Bed 8 (`the long bed’ along the front lane)

General description

This bed is the main one (after Bed 9) that visitors see when they drive up to the front of the school. It has many low shrubs (many with dead branches) — a line of Mugo Pines along the school side and then Tamarix Junipers spread throughout the rest of the bed. There is one Red Maple at the western end of the bed.

6 August 2016

With many volunteers (parents and students), over half the bed was weeded. The soil is very dry and dusty, due to the prolonged heat wave and drought this summer. All the pots have been removed, now stored along the edge of Bed 7 — these contain Stella d’Oro day lilies that have survived so far. The following slideshow shows the results of the day’s work.

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To do:

  • weed remaining half of the bed
  • prune dead branches on the shrubs
  • prune dead branches from the maple (will require a ladder and tree saw)

13 May 2016

Right now: no flowers; the maple tree has a number of dead branches higher up (but otherwise seems to be surviving); the shrubs (with gaps where dead ones were) all show varying degrees of dead branches; and there are weeds from one end to the other, of course, although mostly tall grass.

To do:

  • Weed, from one end to the other.
  • Prune dead branches on shrubs.
  • Prune dead branches from the maple (will require a ladder and tree saw — a job for someone with experience).
  • Move pots from unweeded to weeded areas, as work progresses.

The bed is so large it can easily employ a whole class. Experience from last year’s students on how to do this effectively: one loosens the soil with a fork, then another one or two pull the weeds gently, to get the whole root (or use a shovel to get the deep ones), and then another student collects the weeds in a bucket (or large plant pot) and takes them to the yard waste bag. The need for sturdy garden forks is therefore an equipment priority to successfully tackle this bed.

This bed was the focus of last year’s work in spring and early summer (from east towards the west). The bed was marked off in sections, and students and a few parent volunteers worked from east to west, doing a deep weeding around the shrubs (uncovering many more than were initially visible) and pruning their dead branches. However, I became ill, work did not continue through the summer, and so we’re back at square one, it seems. This year, though, I think a better approach would be to complete work on each section before moving on. That is, weed it, prune the shrubs, improve the soil, and then plant right away. That way, there’s visible and permanent progress that will make it more difficult for weeds to reclaim the ground.

As with Bed 1, this was a secondary `nursery’ for supplies: many pots of day lilies (yellow Stella D’Oro), one pot Siberian iris, seem to be the main survivors. Might be able to plant day lilies this summer and fill maybe 1/3 of the bed. Also have lots more at home to add.And we could always put out a call to gardeners in the community who are having to divide their Stella D’Oro plants!

Landscape cloth: this comes up each time we talk about cutting down on weeds. After reading a good number of website reviews and reports of experiences, I don’t think it’s a good approach for a school. Landscape fabric is not a 100% guarantee of no more weeds; it only works for a finite number of years (sometimes no more than 5). After that, there are weeds that have broken through but to remove them, it is quite difficult to not then damage the fabric. As well, fabric works its way up to the surface along the edges — and this bed has a lot of long edges. I fear that undoing/refurbishing a bed with landscape fabric after a few years will be far more work than simply weeding around plants, which will eventually crowd out most of the weeds and grasses anyways. Applying a thick layer of mulch every few years, where needed, would be a better plan, I think.

The eventual plan for this bed, as it’s the main bed visitors see when they drive in: low shrubs, yellow Stella d’Oro day lilies in the remaining spaces, which should then yield a very low maintenance bed. Perhaps also have a second tree at the east end, maybe different from the existing maple, for colour contrast. The day lilies will eventually need to be divided (many years from now!) at which point the school can hold a plant sale of proven growers in Barrhaven šŸ™‚

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