Tuesday, October 12, 2004


OCTOBER 12, 2004

We got a lot of gardening done this weekend. I wanted to get this finished before it starts to rain...and rain...and rain. Our first job was to find something to replace whatever those ugly plants are in the planters along the front of the house. Although I hate the plants that are in there now, at least they stay green all year round, so I'd like to replace them with something else that will be evergreen.

The Farnesi's had expressed their dislike of these plants when they were here in August, and told me that whatever I choose was fine with them. Three of the planters are in front of our section of the house, and two are in front of theirs.

On Friday, we drove to the garden center in San Martino in Campo, armed with pictures of the ugly plants and the planters they were in. Antoinella, the girl who had designed our garden was busy, but the young guy who had helped us before was there. He speaks a little English, although I try to speak only Italian. Sometimes he will confirm what I have said in Italian back to me in English, which is good practice for both of us.

After we looked at several different plants, we finally decided on a small bush that stays green all year round, has small flowers in the spring, and requires no maintenance. We bought ten plants, two for each planter. Although the two planters closest to our door are a little longer, I can fill them in with some annuals for color.

We also bought some potting soil, anticipating that the dirt in these planters would be next to useless. We also bought some dirt to add to the soil in Adamo's garden. We'll need about ten bags in all, and I plan to add water holding crystals to the soil in the spring.

Once we were back home, I started to pull the plants out of the planters. The first planter was deceptively easy, but the other four required a hoe and a lot of hacking! Once we had all the plants removed, we found that the first two planters had fairly decent soil, so we took the really bad stuff out of the other three and put in down in Adamo's garden, distributed the good soil from the two planters, then added new soil as needed to each planter.

Once all five planters were complete, we walked down to our local flower shop and bought some pansies to add to the two larger ones. I plan to email the Farnesi's a picture of the new plants, and hope they're happy with my selection!

On Saturday we headed for Adamo's, armed with hoes and a garden rake borrowed from Armando. Art and I took turns hacking at the ground, trying to loosen it enough to be turned. This was NOT an easy job! We removed the stepping stones that cut through the middle of the yard, and plan to use the entire back section of the yard, as well as one small side section.

I'll replace the large stepping stones with smaller ones in order to maximize our planting space. Not that we'll have that much space, but I think we'll be able to have a couple of tomato plants of two different varieties, enough basil for pesto, and maybe a couple of pepper plants and zucchini plants. I have enough herbs in our back yard, so I don't see any reason to take up valuable space with them.

After a very long day, we had successfully amended the soil and had our area prepared for the spring! Our backs were sore, but a hot soak and a few Tylenol helped us a lot. We were glad to have this project behind us...Especially when it rained all day on Sunday and most of Monday night.

The amazing thing about this soil is that even though we had a good bit of rain, the soil is still bone dry just a few inches below the surface. Even more reason to add the water holding crystals. I found these at Lowe's a few years ago, and think they're wonderful, especially for the type of soil we have now. Unfortunately I don't have any more, but will bring more back either in December or in May. I guess I'd better bring them back in December so that we can get them worked in to the soil and have some stuff planted before we go back to the states in the spring.

Today, Tuesday, I finished up my gardening for the season. I planted a honeysuckle vine along the back fence, anticipating the need for some privacy should the park ever get cleaned up and open to the public. I also planted some creeping thyme, since I'm not at all pleased with the way the ajuga has performed. We'll see which one wins out next summer. I also moved two of the small bushes that I had planted back in the spring. As expected, when I dug the holes for the honeysuckle and the new shrub locations, the ground was bone dry a few inches down. I moved the bushes a little further back in the yard, anticipating the need for more space when I plant my McCartney rose next spring.

Antoinella told me that the roses should be in sometime in November, and suggested that I plant it in a pot for now, since I told her that I wanted to add the crystals to the soil first. I also promised to bring her some crystals so that she can see what I'm talking about. They have some sort of a water holding gel to use for potted plants, but it's not the same.


At 10/13/2004 04:34:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barb, Judith here.
The reason I do not use those crystals in open ground is that when the water content of the ground becomes higher than that in the crystals, the crystals will start sucking up ground water. In pots you can get someone to water for you, but in open ground, it could represent more water than is available round about August, even when there is no restriction in place.
Humous and vegetative matter is actually better. It enriches the soil's ability to hold water, so the deeper the better. If it were me, I'd get newspapers from everyone in town and spread them over the soil, 3 sheets thick, water them, then pile manure about 4-6" deep over the whole thing. Water well, then let winter keep it watered. In spring the soil will be soft and workable all the way down at least shovel deep, and you can work it deeper. If you don't find worms in it, then you need to find some and add them. Worms keep your soil worked, enriched and soft.
Your soil sounds like starved soil that is not supporting active bacterial and animal life. Crystals won't help that and could actually make it worse.

At 10/13/2004 02:12:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you took out is bergenia. It is a shade and damp loving plant that should be under things, not in a pot. Transplant them where they'll get that and they can be quite spectacular in the long run.

At 10/17/2004 06:53:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

Thanks for the name of the plant. As for their growing conditions, I have to tell you that these things absolutely THRIVED in these concrete containers! Additionally, they received several hours of the HOT afternoon sun, and STILL managed to grow...and I can guarantee you that I never watered them. (I kept hoping they'd die, but they just refused to!) Maybe they're like some hosta varieties that can take the sun.


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