The sale plot
Ideas are wonderful. They sound great inside your head - just think of the
possibilities! So too, this garden area was born out of a stray idea, hatched
on the evening after the 2008 plant sale. I was looking at the largish array of plants
that had not sold, and wondering what I'd do with them. In previous years,
some of these had found their way into our regular gardens; others had been
donated to the HPS/MAG spring plant sale or other worthy cause. And those I
figured I'd try to sell again next year mostly got stashed back into our
orchard nursery area. The main purpose
of this area is to accept and nurse along seedlings from the current year's
seed-starting efforts. Inevitably, every year the influx of older, larger
plants would turn the orchard area into a messy, incoherent collection of
diversely sized and inappropriately placed plants.
As I wasn't looking forward to another installment of this mess, and a
cub scout event was taking priority over the HPS/MAG sale this year, the
time was ripe for a moment of inspiration - and --poof!-- there it came: a
whole new garden area, specifically created to hold all these plants for a
single year. Plant them right after the sale, allow them to grow and prosper
for a year, joined by other divisions and volunteers I find throughout the
season - and dig them up next April, to start over again from scratch after
next year's sale.
This would not be just a messy ensemble of plants - nor an overly regimented
utilitarian zone with plants in nice rows. No, the idea was to make a bed
that would be an asset to the garden as a whole through summer and fall, its
true intent becoming obvious only in early spring.
I had just the right area for the purpose: a strip of lawn at the end of
the driveway, which had become somewhat isolated from the back yard by our
addition of a split-rail fence (required for pond safety) last year. Ideal
for the purpose: with the Washington hawthorn at the end of the driveway and
a corkscrew willow nearby, it gets a nice range of light conditions from
mostly shady to mostly sunny; and it's close to the water hose, an advantage
that cannot be underestimated in the inevitable spell of hot dry weather
that every summer brings. Ah, a perfect opportunity awaited!
As I said, that was the idea. The implementation and outcome, as with any
idea, could be conveniently delayed to a later date.
But not too much later - remember, those plants were all waiting in their
pots, and wouldn't remain happy much longer. So already the next day, I set
to work. Luckily, it had rained a few days before the sale, and the soil was
still suitably damp. With the help of my father, who was visiting from the
Netherlands, it didn't take long to strip the sod off the plot, perhaps ten
by fifteen feet in size. The next phase was harder work: digging the soil
deep enough to bury the accumulated sod, and mix plenty of organic matter
into the heavy clay soil. I got a small part of the way done that Sunday,
and tended to other gardening duties during the few days of warm dry weather
Bad move! It doesn't take long for the Pennsylvania dirt (red clay
liberally laced with rocks of all sizes) to take on its pre-brick
consistency, especially when it's been stripped of its moisture-retentive
sod. By the end of the week, digging was nearly impossible. You can imagine
my glee when Friday brought drenching rain, a few inches worth, and
rehydrated my project. Knowing I had a limited window of opportunity, I
wasted no time the following weekend, and completed the project by late
Saturday afternoon. By that time, I had buried all the original sod, and
additionally mixed a small pickup load of compost (generously supplied by
our township) into the soil. The only component that got removed from the
mix was rocks (a sizeable pile accumulated during the project). As a result,
the bed is a bulge right now, its additional volume raising it above the
level of the adjacent lawn. It will inevitably settle, but hopefully never
return to its nearly unworkable initial condition.
In go the plants
The next step was more fun (my kids thought so, too): giving all those
potted plants a home in the newly dug plot. I'm not much of a garden
designer, but at least I tried to make sure that plants with different light
requirements and size gradations were properly arranged across the plot -
only time will tell if it results in an aethetically pleasing entity. The plot
is planted more densely than I would a regular garden bed, so I won't be
surprised if it turns into a bit of a tangle by late summer. As long as it's a
colorful tangle, that's OK by me.
They don't stay cute for long...
By late July, many of the plants have grown tall and full. I'm fairly
pleased - it's lush, but not too bad of a tangle, and all in all looks pretty
good. The next test comes in spring - how will the digging and potting up of
all these plants work out?
The plants below are growing in our sale plot this year
August 01, 2008