An interesting e-mail came across my screen not too long ago, and it made me realize how daunting the process of landscaping can be for many people. Often, the yard is the last place to get any attention. Whether it’s a home that you’ve lived in for years or a place you’ve just moved into, it’s easy to let the landscaping slide as other projects use up your time, energy and — oh, yes — money!
Here’s what Chris Schlarb wrote:
“My wife, Melanie, and I have purchased a home. The yard has been an unfortunate casualty of neglect and apathy. While I enjoy landscaping on a small scale, this endeavor is beyond my skill set and time allowance. I would like to get three or four landscape architects to plan and complete the project. Do you have any recommendations and names of persons so inclined for this work?”
This was the beginning of the Schlarb’s landscaping adventure. Over the course of the winter, spring and summer, I am going to follow the Schlarbs as they choose a landscape planner, then choose a plan, then implement that plan, then ... well, you get the idea.
The next e-mail from Chris showed progress. “Thanks for the information concerning the landscape endeavor. I will contact each of the listed individuals and start the ball rolling for a springtime, or earlier if possible, project.” Still upbeat! Must be early in the process.
We’ll start with the “before” photos, showing the yard as it is now. After interviewing the candidates, the Schlarbs selected Tim Forren of Forren Soil. (Great choice!) The next correspondence:
“Tim seemed to be in tune with my need for some structure and symmetry that is currently lacking so I chose him. He is in the process of ‘mapping out’ the yard and structure. The plan is to meet with him after the initial blueprint and define what needs to be done from there.”
So, we’ll check in with the Schlarbs as soon as Tim has come up with a plan. (No pressure, Tim.) Thanks to Chris and Melanie for allowing us to peek into the process.
Ashes to ashes
If your house is like ours, the fireplace is in full blaze now. And even though our Buck Stove doesn’t produce too many ashes, there are still those that must be cleaned out. What to do with all of these ashes? From “1001 Hints and Tips for Your Garden” by the Reader’s Digest Association:
“Ward off slugs and snails by encircling you plants with a ring of ashes about 6 inches out from the stem. The soft-bodied creatures will turn the other way.
Your fireplace is a built-in source of garden fertilizer. Use the potash-rich ashes for vegetables and flowers — except for acid lovers like azaleas and heathers.
Keep them dry. Store wood ashes in plastic garbage cans or heavy trash bags. Many of their nutrients — including potassium, phosphorus and calcium — degrade rapidly when the ashes are moist.
Make soil less acid by simply digging in the wood ashes, which are strongly alkaline.
Fertilize with ashes a week or so before you plant. Spread 5 to 10 pounds of ash per 100 square feet over freshly cultivated soil or in furrows. Hoe in lightly. Don’t mix ashes with manure or other nitrogenous material, except for those already in the soil.
Heap a mound of wood ashes around the stumps of fragile plants like rhubarb, hardy fuchsias and ferns to protect them in the winter. Rain effectively leaches nutrients from ash and supplies it to the root system of the plants.
Don’t add briquette ashes to compost! Chemicals make ashes from your barbecue off-limits, but wood ashes are fine.
An economical warmer: Shovel still-warm ashes into a covered metal container and place in the center of a cold frame. The ashes will radiate heat for about 24 hours.
Spread ashes on icy walkways to provide traction; both wood ashes and coal ashes will work. But avoid salt — it can be harmful to the roots of nearby plants.
Sara Busse is a Charleston resident and master gardener. She may be contacted at sjbu...@gmail.com.