Garden ShapeUp Along: Musings and More Afters

by Daisy

Now the rains have called it quits for the time being and things have had a chance to dry out, I’m back in the garden evaluating and wrapping up the first phase of my ShapeUp. All but two of the items on my list have been ticked off.  Hopefully I can get to them today.

It’s been a lot of hard work and time, but I’m so glad I made that list and stuck to it, with only a few deviations. There are fewer embarrassing and inexplicable areas in my garden and yard and I feel ready to finish planting the spring garden.

Speaking of embarrassing and inexplicable:


I walked by this for months. It was a project-in-progress, right? Only there was no progress. I was going to connect the gutter to the shed and let the rainwater run down a downspout into the garbage can/rainbarrel. But I couldn’t get the gutter on the shed by myself and I gave up rather than go to the trouble of asking for someone very tall to help me. Even though I am surrounded by tall people.

Or if only there were devices that allowed a person to become temporarily taller?

The boxes are not part of the project. They are just there. So is the luffa. And the log. The backwards question-mark-shaped root may be making its own personal editorial statement.

IMG_7347This “after” still needs some explaining. I’ll devote a separate post to it soon. I’m making a new garden area by letting the chickens do it for me. There is scare tape and there are lots of leaves here for that purpose.


And this was leftover fall maintenance that never got done.

You’re supposed to look at dead canna leaves all winter, right?

They deepen your yearning for the renewal of spring and echo the desolation of the winter heart.

Said no one ever.

Desolation banished, new cannas emerging:



And this is right beside the door everyone uses all day long. It should look more presentable. With fewer hula hoops.


Better now, but eventually (how often do I use that word?) I want to tear out the nandinas and holly and plant herbs.

In case you haven’t noticed, a major theme of this ShapeUp is pine straw mulch. It’s my garden equivalent of ‘put a bird on it.’ It covers a multitude of sins and thanks to the diligence of a neighbor who lives in a piney wood and apparently hates pine needles, I have an endless, free supply of bagged pine mulch. Bless you for your diligence and disdain, good sir. I should take him a cake. And I will.



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Bonnie North March 21, 2016 at 2:31 pm

You are so lucky about the pine straw mulch, and if I weren’t so lazy, I’d go about a mile from my house to rake some from beneath the acre of Jack Pines that grow there.

Daisy, could you tell us, if you haven’t already, about the benefits of using pine straw as mulch?

Speaking of serendipitous garden finds: I have long been suspicious of bagged animal manure sold at box stores, or even manure sold by farmers in general. I am afraid, rightly or wrongly, that these animals may have been fed feed with pesticides on it, or treated with antibiotics, etc., with those residues showing up in the manure. So, I’ve struggled with fish emulsion as fertilizer.

Then, just last week, in passing a trusted friend mentioned that she had a rabbit who poops in a small section of her yard. She normally just redistributes the rabbits poop around her lawn, but has promised to give me the rabbit poops. Yay! I’ll compost it and use that to boost my garden’s productivity. Thoughts?

Daisy March 21, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Bonnie–You aren’t lazy, you’re prioritizing.

Pine mulch is acidic, which makes it a good choice for acid-lovers like blueberry bushes, azaleas, juneberries, witch hazel, and rhododendrons, among others. I like it because it’s free, I like how it looks, and it doesn’t float away in the areas of my garden that flash flood during gully washers. I alternate with whatever I have on hand, though, and don’t use it exclusively.

Yes, I worry about that, too. Remember awhile back there was that scare about “killer compost”; a persistent herbicide that remained potent even after passing through livestock was killing people’s gardens? Not to mention it might be simply not very high quality. I guess it’s true: we gotta do everything ourselves! The rabbit poop would be good, I imagine. I believe you can use rabbit poop without composting it first, too.

Bonnie North March 22, 2016 at 7:12 am

Hi Daisy,

Thanks for letting me know about the acidic quality of the pine straw. I know that there is controversy about using wood chips as mulch, and I have used it often. I did my research first, though, and determined that well credentialed horticulturalists and soil scientists say that the wood chips only uptake nitrogen at the soil interface, and not in a way that significantly affects most plants.

That said, the wood chip mulch, I’ve discovered, promotes a fungal soil, which is best for trees. Vegetable plants, I’ve heard, need a bacterial soil. It’s very complex…At the end of the day, I think I’ll rely on using what I can get my hands on, with worm and rabbit dookie as fertilizer.

What, if anything, do you use for fertilizer, or do you already have a post where I can read about that?

Daisy March 22, 2016 at 9:48 pm

Bonnie–I use compost as a top dressing sometimes, but it’s no substitute for having really fertile soil to start your plants in. Hugelkulture, trench composting, and tons of good compost would be my suggestion for a ‘dream bed.” What do you use?

Bonnie North March 23, 2016 at 6:17 am

Hi Daisy,

I am going to read more about trench composting, including reviewing your posts on it.

I have never tried Hugelkulture, though I am very curious about it. One of the plans I have for my yard is to naturalize sections of it as wildlife habitat, and building a Hugelkulture berm for one of the naturalized beds would be appropriate. My main concern is the amount of “shrinkage” that will inevitably occur in such a bed as the underlying structure decomposes.

In the past I have employed raised bed, lasagna gardens, but I ran out of source materials to keep those kinds of beds going. We have plenty of tree leaves, but with only two of us in the house these days, we don’t have enough kitchen waste to build high lasagna layers, and our compost the forever because of our long winters.

While writing this, I just realized that we need to move our compost bins out of the shade – Daisy, now I need to add something more to my garden shape-up to do list – dang! The work never ends… After breakfast I’m going to bone up on trench composting. 🙂

Mattie March 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm

I think you could give Nanny Goat in Panties a run for her money…. I laughed so much at this entry…LOVE IT.

Freebie alert, my electric company (Cobb EMC) sent an email about free wood mulch so I sent it to a co-worker/neighbor who called. They are sending her 3 truck loads for free. I’m going to be collecting some using my 5 gallon buckets.
And I even noticed after 5 years of living in my house that I have several forsythia bushes to transplant to the front yard which will give it a pop of color in the spring vs. what it is now…kinda dead looking with a blooming under achieving dogwood. Eventually I will have a pretty front yard. Maybe.

Daisy March 28, 2016 at 11:45 am

Mattie–Thank you, Mattie!, and thanks, too for the alert.
Love forsythia. A bright harbinger of spring.

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