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A Prairie and Savanna Garden - first post! - "You didn't hear about the polar bear?"
May 14th, 2007
11:23 pm


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A Prairie and Savanna Garden - first post!
I'm very lucky in that the folks who had this house before me did a really nice job of landscaping the front of the house, so other than mulching, putting up a hanging basket, pruning, and mowing the lawn, there's nothing I have to do (or want to do) to change it.

On the other hand, the backyard... has some nice cedars for privacy, a fairly healthy lawn, and a beautiful magnolia tree, but it also has a vegetable garden in one corner that's gone to weeds, and a couple of raised beds on the side that have also gone to weeds.

I can only do so much, so I've decided to leave the old vegetable garden alone for now. Eventually I'd like to turn it into a shady oasis, perhaps in the style of a Japanese garden, but for now I'll just clean it up a bit and let it lie fallow.

The raised gardens, however, I just finished planting!

There are 3 of them, all 7 1/2 feet deep, and in a row, blocked off by wood beams. The one against the backyard gate is only a foot or so wide, the middle one is 11 1/2 feet wide, and the one that bumps up agains the cedars at the side of the yard is maybe 5 feet wide. All of them run on the northern side of the yard and get full sun from the south, as well as from the west, although the first garden gets some shade due to the short wooden fence dividing the front yard from the back.

Saturday I went to the Native Plants sale at Indepedence Grove in Libertyville, and bought about $200 worth of native plants - mostly prairie (full sun), some savanna (mostly sun), and a handful of woodland plants (shade). I'll update this entry with a full list later.

Saturday afternoon I roto-tilled the first and second garden plots. The third one I left un-tilled; I may plant butterfly bushes there later. I left the plants I bought in the shade. It was perfect weather - sunny and in the '60's.

Sunday afternoon I added a large bag of peat moss to the dirt and roto-tilled it in. I then planted the plants (except the woodland ones, which are still sitting in the shade), which was very easy due to the tilled soil. I tried to put the tallest ones in back. I also grouped some, and sprinkled others throughout. They're each about 8 inches apart. I tried to avoid the appearance of rows whenever possible. I took a photo of the prairie plot when it was done, and then watered it. That was Sunday - Mother's Day.

Monday I watered again briefly in the morning, with the hose on the shower setting. Later that evening I bought a bale of stray (waaaaay more than I needed - I only needed about 5-6 flecks) and used it to mulch the seedlings. It was an unusually hot day, with the wind out of the south; an aberration, since it's supposed to cool down again on Tuesday, with rainstorms in the afternoon. Some of the plants had wilted, but most looked okay. None had been nibbled on by rabbits. Before I put down the straw I also sprinkled a little "Shake Away" around the perimeter of each garden. It's basically a medium containing garlic oil that's supposed to keep away rodents. Who knew the same thing that works on vampires would also work on rabbits?! Finally, I watered again, to keep the straw from blowing away in the wind, and give some relief to the plants that did wilt (mostly the bee balm and the sweet black-eyed susans).

I'm not supposed to use water or fertilizer on the garden, since that promotes weeds, but I've also read that I should water the garden for the first 2 weeks; after that the native plants should be established enough that their natural drought-resistance takes over. We'll see!

Thoughts on the back garden:

- How about ostrich fern all the way around? I saw a quick glimpse of a garden like that in a commercial, with something like Virginia bluebells below the ferns, and a family in a swinging chair. Very lush and pretty.
- I'd love to get a Japanese stone lantern. I'd also like to use dark mulch, and have a curved pathway of paving stones leading to the seating area.
- "Mexican Pebbles" (smooth blue stones sold at Pasqueli's) could be used for a "false" waterway, to add interest and texture
- I'd like to have a couple of short trees/bushes - possibly a red Japanese maple, a sassafras, a pine, or a dogwood. The important things will be their shape, texture and color.
- I'll also need some rounded stones - soccer ball size or larger - and some plants that are rounded, like the stones. Also, hostas.

I need... a gardening icon!

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(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2007 08:39 am (UTC)
Yay for gardening posts! I hope it's okay if I add my two cents once in awhile.

There is a restaurant near here that has a little disappearing waterfall, connected to a dry stream bed. Next time I'm over there I'm going to take pictures. Anyway, they have large rocks sort of dotted randomly along the edges of the streambed to make it look like the "shore", and clumps of grasses where it "meanders". It's very clever.

I love japanese maples. Some of the cultivars go back thousands of years!
[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
Wow - this sounds amazing! I hope you will post pictures one of these days. Happy gardening!
[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2007 12:17 pm (UTC)


Sounds exhausting and rewarding and very pwetty
Date:May 15th, 2007 01:07 pm (UTC)
This sounds fantastic and I can't wait to see photos. I going to keep reading these posts to inspire me to get some work done on our new garden when we move in, and also do some rescue here before we go. Digging is no fun in the sunshine, but it's worth it!
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