Thursday, May 18, 2017

Greening Our Thumbs

Although the calendar tells me spring starts in March, it really begins to bloom for me in May, when the flowering crab trees turn a vibrant pink just as finals week comes to an end.  Every year I smile as I turn in grades and walk with a spring in my step out to the parking lot, breathing in that fresh air, the smell of cut grass just in time for graduation, and the signature purple and gold pansies in pots outside Schindler Education Center.  Every year, God's pretty creation springs forth new life, and I always get the itch to freshen up our own creation and get some seeds in the ground.

This will be our third summer in our house and while our project list never does seem to end, there are few things more rewarding than sinking in the couch after a weekend of hard work.  And that's just what our May Day weekend looked like.  While I power washed, repaired, and stained our garden beds a pretty cedar color before getting our veggies in the ground, Beau made my cut flower garden dreams come true on the south side of our house.  Dreaming with Kate, and falling in love with Erin Benzakein's Floret Flower Farm book and website, turned what was supposed to be a small little place to grow a few zinnias and cosmos into a 40-foot bed of whatever my little planting heart desired.  This was an amazing, overwhelming endeavor that led to many trips to the nursery, late nights with long lists of flower varieties on my lap, and a family affair that left us with sore backs and sun-kissed cheeks after a full, satisfying weekend outside.

Thanks to a grumpy man I soon fell in love with at Meyer's Nursery in Waterloo, we planted a mix of flowering shrubs, perennials, annuals, and some fruit that will hopefully give me bouquets of cut flowers and summer flavors to make people smile all summer long.

While I won't begin to act like I know what I am doing, I do want to share a few tips I learned that may provide you some direction if you are looking to do something similar.  

1. Draw a visual of your space and do your research before planting!  The book I referenced above was so helpful in providing an overview of different flower types, when they bloom, and how tall they get.  Since my bed is up against my house and about five feet wide, I needed a mix of taller growing flowers with shorter ones to layer in front.  I have some that will grow to be nearly four-feet tall, others that range from 2-3 feet, and annuals who grow about a foot tall.  I made about three trips to the nursery, and arranged it all before digging any holes! 

2.  Ask the experts!  When I went to this local nursery, I told my new grumpy friend that I had a dream.  He rolled his eyes at me at first, but I'm pretty sure he loved me by the end because I was interested in learning and willing to try what he suggested.  He gave me an awesome reference guide they created at the nursery that had shrubs and perennials categorized by height, which was perfect for helping me design my bed.  I drank up what he had to offer, and even got a hug out of him by the end of it all. ;)

3. Anchor big beds with taller, flowering shrubs.  Since my bed spans the entire length of the house, we decided to plant some larger shrubs that would still give me some flowers come spring.  We planted some dwarf lilac bushes, and Beau edged out the beds to border them at full size, giving the bed a nice shape to it.  This created some dimension and they sure look pretty while the other, more smaller plants gain in size in the summers to come.

4. Plant a mix of perennials and annuals.  For you novice planters, perennials are the kind of plants that will come back year after year, and annuals are your summer flowers that die at the end of the season.  Again, because my bed is so big, I decided to plant several perennials throughout the garden, which will hopefully continue to get bigger and flower year after year, saving me money and work in the long run.  For perennials, I planted pink and yellow peonies, phlox, shasta daisies, black eyed susans, yarrow, poppies, and delphiniums.  For annuals, I planted marigolds, zinnias, and snapdragons.  I read the tags and layered these plants depending on height and spacing size.   

5.  Save some room for seeds.  Because this is my trial-and-error year and I'm not sure what perennials will thrive and do well, I saved a pretty good area of the garden for seeds.  I discovered these wonderful seed variety packets at Home Depot that come with layering instructions and kind of added other varieties based around that.  For seeds, I planted zinnias, cosmos, bells of ireland, and chinese forget-me-nots.  

6.  Add some fruit!  I planted rhubarb on one end of the garden and a little bed of strawberries where the garden bed meets up with our back patio.  I know we won't have much produce for a couple of years, but it will sure be fun to watch these grow and from what I've heard, take over in the years to come!

7.  Mulch.  We bought a dark brown mulch that blends in with the dirt.  This way, it will help keep up with weeds and still allow me to plant bulbs in the fall without having to remove all the mulch.

I'll continue to post updates as I go, but am pretty excited about this project!  I love walking barefoot in the grass as the sun sets checking in on its progress, pulling random weeds, and spotting tiny sprouts.  We also got our veggies planted and that seemed like a small feat compared to what was happening on the other side of the house!  Cruz helped me plant tomatoes and peppers, kale and carrots, lots of herbs, and lots of tiny green bean seeds that have already sprouted from the ground.  The tiniest seeds will soon produce food!  There is nothing like planting a garden to give you living proof to marvel at God's beautiful creation!

Now if only we could get Cruz to start eating it!  

Mila came with me to the greenhouse and helped me pick out the rest of our plants.  She has good taste, picking pansies and purple petunias and bright pink geraniums for our window box.  She now has the prettiest view from the window bench in her room.



Happy planting! 

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