Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gardening up high in Asheville

I'm back, it has been a long time since my last post. I was in North Carolina for two weeks where we kind of accidnetally now own a house. IT's a long story and I'm not going to go into it! I did get to do a little gardening in North Carolina which was fun. In some ways it is like New Mexico but mostly it is entirely different. The only similarity I found was the solid clay soil that both places have. Asheville has soil you can make bricks out of. Red, with little shiny specks, and you can basically just dig it up and stick it in a mold and fire them to make bricks far as I can tell. In Los Alamos, you can similarly make adobe blocks.

That is about all the similarities though. Asheville's soil is acidic, whereas New Mexico is alkaline. There is no layer of hardpan or tuff 1 foot down, just clay for miles as far as I can tell. Instead of making a shallow depression to catch water, you do the opposite with a mound so that the plants don't drown in the 48 inches of rain Asheville gets every year.

I did some landscaping around the house. We will sell the house in a few years and rent it in the meantime. I wanted to put in some trees and plants so that they are more mature when we sell it which should raise the property value.

I downloaded a PDF about Western North Carolina rain gardens. They have a list of plants that can handle wet conditions, as well as plants that are so tough they can handle wet and dry conditions once they are established. I figure those will be some plants that are easy to keep alive.

I planted a buffer strip along the front of the lawn. I put in perennials like Phlox, the always dependable Nepeta (catmint), Red Hot Poker, Lilyturf, and many more. I tried very hard to use a lot of the same plants to keep the garden from looking haphazard. I also put in a number of butterfly bushes in the front and backyard. I put in a hydrangea at the end of the sidewalk strip as well.

One amazing thing was as soon as I brought a bunch of these plants to the house, they immediately started attracting butterflies and bees. In fact, so many bees that I managed to step on one and get stung while killing the poor little thing. I tried to wear my Chacos more after that.

I also put in plants along the front of the house. Again, perennials like Phlox, Echinacea, Poker, and Monarda (Bee Balm). Many of these plants grow in New Mexico as well. They are all tolerant of wide range of moisture conditions for the most part.

And we bought a crepe myrtle as well, which John remembered his mom had growing at their house in Virginia when we was a kid. They are beautiful shrubs/small trees with gorgeous pink, white, or red flowers in August. I enjoyed getting to plant a number of plants that you just can't grow in New Mexico because they need acidic soil.

In the back yard I put in a River Birch and a few plants around it in a little type of "island." River birch grows fast (1 foot a year), gets up to 60 feet tall (the backyard is huge), and is tolerant of wet and dry conditions. I planted it in the low point of the yard so I figure it gets more water there then most places.

This was a LOT of work. I got kind of sick of gardening, which doesn't usually happen. Part of it probably was the many trips to the nurseries and Lowe's. As well as trying to get rid of the huge pile of compost before it killed all the grass.

Overall the front yard looks great. The only part that is worse than before is where the grass died -- the truck that brought the compost had to drive on the wet lawn, which left track marks, and we had a tree removed that had at one point been cut back to just the trunk about six feet tall so it only had these water shoots coming out and looked like shit. So there is also no grass where the tree was. The grass under the compost is a bit worse for wear but hopefully it will bounce back.

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