Mar 22: mulching done

I finished spreading the second pile of mulch today. This year I didn’t need to spread it as thickly as last year when I needed to start the new bed; 15 yards covered all the beds, including along the side of the house, gave me enough to spread a little at the base of the oak tree, and I have about 4 wheelbarrows full to touch up areas where I dig throughout the summer and need to re-mulch around new plantings.

All in all, it took me 4 days to spread all the mulch.

Mar 21: first mulch pile done, plus Oriental Poppy

I finished spreading the first pile of mulch. It covered all the front beds and most of the new back bed I built last year.

But before I started spreading, I made one more trip to the nursery to get another bag of fertilizer, and I also came home with an Oriental Poppy. I saw some in bloom last year on my walks around town, and they were stunning, and I wanted my own. So when I saw some at the nursery, I grabbed one. I’m not sure how it will do, but it’s worth a shot.

Here’s what the first pile of mulch covered:

April 10: Two tons of mulch spread. And I got a spicebush!

Everything hurts. My hands are blistered and cramped, as are my feet. My forearms could use a massage, and my whole body feels like it’s vibrating after two 8-hour days of shoveling, carting, dumping, and spreading mulch. But the front and back beds are done! All that’s left are a couple of small beds on the side of the house. I’m too pooped to do them today. Tomorrow.

Out of curiosity yesterday, I wondered if it were possible that I had moved a ton of mulch. I googled “how much does a cubic yard of mulch weigh” and got an estimate of 400-800 pounds depending on whether the mulch is wet. We bought 12 cubic yards in two dumptruck loads, and I’ve probably moved 10 yards in the past two days, so 4000 lbs. The mulch got drenched by heavy rain after it was delivered, so it was wet and on the heavier side, but I never know how much to trust the googles, so I’m just going to go really conservative and say it’s safe to say that yes, I moved a ton of mulch per day.

Everything looks so pretty 😍.

And nearly as exciting as the mulch? After three years of searching for a spicebush, I saw one at Crow’s Nest, my local nursery this week. By Monday, I had already been to the nursery nearly every day since I returned from my trip to Belgrade. When I plopped my plants on the counter at the cash register, the woman who always rings me up saw me, laughed, and said, “Maybe you should get a job here!” I told her I’d probably see her tomorrow, thinking “I won’t see her tomorrow, I’ve gotten everything I need.”

The shortest path to my car was through the shrub section, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the tiny yellow flowers of Lindera benzoin, the spicebush: host plant of the spicebush swallowtail and native shrub to our region. I didn’t buy it Monday but did go back on Tuesday, and was embarrassed to be there again for the fourth time in five days.

But now I have a spicebush! I’ve never seen one at the nursery before, and even asked about them the first year I was planning the garden. I thought I’d just not be able to get one and I gave up. And now I’ve got one! I’m so happy 🙂

Spicebush, Lindera benzoin

April 8: final day of gardening vacation, and the beds are all mulched

I am now at the end of my week-long gardening vacation. For the first four days, I was in the garden all day almost every day, coming inside only quickly to eat lunch. I was so occupied in the garden — moving plants, edging beds, spreading mulch — I didn’t even come inside for my afternoon coffee.


On Tuesday I repotted tomato seedlings, trimmed rosemary, fertilized yews, planted a fuzzy lamb’s ear for our daughter, and then finished mulching the front beds.

final day front beds mulched
Front beds mulched!

After getting all of that done, I was able to rest on Wednesday — a cold, windy day. I took it easier most of the rest of the week, taking on various odds and ends before tackling the mulch on the back hill:

  • Pruned forsythia
  • Pruned roses
  • Planted remaining crocosmia corms
  • Broke up sod on back hill in places I want to sow seeds
  • Hammered fertilizer spikes into the ground in the drip line of the new trees

On Saturday, three Virginia Tech students arrived in a cold drizzle to spread mulch on the back hill bed as part of the VT Big Event, a day of over 1000 service projects in the town of Blacksburg, from the students of Virginia Tech to the residents of the town in thanks for supporting the student body throughout the year. It was miserable out there, and when it started sleeting, I sent them home. They had gotten about half of the hill done. The sleet turned to snow for my husband’s April 7 birthday.

apr 7 snow
April 7 snow

rhododendrons and snow apr 8
Rhododendrons and snow on the final morning of my gardening vacation

The snow melted off pretty quickly this morning, Sunday, the final day of my gardening vacation. My husband started spreading the remaining mulch out back before lunch, and I took over after lunch while he ran errands with the kids.

As the mulch pile shrank, we realized we were going to come up short. I ordered 12 cubic yards, and I spread the final wheelbarrow full still having several small areas that need mulching. I should have ordered 14 or 15 yards and saved any leftovers for filling in throughout the summer. Next year!

Even coming up short, we were able to get the majority of the hill done, and I’m so happy with it. Check out the before first:

back hill before mulch
Back hill before mulch

And then the after:

back hill mulched
Back hill mulched 😍

Now it just needs to start warming up, the plants need to start growing, and I need to fill in those empty spaces with perennials, grasses, and seedlings I’ve got growing in my office.

The blueberries are about to flower, the blue Salvia is working on its buds, and the Redbud tree is about to burst into magenta bloom. The Echinacea are pushing up leaves, as are the rue and the bee balm. Joe pye and milkweed should start pushing up leaves soon too. The milkweed was emerging April 14 last year, and Joe Pye weed as well.

We’ve got one more small snow in the forecast, and then some warm temperatures coming at the end of the week. I’ve got my fingers crossed there will be more green by next weekend, and lasting warmth.

all beds mulched front and back
All the beds are mulched 🙂

Apr 1: Day two of gardening vacation

Today was another day of moving plants. And of course, buying more flowers. Just a few little violas to put in the ground and add some color. Our daughter and I put all these in the ground:

  • moved silver mound Artemisia from front to back
  • moved 2 sedums, 2 Gaillardia, and a blue Salvia from front to back
  • moved white milkweed to butterfly bush bed
  • buried blazing star and globe thistle corms and bare roots
  • sowed Feverfew seeds by the stump out front

I focused on the herb bed today. I started by ripping out the goldenrod I had planted last year. It spread aggressively, more aggressively than I wanted, and it was going to make a mess of things. I left what was up on the back hill from last year, but I ripped it all out of the front beds.

In the herb bed, our daughter planted the violas, and I trimmed the lavender. I cut all the dead flower stems from last year and pruned about a third of the plant material, cutting shoots from inside the mounds and around the edges as well. The lavender still appears to be dormant.

I also trimmed back all the woody herbs, like the Russian sage and the thyme. Poking around in the centers, I do see a little bit of new green growth, so I’m hopeful they survived last October’s divisions and transplants. The roses also have new growth, so I should prune those as well. The red bud has tiny buds on it. It will be in bloom soon.

Once I got the bed tidied up on the inside, I went around the edges manually with a half moon edger, dug a trench between the lawn and the bed to discourage grass from growing into the beds. Then I fertilized, and then I mulched.

day two mulched herb bed
Day two: finished herb bed