Friday, February 21, 2014


This post, "2013-June SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY" was written by Annie in Austin/Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.
We in Austin do like the idea of local food, by supporting Farmers Markets for example. Some of us also try to grow some of it ourselves. But in heavily wooded neighborhoods like the one where Sophia, Karla and I live, planting vegetables is often a statement of support for the home garden rather than an action resulting in food for humans.

Sophia & Roger had given growing vegetables a good try after we installed square raised vegetable herb beds for her Divas of the Dirt project a few years ago. They produced the odd pepper or cucumber and some herbs, but not enough to equal the water they used and it was impossible to keep weeds and tree seedlings from growing in the beds and the entire area around them.

Sophia reluctantly decided the square beds would have to go. She wanted to reuse the square stepping stones already set in that area and she hoped we'd have some ideas on how to make that side of the drive better. If possible, Sophia also hoped we'd help her with the usual weeding, grooming, mulching and adding color to existing beds in front.

On a hot June day we gathered for her project. Mindy and Sugar weren't able to come at all, and Buffy told us she'd arrive late and then would pop in-and-out for the rest of the day.

When we arrived we could see that Sophia had taken advantage of some deep markdowns on plants - some plants were practical, some just for fun. She'd found a 'Bubba' Desert Willow on sale - quite a good find!

There were a couple of nice abelias and some native plants. She also found some inexpensive baskets of annuals that could be taken apart and used to add color to existing beds. We looked the plants over and plotted how they might be used... but some were very exotic - none of us had ever tried growing a Dragon Fruit!

Because Sophia's work schedule had been very heavy she was glad that Roger has major cooking skills! Sophia planned a Pancake Party for breakfast with the dining room looking a little bit country.

We were offered eggs and sausages and a big fruit salad along with three... count 'em... three kinds of pancakes- these are Jalapeno & Corn.

Also on the menu, Lemon Pancakes with Lemon Zest and Oatmeal pancakes. It's impossible to choose so we had to taste each one - served with raspberry sauce.

After breakfast we went out and surveyed the front garden. The vegetable frames did look sad!

But the Golden Leadball tree Leucaena retusa had delighted Sophia by becoming more established. The Artemesia in front of the Leadball however, was a little TOO happy... pruners, anyone?

The project started out rather smoothly with ground-workers tackling existing beds and tiller-wranglers pulling up the wooden frames for reuse by another garden friend of Sophia.

The tiller has been a great tool for getting an area dug over but not this time - oh, no! Some kind of metal post was poking up from the ground, smack in the middle of the area where it needs to be smooth and level for the stepping stones.

After digging around the pole, what looks like concrete is exposed. The best guess was this was once the pole for a basketball hoop, installed by some former owner.

Mattie and Karla worked on the whole bed, but that post annoyed them so they kept going back to attack it. 

The sledgehammer didn't budge it.

Finally Mattie and Karla were able to crack the concrete in half, but the darned pole still would not come out.

As the hot day wore on, the neighbor came out to see how we were doing, saying he appreciated Sophia making what would be an improvement in his view, too. A little while later he came back with a Cobra mister - a very nice thing to do!

I went home (just a few blocks away) to get my breaker bar, hoping it could help. The 6-foot metal bar is so heavy and I was so hot and tired that I asked Ozz to put it in the car for me.

Only a few minutes after I returned, Buffy the Queen of the Breaker Bar, arrived. She was fired up from a very successful meeting & raring to go to work!
When Buffy first moved into her house her entire back yard was rock - she spent months prying up and moving boulders to make the raised borders of her garden. Apparently she hasn't lost the knack because with all that preliminary work done, it took just ten minutes after her arrival for success!

With the obstacle removed, the bed redo moved along. It quickly became apparent that more decomposed granite and more of the red blocks were needed so Roger headed off to buy more.

The long front border now had attention from Mattie, Annie and Karla... soon some of Sophia's bargains were planted there.

We were called in to a country-style late lunch/early supper. Inside the air-conditioned house, Chukster was so excited to see us that his photo was a blur. I turned him into a poster. 

Chukster had been low dog until a few weeks before our meeting, when top dog Tedster died. Chukster would be a lonely only for a while, but Roger and Sophia intended to add another rescue dog to the family later in summer.

Roger & Sophia had become intrigued by recipes in an Appalachian-style cookbook they'd bought called Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly by Joan Aller. Using some recipes from the book and some from other sources, they'd put together a down home kind of menu for the afternoon.

Cookbook author Joan Aller said that sitting down to the main dish, Chicken Noodle Casserole, was like going to your mam-maw's (Grandmother's) house in mountain county. The sides were Cider-baked beans and a crunchy green bean salad  with Best in the West Berry Cobbler for dessert. And for parched, hot gardeners, Rosemary-Mint Lemonade was the perfect drink.

We went back out and managed to get almost everything done, using every bit of the additional granite and every square block that Roger brought back.

Buffy is really good at setting stone

By the end of the day the artemesia had been tamed in the corner bed, giving room for Ixora, verbena, petunias & one Dragonfruit plant (the other went into a patio container).

The left front bed soon had a mix of native and adapted plants with one off-the-wall hollyhock in bloom, just for fun.

The right front bed got some plants that are tough and will last, some annuals that will live for the season and some experiments from the bargain table. The weather here in Austin is so variable from year to year that even the most solid native plant is a bit of an experiment, and odd pockets of soil, shade and microclimates can allow a plant to live that by all the rules should fail.

The main project, removing the vegetable beds and replacing them with some hardscape and tough plants, succeeded beyond Sophia's hopes. It was, as usual, more expensive than originally estimated, but it's also much more permanent looking, adding structure to that side of the house. In addition, the plantings help minimize the presence of the oh-so-necessary but oh-so-clunky looking utility boxes.

We headed home for showers and cool drinks, pleased that we'd been able to help Sophia, feeling a little nutty and ready to stretch out and relax after our long Divas of the Dirt garden day.

This post, "2013-June SOPHIA'S GARDEN DAY" was written by Annie in Austin/Glinda for the Divas of the Dirt blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for saying hello!