Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Last Little Project of the Fall

A ton of rain fell ten days ago (seriously, more than 6 inches in three days) and left the yard and garden a sodden mess. The only walking we did across the yard for the next three days was to feed the fish! But once it dried out a good bit, I was able to dive into the one remaining fall project - making a new bed for the nandina hedge at the back of the lot. Our back boundary is partly fenced, partly filled with a euonomous hedge and partly open. About 18 months ago I started moving volunteers of Nandina domestica into a line (or sorts) to start completing the existing hedge with nandinas. We already have nandinas around the front porch and they produce a lot of volunteers so it was the perfect way to thin the existing growth and at the same time provide plants for a new area.

In order to control the grass and provide a better growing situation I took edging and laid out a bed around the plants that I had already planted. But here's where my problem began. There are many types of edging one can use in the garden and I made a bad choice. Well, at least I installed it poorly. I used a plastic edging that came in six-inch pieces that are pointed on one edge. You pound them into the ground and then hook the next one in as you pound it. The problem was that I did not keep them straight. The resulting bed was a double S-curve. It was difficult to cut the grass beside it, and it looked stupid!

So, my final project of the fall was to pull out the old edging and replace it with a new straight edging. After all that rain the ground was softer than normal, so last Saturday I dove in. I had previously done the homework: measured the length of the bed (20 feet long) and calculated how many feet of material I would need. And I bought the material several weeks ago. This time I chose a steel edging that comes in 8-foot lengths which interlock and are stabilized by driving spikes thru tabs built into the strips. In order to install this edging you must either have soft enough ground to drive it down, or you have to cut a slit for it. With the softer ground, there were only a couple of places that I had to cut a slit with my root knife and those places were where I was going thru heavy grass and having to cut the roots out.

First, I laid out a straight line. Using two iron bars that I drove into the ground at each end of the proposed bed, I ran a rope line and used it to keep my edging straight. Now, if it were my father-in-law doing this project, the edging would have been measured up and down and sideways. For purposes of my boundary, I did not feel the need to do that. I simply used the line to keep the steel strips "mostly straight" over the eight-foot run. The final result is that the bed looks fine, because no one can see the small deviations that exist. The only hard part of this whole project was turning the corners. The steel is bendable, but it's hard to do. I could have enlisted help and used a vice to make exactly straight square corners, but my bed is not that formal and I preferred a softer, rounder corner; so I simply measured where to bend it and then stood on the strip and pulled it up until it was bent about 90 degrees. I have previously used this type of educing and found that if I hammered directly on the edge, some of the epoxy coating chipped off, so this time I placed a board over the edge and hammered on the board. For the corners, I put the board diagonally across the corner so that I could sink the two sides at the same time, and more evenly. I started on the "back" side of the bed - the side that abutts the neighboring property. I wanted this side to be the most straight and look the best - just as one puts the "pretty" side of the fence facing the neighbors.

There was one final problem, of course. I was about 18 inches short on material. It comes in a number of short pieces, as well as the 8-foot lengths, but nothing that really fit well with what I was doing, so I did not close the rectangle on the final side. Instead I used a couple of the old plastic pieces from the former edging. The result is fine and no one will really notice - if I don't point it out to them.

This new bed is slightly wider than the old bed and because it's straight, it now includes some areas that were previously planted in grass, so the next-to-final step was to stray the grass and weeds that are now inside the bed. As soon as they die, I will do one final weeding and put in some mulch for the winter. So now it's Mother Nature's turn. I have straightened out the bed and will have a good mulch done next weekend, so now I need the shrubs to grow.

[A couple of notes:

First, the gorgeous flowers at the top of the post are Camellia sassanqua. Altho I am not sure of the variety, I think it's 'Merry Christmas'. This is a member of the camellia family that blooms a bit earlier in the year than the "regular" camillias. My sister-in-law gave me two last year for Christmas, so this is their first time to bloom in the ground. They are covered with buds and if we don't have a long and really cold spell of weather, they will bloom thru Christmas and maybe into January. My "regular"camillia doesn't normally bloom until the week before Christmas and by then if it often frost damaged. These blooms are particularly pretty with the bright yellow stamins. I was thrilled when it popped into bloom the middle of November.

I am planning a series of posts during the dead of winter on various how-to gardening topics. How to choose the right edging for your location will be one of them. ]

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