Tag Archives: oak

Mid July in the Backyard


Rose of Sharon, shot the morning of July 13, 2016. First flower of the season on this tall bush near the deck.

As I write this, another thunderstorm is rumbling through, bringing us more rain.

Like politics, gardening is local. South of here, they’re a bit parched. Here, the world is humid, warm, lush and green—it has not been a dry summer despite a few minor dry stretches. On the contrary, into mid July, rain has been pretty plentiful.

The dry “high summer” that sometimes arrives by RAGBRAI is not yet in sight. But some signs that summer is reaching is peak are around.

The Rose of Sharon is in bloom, a flower that I associated with late summer.

Anyway, when the sun was setting yesterday, and again this morning when it was shining before the rain clouds moved in, I shot some backyard pictures, sort of in praise of a green mid July in Iowa. I hope you like them.

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Sometimes Gardening Drives Me To Drinking

Which, of course, is one huge advantage of gardening. I spent much of today doing relatively hard labor in the back. Among other things, I:

  • Cut down the top of a dead tree in the woods. A tree that has mostly died was overhanging our backyard fence in what I considered a menacing manner, considering the number of grandchildren we have who often play back there. My wife suggested that I cut it down. Lacking a chain saw, I thought that this would be a big job. I was right, but between a limb saw, crosscut saw and hatchet, I was able to perch on a ladder and hack the top half of the tree away—enough so the remainder poses no imminent threat to backyard munchkins. How much do I love my grandchildren? If you know me, you know it’s a lot. I don’t do well on ladders. Standing atop a ladder and cutting away a portion of a dead tree had me daydreaming about why they often call such trees “widow makers.” And yet, I did it, and no widows were made, I’m happy to report.
  • Cut out various other dead portions of trees and bushes. The top half of the new cherry tree? Dead and gone. Most of one hibiscus bush? In the yardy cart. I left the one dead garden crab apple tree, just because I’m giving it all opportunity to come on back (I do like that tree and am sad at its passing). Still, the back gardens are cleaner and clearer now.
  • Sprayed for moles. Mole spray is a deterrent, caster oil doesn’t hurt moles, they just don’t like it. Anyway, I’m not one to try to kill all grubs in order to get rid of moles, for several reasons. I don’t like spreading a bunch of poison on a children’s play area for one. And the fact the moles eat mostly worms and not grubs anyway, for the other. In my experience, harmless mole repellent spray works fairly well anyway. That part of the job, by the way, was much harder than it sounds because it involved untangling my garden hose, a tricky, difficult job.
  • Mowed the lawn. Since the back has been very sparse in grass, I’ve only mowed twice there this year so far. Today, I mowed both front and back, and back is getting into the condition where I’ll mow more often for a while. The new grass is actually looking pretty good.
  • Rescued a bunch of trees. Oak, mulberry and walnut trees were dug from my planters and gardens and planted in the woods. The ash back there will die, so I’m busily and pointlessly attempting to reforest. Busily because I can and I like those trees and am trying to give them a chance. Pointlessly because almost every plant I put in the ground in the woods is doomed. That’s because the woods are a deer salad bar, and I’m merely providing deer snacks. I also moved some catalpa tree volunteers and some trumpet vine. We’ll see if any survive. Some will succumb to transplant shock, and those that do come back will, sadly, look mighty tasty to Bambi.

The day was perfect—a bit cloudy, but that’s OK for working outdoors, warm and pleasant but not hot, so I could wear blue jeans comfortably. Given the nature of what I was doing, I would have worn jeans even if it was hot—some jobs are just not meant for shorts—but luckily today was a day when jeans were quite comfortable.

I didn’t get it all done. I still need to mulch my trees and gardens, and do more weeding. Sadly, by the way, the new cobra lily appears to have been murdered by the tromping of a passing animal (and the only animals that are big enough to do that and have access to the garden are all human). Oh well. Maybe next year I’ll get some native American jack in the pulpit and try again.

Despite the tragedy of the walked upon flower, and the ongoing saga of what bushes and trees are still struggling to recover from the winter of 2014, I think it’s looking pretty darn nice back there. I’ll have to go to the new CR library as soon as I get my regular bike (the one with a basket) back from the shop, because I’ve got a nice spot for summer reading.

Tonight, however, I celebrated the end of the gardening day in a more immediate style.

Miller time? I don't think so.

Miller time? I don’t think so.


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Feeling Rakish This Saturday

Pear tree

Pear tree leaves in my backyard today.

Yesterday, Ben and I completed a chore that had been done several times, but never completely.

Raking leaves.

I’ve cleared off the front several times, but had never finished the back yard. Which is OK, because there is a giant maple back there that holds, by itself, about as many leaves as the over 25 trees—including 4 mature oaks and 2 mature ashes—hold all together. So doing a full rake until that tree was done dumping didn’t rank high on my to-do gardening list.

Faded petunia

Faded petunia in deck planter.

But, we’ve had our first snow, which quickly melted, and our first night where the temperature dipped below 20 degrees. Our long, slow, pleasant fall is inevitably reaching the bare stage where the earth and trees are one in brown, and you can look into normally dense woods and see the shapes of the hills.

It was a big job, but we bought a second big rake and made short work of it.

Bird tea

Fallen leaves make tea out of birdbath.

A few more leaves are yet to fall, as you can see from these photos of the pears, young oak and dogwood that still cling to this year’s foliage. Fundamentally, though, the trees are barren.

Last green.

Dogwood leaves still have a little green.

Gardening is pretty much over for the year. Fall bulbs are planted, a few key plants covered in mulch and the yard as raked as its going to be until spring.

I was holding a grandson today who likes walks outside, so we went to the back yard to inspect the late fall scenery. Here are a few images from today that show that even in this bare time of year, there is a quiet kind of beauty to see in the gardens. Still, I’ll look forward to seeing how many of the multitude of bulbs planted this fall turn into spring flowers.

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