In the Ground Just in Time

On any given day on the farm I am usually working on 3-4 ongoing projects. Unless I’ve hired heavy equipment, I rarely can focus for more than an hour or two on a single goal. For one thing, these days my bad knee and elbow can’t stand up to long stints of repetitive motion. Instead I peck away at different tasks until, with luck, they are all slowly accomplished.

This past summer I was suddenly informed that the driveway to our school apartment was due to be widened and the gravel trucks would arrive in two days. This work would obliterate my pretty border of bearded iris and another of ostrich ferns. At the time I was exhausted by events on the farm and in our family, but between everything else I managed to dig up all of the irises and some of the ferns.

Unfortunately I had no place to re-plant them. I simply off-loaded the sagging laundry baskets of plants in a shady spot at the farm. I’ll deal with them later, I thought. They sat for months, reproaching me.

Our first snowfall reminded me that if, by chance, any of the plants were still alive, my time was running out. I also realized I had a pile of topsoil that had to be moved before freeze-up.

I decided I would make a temporary iris bed between the boulders swelling out of the ground near the house.

I’ve always thought this un-mowable spot would make a nice garden — adding a splash of color while eliminating a weedy eyesore that requires constant weedwhacking.

A giant bed of nothing but bearded irises, or even irises sprinkled with ostrich ferns, might be a little strange — all blooming and then wilting at once — but I told myself it could be a temporary nursery for plants to move elsewhere later. The main thing was to get the plants in the ground so at least some of them might survive.

First I painted my curved borders on the ground. Next I cut the edges carefully with a spade. Then I began to pick-axe out the sod and lever out the rocks. This was heavy work so I did a little every day for a week.

My digging turned up more artifacts from the 1920s and ’30s. I think my predecessors on this land must have found this bouldery spot a convenient dumping ground. Though I hauled away all the surface hardware years ago, I still spade up rusted bits of cultivators, wagon fittings, and endless draft horse shoes.

After I had all the sod and rocks out, I began moving in topsoil. I estimate I added thirty wheelbarrows’ full.

Eventually I will build a rock retaining wall around the edges, but that can wait for next summer. No time now.

Yesterday afternoon I raked the topsoil before planting about fifty irises and a half dozen ostrich ferns.

I started to mulch the bed with wood chips but had to knock off to cook dinner, leaving the job only 1/3 done. We shall see if I can finish it before the temperature drops to 17° tonight.

Already this morning we have snow.

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2 Responses to In the Ground Just in Time

  1. Kirby says:

    I can already picture in my mind what it will look like in the spring in all it’s colorful beauty. I am happy you are slowly healing but hope you don’t over-do. Great Job!

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Thank you for your sweet message, Kirby. I’m hoping at least some of the irises survive until spring! Yesterday it was 9° F so we shall see.

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