Life on the Prairie

I’m still working on the street border cleanup and expansion.  Normally I would have called it quits as far as digging and transplanting go but with all the rain and overcast days I’m just trying to get  a little more done before the lazy days of summer kick in.  Today the humidity almost killed me but I did manage to push myself and got a little further.  An update is on its way but in the meantime here are a few pictures of another part of the yard.

The far reaches of the yard are left to themselves for most of the year.  I love the wild look but that opinion is not held by everyone who lives here or who peers over the fence.  It will get a rough mowing around the end of July but for now it’s full of wildflowers and bugs and butterflies and bunnies.  I was so pleased with myself for getting all the paths mown I figured I’d take a couple pictures.mown path in meadow

This is the area behind my mother in Law’s house.  It’s a no-man’s land between her fence and the new fence surrounding the new industrial park.  About five years ago this was just bare earth but over the years I’ve seeded in some grass, thrown down some daisy and rudbeckia seed and just kept it mowed (early spring and mid summer) to keep the worst of the weeds from taking over.  Here’s the five year picture.  In the front you can see where I spread the lawn clippings I collected from another part of lawn that had gone to seed.  planting a meadow

wild rudbeckiaThe worst weeds back there are creeping blackberries, Canada goldenrod, and queen anne’s lace.  I think I pulled most of the QA Lace (too invasive) but the blackberries are giving me trouble.  The kids call them “pokies” and I hate the way the runners grab your leg and razor wire a cut right in the sensitive part of your ankle.  I hate them and remember hating them myself as a kid when one got me out in the woods.

Asclepias tuberosaThe wild black eyed susans are blooming now as well as some late oxeye daisies.  Both of these are welcome and I’ve been trying to add some other interesting stuff to keep them company.  The late summer mowing should encourage the early blooming grass to fill in, but I’ve been planting out some butterfly weed seedlings (Asclepsias tuberosa).  The first to reach blooming size is flowering this year, I hope others follow.meadow planting

The chainlink fence went up last year and has cut me off from half the meadow.  There’s a possibility a gate will magically appear in the fence and I’ll again be able to give this a mow.  I’d like to be able to control what grows in back here and don’t want trees too big and too close to the fence.

Back on our side of the fence there’s a second half of the meadow called the ‘orchard’.  I planted an apple tree there this spring, hence the lofty renaming.  The grass in this section is thicker since part was already turfgrass before I started letting in all the daisies.black eyed susan meadow

With the paths mowed and the edges neat I think the meadow has a nice look.  It’s popular with the younger crowd for important activities such as daisy collecting and grasshopper catching.  It’s also a great place for firefly chasing, and since July is firefly season there was a lot of path running as the kids tried to catch as many as they could.meadow planting

I’ll end with a look across from the vegetable garden to the meadow…. I mean orchard…… If you look carefully through the crooked tomato trellis you might catch a glimpse of ‘the queen of the prairie’.  She guards the entrance to the orchard and admires the overgrown lawn.  Some say she’s just an old plaster statue that wouldn’t sell at an estate sale.  I say she’s our queen.meadow garden

garden statueNow back to digging says the queen.

My best weed

My garden lacks sophistication.  There’s little if any structure, the planting schemes are weak, it’s usually a mess, and I have plenty of weeds.  To help get around these faults I’ve taken to accepting volunteer help in designing the beds and plantings.  What this means is I avoid a lot of unnecessary work by letting things self sow and keeping most of these volunteer seedlings as “design elements” instead of admitting they’re unplanned weeds.  Oxeye daisies are one of these and they do a great job filling every little gap anywhere they can.  I don’t mind.oxeye daisy

Between the daisies, fennel and verbena bonariensis I could keep this border filled all year without lifting a finger, but even I would have to admit it’s more of a highway wayside look than a garden.  I’ll need to pull most of these this week as I work through the bed thinning overgrowth and then adding a few annuals and tropicals for summer color.

Daisies are even easier in the no-man’s land between the industrial park and our development.  Rather than keeping a tame suburban lawn here I’ve opted for a meadow of rough wildflowers and waving grasses.  The grasses are slowly establishing but the daisies filled in the first year.meadow daisies

Rather than beating this area into submission every week, I let it go until July or so and then give it a cut to spread seeds and wack back the less-preferred sumac and golden rod.  With a mown path for more civilized access this is a popular area for the kids and their friends.  Many bouquets find their way out of this weed patch and onto our kitchen windowsill, and the grasshoppers and bunnies are just as popular….. unfortunately they also eventually find their way out of the meadow.meadow grass

To my surprise this meadow area is not as popular with the grownups.  It’s become a tradition each spring to engage in the ‘cutting of the weeds’ argument and then take the day long vow of silence that follows.  But for now the grass and daisies stay and the wildlife rejoices.