Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Should it Stay or Should it Go? May 24, 2009

Filed under: pruning,shrubs,structures — greenwalks @ 10:07 am
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We are attempting to wedge a 4′ X 4′ X 6′ high playhouse into our small backyard for my daughter to goof around in, and debating whether or not to completely take down or just limb up an uninspiring, very plain (probably?) shrubby dogwood or leave it to screen the neighbors during spring-summer-fall. During my deliberations, I was reminded of one of the Clash’s most famous ditties and changed it around a little…

Blog friends you gotta let me know
Should it stay or should it go?
If you say that it is mine
It’ll be here til the end of time
So you got to let know
Should it stay or should it go?

Place where playhouse will go

(Unknown dogwood(?) is in middle between white lilac on left and red twig dogwood on right)

Not always leaves leaves leaves
It’s just okay instead of trees
One day is grey, next is green
So if you want us not to be seen
Well come on and let me know
Should it stay or should it go?

UGL (Unidentified green leaf) - dogwood?

(Leaves are pretty ho-hum, I don’t even remember flowers or fall color, but it’s tall at the moment and is the only thing blocking the neighbors on that side.)

This indecision’s bugging me
If you dont want it, set me free
Exactly what it’s supposed to be
Don’t you know which plants even fit me?
Come on and let me know
Should I cool it or should I blow?

Dogwood leaf string?

(A Master Gardener taught me a trick once to test if a leaf is a dogwood – gently pull it apart and see if there are any “strings” holding the separated parts together. This one seems to qualify.)

Should it stay or should it go now?
If it goes there will be trouble
And if it stays it will be double
So you gotta let me know
Should it stay or should it go?

Limbed up dogwood

(I started by limbing it up, to see if the playhouse would even fit underneath. The bad pruning cuts would be shielded by the house and the lilac and dogwood would provide a kind of canopy for the little inhabitants.)

Deadline is Wednesday, since the house is arriving the next day. Cast your vote here in the comments! Honesty counts.

For a classic Clash concert video from 1982, click here. Joe Strummer, RIP.


Novel Way to Clear Brush December 29, 2008

Filed under: digressions,fauna,weeds — greenwalks @ 5:37 pm
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A musician friend just bought a rather neglected property on a small lake in Seattle. She’s a really energetic person and will no doubt have a great time diving into the project of renovating the house and grounds. In fact, she’s already started on the overgrown yard, with a little help from some friends…


Goats! She got them (temporarily) from a local business, The Goat Lady, who hires them out for a quiet, natural way to clear brambles and other tenacious overgrowth. With the copious amounts of blackberries at my friend’s place, five goats couldn’t get through it all in one day. They took a break for the holidays/snow but will be back to finish the job soon.

This is such a cool way to take care of a tough gardening job! You arrange to have the goats delivered, check on them a couple of times per day to make sure they’re not tangled up in their tethers, give them once a day water and feed, and that’s that! Super cheap too, $25 per goat per week if you have 5 or more, $30 per goat if you have 4 or fewer. Dump fees alone for that volume of brush would probably top that, not to mention labor, pollution from gas-powered tools, or even backhoe rental for a job of that magnitude. To learn more about the goats, click here.

Apparently this is not the only business of this sort in Washington State. Here’s a link to a Seattle city page about using another company’s goats to clear brush at a power plant not far from our house.
In the city of Seattle, it is now legal to keep up to three pygmy goats, as long as they are de-horned. Goats in the city! For a news article about this, click here.

Finally, if you have a few minutes to spare and click on this link, you can watch the goats in action at my friend’s place. She put some funny background music in to complement their munchings. Which goat is your favorite? I like the black and white one with the stripey face myself.


Goodbye to Summer Sun(flowers) September 17, 2008

While the rest of the country has been either pummeled by hurricanes or inundated with extreme heat, we in the Seattle area have been enjoying one of the loveliest, driest, warmest Septembers in memory. I think it has yet to rain a single drop this month, which may not be so great in the long run but, after our weirdly rainy and cool summer, is a welcome relief at the moment.

