Let’s begin at the beginning.

Hi.  My name is Megan and I know arse-all about gardening.

My mother was a gardener.  When she died, I inherited her house.  In the 2.5 years since then, I haven’t really been keeping up with things.  Check it:

Backyard mayhem April 18

Backyard mayhem April 18. Click on it for details

As far as I’m concerned, all that is missing is the Trans-Am up on cinder blocks. I have a lot of work to do.  (Click through to see the problem areas.)

Here are the challenges (at least the main ones):

1. My neighbour has a black walnut tree (unseen, on the left) that has made the soil deeply unfriendly to most things and creates a lot of shade in the back.  As a result, very little will grow, including grass.  Instead of lawn (which, IMHO, is a big waste of time anyway), we get millions of violets, a veritable field of lemon balm, and all that periwinkle in the back.

2. The pests.  Squirrels in this neighbourhood are actually the spawn of Satan himself.  Check out the falling pieces from the garage roof.  They also dug up and ruined my first attempts at planting (crocus, daffodils (which they aren’t even supposed to like!), and tulips bulbs put into barrels last fall), they knock clay pots off the porch, and nip the heads off of about-to-bloom flowers in the front yard.  We also get bunnies, crows, and raccoons.  They like seeds and plants.  I want to grow vegetables.  Am I crazy?

3. Random detritus.  You can see that wee gap between the neighbours GIANT garden shed and the garage?  Drunk teenagers occasional toss their bottles, friends, and other crap through there.  Also?  The trees really make it hard to keep the yard clean.  Leaves, yes, but this is also a problem:

In lieu of grass, weve got this?

In lieu of grass, we've got this?

That’s a lot of bloody maple keys, eh?  Big trees are a lovely thing about living in an older neighbourhood (the 1940s is practically ancient history in Ottawa terms), but man, it is pesky and time consuming to clean up after them.

Confession time: the above photo is a bit of a cheat.  It’s from the front yard.  You can tell because there is grass peeking through.  The backyard was just as bad, though, until I cleaned it up (starting last fall and continuing through today).  It ain’t looking so hot either, though.

Theyre everywhere!

They're everywhere!

Confession time 2: This bit was cleared out last fall of a lot of violets.  This was my first step in tackling the trashy yard (check out that broken solar light!).  I also planted random crocuses and daffodils in the back, most of which were dug up by the BASTARD SQUIRRELS.

The green shoots here?  Mostly tiny maple trees, just sprouting, with a few (I think) violets mixed in.  Feh.  This soil is not good, though, so maybe I am being overly ambitious anyway.  I’m not sure what I *can* do with this space because this is the bit that is overrun with black walnut roots not far below the surface.

I just knew, from my mother, that the neighbour’s tree was ‘poisonous’.  Wikipedia, that treasure house of entirely true information, says this: ‘The roots, nut husks, and leaves secrete a substance into the soil called juglone that is a respiratory inhibitor to some plants, such as this tomato that was grown too close to a black walnut tree. A number of other plants (most notably white birch) are also poisoned by juglone, and should not be planted in close proximity to a black walnut.’

Not just tomatoes.  Most plants seem to fail in our yard.  Except maples and violets.  Oh, and dandelions, which should be showing up any time now.

So, what’s the plan?

Well, I want a yard I don’t need to be embarrassed by.  I have seedlings on the go to plant flowers and vegetables.

My aunt tells me that a lot of pesty creatures hate these, therefore I love them.

Nasturtia and marigolds. My aunt tells me that a lot of pesty creatures hate these, therefore I love them.

Among the seedlings I have going are tons of marigolds, nasturtia, Morning Glories, poppies, leeks, tomatoes.  I also have seeds for lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, and carrots as well as bulbs for dahlias and gladiolas.  I will be doing a windowbox of herbs.

Do I know what I’m doing?  Not really.

I listen to Ed Lawrence on Ontario Today sometimes and should maybe buy his book.  I love watching gardening features on VideoJug.  I come from a long line of gardeners.  But other than that?  I’m kind of learning as I go.  ‘Kind of’, in that I’ve already killed some lettuce seedlings through neglect.  Ooops.

You may wonder why I am growing all these seedlings for a poisonous garden.

Old and broken, but not useless!

Well, I am going to build raised beds to avoid the Evil Poisonous soil.  I am going to do window boxes.  And I have these barrels, which are now bulb-free thanks to the bastard squirrels. I just scattered some wildflower seeds in the big barrel today (mixed with red pepper flake, which I heard somewhere might help keep the squirrels out), which I am already regretting.  I could have used it for tomatoes or lettuce or something, right?  Damn my lack of patience for proper spring.  (We had snow until a week ago, so it is still very early to be planting anything.)

Also, I have the front yard which is only kind of trashy.

See, this is one of the maples responsible!  But I love it anyway.

See, this is one of the maples responsible! But I love it anyway.

See?  Squirrels didnt dig up all the bulbs hastily planted last fall.  Woo!

See? Squirrels didn't dig up all the bulbs hastily planted last fall. Woo!

Okay, so the leaf bag and rake arent classy.  Its still better, right?  Check out that monster hemlock!  I could kill so many philosophers.

Okay, so the leaf bag and rake aren't classy. It's still better, right? Check out that monster hemlock! I could kill so many philosophers.

Okay, so the close-up isnt so good.  Check out that discard chip bag in the back!  Probably blew in from someone elses trash.  The tree there is a Japanese red maple.  I think.

Okay, so the close-up isn't so good. Check out that discarded chip bag in the back! Probably blew in from someone else's trash. The tree there is a Japanese red maple. I think. And look! A tulip! I don't think it's one that I planted, though.

So, yeah, I am going to have a busy summer making my outdoor spaces less hideous and embarrassing.  I’m keeping track of things online to get advice (unsolicited is A-OK), to have a place to vent, and to (hopefully) entertain and give hope to other people who have thumbs of deepest black. I am going to try to post at least weekly (with pictures) of my various gardening projects to show off my successes and failures (I’m buying lumber tomorrow, so y’all might get to hear/read tails of thumb loss or nails in the face in the quest for the perfect raised bed).

Fingers crossed, there will be more successes than failures, though.  I mean, look at this hopeful photo: I successfully grew some snacks for my cat, Hamish.

A mix of oat and wheat grasses for The Escape Fartist, Hamish. Grown from seed. My most successful growing project yet, sadly.

A mix of oat and wheat grasses for The Escape Fartist, Hamish. Grown from seed. My most successful growing project yet, sadly.

Wish me luck!  I am already exhausted just thinking about the work that needs to be done.

And no, very few future posts will ever be this long.