A Project For the Pandemic

I’m extremely lucky.  Both my wife and I are able to work from home, while this health crisis spreads across the land and attacks our healthcare system, and our children are home here with us.  Our immediate family can afford to do the same.  Only a few of our closer friends are on the front lines as healthcare providers, and the area we live in has yards, streets to walk, and woods to wander.  I wish it were the same for everyone.

pulsatilla vulgaris

The first pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) opens.  I love their furry sweaters and the saturated color the cool weather brings on.

It’s not though, and the beautiful, early spring is a bit surreal alongside the news headlines and overall concern.  So we stick to home and the garden.

corydalis solida seedlings

Blue Scilla siberica and the red tones of Corydalis solida seedlings have officially taken over the front foundation beds.

Working from home frees up about two hours worth of commute each day, and with lunch and breaks it easily adds up to an extra three hours of spare time each weekday.  Sometimes I even stretch my lunch a little, but please don’t tell.

potager remodel

The potager is getting raised beds.  The old edging is coming out and the new layout is being planned.  I have no idea where all the soil to fill raised beds will come from but I’m sure something will work out.

After an ordering fiasco and delivery disaster the wood for the beds has arrived.  Normally I’d make a thousand trips to piecemeal and nickel and dime the entire project, but for once I planned a bit and will hopefully have most of what I need.  We will see.  As projects go it’s fairly simple and straightforward except for two things.  (1) The site is not all that level, and (2) Thousands of plants are in the way.

flower bulb bed

The zucchini and gooseberry bed…. but then underplant the berries with colchicums.  Edge the beds with chrysanthemums.  Tulips came in with the compost.  Daffodils will die down before the zucchini needs room.  The rose is so small… oh I need a spot for these snowdrops…

Common sense would say dig it all under and buy a few new bulbs in the fall.  This was considered, and then considered again, but of course by Thursday I decided to save as much as I can.  How can I dig under tulips just a few weeks away from blooming?  Things are now being moved if possible, or just plain potted up with hopes for a miracle in space becoming available.

spring bulb border

The front border starting to look less sloppy and more flowery.

The potager is going to be a mess for a while so I’ll leave you off with a view of the front street border.  The mowed up debris of last year is starting to become less noticeable as spring bulbs come up green and burst into flower.  Surely some good must come of this.

Have a great week, and all the best.

23 comments on “A Project For the Pandemic

  1. That black rock in the front street border–is that a honking big piece of coal?

  2. And I would try to save all the plants, too. If it wasn’t the year of the pandemic, I’d pot up the extras for the rock garden plant sale. I read an article once where they spread out a tarp on the shady side of the house, and put clumps of perennials there with decent amount of soil around the root balls and just left them there until the work was done, spraying the root balls with a fine mist as needed. Oh! Cheap kiddie pools work well, too. But no one ever mentions what happens to the lawn underneath the tarp or the kiddie pool.

    • bittster says:

      I have nothing against saving everything, but once the beds are done I don’t want everything back! I’d like to start out with at least one year of vegetables being in the vegetable beds… unless I devote one raised bed to colchicums, that wouldn’t be the worst decision methinks.
      If I stop to think too much I will recognize that like $20 will buy dozens of tulips just as good or better than the ones I’m saving. Ugh. btw there’s a good chance another bed will be devoted to tulips too. Maybe I should call it the cutting garden and just throw in the towel now and not worry about lettuce and peppers next month.

  3. Paula says:

    So fun to hardscape after all the plants are in where you want them 🤪
    You could dig out the sides an extra 6 or 8” of turf and not disturb anything

    • bittster says:

      Hahahahahaha, exactly! At least I’m not moving the hedges or paths (mostly)
      A smarter person would do just like you say, or just use the wood as edging to the beds already there… that’s what my mom did years ago and its still fine. But of course I want a look, and I want them raised, and I want them laid out a certain way. It will all come crashing down when I decide it was all a ridiculous idea in the first place, but…

  4. That Pasqueflower is a beauty. I too love those furry sweaters. It sounds like you are enjoying this working from home a little too much. 😉 It must be nice having an extra 2 hrs in your day for what ever comes up. Plus you can probably work at night when all are settled in for the evening. Certainly nothing on tv to keep you away from anything. I am like many of the rest, I would dig up everything and put it aside to replant someplace…if I had a someplace for them. That berm could use some plants. I have dug up tulips with my tiling spade and moved them successfully. Good luck with what ever you do. I will be interested in seeing these raised beds. Where do you get the soil to fill them? That would be my problem. There is no decent soil in bulk to be purchased around here.

    • bittster says:

      Heh heh, the berm has already gained a dozen or two “spare” trees and shrubs which needed new homes as well. If you consider mature sizes it’s probably already overplanted, but to be on the safe side I put in a few spares. It’s mostly rooted rhododendron branches from under a big mother plant, various tree seedlings which I never thought would sprout and then did, and a handful of dogwood seedlings and odds and ends. Maybe in three years it will start to look like something… or need a complete overhaul…
      Yeah as far as soil goes I’m in the same boat as you are. Everything that might work will go in. I’d like to dig up two of the paths and put down crushed stone, so all that sod and dirt will go into the bed… smarter would be to bury it and put the topsoil on top, but that would mean a LOT of soil moving! If I actually bought stuff I suspect it would be heavy clay and not anything I’d want in a raised bed.

