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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


A View From The Window

This past weekend was a big one for Mimi and I. We have been planning to landscape one of our few areas we have left to design in our yard. I guess everyone has that one side of the house that just doesn't get much loving. I think for most people this side is where the electric meter and irrigation control box and all that unsightly but necessary stuff is. That is the case at our house.

That side of our house has our outdoor lighting control box, irrigation control box, septic system fuse box, the electric meter fuse box and the box where the meter reader checks our numbers. All of this is necessary but it is not pretty.

This is the side where our property meets our neighbor’s property. In our case we are lucky enough to view a very beautiful property covered in gigantic live oak trees and the biggest pink dogwood trees I've ever seen. We definitely don’t want to hide this view we now have from some of the new windows we added in our bedroom. We love all the light these huge windows allow in, but we thought it would be nice to enclose an area for some privacy and also a special view. We planned for months what would give us all that and decided to use Japanese yews as a solid wall around the perimeter of the area. Japanese yews do very well in Mississippi and they can be pruned into any shape you want.

We are envisioning a 10 foot high wall that will be eight feet wide eventually. To form a screen or wall of plants something needed to be used that could be placed a little closer together than you normally would.... closing the gap quicker. We brought 25 yews home that already six feet tall and spread them three feet apart in our new plan. Inside that solid green wall we are planting 25 tree form limelight hydrangeas. Limelight gets eight to 10 feet tall and eight to 10 feet wide.

To get everything spaced correctly the U-shaped bed is 17 feet wide. We have learned our lesson with planting things too closely together. We are having to thin somethings out from some of our earlier plantings and have noticed when a plant is given enough room to grow fully they're much healthier and much more beautiful. We are learning to think 10 years up the road.

We have Sundays and Mondays to get things done at home so the planning of the stages was fun. We mark the beds and called "Call before you dig” by dialing 811, its easy…" because I knew there were wires underground I didn't want to hit when tilling. They came the day after we called and painted lines where not to till. We call this number quite frequently because of jobs we do in our landscape company.

I recognized the guy who painted the lines and asked him a few questions. He said they are a privately owned business paid by the company who have contracts with them to keep homeowners safe and to keep them from cutting too many lines during home projects. AT&T, Comcast, entergy and all the others are happy to have someone prevent their lines from being cut. These lines are buried very shallow, and people cut them all the time leaving them without cable for a couple of days. I highly recommend you “call before you dig."

On my way home from work I picked up a sod cutter at the rental place. We removed all the sod and planted it in another place. The next phase was to till what was left, that helped me expose any grass roots that were going to hide from me and give me trouble later. When I exposed those roots I raked them out and gave them a new place to live, in my debris pile down the ravine.

Mimi and I have a giant dump trailer which we filled up with six yards of planting soil and dumped in the U-shaped bed. It's going to take a second load. This will make 12 yards of planting mix which is a sandy, barkey, gritty mix used for breaking up the clay soil. We spread that on top of the newly-tilled area to make a nice planting base.

Our next layers of soil that we will add today will come from bagged soils. We believe in the combination of mushroom compost, Black cow compost and Sun Grow potting soil and equal amounts to be added to the tilled area. When we get these poured all over the bed I will till the area one more time to thoroughly mix it. So far I have not hit any wires or irrigation pipes that I know of.

Once the step is finished it will be time to plant everything.

I'm thinking about renting a dingo with an auger attachment to help dig 44 holes large enough for 15 gallon root balls. Otherwise it's us two on shovels with a limited amount of time before the work week starts again. I also don't want to be sore for the next week while I recover from that digging. Once all of that is finished we will use pine bark mulch to protect the soil and keep moisture in and weeds out.

In the center of the U-shaped bed we are cutting out a perfect square which I will edge with metal to hold in pea gravel. We love a simple Japanese garden look and plan to plant a magnificent coral bark maple there. I will add one interesting boulder to that and that's it. Pea gravel, a Japanese maple and a boulder with up-lighting will be the view from our new windows backed by solid green wall of yews with hydrangea trees blooming right about now.

We are excited to have a new project and a new view that will take years to grow together. It will be beautiful when it all comes together and fun to watch the progress. I feel sure that more low growing plants will be added when we see all of this great soil and space between the plants while they are closing in on each other.

I should have known the true cost wouldn't just stop at the windows and installation. It's all about the view. We love planning the phases and making it work out. Every free day is precious time so the next days’ materials have to be brought home in advance and everything on that day's list has to be completed so the next days plan can come together. We are getting pretty good at it.

This project got me pretty excited and writing about it has taken up all my space this time so I won't have any travel stories this week. If you remember, I had come home from Africa and the middle east and the travel bug had a good hold on me when I returned home. In my next article I am going to share stories about my three-month journey in India and Tibet where I saw things happening agriculturally that I couldn't believe are possible.

Until then, as we open up the state for business, I hope we can all do our part in helping the local businesses get back on their feet and get some people reemployed. Be smart, the virus is with us for a while. It's going to take patience and keeping yourself busy in your yard to make it easier on your sanity. Stay calm while we wait and learn more about this pandemic.

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