New Garden Frontiers

On the eve of a long trip, with lots of things to sort and organize at the farm after my move back from Wisconsin, and a job to keep working at remotely, my priorities were: plants! I still haven’t figured out how to upload photos with my new blog setup, or rather how to upload them without the upload taking 10 hours, so…

There is something about the farm that inspires me to want to do things, things to it. Which does not mean I am abusing the farm (hopefully?) but rather that the farm is a blank canvas, or more accurately, a messy graffiti covered wall with a few blank spaces left to spray over. Or something like that.

Here’s what I managed to squeeze in:

  • Starting native wildflower seeds in the prairie and pots
  • Starting new plant grafts
  • Starting a new private garage garden
  • dreaming a lot of other potential projects…

Those prairie seeds were the quickest task. Some might actually call these flowers weeds: goldenrod, milkweed and tall ironweed – they even have weed in the name! But no, they are not. They are beautiful, native, pollinator friendly plants able to survive in lower maintenance environments.

Apple grafts! You may remember that post about chip bud grafting last spring? I thought only one had succeeded, but right now three (3!) buds have leafed out. And several others I realize appear very different from the obviously dead/failed ones, and I think they will leaf out at some point. One rootstock died outright this winter, the rest are thriving. This week I did whip and tongue grafting on some of the (possibly) failed rootstocks – the kind of grafting I was actually taught in class. It involves placing on an entire branch of the scionwood, and is probably what the average gardener thinks of first when they hear “grafting.”

Whip and tongue grafting involved cutting my hand, and I found it very hard to do well on rootstock that was already in the ground. Cutting the necessary whip and tongue is easy enough for the scionwood, which you can lay flat and slice into, but when the rootstock is in the ground like mine were (normally rootstock would be a bareroot plant that isn’t planted), it’s quite hard to slice a straight cut down. I think on reflection that chip bud grafting is perhaps the right choice after all. Certainly chip bud grafting is nicer for inexperienced people like me, you can easily do multiple grafts onto a single rootstock and if all but one fail, you’ve still got a successful graft – as was my experience where I had two or three grafts on each rootstock, and only one at most survived on any…

My new private garden at the farm is born from my desire to have a less exposed place to loiter at the farm, outside. If you didn’t know, our farm is slightly downhill from a county highway. It’s actually pretty quiet, a car only every five or ten minutes except at some peak times, but those cars, which can see clearly into almost everywhere at the farm, make peaceful breaks frequently disturbed.

There is one little nook behind the garage and part of the house which is a bit shady, difficult to mow, and hidden from the road. I thus made up last week, and began, a little plan for a garden here. This space of some 15 feet by 40 feet is at the top of the retaining wall, with a 8 feet drop, or thereabouts down towards the ‘fortress’ raised garden and solar panels behind the house.

The garden as of week one consists of two rhododendrons and a honeysuckle. The honeysuckle will climb the retaining wall from below, and the rhododendrons will fill in the edge of the space on either side of an arch, yet to be built. In the future, a bench, given to us as a memorial for Kelly, will be placed there, along with the many refugee hostas and ferns currently in the raised bed, brought from Katie Lane, and for which there is no room in the existing hosta gardens. Those shade loving plants will fill out the shady wall triangle, and as yet to be planned sunnier plants will fill in the sunny triangle near the arch/rhododendrons and retaining wall. It should be a nice, quiet place from which one can watch over the works in the gardens of the backyard below, near the main driveway between garage and barn but yet screen apart from the traffic.

This year was actually the first year in many years (15 years?) that I haven’t ordered vegetable seeds – although I did order those native flower seeds mentioned earlier. Mom, retired and at the farm full time, now takes on full control, meanwhile I was in Wisconsin. And now I’m in Norway. But regardless, I shall make sure to try to intercede and make everything better when I return!

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