Iris reticulata emerges every year in our urban ptoager + it is one of the first to help provide for our bees...
Iris reticulata emerges every year in our urban potager + it is one of the first to help provide for our bees…

In the MUCK of life beauty comes forth from periods of hardship and boy has this winter been a hardship in our gardens.We have had one of the longest, coldest, + most snow fallen in decades. After weeks of below freezing winter, the muck in our life can last too long and it seems as if it will never end.

I planted more last fall + they are only about 2-6 inches tall...
I planted more last fall, so I was searching for my new ones emerging for their first year…

I was chatting with my neighbor the other day over the fence and we agreed this winter has been too long. It started in October!I have had my nose to the ground lately ( literally!) this week and as I was working to organize my urban potager, I found my little spring treasures. It affirmed my beliefs that out of the muck of life perseverance prevails!

flecks of purple dancing across the muck of our garden...
flecks of purple dancing across the muck of our garden…

Muck is a word that has been batting around in my head all week since I have been cleaning a lot of it on my city lot! It means “dirt, grime, filth, mud, slime, mess, crud, gunk, grunge, guck + glop” which would describe my “muck” right now this spring! Like life, my yard is a big, diverse bunch of muck!No two people deal with the same muck!

they slowly open over a few days...
they slowly open over a few days…the petals have the most beautiful design…

Our trees that do not drop their leaves until right before snow falls are left in the garden beds throughout the winter which is perfectly fine with us since they help us build soil. We also leave all the garden debris from perennials and annuals ( healthy ones not sickly)in our beds all winter to protect some of our plants and provide food + shelter for the animals during the winter, so like life it is what we do with all the muck that makes a difference.

They are between 2=6 inches tall and they still grab your attentioni....
They are between 2-6 inches + grab your attention…

Each year I work on building healthy soil on our city lot + what better way than to put all your own organic matter from your property back into your soil. It is FREE mulch! We chop it all up with our lawn mower. I was thinking the other day that the lawn has shrunk so much on our property that why do we need the lawn mower, but when fall and spring come I understand how useful our lawn mower is for building soil. Instead of cutting  a lot of turf grass it helps us feed our soil by breaking down the yard debris.

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I love the color purple + so do the bees!

 We eat the food from our healthy soil which makes our bodies stronger! Nature has her own seasons, and so do we since we can’t predict when “hardships” will come in life, and some years will be more difficult as this year has been with the weather for us all, but as nature it all works to our best advantage since it just makes us stronger in the end.

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They are natures painted beauties….

  Hello Spring, out of the muck comes beauty!

Below is our system for our city lot that has worked for us over the years.

This is the left side of our house where we use our lawn mower to break all our fallen leaves and small debris. Our neighbor to the left has bags of leaves and sticks from the bushes he cut down this weekend. We have good neighbors ,but I thought the picture showed the difference of beaking down your garden debris or have the city haul it away…

 

The city provides the bags and hauls the stuff away,but it is only at certain times of the year. We have learned to break down our garden waste and let it build our soil…

 

We use this area which is mostly shady + not much grows here but hostas, so  we have been using it to break down our garden debris...
We use this area which is mostly shady + not much grows here but hostas, so we have been using it to break down our garden debris…
After we get a load of shredded leaves, we load them up in our old garbage cans and spread them on our paths and around our plants
After we get a load of shredded leaves, we load them up in our old garbage cans and spread them on our paths and around our plants
Here, I have it used around my purple baby kale which I planted out the other day...
Here, I have it around my purple baby kale which I planted out the other day…

 

 

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

42 comments

  1. I’ve just returned with my bag of purple kale from my organic veg supplier – and there you are showing yours off! Those irises are so beautiful – isn’t it amazing how they just appear out of the cold, wet, grey earth? Nature is indeed the first place to look for our daily miracles!

    Those photos certainly show the difference in using or tossing your debris. Even though your neighbour is incredibly neat and tidy that seems to be a large amount of organic debris to be tossing. Our council introduced a new system a few years ago that allows folk to take their organic debris to a site , pay a small fee to enter and toss it and the council then turns it into compost and you can buy a bag as you exit the other side of the complex. 🙂 I think it is a brilliant system and the beginning of really good things in terms of sustainability and such like! I still prefer to purchase organic compost for my tiny garden – well, at least until I get me a worm farm 🙂

    I’m so pleased you are moving into warmer days – it has been a hard run for you folk – Sending you much love and wishes for most bountiful season in your lovely urban potager xoxo

    1. Oh my goodness, I put the red kale seedlings out yesterday and I thought I would be free of rabbits this year, but THEY ARE BACK!!! I stepped out tonight to take my dog out and there “IT” was sitting on top of my raised bed near my snow peas,too! I was using crushed peppers + thought it was working, but OH NO they are BACK! It usually starts out like this in the spring until everything greens up, but I may be purchasing my red kale from a store if I can’t keep those bunnies out of my beds!

      1. Oh dear! I suppose they have had a long winter of nothing much and are grateful for every little morsel you lay out for them …… crushed peppers or not!

