New Plantings – Spring 2015

This spring we planted some new things in the yard. We planted a 5′ tall red oak for Earth Day / Arbor Day. This oak is the compliment to a red oak we planted last year, both of which form a “gate” from the apple orchard to the pond trail.

It’s been almost a month since we planted this little red oak, and he was doing so well up until a week or two ago when I noticed something amiss. It’s uncanny the relationship I’ve formed with the plants in our yard. I could tell from far away that something was wrong. Don’t ask me how I could tell, but sure enough upon closer inspection I noticed that a damn deer had stripped ALL the leaves off of the tree!

With great anger I grabbed a wire tree fence from my storage pile nearby and surrounded the baby tree in wire.

Now weeks later, new leaves are forming so it looks like our new little tree will make it.

The other major new plantings are three lilac bushes we picked up at Home Depot. I planted them over by the septic tank. As they grow up they’ll obscure the unsightly tank tops that stick out of the ground. And hopefully the flowers will mask any smells from the tank in early spring.

I need to find two other types of fragrant bushes to plant in the area, that can mask any smells in summer and fall.

The only down side of the lilacs is, they made my into a hypocrite. You see, the plants we bought were treated with neonicotinoids. Fortunately now Home Depot labels plants that have been genetically modified with these chemicals. While the EPA approves of them, these chemicals are banned in Europe. It’s suspected that they contribute to the decline in honey bee populations and may even cause colony collapse disorder.

Well I didn’t see the labels until I had already planted the plants in the ground.

I decided to keep the plants. The chemicals should only last 2 years in the plants. When planted, they were done blooming. So that just means next spring will be the only exposure to our bees (and other pollinators). I’ve weighed the risks, and made my decision. If you can’t be good, at least know you’re not being good. I think historically people didn’t even realize they were doing harm to the environment. Now at least there are ways to know.

Maybe I can make it up to my bees by some other means.

Yard Work

Spring is quickly growing on me. Being holed up inside during a long, cold winter eroded my will to live. Now temperatures are warming up, and the yard is turning green. It feels good to get outside, even if it is to do chores. Late Sunday morning we, as a family, drove up to Lowe’s to get a couple of shelves for the upstairs studio. While there, I wanted to pick up 12×12 inch pavers in an impromptu attempt at domestic vanity. I saw this picture, in my ‘Free-Range Chicken Gardens’ by Jessi Bloom book:

Check out the pavers in the grass at the bottom of this groovy backyard. I thought this would look good in the transition area by the front door. (Photo from Jessi Bloom's awesome

Check out the pavers in the grass at the bottom of this groovy backyard. I thought this would look good in the transition area by the front door.
(Photo from Jessi Bloom’s awesome “Free-Range Chicken Gardens” book.

We have a grassy section between the driveway and the breezeway that gets so much traffic that the grass doesn’t really grow there. Well what if I inset pavers in that section, leaving grass between the pavers? ¬†So we bought eighteen pavers, nine for each end of the walkway. I laid them out like this next photo. Looks like instead of my OCD pattern of 3 across, 3 down, it’ll be more like 3 across, 4 down.

The grassy section closest to the house.

The grassy section closest to the house.

The grassy section  over by the garage.

The grassy section over by the garage.

Maybe by the garage I’ll go 2 across, 4 down (second picture above shows 3 by 3). What do you think? My thought was the formal geometric look of the cement pavers would be a nice contrast to the pea gravel in the driveway and the flagstone walkway under the breezeway. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Also at Lowe’s we picked up our Earth Day tree, or was it Arbor Day tree? Well whatever, we bought a little $26 red oak tree.

We were going to get cherry trees too, on a whim, but then I weirded out about neonicotinoid insecticide so we nixed it until I can learn more. As an aside, today I actually did a little more research. My thought was that plants at mass retailers, and our local mass nursery would have “neonics” in them. As I’ve said before, neonics are a form of insecticide that is either sprayed onto plants, or more commonly introduced through the roots of the plants via specially treated water that is provided to the plants. I believe there are also seeds that are genetically modified to have neonics inside them already. However they get in or on the plant, the problem occurs when neonics get into the plant’s pollen, then honey bees take it back to the hive, the chemicals accumulate in the hive and it’s theorized that this can cause colony collapse disorder. Lowe’s doesn’t label their plants so I didn’t know what I was buying. I could only assume the worst, thus no cherry trees.

Today I called a local one location family nursery, figuring they had chemical free plants. Well they didn’t even know what I was talking about. The greenhouse they referred me to kind of knew what I was talking about, but they sounded really defensive, and kinda made me out to be a bleeding heart tree hugger.


I did read online and found a few good sites, canted towards the Pacific northwest, that had some good information. One site listed nurseries up there that don’t treat their plants with neonics. And another said¬†neonics remain in the plant for up to two years.

An interesting link on the topic: North Coast Gardening

My decision is this: I’m going to visit Home Depot, because supposedly they now label all genetically modified plants. If I can’t find what I want there, I will buy from Lowe’s or the local big box nursery chain, assuming their plants are toxic; and hope that in the two years that the chemicals linger, our bees won’t die off. After the two years we should be in the clear.

Our tiny oak tree ready for planting on Tuesday.

Our tiny oak tree ready for planting on Tuesday.

Speaking of bees, last week I started harvesting bees wax. With hive No.1 dying over the winter, we have several boxes worth of lifeless frames, containing bees wax. I watched a couple of videos on YouTube to figure out what I was doing. I scraped all the frames. A few had pollen and honey. Not enough honey to harvest though. So I left the honey and pollen on the frames. I’m going to deposit the frames back into hive No. 1 when our new bees arrive. I’ll leave it up to them to decide what to do with it all. They’ll also finish cleaning up the frames I pulled the wax off of.

Back to yard work. I cut the grass for the first time this year, and we spent a warm sunny Sunday afternoon weeding the front path and bed. It felt great to be outside cleaning up the path and bed. Down on hands and knees pulling “weeds”, reconnected with the earth. A fun ritual of ours took place during a break. The wife and I walked the yard talking about plans for the new year, and we inspected all the plants and trees we’ve planted in the past to see if they’re budding yet. Generally looking to see how everyone is doing. And they all look good, except one redbud tree looks like it may have died. It and another redbud both have anthills at their base. So maybe that caused its death. Ants are our antagonists it seems.

Tomorrow we will go pick up our replacement package of bees. I’ll share pictures and a review tomorrow night hopefully.

Look at this awesome edge I made!

Look at this awesome edge I made!

The front path is looking good again.

The front path is looking good again.

The front path with another awesome grass edge I made.

The front path with another awesome grass edge I made.