I spent a couple of hours cleaning up the flower beds about three weeks ago. Last year’s hollyhocks needed to be cut down (they make me itch, so I avoid that chore all winter, and only deal with it when I absolutely have to), this year’s hollyhocks needed to be thinned out (I love them, but The Husband objects to being attacked by flowers when he walks down the sidewalk) and I really needed to prevent marauding chickens from digging up my flowers. I also had some junk, and a flat full of my favorite pansies just waiting to be planted in it.
I conned The Husband and the kids into removing most of the dead hollyhock debris while I dug out all of the volunteers that had volunteered too close to the sidewalk. The Husband was a good sport, but the girls required constant reminding (it’s always more fun to fight with your sister than to help Mom). It’s a good thing the flowers are worth it.
After that itchy chore was out of the way, I poured some fresh garden soil into the old washing machine (which for some reason, is riddled with bullet holes), the squashed washtub, the bucket-without-a-bottom, and the rusty milk pail (also without a bottom). I planted them full of Antique Shades pansies. I can resist just about any other flower on the planet, but these are my favorite addiction. Oh how I wish they weren’t a hybrid.
My final project of the day was making the fence and gate impervious to chickens. In past years, my bleeding hearts have grown so large that I was afraid they’d climb through my girls’ bedroom window. The chickens pecked and scratched them into submission.
I first mounded up some soil under the edge of the fence, then I laid chicken wire on the ground, centered under the fence. I tossed on a bit more dirt, then arranged a row of bricks on top, just in front of the fence. This filled in the space between the ground and the bottom of the fence, and has (so far), made it a very unappealing excavation site. As I weeded, I collected the rocks that I came across, and lined them up on top of the chicken wire, along the back side of the fence.
When I was done, I took a good look around, and realized that it was time for a new layer of wood mulch. It isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t last forever, but I think that wood mulch has made a huge difference in my garden. The climate here is usually dry (well, except for spring, 2011), with very hot summers and very cold winters. The mulch keeps the soil moist and insulates it from extreme temperatures. It keeps the weeds down (that’s a big deal to a lazy gardener) and it looks so much nicer than bare dirt between plants. As it breaks down, it turns my very poor dirt into rich soil.
We happened to catch the mulch on sale at Menard’s for $2 per bag, and some day really soon, I’m going to get it spread around the flower beds. I hope.
Three weeks later, you can’t tell that I weeded a darned thing, but so far the chickens are staying out (except, of course, when somebody forgets to shut the gate) and the bleeding hearts are recuperating nicely.