When we had our pool put in recently the bulldozer shredded a large part of the yard much of it on a hill. I built a flowerbed and was looking for something to be a visual back for the bed.
I wanted a grass that could hold its own and mostly keep weeds out, but I’ve pretty much gone through what’s sold in local nurseries. I’ve had decent success with Big Muhly, but it’s slow growing. I’ve had almost no success with Gulf Muhly despite my absolute love of the plant.
I’ve had some luck with growing Little Bluestem and Switchgrass from Native American Seed, so I decided to give another one of their seeds a try.
Indiangrass is supposed to be one of the main components of a tallgrass prairie. Native to prairie from Canada down through Mexico. It’s between 3-6 feet tall (but more on the 3 feet side). I sowed it on the side of our hill in very disturbed ground last year. The first year was… fine. It was not a particularly interesting pant and I was thinking of other solutions.
This year has been different. It really came into its own as a lovely green grass with a gray tinge to it. And then this week it began blooming. It’s amazing. I’m in love. More of us need to plant this.
I sowed them in November so now is a good time to start planning. In a stand they are dense and struggled with weeds the first year, but now seem to be competing very effectively. You can pickup some for yourself from Native American Seed.
After the hard-freeze and watching “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf” I decided this would be the year I’d try taking everything down to the ground. Normally, I hem and haw, and cut back the bare minimum.
But this year? I used the string trimmer, lawn mower, and hedge trimmer to take most of it to the ground.
We are some of the lucky ones. We had power and water throughout the bitter freeze. But we lost a fair number of plants. I’ve been planting xerically, but not as many local plants as I should. This freeze brought that fact home. I’ve lost several magnificent agaves. Possibly some loquats that came with the house, and a Monterray Oak.
Today I took out one of the Agaves that has been a focal point of our backyard.
Gardening is nothing if not change. Although, now I’m considering renting a dumpster to get rid of all these dead plants. This one agave filled up 7 trash cans.
In xeric gardening the learning process is full of ups and downs. In terms of weed control I’ve:
Covered a huge swatch of my yard in weed control fabric. This created a bunch of super-weeds that were nearly impossible to pull out thanks to that fabric keeping them in place.
Mulching. It’s fine. But the weeds come back, and when you suppress weed germination you also suppress wildflower germination. So your wildflowers tend to stay more singular plants than glorious meadows.
Which brings me to my favorite Texas weed control – Bluebonnets! I don’t know if you can get them at your local nursery. Barton Springs might have them. If not shoot me an email and I can get you a few.
Bluebonnets start growing around Halloween, and create delightful green mats that slow germination of winter weeds. Then they bloom in early Spring. You pull them out once they’ve seeded and your spring wildflowers start popping up.
Even though they still have a bit of work too them, for me it’s totally worth it. What’s your favorite unconventional weed control?
I was weeding on Saturday. It was time to clear out the bluebonnets. While doing so I noticed a barrel cactus I had completely forgotten about. You can (not) see it in the below picture. Which is amazing because it’s pretty dang big.
But first a related tangent. When Etta was a baby we went to a farmer’s market outside of Bastrop. While there I picked up two tree seedlings and planted them. Fast forward 11 years and as part of putting in a pool we had to remove these two trees. So I took pictures with Etta to show how much they had both grown.
Ok, so now we’re done with that nostalgia. Do you see the yucca on the far right? The really lovely one? During the pool construction it got beat up. Repeatedly rammed with a digger. Soil was worked into pretty much every single one of its leaves. It ended up looking like this:
Yesterday I finally took it out. There were thankfully some pups underneath. One was a good candidate for replacing the original. I also added that invisible barrel cactus from the original bed, and ended up with this.
I try not to make extra work in the garden, but sometimes the results are worth it! I’m also adding a bonus shot of the agave pup I got from Pam Penick’s Moby surrounded by moss verbena. I’m excited to watch this bed change over time.
We’ve been having a pool put in our backyard. This is probably one of the biggest things we’ve had done to the yard, but I haven’t been writing about it. The destruction has been a bit much for me. I will probably do a post at the very end when I can talk positively about it again. And the destruction means I’ll be reworking most of the back yard. So in some ways that’s positive.
Anyway. There has been tons of waste generated. Rather than let them haul it off I’ve been collecting it. I may use it for future projects. I have dreams of an outdoor shower.
At the very least I can use it for drainage at the bottom of beds and pots. After picking up leftover pieces of stone:
And they’ve been threatening cleanup this Friday so I’ve been scrambling to pickup all the rocks they’ve exposed in their excavations.
We got our house painted recently. The first night they started painting we got a ferocious storm. Somehow it managed to get the paint to run, but only right next to our front door.
We like our brick color and didn’t want to paint all of it so Julie and I designed and built this mid-century panel to cover it. This project turned out pretty much exactly as planned which was really awesome for something so visible.
So what did we do? It’s a piece of pressure treated plywood on the back. the front is 2×2 pressure treated wood boards with about 1 inch of spacing between them. I determined the algebraic formula for this is:
(x * 2) - (x - 1) = y
x = number of 2 x 2s
y= width of panel
Julie drew it out using graph paper. Our numbes matched. We have different problem solving styles, but we are aware that we’re weird.
First we cut out the hole for the light and then stained all of the wood. After it dried we attached the boards from the back with 1.5″ decking screws. Having built too many sets to count we always pay more for decking screws. $2 is worth an extra hour of pre-drilling and stripped screws. Then I pre-drilled holes into the brick with my hammer drill and attached the board with a ratchet. It was a pretty easy project, and really inspired me to try more of the cool wood projects from the 1960s that it was inspired by. I’m thinking perhaps a slatted bench may be next…
(Julie suggested that I should add some after shots of the painting as well. they repaired our rotting beams in the front as well, which I just love)
During the summer I give supplemental water to my back grass where my kids and dogs play. Mainly because I’ve learned to not do so invites a mud pit in November.
I hand water whatever I’ve planted recently, but everything else is on its own. I feel like this picture is such an illustration of Native vs. Non-Native. Neither the “grass” in front of it nor Lindheimer’s Senna has gotten any extra water, but one is thriving and blooming!
How has it been so long since I did a wide-angle view of the front yard? I cleaned up the front path this morning and decided now was the time. I haven’t done any supplemental watering this year, and things are a little crispy but it’s starting to be an ecosystem all its own.