Friday, January 14, 2011


2010 October - Sugar's Compost & Horseherb Garden Day

Sugar is one of the founding members of the Divas of the Dirt but she had dropped out for a few years and we hadn't worked in her yard for a long time. She warned us that it needed help:

We won't be doing much other than pulling weeds*, weeds, & more weeds, then adding compost... I am planning on building a new garage... etc... can't plant anything until all of this is done. I know it won't be very exciting, but maybe next yr we can do some of the pretty stuff!!!!

*One of the weeds in Sugar's yard is seen below- Calyptocarpus vialis AKA Straggler daisy AKA the hated Horseherb. The native, tough and extremely aggressive Horseherb can work as a groundcover when it's in the right place, but the very prominent central area between decorative front driveway strips was not the right place!DivasoftheDirt horseherb
Glinda replied to Sugar's note:... we've had such a long stretch of bizarre weather that even people who weeded, watered and fertilized the whole time have crummy looking gardens! All the garden bloggers are whining.

Sugar had another request: ... would you mind bringing your tall handle branch trimmer... ?

Sophia was optimistic: ... Maybe a cool front will sneak in! Keep your fingers crossed!

Glinda: God willin' and the crick* don't rise higher than it did last time, I'll be there with the pole pruner, Sugar. Just make sure there are lots of yard bags ready & I'll try to fill them!

Diva-Annie was realistic: Yeah, I've seen Sugar's yard and it's going to take a lot of bags!!!

A 10-cubic yard pile of Revitalizer Compost from the Natural Gardener awaited us in front of the house... while a table set for six rather than seven (Mindy had a schedule conflict and couldn't be with us at Sugar's house) awaited us inside. Divasofthedirt pretty tableBaked French Toast, bacon and beautiful fruit for breakfast - yum, let's eat!

DivasoftheDirt bacon and fruit

The food was delicious - we shared recent news with each other and discussed Sugar's latest plans and projects as we started the day. We weren't too sure how this project would go... our team lacked one member and the air in Austin was hot and loaded with mold & pollen. The counts were so high that most of us were already sniffling, coughing, and not feeling too peppy.

divasofthedirt french toast
We walked around the yard and saw a lot to do. A long hedge of overgrown photinia hung over the chain link fence from the next yard, its heavy branches weighing down the top rail Some of the large dead photinia trunks were deforming the fence and no sun could reach the ground through the mess. Since this area also got runoff from the neighbors' pool it was muddy work to saw & prune the neglected shrubs.

divasofthedirt muddy shoes
While the dead wood was being removed and the shrub prunings were slowly being reduced for recycling by a couple of Divas of the Dirt in the back yard, up in front the other Divas of the Dirt worked with spades, forks, and hand tools. The front beds were weeded, crowded plants like liriope were divided then replanted and/or transplanted and composted. The recently rebuilt, attractively-patterned driveway strips gradually emerged from the crabgrass and horseherb.

divasofthedirt weeds
In newer parts of Austin you usually find solid wide driveways of asphalt and concrete (I'm pretty sure they are mandated by some home owner associations) but Sugar's cottage is on a larger lot in an older neighborhood. Here, parking strips with a center space of mowed lawn can add vintage charm, allowing water to sink in rather than run off. Unfortunately, there was no longer any mowable lawn in between the strips - just lumpy ground choked with weeds.
Hours of grubbing at ground level does get you close to nature! Take a look at the beautiful big green caterpillar we found...

divasofthedirt green caterpillar
At some point we started filling and hauling garden carts of compost to the back yard, sprinkling, spreading and raking the wonderful stuff over the surface of the large lawn section-by-section with other Divas watering the completed areas. divasofthedirt revitalizer compost
Eventually we broke for lunch - stopping to admire a speckled yellow canna, backlit in the autumn sun divasofthedirt backlit yellow canna

Sugar is a wonderful cook! She presented a chicken casserole with silken, home made Bechamel sauce, divasofthedirt chicken casserole

a crunchy salad full of good things divasofthedirt big saladand a home made cake to cheer us updivasofthedirt cake Sugar's two small dogs put on a comedy show that sent us into gales of laughter.

We went back out and worked on that pile of compost until late afternoon, but knew we'd never get it done. We're pretty strong as a team but but we'd already spent hours doing the pruning, weeding, digging, transplanting and rubble-reducing so were running of time. We also did not have the right equipment for a job like this... we needed real wheelbarrows and wide mulch shovels, not plastic garden carts & narrow garden spades. divasofthedirt compost in drive
We'd done our best for Sugar, but we told her that the next time she called for a compost delivery, she should also call for a couple of young guys with contractor wheelbarrows!


  1. I'm a huge fan of the Revitalizer and wish I could get a big pile. I'm happy enough with bagging a few bags myself at The Natural Gardener, did so last weekend in fact. I'm planted peas and spinach and hope the Revitalizer will tickle their roots. Nice blog, first time dropping by. See ya again!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Roberta - I've been to the poet in you, too, but as Annie in Austin instead of Glinda.
    DH & I do the bag-it-yourself thing at Natural Gardener, too. In fact, I was using some of it today ;-]


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