  5. Chloris says:

    It is amazing how quickly your spring garden is catching up with ours. Great that you have more time to work in it. I am growing more veg this year. I had the same problem when I first had my raised beds- what to fill them with. I used manure from my friend’s horse, turf from where I had dug up lawn, compost, grass cuttings, dead cats, anything really. As fast as you fill them, everything settles and you need yet more stuff.

    • bittster says:

      Yes, it’s amazing how fast it goes and also a little upsetting to see it all fly by. Cooler weather for next week and it should slow things down to a more reasonable pace.
      The settling will be a problem since I will also need to throw in everything other than dirt. I can’t convince my cheap little heart to buy more soil just for these beds since it’s already cost more than anything we could possibly grow (legally) in there. I may dig up some paths and put the sod in, and I may also call out “hugelkultur” and steal branches and maybe a few firewood logs from next door to fill the void. So begins years of trying to top off the beds!

  6. After waiting all winter it is definitely impossible to dig up and toss Tulips. Can’t wait to follow the raised bed progress. We are having a nice gentle rain with some warmer temps coming, so the Hellebores should really pop. Like you, we are lucky to have a house filled with books, computers and a fair amount of supplies for projects. And the garden is the most important savior of all. It is still hard to make one accept the reality of a Pandemic in 2020. I have read enough Medieval and WWI lit that I thought that was all history. So I know more than I wish I did given our current situation. We are glad to be retired because we would be working in place otherwise (newsroom and UW Security). My niece is a journalist at the PPG and her husband is a nurse, so they are on the front lines. Just thinking about them means it is time for another walk in my garden to calm me down!

    • bittster says:

      You have to trust in their common sense and professional training and hope there are no monkey wrenches thrown into their safety routines. They’ll be in my thoughts.
      Lets hope this isn’t just a starter pandemic, there are even more afflictions out there and many are worse so for as bad as it gets I hope we learn and also remember a few lessons from this one. I also hope today’s science will soon throw us a lifeline soon, but it’s frustrating when the science is ignored for weeks. It’s practically a stolen script from nearly every disaster movie out there.
      Stay safe and I hope the garden gives you the peace you need.

  7. The garden centers here are doing curbside pickup so maybe you could order the soil you need and then have it all loaded into your car without too much social interaction. Maybe they’d even deliver it for you. I’ve dug out tulips and bulbs for new beds after they’ve bloomed. I’m working from home, too. Schools are closed til August.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve thought of a soil delivery, but I think we’re at the limit to my cheapness with the lumber delivery. Plus the soil they sell around here is usually a clayish silt mix that’s mud when wet and concrete when dry. I might save my money (and of course spend it on plants instead) and just deal with some really not that filled beds for a while.
      I’m wondering what will happen when the nurseries open… Officially many are closed, but many are also greenhouses, and here in PA that qualifies as an essential business. Do I risk it is the big question, and it is usually fairly empty when I go…
      Good luck with the online learning.

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    Now that is a big project! Two extra hours a day is a huge gift, which gives us an excellent boost for just such projects. I wonder if companies are going to conclude from this that they don’t need to bring employees in every day and this may be the beginning of the era of telecommuting for the masses. It would certainly save tons of resources and reduce stress, CO2 and particulate pollution.
    I admire your corydalis and scilla combination. Do you find managing the corydalis daunting? I’m wondering if it’d overwhelm my shade bed?
    Stay well!

    • bittster says:

      The telecommuting thing will be a big one. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few places decide they can go this route at least partially after being forced into trying it now. I guess that’s a good thing? Sure can be a moneysaver for gas and other work expenses.
      I go back and forth on if the scilla are a problem waiting to explode, but the corydalis seem to come and go so quickly that they don’t bother anything. Sometimes they grow so thickly they seem to crowd the snowdrops, but so far nothing seems to suffer. Actually when the corydalis get too crowded they almost self destruct and the clump nearly disappears. Surely not the best way to go, but it saves me from the guilt of looking at a “really needs to be divided” clump for years and years!

  9. Paddy Tobin says:

    A wonderful project.

    Stay safe and healthy and enjoy the garden.

  10. Cathy says:

    You may need to widen some of the beds to make room for those bulbs and plants…. Great to have a big project going on right now. Good luck!

  11. Looks like a good project, I look forward to seeing the results. I’ve noticed that some tulips that I’ve written off in the past end up blooming in spots where they seem to have planted themselves, probably with rodent help.

  12. pbmgarden says:

    Glad you’re able to work from home and benefit from those few extra hours of free time. That’s huge. Good luck on your projects and take care.

  13. Cathy says:

    You’ll have made your decisions long before I look at this, I expect. It looks like a great plan, but I don’t think I could bear to dispose of tulips just coming into flower (so I hope you didn’t). You are creative so I’m sure you’ve found solutions to the soil requirement problem. I’m really hoping you are right in one of your replies above about telecommuting. I phoned up internet/phone supplier today and got through amazingly quickly – and he was working at home! Really hoping you enjoy your time at home with wife and family – and the all-important garden! Loved that pasque flower, btw – will never look at one again without thinking of your woolly sweaters.

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