A garden is all about new beginnings

“I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing robin, sing:
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.”   

–  Christina Rossetti

By the end of March I’m eagerly looking for flower buds, pulling out seed packs and straining to hear bird songs.  The ancient Romans started the year in the month of March and that calendar orientation sure feels right as winter winds down.

A little while ago, folks from the software company we use for our desig ns reached out to ask if I’d interview for a blog post about women in landscaping.  Speaking with them, and later, with one of their colleagues, for a trade article on the same subject, reminded me of that moment, more than 10 years ago, that I decided to change careers, moving from teaching to landscaping.  Interestingly, it was in March that I committed to taking that leap.

Nature reminds us of spring’s promise that there are always opportunities for new beginnings.

Watching the resiliency of bulbs and buds as they push out new growth in freezing weather gives me the courage to break out of old patterns and the hope that comes with the opportunity to start fresh.  Over 50 now, I’m especially grateful to have this annual reminder that is never too late to begin to grow again.

Later today, if weather warms, I’ll be able to plant peas – a St. Patrick’s Day tradition.  In a few weeks, those seeds will be small plants.  And so, the adventure of this new garden year begins.

Hello new life.  Hello flowers budding in harsh winds.  Hello hope.

Planting peas for St. Patrick’s Day?  Here’s a link to some basics from Maryland’s Home and Garden information center.

Green Mulch

Backyard Bounty landscape/garden design & installation, Silver Spring Maryland phone:301 221-4931 email: info@backyardbounty.netGreen Mulch? Yes, Green Mulch!
Not because Saint Patrick’s Day is around the corner, and not because we’ve given up all our principles and recommend using one of those dyed mulches that leach scary chemicals into the ground…
‘Green mulch’ isn’t shredded hardwood that is colored green- it’s green plants used in place of shredded wood mulch. Mulching is an important practice in sustainable land care and mulching with plants instead of wood is a great way to get the benefits of mulching plus more.

Why mulch at all?
A 2-3” layer of mulch helps retain soil moisture, keeps surface temperatures down, and helps to keep weeds from emerging in empty spaces. As the cliché goes: ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ and voids at the ground layer are easy opportunities for weeds to enter. Mulching is part of a 5-part organic land care practice that keeps plants healthy without chemicals. Read more about these 5 practices below.

Why Green Mulch instead of traditional mulch?
Beyond the appeal of more plants and more color in the landscape, Green Mulch can be a more economical way to maintain your garden. Instead of adding mulch year after year, plants fill the voids that mulch traditionally fills; for the gardener that means less weeding and less mulch to buy and apply. We recommend reading Thomas Rainer and Claudia West’s new book: Planting in a Post Wild World for more information about plant communities, Green Mulch and vertical layering.

How to try it?
If you are interested in testing Green Mulch in your garden this year, let us know. During the early spring, Backyard Bounty is offering our clients the opportunity to substitute a flat of 32 or 50 Green Mulch plants for a cubic yard of shredded pine mulch. An ideal spot to trial Green Mulch in your garden would be under shrubs that don’t have a ground-hugging layer of plants – a bank of azaleas, for example, or a bed with screening trees that have yet to fill in are both good places to begin.

What are some good Green Mulch Plants?
Some of our favorite green mulch plants to select from are listed below. If you are not familiar with these plants, please let us help you select those that would be ideal for your garden situation:

5 Best Practices of Organic Land Care
Our gardens are an opportunity to make both our lives and the environment better by encouraging pollinators, creating wildlife habitat, keeping storm water from running into our streams, providing us with fresh vegetables, and beautiful outdoor living spaces. However, if we install plants to nurture wildlife and then spray our gardens with weed killer or over fertilize we lose many of the benefits of these sustainable practices.

At Backyard Bounty, we look at garden maintenance the way we look at taking care of our health. We stay well by eating right, practicing good hygiene, getting enough water, protecting ourselves from extreme weather and getting enough rest. Our landscape maintenance program takes these 5 elements and adapts them for the garden. When we take care of ourselves, we don’t have to rely on medication to lead a healthy, happy life. Likewise, plants growing in healthy soil perform at their best and are better able to stand up to disease, pests and weather without chemical support.

What does this kind of garden maintenance involve? Five things:

What Why When
Pruning Keeps plants healthy by improving air flow, removing damage that may draw harmful pests, and getting rid of disease to prevent spreading Mostly in late winter/early spring, Any time for dead or diseased branches. Some plants should be pruned in late spring/ early summer
Natural process fertilization Feeds plants by keeping the soil healthy and alive with compost tea applications Spring and fall
Mulching Retain moisture, inhibit weed growth Early spring
Periodic tending Keep the garden orderly so you enjoy it
Patrol for unwanted pests and disease
A monthly visit, April- September
End of season clean up and winter mulching Remove excess leaves on garden beds and lawns to avoid matting and top-dress beds with compost to feed the soil over the winter November or December

Reduced carbon footprint, improved quality of life…

For all of us tied to cars and big houses…observations from my husband who is in Denmark at the moment, about how the Danes live pleasantly with a significantly reduced carbon footprint:

‘Garden plots. Since so many people live in apartments and small house, they have garden plots that you rent from the city. I knew this, but what I didn’t realize is that there are so many of them and that they all have little cottages on them. Not sheds, but cottages that you can sleep and cook in.

Rode my bike around for a couple hours before dinner, mostly looking for the garden plots so I could take some pictures. The number of bikes here is amazing and perhaps even more than Amsterdam. It makes sense since I haven’t seen more than a dozen parking spots in the whole of Old City. It’s either that or the fact that there’s a 180% surtax on automobiles on top of the 25% VAT. That makes a $20,000 car in the US sell for about $60,000. Oh yeah, and gas is $9 a gallon. ‘

Reason to Believe

Thinking about the bombings in Boston and fertilizer plant explosions as I drove between projects in Bethesda and Garrett Park, the play list was all Bruce Springsteen. Easy to feel like the speaker in ‘Reason to Believe’ sometimes: ‘Struck me kind of funny, seemed kind of funny man to me, how at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe.’

But today was gorgeous- clear and in the 70’s, and when I got home, one of my favorite plants was starting to push out its leaves:

When we planted this Greybush (Lindera glauca var. salicifolia: http://www.pleasantrunnursery.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/plants.plantDetail/plant_id/310/index.htm) a few weeks ago, our neighbor wondered if it was dead. Deciduous, but with leaves that persist over the winter, it screens the way an evergreen does in the winter, with a leaf that reminds me of those of a beech tree in the winter woodlands. The fall color is the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen.

Seeing the leaves push out on the Greybush, I smiled and changed the song on my phone to ‘The Rising’ -blaring it so loud my kids told their middle aged mom to turn down the music…But this is why I garden.

‘Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight’
-Bruce Springsteen ‘The Rising’

© Copyright Backyard Bounty - Backyard Bounty is a registered trademark of Edamarie Mattei LLC. Photos (c) Regis Lefebure