4.30.2008

A cheap waterwise garden

After two years of cursing at a roughly 15 x 15 foot scorched earth ugly zone that is right out my home office window, I decided to take action. Growing grass was futile with natural precipitation, the nearest spigot is far far away, and the effort I'd have to expend to maintain a lawn in that spot would be tremendous in the desert microclimate. Solution? I planted the beginnings of a waterwise garden. In other words, I freaked out one gorgeous fall day and dug up the surviving nasty patchy grasses, threw in some compost, and started planting very hardy, low-water, mostly native, perennials.

That's my office window at left. Because we usually have a wet spring followed by a blazing hot summer, I started by thinking about early springtime. I stuck in a bunch of tulips and scillas that I know will come up before the spring rains end. These I bought from Costco for a steal - they go on sale once the big fall planting crunch is over. You might not get the exact colors you wanted, but who cares? You'll love them anyway when they are the first bright happy flowers of spring.

Here's what the scillas and lupines looked like on April 20. Two inches of fresh snow!

Then I went to a locally-owned garden center that carries a lot of native plants and scoured their 99 cent table - it was October, and they were days away from closing for the season. I bought dozens of cute perennials for super cheap (these kinds of plants are typically about $6 each in the spring!) and planted them all with the knowledge that some wouldn't make it through the winter. Then I waited. That summer the new waterwise garden looked pretty nice, although sort of immature and patchy.

This year the scillas are already in bloom despite the fact that is has snowed nearly every day this week (late April! Geez!) and the tulips are nicely budding. My 99-cent sagebrushes, coreopsis, lupines, lavenders and penstemons are starting to leaf out, and their friends the yarrow and blanketflowers that I transplanted from other parts of my yard are looking fantastic. Because my husband has a soft spot for Lamb's ear mullein, a nonnative plant that has awesome architectural appeal, I whacked some seedheads against the ground two years ago in the hopes that they would sprout haphazardly and add some height to the garden. This spring they are finally coming up (maybe they are biennials? Not sure.) and I'm thrilled.

Check out the chunky hail on my lupines and scillas on April 25.

Last but not least, every year I use that crazy $20 gift certificate that Gurney's catalog sends me. I know they think I'll become a lifelong customer of theirs by bribing me with the coupon, but in reality I just carefully buy about $16-17 of plants and use the rest for shipping. This year, it's free yucca and redhot pokers! We'll see how they do.

One thing I failed to do last year, however, is mulch. That was dumb. ALWAYS mulch. This year we are going to put down weed barrier and mulch the heck out of it. Mulch keeps the soil moister in the heat of summer and prevents the obnoxious ultra hot loving weeds like knapweed and roman chamomile from taking over. And it looks tidy, which I appreciate. It is tough to focus on my "real" job when I look out the window onto the garden and think, "Ooooh, I could just yank a couple weeds..."

1 comments:

Wellspring said...

Did you run any irrigation? If so, what did you use? I have trouble with my hardware store driplines readjusting themselves, or just popping/breaking off. Very frustrating to try to save water and then use more due to drip malfunction!