In theory, this should have kept my (volunteer) sunflowers going long into the fall. In reality, a hungry squirrel climbed them all and broke their necks, resulting in my street garden looking even more like a crazy person’s than usual.

My garden looks crazy

Okay, so the flowering/bent over leeks, empty snap pea teepee and general look of obvious neglect didn’t really help either, so I can’t really blame it all on the squirrel. I’ll just go ahead and admit that I didn’t do much in the way of garden maintenance this summer!

I finally decided it was just getting too embarrassing, though, so yesterday I went out and pulled up all the sunflowers, as well as the leeks (the latter make nice dried flowers).

In progress

(The green weed container at the top of that photo is an old pickle bucket my mom bequeathed to me – she used to get them from McDonald’s for free! No idea why they used to give them away – they don’t anymore. So it’s kind of like a treasured family heirloom. It’s sturdy as heck and doesn’t rot or rust if you leave it out in the rain.)

There were a couple of seed heads that hadn’t been completely devoured yet, although one had been partially consumed.

Decapitated sunflower heads

The entire time I was working, I could hear the squirrel up in the neighbor’s plum tree, probably doing the usual one-bite-and-drop-then-on-to-the-next routine. It was chattering and I imagined its little rodent brain wheels turning as it thought “what is that moronic woman doing with MY #%*&! LUNCH?!?” I left the decapitated flower heads out, so they’ll probably be finished by tomorrow.

Now there’s not much left in my veggie patch besides some very sad, yellow basil (I was out of town during a 90 degree hot spell, right after they were planted, so no amount of watering when I returned could bring them back to health), a few other herbs and the crazy fennel that refuses to bulb. Gotta get my winter veggie starts in before they get eaten by a snail!

Mostly cleared

The rains are supposed to begin this weekend, and Seattle will return to its normal, semi-gloomy self. We’ll all put on our Gore-tex jackets and hide indoors with our library books until next… July?! Until then, I’ll be dreaming of next year’s sunflowers.

All that's left


Before August 9, 2008

I always judge landscape gardener sites by their before/after section. But now that I’m putting up my own here, I realize the error of my ways. What about the in between part, where the old ugly stuff is ripped out but the new things haven’t matured into a recognizably lovely pattern yet? What if there isn’t even a pattern to begin with? Uh oh.

We moved to a little Craftsman bungalow in Northeast Seattle three summers ago. The previous owner had a professional landscaper put in a very nice, low-water use garden around the house, and his only regret was that he’d let the pro talk him into using St. John’s Wort as a groundcover on the street. Once it’s in, it’s virtually impossible to remove. I asked around and was told by various garden experts that it might take a backhoe to get it out, and that the seeds and shoots left in the ground could regenerate for up to five years. A bit daunting, to say the least.

St. John's Wort - Pure Evil

St. John's Wort - Pure Evil

But, since there wasn’t another good place to put a veggie patch, and I had enjoyed having a small raised bed in the parking strip of our previous house, I enlisted my parents to help me with the dig-out aspect of the project and got to work. It took hours of back-breaking labor with shears, clippers, trowels, mattocks, and pick-axes to get the worst of it out, but it was also kind of fun. I viewed it as a challenge, to do what the experts said couldn’t be done, at least not without power tools.

Partway Cleared

Partway Cleared

We went inch by inch, foot by foot, yard by yard. I put up a sign on our retaining wall to apologize to neighbors for the mess, and promised that something better would eventually appear. They had quite a while to wait, as it turned out. In some senses, they’re probably still waiting!

In the next post, you can see what it looks like three years later. Not as much of an improvement as I would have hoped for, but still better than the awful groundcover. And the weeding is getting less onerous, now that some of the plants are filling in. Much more to do, but that’s gardening for you.