Gardening on the Edge

Ruth_MI(z5MI)June 11, 2014

Reading and contemplating campanula's "un-american attitude" thread, it struck me how many of us garden on the edge in one way or another.

Maybe it's tackling that barely-doable project or envisioning a change that seems next to impossible. Maybe it's pushing your finances, your zone, your time or your luck. Maybe it's breaking traditional rules and gardening on the edge of what some people consider acceptable (wild front lawns as an example).

Sometimes I think I garden on the edge of sanity! I tend to tell myself "no problem" just before I "dig in" to a project that's all I can reasonably handle and a good dose more. Whether it's the great deal on boxwoods that turned into a late-season redo of a HUGE area of the garden, or digging out an enormous stump in the process, sometimes I push this "one woman and a shovel" thing a little too far. (Note that my brawny son, when he saw the size of the stump I dug out, said "I hate to be morbid, Mom, but I'm telling this story at your funeral.")

Do you garden on the edge? If so, how?


This post was edited by ruth_mi on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 21:54

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

ruth, I think I really like you and that we'd have a lot in common. I can relate to everything you wrote. I'm always pushing the zone, the time and doing the barely doable. A good dose of 'more' hits a note and so does the 'no problem', just move that out and this in or take that out and you can redo....... I've dug out big shrubs, stumps, hauled sand & soil literally by the wheel barrelfuls from the huge pile in the street I had delivered only to get even more dumped there by the dump truck and changed this poor yard so many times the neighbors decided I'm obsessed a long time ago. They've actually said so to my face. I've had stacks of torn out plants and shrubs piled up by the curb as tall as me and as long as the year for Big Trash Day more than once and now I no longer have a lawn, its all garden. The yard stands out like a sore thumb on the block but they all seem to like it. I get lots of good comments from walkers and some people drive by to see after hearing about my city prairie and stop to talk to me.

I bet you are also known as "that garden lady' on the block. They all think I live out there. My neighbor wanted to know why I work all the time. Truth is, I'm playing, often feeling guilty telling myself I have work to do and then I go stay up real late to do my work just to get the hours in. When its hot in summer, I work at my desk during the day and go out and work until early morning hours with the big lights on. Its usually still in the 90's out there and I'm sweatin' like hog in the dark pulling weeds or planting or moving--whatever.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 10:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think we all probably have at times.

My latest was hauling six yes six, yards of mulch up hill backwards(I'm 4'11). My helper backed out on me at the last minute grrr. Of course I couldn't let all that mulch heat up the lawn, so I dug in. I went up and down that damn hill more times than I care to think about. Sure did mess up my knees (they are better now). My dear sister did come over and help me with the last beds that line the driveway.....thankfully! She was a burst of energy while I was half dead. I don't think she's ever seen me more grateful lol.

Never again, I will hire it done next time.

I used to consider myself the energizer batteries just don't last that long anymore.....

I've even gotten better at taking breaks. Waiting longer than 2 minutes before seeing something and jumping up to tend to.

Fitting quote I found....
"I live in my garden and sleep in the house"

So me....and my neighbors would vouch for that!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I can relate! I look forward to the day we install lights in the garden! I have gone out with a head light and watered. I don't worry about the neighbors. I always say they must think I'm crazy. Just today while playing in the garden, my neighbor yelled over I could come work in her garden when I'm done.

We plan on digging up our euonymus soon so the japanese maple that is in a bad spot can take its place. I'm sure the roots will be huge but it can be done real quick. lol

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When youre done lol!

Will we ever be done?!?!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We're in the process of trying to turn a landscape of thorny spiky cactus and yucca into a high prairie. I expect to be working on this until I die.

DH is doing all the really tough jobs. He just finished turning a long strip between a walkway and the house into a garden bed. It's about 80' long, and involved taking out 3 tons of large gravel and rock, removing the tatty weed cloth and breaking up the caliche underneath. For those fortunate not to have encountered caliche, it's a layer of calcium carbonate formed when there isn't sufficient rain to wash minerals out of the soil. It forms layers like limestone. DH had to use a jackhammer to break it up. Then he dug 5 yards of compost into the poor sandy, gravelly dirt.

The acre of yucca is going to take forever to tame. The roots run through the whole property, at least anywhere we've dug down so far. My biggest fear is losing my footing and falling down the hill, hitting the big cholla and opuntia cactuses along the way. Or I could be impaled on the giant agaves (about 5' x 5'), with serrated leaves for maximum injury.

There's a walled garden area around the house which we're renovating. We took out the bluegrass lawn, replacing it with buffalo grass plugs. I couldn't stand up straight for weeks. The flower beds were mostly overgrown with evening primrose, trumpet vine, stachys and echinacea. We've been taking these out, improving the horrible soil (about 15 yards of compost and manure so far) and putting in more appealing plants.

We've put in water harvesting to use water that falls on the roof. We have two 1100 gal tanks. The next step is to install plumbing to capture grey water. With annual rainfall of under 10" a year, this is the only way I can see growing a garden.

Some of our friends think we've gone over the edge, but I look on it as a challenge where every bit of attractive flora is a triumph.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
princessgrace79(8 PNW)

I'm the queen of half finished projects. I get a hairbrained idea and instead of planning it out, I grab a shovel and decide I'm going to build a stone stair in the middle of two terraced yards....suddenly I've made a tunnel of bare dirt and dug out some shrubbery, but of course its been about two months and that's about all I've done. I've moved on to another halfway completed project (or two) by now :)

I abandon said projects due to time...the stairs can wait, planting my green beans cannot.

