Snake plants and borders


A lovely morning this morning, which included getting a mail in rebate to Menards that was only good for store credit.  So after doing a little weeding and fertilizing, I decided to go look at bricks for a border for the side garden.  I planted a rhododendron and a peony there, and a few annuals.  The shrubs aren’t taking off like I hoped, and the annuals are struggling as well; I think because the soil there is heavy, heavy clay.  I didn’t notice this last year — and I think it’s my fault.  I had tried to add some sand last fall to it to improve drainage, but I think the sand I added was too fine… and if sand has particles too small, adding it to soil with clay backfires and you essentially turn it into cement.  Consequently, I’m going to need to spend some time with it come fall once the annuals are done, hopefully without disturbing the shrubs too terribly.  Before that happens, though, it really needed a border.  Since we moved in, it has had the appearance of a dry patch in the corner of the yard, loosely defined by a giant tree root, but its also been mounded slightly higher than the yard which means all the water I send to it runs off back to the grass.

The first happy surprise was that I managed to correctly estimate how many bricks I 1) needed, 2) could fit in the back of my car easily and 3) could carry back and forth across my yard on a summer day by hand without getting tired of this project before it started.  You can see for the start, I skimped a bit and decided I’d do all but the back side today .  I wasn’t sure if I needed/wanted to brick the back, given that it butts up against a privacy fence.  The footnote to my shopping trip is while I was in the garden center I got distracted by trellis’s (cheaper than I thought, and I resisted the temptation even though my solutions for the morning glories this year are a bit experimental and my cucumbers are taking over their neighboring tomato cages) and also … cactus potting mix.

So while the bricks were a mere buck and a half after the rebate, my impulse buy ended up being about $30.  But when I got home, I realized… probably overdue.  The thought here was that we have two snake plants that have not done well for years. They’ve been knocked over by curious/spastic cats and hastily repotted a few times (aka, shoved them back into the soil and pressed them down with my fingers).  Just a few weeks ago I switched my Flower Power digital plant monitor (which I love) over from my umbrella plant to one of the snake plants to see if I could figure out what I was doing wrong.  The first big realization was that it was wet.  Way, way too wet, and not draining at all.  Even when I stopped watering it and took the pot off the base, it stayed so wet the plant monitor kept telling me to check the drainage.  I’d been following recommendations I’d read online to water it only every 2 weeks or so, but to thoroughly soak it when I did; but apparently a few things were working against me.  1) The plant was small, even in ideal situations it wouldn’t taken up much water and the guides were probably based on large potted plants that you’d get in the store, 2) This was a succulent in regular potting mix.  Having the wrong soil meant it was retaining too much moisture.  3) Unbenowst to me until I went to repot it — the plants had almost no roots with which to take up the moisture.  When I tipped over the old pots to get to the root balls, I was shocked that essentially all of it crumbled away leaving me just the shoot.

“I don’t have roots. :(“


I’m guessing the culprit here is root rot, or perhaps they broke off at some point when a cat tipped it over and we never did a thorough enough job at repotting to notice.  Hopefully now in better draining soil, in a heavier, larger pot, it’s anchored, safer, and better draining and can start to recover.  Either that, or the act of repotting it in this state will do it in.

But back to the main project.  This side flower bed will need some additional work in the fall or spring.  I’ll probably dig/mulch in a large quantity of leaves in the fall and let it overwinter that way, and then hit it with fertilizer and maybe a bit of coconut cuir in the spring.  I haven’t tried coconut cuir for this, but it’s appealing; it serves the same function as peat moss, is a renewable resource, and takes longer to break down in the soil than peat moss by a long shot — meaning the effect lasts far longer.  I just need to find a place to buy or order a large brick.

So far this is the first “existing” bed at the house that I’ve tried to border in.  Glad to see it went slightly better than the circle bed I put around the lamppost by the driveway, which basically gave in and rolled with the slope that it’s on.  When we moved in, none of the flower beds had o border or edging of any kind, which means all of them will be projects at some point — at the very least they could use plastic edging just to keep weeds/grass from spreading in.  Given that the soil in this bed is the worst, this is where I started.   Once I work the soil I’m sure the level will rise, which means that when I do that I’ll also probably add another row of bricks.  I’m envisioning that row to be laying flat on this row and resting the back edge on the soil beneath behind it.  Hence why I put in the work to dig in and get this row level.  Without doing much research online, I looked at what I had and used a leftover length of 2.4, a small level and a hammer to dig to about the right depth and them hammer them into moistened soil until any outliers were brought up flush to the edge of the board.  Provided that it doesn’t buckle too much over the winter, that should work for what I need it to do.   Digging down further and putting in the appropriate layers of sand and whatnot to prevent that wasn’t much of an option here given that part of this border runs alongside (and a little overtop of) a rather large tree root.  Even getting it to be mostly level at this point was kind of a victory.



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