rest of the runoff will stop eroding and washing out the new path so much.

IMG_0476

Mazus on the path in the foreground; lots of snap peas (I switched to dwarf peas for next spring!); and lots and lots of cilantro.

IMG_0486

These were in too late to produce a large crop, but after a few frosts, the tiny carrots I grew were delicious.

IMG_0481

A pleasant surprise: the parsley attracted a lot of beautiful black swallowtail caterpillars! I had so much parsley that I could certainly afford to let them eat some. This is an early stage caterpillar.

IMG_0479

And here’s a late stage black swallowtail caterpillar, probably days from making a chrysalis. This guy was seriously chomping down on that leaf.


Yard attack 2: Bricks and stones

Through the magic of craigslist, I was able to acquire nearly a third of a pallet of flagstone, about twenty largish blocks of local schist, and ten 8-foot sections of minimally rusted, salvaged, wrought iron fencing. I accumulated other pieces of stone for the yard from waste piles at work (a perk of being a geologist), and liberated brick pavers from now-unnecessary borders around my yard. I also obtained an iron and wood outdoor bench off craigslist, and repainted it red, and purchased an iron bistro table, patio umbrella, and solar lighting. Once most of the gravel had finally been removed and I had loosened some of the packed soil, I began installing stone paths and garden beds:

Image

Bench and new stone path, with small pile of remaining gravel to the left.

Image

Main flagstone path immediately after installation. Patio area to the left still contains gravel.

Image

Primary stone path, viewed from the back of the yard.

Image

Main stone path continuing toward the back steps and driveway. While the majority of the side yard was rather sterile and filled with gravel by the previous homeowner, this area is so densely planted that it’s like trying to manage a (beautiful) waist-deep jungle.

Image

Rear steps down to the driveway. These replaced unstable, unopened bags of gravel.

Image

Final stone path installation in what used to be the patio area, with new raised double keyhole garden beds.

Image

Raised, double keyhole garden beds

Image

New patio area, with new iron bistro set, patio umbrella, and solar lighting.

Image

Looking back at the yard from the rear driveway area, after full stone path and garden bed installation.

Image

Stones installed to shore up the eroding slope

Image

Stone installation to shore up eroding slope, following tree removal.