April 10, 2014

I may have to give up on the American Dream. No, not that one! The one about having a perfect, green lawn.

My husband and I moved into our house in early 1997. The lawn had been badly neglected. It was patchy, with at least three kinds of grass mixed together, full of mushrooms, moss, and weeds. Add in two kids who trampled areas around the swing set and climbing wall… Well, it’s just a mess.

We’ve mowed regularly, weed-and-fed it, and spent long summer evenings pulling the Japanese clover out, only to see it replaced by shotweed. Not only that, the home next to ours was foreclosed and sat vacant for two years. The bank only sent someone to knock the weeds down once each season, when they really became a fire hazard. The new owners have fixed up the roof and interior but so far have done nothing about landscaping.

Under the circumstances, the dream of a perfect lawn is way out of my reach. Instead, I think I’ll have to embrace the patchwork I have. Thin grass here, thick grass there. Lavender from violets, dandelion gold, and lacy white of shotweed. I’ve seeded clover into the bare patches, to add variety and eventually have flowers for the bees.

Large noxious weeds, like star thistle and rush skeleton, I still plan to pull. The rest will just have to stay. Me and my weeds have come to terms.

P. S.
…Is it evil of me to toss a few extra clover seeds into the twenty-foot-square dirt pile just over my fence? Because I’m telling myself it’s erosion control.

Here in Spokane, we have a number of great gardening events. The first one is this weekend. On April 12th, Spokane Community College has a flower and plant sale run by their floral and agricultural departments. It’s from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and I plan to be there.

Then, in two weeks, the Friends of Manito Park will hold their annual plant sale, which supports park maintenance. Between these two events, I’m sure to fill my porch flower boxes to overflowing.

So you know, I live in Eastern Washington. We call ourselves the Dry Side of the state. My yard is in a suburban area that was built up in the 1950s. Beside our house is one of those long, skinny side yards that has chain-link fence on two sides. Over the course of a season, I took out the sod and my husband built me raised garden beds.

In addition, I have a few smaller beds scattered about the property. Smaller beds make gardening less intimidating than if I had one huge garden.

I’m impatient. I freely admit this. I also know my climate well. So one of my neighbors was quite surprised to see me out planting seeds on March 31st. It’s cool-season crops, of course. Lettuce, arugula, radishes and the like.

Well, I’m pleased to announce that my arugula and Chinese cabbage have come up. So have the Red Sails lettuce. See, Pat? See??

Elsewhere in my yard, the garlic and asparagus have both emerged. My Stella cherry tree is leafing out — time to nag… uh, remind my husband about the last bit of pruning. (I did mention that I’m impatient.)

Indoor Forest
Inside, I’ve started my tomatoes, which will be Cosmonaut Volkov this year. I’ll also buy some kind of cherry or grape tomato plant at a sale, because it’s silly to buy a whole package of seed for just one plant. Plus, I love plant sales! See my list above.

Also, I thought my asparagus would be all-male, but a few girl plants snuck in there somehow. I’ve collected the little red berries for a couple of seasons. This year I planted 18 of them. I have 9 little feathery friends to add to my beds when the ground warms up some more.

In the spots where the asparagus didn’t sprout, I’ve put in seeds for some miniature bell peppers. I also have some California poppies and some perennial alyssum started.

Because I’m in a suburban area, I don’t have to deal with things like deer and gophers. My main issue has been with the neighborhood cats, who just love to come poop in newly planted beds.

However, I am making my garden insects something of a project. Like many people, I’ve noted the absence of honey bees especially. To make up for this, I’ve replaced some of my conventional flowers with native plants in hopes of attracting native bees and butterflies.

So far this year I have seen honey bees, and one of the big bumblebees. There’s also a tiny 1/4″ long native bee that frequents my yard. I haven’t been able to identify what they are. All the bees visited my crocuses.

That’s all for this week. Until next Thursday, I wish you a peaceful garden.


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