Throwing it All Out There

The coming growing season will be the seventh we have spent at this house. While we have made many improvements to the yard and garden, it is hard not to notice the progress we haven’t made. This land has proven to be the most difficult, inhospitable, unforgiving place I have ever gardened. Which is saying something, because I have always gardened in the dry, poor soil of the mountain west, including several places along the Wasatch Front.

But, this spot! This spot leads to the death of 2/3 of the plants I plant in it. I know I will lose some plants I plant. But, other locations have been around a 20% loss. This plot of land… 70% loss! And those plants that do survive still struggle immensely. Most grow much slower than expected, with gangly, spindly forms. And to add insult, the deer eat many of the plants that do grow well, things they aren’t supposed to like!

I am trying so hard to grow a beautiful flower garden. I have bought 200 or more nursery plants for this property. I grow around 500 of my own seedlings every year (that adds up to 3000 plants I have added to this property over the past 6 seasons). I spread seeds of the few plants that are successful. I have collected three large boxes of iris rhizomes from three different neighbors when they were dividing their plants and planted them in broad swathes. I even welcome many plant volunteers off the mountain like rabbitbrush.
I enjoy most the look of a full flower garden bed with layers of plants all mingling together. (See my pinterest board for the look I love!) But, despite all my efforts, the garden here doesn’t look full. It doesn’t even look half full. It still looks sparce. And random.
The garden during the third growing season:
Back yard, looking NW, before we got our fence, so the posts mark the property line.
Front slope, where I have already plants hundreds of plants by this time.
The yard last year, during the sixth growing season:

Back yard looking NW again.

Front slope from a different angle.

Visually, there is hardly a difference in the filling in of the garden, even though enormous efforts were made! But I refuse to give up. I will figure out what rugged plants will grow on this mountainside without pampering. (As long as I don’t have to resort to Canadian thistle, bindweed and tumbleweed!)

So, in a last ditch effort to fill in my flower garden, I ordered two wildflower seed packets from American Meadows. I chose American Meadows seed because last year my son wanted to start a small garden of his own and I gave him an old packet of seeds that came as a sample from the American Meadows catalog. Wonder of wonders… Many plants sprouted in his garden from this packet! That gave me hope! And a favorable view of American Meadows seed quality. I ordered 1/4 lb. Dry Area Wildflower Seed Mix and 1/4 lb. Blue Wildflower mix (to make the color mix more my style). I also added Fireweed seeds, hoping that it is true to its nature: growing in poor, barren soil in large patches. (I first became acquainted with this beautiful plant in Yellowstone this summer and wanted it, plant collector that I am!) 

Once my seeds arrived, I spent an afternoon with my entire seed inventory, creating custom mixes for each area of my yard. I felt like a little garden wizard mixing my magic potions. I stored each mix in a labeled ziploc bag. The next day, I mixed each batch with moistened sand for better distribution.

My first plan was to use my seed spreader for the job, but it jammed up immediately with the moist sand. Plan B: I spread each area by hand. The moist sand assisted the seed in falling down throught the snow. It felt like a refreshing act of faith to throw those seeds all out there and hope for success!

I sincerely hope this plan works. The snowpack this year has been higher than normal, and the temps have been consistently cold. If we continue to have a cold, wet winter and then a normal spring, the seeds should sprout well! I spread over 100K seeds, so even if I get 10% growth rates from the seeds… Ah, I hope it works! Please work!!

The “Quakie” garden, with pock marks in the snow where the seed and sand mix fell.

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