Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gardening in the Shade

As my outdoor gardening season ends and a new one starts, I am still pondering what to do with my backyard flower bed. I've talked about it plenty. My lack of success with this area. A recent purchase was 2 books on gardening in the shade. Really helpful and inexpensive on my Kindle Fire. Of course books are my first love followed by plants and flowers. My daughter bought me the Kindle a couple of years ago because I complained about having so many books.  Books take up space but I love, love, love them. I love the feel of the pages, just holding them. Crisp new pages. Can't do this with a Kindle, but it also has it's advantages. Just stay out of the book store. Sounds easy doesn't it. Not to a book lover that's been reading since she could walk. Kindles can be dangerous. A purchase with the click of the button. Both books are really good, small, easy to read and they've really given me a different perspective. As I've blogged about before, if plants need lots of watering out back in the summer, that's tough. They have to be survivors because when temperatures hit the 90's with high humidity, Trish is inside the house. I view the yard from afar and pray for rain. This doesn't always help either when little water penetrates the flower beds due to the heavy canopy of leaves from the trees. Learned this recently when shrubs and plants died this summer even with torrential rains. Up under the trees was like it never rained. I'm tired of buying plants and shrubs just to see them die. Who has money to waste? Not I, this has to end.

Not watering the flower beds in severe heat is part of the problem out back. I finally will fess up to it. How can you have a garden and not want to water it. Especially when the garden is flanked by multiple Norway Maple trees. I underestimated trees and their impact on a garden, only thinking about the shade they bring being the cause of my poor success. Never gave a thought to something I read in one book. Can you imagine a tree drinking 300 gallons of water in a week. I'll have to research that for myself though. If there a multiple trees in the yard with flower beds on top of their roots, why did I expect these areas to thrive? The plants are competing and loosing a battle that's not worth fighting. One year I did water every day all summer. My flower beds showed that they were being watered and looked good for a beginner. Since this time I don't go outside to water in July and August when the heat is brutal. The garden shows it. The only plants thriving are in the cedar planter that was lined to help retain all the water from draining out. Not only does it retain water but it's not competing with tree roots drinking all the water first. The fern in the planter was huge this year. You know without lots of moisture, ferns will die quick. There are 2 ferns planted in the ground in my yard. In the spring they show their faces, but not for long. They have never looked like the one in the planter. So, I have to decide if I'll do what is recommended in these books. One book seems more reasonable for me than the other.

Another option is not planting in the ground at all. This would solve the problem with tree roots competing for water. Containers only are an option. I don't favor this choice because I feel lucky to have a small plot of earth that I can use. The yard is not cement. If it were that would be my only option. I also thought of large planters to line the area along the fence with cedar planters like the one I have. Nope, too expensive and I would need at least 3 of them. Also, wood rots over the years even cedar. I think of the wood fence that once occupied my yard. Even with staining and pressure treated wood, it eventually rotted. For an organic garden, leeching chemicals into the soil from water proofing the wood and pressure treated lumber isn't an option. Especially if you want to grow vegetables in the ground. Growing vegetables in the ground is not a problem for me though since I can't grow vegetables in the shade. There is only one area in my yard with good sun and that's where the veggies go. Wood is beautiful and natural but it rots and I can't see spending money over and over to replace it.

What is the most reasonable option for me? I think building up a healthy soil with leaves, compost, and maybe some peat moss. A recommendation from the book was to mulch with at least 4 inches to help maintain moisture along with watering 2 times a week at least to give the garden 2 1/2 inches of water. This way the trees get their water and the plants get theirs, and the much helps retain some of the moisture. That's a lot of mulch. Think this will work? The other option which won't work for me is to lay newspaper at least 15 sheets thick on top of the flower bed. Not to cover the crows of established plants because this would cause rot. Then apply several layers each with builders sand, compost, and peat moss and then repeat this eventually topping off with several inches of leaves. Not shredded leaves. Now you have a raised bed with rich soil and tree roots can't penetrate the newspaper at least for several years. Why would I do this with so many plants already established? I can't dig them all up. In several years when the newspaper decomposes and it will, this process will need to be done again. To labor and money intensive for me.

So I'll continue talking about this in future posts and let you know if I make any progress this fall. I have to start this fall because I would love a much improved flower bed next season. It would be wonderful to look out the window and see lush foliage and blooms and survival of what ever I plant. I want to share more from the books. They both provide good list of plants, bulbs, and shrubs that grow good in the shade.

This was my very first year of trying to garden in my yard and it went good. Some heuchera and sedums but mostly shade annuals but not all, like the hyacinth bean vine that was beautiful that year and full of flowers. What did I do different the first year? Water, water, water and mulch. Not bad for having never done anything except house plants.
This is tithonia (Mexican Sunflower). Sunflowers are only supposed to grow in the sun. This grew under the Norway Maples in 2012 with lots of water. It was full of blooms, bees, and at least 6 feet.
Another thing I did was mulch the beds. They ground was dry as sand with no water but my flower beds did well.
I would love to grow these again out back. the blooms are beautiful.
The plants were eaten a lot by slugs or other insects with no insecticides. Below are zinnias and bachelor buttons that won't do anything in the shade and they didn't. That's what happens when you are a new gardener and don't read about plant requirements. I have learned something since then. I don't know why I gave up on water and much, stupid.
My peony and hosta were larger with more water. I did divide them that year.

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