Gardening Optimization - the Early Years

My apologies for the longer than usual hiatus, but between maternity leave, travel and springtime in Alaska I have been busy blissing out (and not sleeping routinely).

I titled this post The Early Years because our house's yard and garden have mostly been left alone for at least ten years before we moved in by my estimate.  I spend a lot of my time cutting back cow parsnip, devil's club and less identifiable weeds and grasses to find the perennials planted in years past along with wild flowers that have moved in.  I've been cutting the cow parsnip and devil's club for about two years, preventing it from going to flower in the areas I'm focusing on first.  This year I've noticed a significant reduction in the cow parsnip in this area, so the root must be getting exhausted.  Like pursuing FIRE, in the garden persistence pays off!  

My goal is to create a beautiful, low maintenance flower garden that can stand the test of time, re-seeding and re-growing itself year after year so that I can concentrate on growing healthy, organic produce for my family.  

One debate that I always have this time of year is the debate between annuals and perennials.  To me, annuals are like Easter candies - they're easy, beautiful and don't last very long.  However, beyond the hit on my wallet they have a very nominal lasting value.  Their bright colors and large variety at the nursery make them oh so tempting, but I know that in the long term they are doing nothing to improve my yard.

In fact, they have a few hidden costs as well.  The opportunity cost of time spent planting them vs. planting a perennial means misdirected labor from my long term goal of a beautiful, low maintenance yard.  The cost to ship them up here year after year (for the ones that aren't grown locally) adds permanent pollution to the world without adding a lasting impact.  For the annuals grown here by seed they are taking up space in nurseries that could be used by a wider variety of perennials and native plants that would not only stay in our ecosystem, but add to it by helping pollinators flourish.  Perennials are sometimes a little more expensive, but their year over year value is hands down the best.

These are the thoughts running through my mind as I wistfully move past the tempting bright blooms towards the blooming perennial plants I had planned to purchase.  Oh, I get a few annuals, typically early in the season before the plant shipments have come in so that I know they were grown locally.  I use these for baskets.  Marigolds are often a late season purchase for me, purchased in giant packs so that I can plant them all around my vegetables (most vegetables are annuals, yes, but for the sake of simplicity when I say annuals I'm referring to flowers) to repel pests.  I haven't had much growing marigolds from seed (but also haven't put in a lot of effort here either, because the other pest blocking superstar nasturtiums are more expensive in a nursery so I allocate a lot of seed starting space to them).

How do you optimize your gardens?


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