I also pretty much landscaped this entire yard using free plants from CL or GW trades, I have had some interesting adventures driving to people's houses who are offering to dig up their yard for free because their house is being foreclosed on or they are being sent to an old folks home. My 6 year old had some fun times with me in the backyards of some of these places helping me shovel giant plants and fit them in the back of my Corolla (god help me).

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 3:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So good to know I have company! Yes, I'm sure the neighbors think I'm nuts and if "that garden lady" is all they call me, I'd be shocked, At least I'm blessed to have a gardening neighbor next door. She lives more on the sane side, but definitely understands my descents over the edge.

I'd love to hear from those who push the envelope in other ways...gardening on the edge of physical limitations or whatever.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Only experienced my cacti and succulents in greenhouses, but I have had to take out yuccas. Want to watch especially your eyes around them.

One interesting edge is location, on the edge of a hardiness zone, on the edge of specific growing conditions.

Which brings up the matter of identifying microclimates within a garden. I first heard about this from David Tomlinson (Merlin's Hollow).

This may also bring to mind the old gardener's adage: if you want to have a plant, buy three. Put them in different locations within your garden and the plant will tell you where it should have been planted.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 2:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you live in western South Dakota, you are always gardening on the edge. Actually, with the wild weather we are all experiencing all over the country, we are all gardening on the edge. I had changed over to mostly drought tolerant plants, and now it hasn't stopped raining and they are all struggling in the wet. Two winters ago we had a zone 7 winter. I think 5 degrees was the lowest temp we had! The next winter was warm also. I get cocky and then we get the minus thirty-five for longer than a day and lose plants that I should know I have to cover here. I think that is something that we all like to complain about, but really that is part of what attracts me to gardening. You can't control one factor about it, and that is the weather you get. Frustrating, but then I get that gleam in my eye, and it's "Okay, what are the moisture loving plants I can include?" So then the drought comes......

I am also on the edge because I have a new yard that is almost an acre. All those new microclimates to discover and all that rock to haul! How many seedlings can one person reasonably take care of? Thank goodness my husband took out the tree stump. Also the change from a clay soil to a sandy-silty loam is easy in some ways, but still difficult to provide nutrition to the plants when it all drains away in a season at the most. There isn't enough compost in the world to fix this. Also, it was watered a lot for the 40 years before we had it. If you water more (when it is dry, that is), then the alkaline water provides a high pH to the soil, higher than the other house that wasn't watered as much. All that bluegrass to remove-an acre of it! Argh!! But then what? I've never seen catmints turn yellow like this before. Pyrethrum, yes, but catmints?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 8:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Campanula UK Z8

Just wanted to mention that in anthropolgy, such spaces are often called liminal and can exist in real life but also as metaphorical boundaries. These places tend to be intersections between differing habitats such as the coastal edges, woodland clearings, hedgerows and field edges, foothills and those troubled borders between the urban and the well as geographical, social or political boundaries.....and as such, tend to create both their own problems but also give rise to some innovative solutions. Gardening on the edge - difficult, even subversive....but always exciting and potential.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 10:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

aseedisapromise Boy can I relate to all that. The first year I switched to xeric we got rain rain and more rain. I was pulling plants out of the ground trying to save them from root rot. It was also the year I'd planted cactus. Next few years it was that severe drought all through the midsection. We can get a very rainy June and then the rest of the year is dry but one month can do some serious damage to certain plants. Point is, its hard to plan. I got cocky with the zone thing too after a series of warm zone 8-like winters.

I finally quit covering things for protection and fighting this. I discovered very quickly that covering plants in winter or heavy mulch can cause rot. My overall attitude is now "Survival of the Fittest", I'm becoming a real Darwinian when it comes to the whole affair. Generally speaking most xerics have adapted and the ones that can't have been culled out by nature. I found native plants are the best for standing up and successfully adapting to the extremes.

Campanula, I've always heard them called Transitional Zones. I wish I had one to separate my property from the neighbor. As it is, there is a drastic jump from low growing plants in full sun on my side butted up next to a straight line of 60ft trees and its visually jarring. Its impossible to transition into that so I just try to not focus on it, but not very successfully. Everything, including the fence posts embedded and being shoved by big tree roots, leans away from those trees which makes you want to crank your head at an angle back there. Even the trees lean this direction, add to that the fact that the ground noticeably slopes downhill. The trees to the side are on ground which is several feet higher than the opposite end of my property so the sensation is one of feeling like the trees are bearing down you in an oppressive way like a wall of black, its like being in a carnival Fun House where all is distorted or having a dark three story apartment (that leans) erected right along the edge of your property.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 1:56PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Welcome spring...
I usually spend most of my time on the Roses Forum...
Are there any you like or don't like and why? As always,...
Bought Colocasia esculenta tubers... now what?
I bought today a pack of 4 Colocasia esculenta tubers. They...
Dieing Elephant Ear?
I bought a Black Magic elephant ear about 4 months...
Sponsored Products
Design House Trevie 1-Light Wall Sconce - 512517
$50.99 | Hayneedle
Mini T Outdoor Cover
$89.00 | FRONTGATE
Coral Coast Simply Grow Cedar Raised Patio Planter - NS38512-36
$149.98 | Hayneedle
76" Treated Pine English Garden Bench
White Hall Turtle Ceramic Arch Address Plaque - 2623SE
$89.99 | Hayneedle
White Hall Fleur De Lis Ceramic Arch Address Plaque - 2631RD
$89.99 | Hayneedle
Planting Bench: Highest Quality! Master Gardeners Cedar Wood Potting Bench
$399.99 | Hayneedle
Outdoor Lighting. Single PC Green Egg Ball Solar LED Light
$9.97 | Home Depot
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™