Monday, July 4th, 2011
9:42 pm - Yard and Garden  
Today is the 4th of July, which means it was time for the 11th annual Casa Machina shrub trimming extravaganza. The spring growth surge is over, and it's time to do some hacking. Of course, I decided to wait until the hottest day of the weekend to do it...

Big Rhododendrons Still, it was three hours well spent, and now the shrubs are all reasonably neat and tidy. Now if I could just get rid of 'em all, or at least the ones out front. They're just too... damn... big...

The photo* shows the issue. The plants are junipers on the corners, small-leafed rhododendrons in the middle, and arbor vitae on either side of the front door. The junipers, especially the one on the right, are too big for me to easily trim. I can barely reach the center of the top of the one on the right with the trimmer. Plus, I'm mildly allergic to them. Brushing against the foliage raises welts on my skin.

* The photo was taken in the spring a couple of years ago.

The arbor vitae are slightly more manageable only because I can stand on the front stoop to hack at them. However, today I noticed that their leaves have taken on a grayish cast. It's similar to the dust that used to accumulate on the plants at my old apartment when the turf farmer had recently plowed the upwind field, but a) none of my neighbors have recently plowed their lawns, b) yesterdays thunderstorm would've washed it off if it was dust, and c) none of the other shrubs are showing it. I'm thinking that graying leaves can't be good.

The rhododendrons are lovely, and I'd save them if I could, but because they grew up with the other shrubs so close on either size, they are basically hollow, like outdoor movie sets. They only have leaves and blossoms on the front and top.

All of them were also planted too close to the house, so now it's nigh on impossible to move around behind them. It's hard for me, not the thinnest guy in the world, to even get in between them. I have a similar problem on the south side of the house, where there are three much more widely spaced evergreen shrubs. I have managed to keep ahead of the hedge along the north side of the house next to the side door, so that, at least, is not a problem.

I suppose I could just take the chain saw to them all, but that would leave stumps. OTOH, having a landscaper remove them properly would be hugely expensive. There's always the wrap some chain around them and hook it to the back of the pickup truck approach, but I worry about those old shrubs winning that battle. Bother. I'm gettin' too old for this.

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The Frame

Ready to Go



I haven't mentioned that I redid the tomato patch this year. The original tomato patch was 12' by 3½', with a brick surround. The bricks were there both as a border and to secure the black plastic mulch I usually use. Tomato patch 2.0 is a 16' x 4' raised bed made from two 4' x 4' cedar bed kits I got at the Depot, which I then cobbled together with four 8' lengths of 1 x 4 cedar boards. You can see the outline of the old patch within the frame of the new one. Then I filled the whole thing up with $120 worth of garden soil and composted manure. I don't care. Decent tomatoes are worth the cost.

Knee High on the Fourth of July I had started some plants from seeds back in early April, some tomatoes, some pickling cukes, and some cantaloupes, but by Memorial Day, when I built the new patch, they'd barely started. It was a cold spring. Fortunately, my next door neighbor had bought a bunch of four-packs of several tomato varieties, and he gave me what he had left over when he had filled his new garden. So I planted those (five plants, four varieties), and since I now had plenty of room, I planted my little tykes, too. (You can barely see them in the photo I took on Memorial Day.) I also planted some spaghetti squash seeds for my mom. A month later they are all appear to be doing famously (photo on the right).

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The Garden Next Door This is the first year my neighbors have ever had a vegetable garden. It is much larger than mine and fertilized with composted alpaca manure (seriously). I'm posting a photo of it (taken Memorial Day) partially to show the extent of it compared to mine, but mostly to point out the seemingly healthy dogwood tree immediately in front of it (on the left). After a slow start, I thought the tree was all set, but sometime in the last couple of weeks the poor thing just up and died. It's leaves just shriveled up, seemingly overnight. No idea why. It's the third thing I've planted in that spot that has croaked, although the two little rhododendrons I'd had there previously both appeared to have been nibbled to death. The forsythia on either side of it are going great guns, and even the other two rhododendrons on that side of the yard, though not thriving like the ones out front, have lasted for eight or nine years now, so I have no clue.
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