        I did not realise you had wild rabbits in suburbia – ours stay pretty much out in the country, away from too much activity. Though once I did see a family romping on a grassed traffic roundabout at the take off end of the airport – which I thought was pretty brave of them. 🙂

        I hope you find a solution and get to save your kale and snow peas and everything else – the challenges a gardener must face 😦

      2. me too! We have a lot of animals in our urban area even deer! This past year they had to eliminate them in the area so they let people kill them with a bow and arrow in certain yards. Made me sad, but there were too many. Yes, I have seen them run down the road while I was standing talking to a neighbor. There are pockets of “green” here an there and they follow a path through the woods. We have coyote, wild turkey, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, ground hogs, owls + raccoons that raid the garbage at night! It is a problem since the animals don’t know where to go, I try to plant more for the animals:-)

      3. That is amazing to me! I live in a country that has virtually no indigenous animals – the bird life here was so safe that fully half [I exaggerate, but many] of our native birds gave up flying and became ground dwellers. The animals that now threaten these birds existence were all introduced. First by the Maori, then by the English explorers and settlers and last, but not least, by the blessed Australians – who sent their possums over because they didn’t want them any more. 🙂 So now we have rabbits, rats, weasels, ferrets, goats,deer, pigs and possums – all running wild, mostly in the hill country except the possums who, like all good Australians, have no boundaries and go wherever they like [these are all ‘in’ jokes – please excuse the antippodean sense of humour]. 🙂 You need another garden Robbie to feed all your wild animals!

      4. oh so true!! After I read your post before this I went to bed because I had to cover my kale, swiss chard + snow peas + I was tired of covering them all for the night!
        They leave the lettuce alone, but today I will be moving some things to containers. I believe my problems usually are with the early spring green crops. There is not much green out there as you can see from ALL the brown my poor irises are poking through, so I don’t mind providing some for them but not all my food-lol…Darwin was right about adapting to environments, they did not need their flying ability!
        We live on the hill of the Mississippi River all our towns run along the Mississippi, so they get the snakes down below + we get all the others up here even in the city:-) it is a short distance,too since the towns here usually flood every spring!

  2. Oh Robbie–all this beautiful PURPLE ! I want to bathe in it 🙂 I’m so sorry you’ve had a harsh winter–I on the other hand have had the mildest winter ever. Just ask the slugs. They set out there little-slug lawn chairs and sipped margaritas in February. YOU of all people deserve a non-muck growing season! I love irises so much. I transplanted mine last fall to the side yard–they are emerging now. Beautiful photos!

    1. I do love the color purple! I love these little guys they are so pretty:-) I am checking every day to see if any buds are coming in on bushes, trees etc…NOTHING yet. It will be here, but it feels like it has been winter all year-lol. I love taking pictures of these little iris beauties. The design on the petals is so detailed…amazing what the earth brings forth…as if little fairies painted the petals below the earth all winter-tee hee:-)

  3. It is so lovely to see your beautiful iris Robbie and I am pleased that spring is finally on the way for you. These little iris can always be relied upon to be the first to bring flowers back to the garden. What a shame about the rabbits though. My garden is home to increasing numbers of rabbits that sit on the lawn with my chickens and munch their way through anything tasty. I have had to erect a double layer of chicken wire all around the veg plot, otherwise we would have nothing to eat.

    1. I am wondering if I will have to do that this year finally:-( I am so disppointed I found one in my raised bed last night + my dogs don’t even scare the critters away all the time! I planted all my spring seedlings out the other day + even used crushed peppers around the beds + they kept them away for a bit, but this one in my bed was a HUGE bunny. He was darn cute, but shoot not when he is eating my vegetables! I will try the tobassco/hot pepper spray around the area this week + see if it deters them a bit. Usually the kale + Swiss Chard come back after it all greens up, but I may be putting my spring greens in containers from now on since this is the second year they have found out the lady down the way has good stuff to eat on her lot!

  4. Lovely little Irises after your long hard winter. Here many people put their garden refuse out in brown bins to be taken away by the council. Imagine getting rid of your grass cuttings and fallen leaves like that? I treasure every bit of material which is going to enrich my soil.
    I haven’t tried purple kale. It sounds interesting.

    1. The neighbors across the way don’t have huge gardens, but most of them mow the fallen leaves into their grass + one man got a wood chipper ( on our wish list) , so he can feed all his branches into the chipper. The only ones on our block to put bags out are about three houses. I really am excited to try red kale ( scarlet kale only open pollinated one available), but last night the bunny was UP in my raised beds! I sent my dogs out to scare him away, but they don’t sleep out there at night, so I have no idea if he ate all my early spring greens. The rabbits are such a problem here now that they have found my yard + all it’s goodies!

  5. I love iris’, beautiful colouring. all our garden waste including branches and leaves get put back into the garden here too. Besides the fact it’s good organic matter with nutrients the dump fees here are expensive…just makes sense to reuse.

    1. so true + yesterday I read that they charge now for outside the “free pickup times”. I feel that is a lot of work to put them in ALL those bags + my goodness he had a lot of twigs to cut up. He has the bushes between our houses and he lets them go wild in between our yards. Last year he had a lot of overgrown weeds in there that had become quite large, so he needs to thin them out periodically, so a job I would not like to do! He should invite a bunch of friends over, and have a big bond fire with all those twigs since people are allowed to do that in the city if it is away from the house!

      1. I know they are pricey that is why we have that one that sticks on the garbage can, and that did not do too well. The pastic belt kept breaking-lol. Here in USA they can be over 500+ and that is a pricey item to use once or twice a year. I am waiting till they make a smaller one a bit less, but for now as you a bon fire , a good glass of wine + good fiends well worth all the back breaking work!:-)

  6. Yuk, muck! I slopped around in mine yesterday for most of the day and I’m going to do it again (even though I’m a little sore – ha ha – work through it!). I have those same Iris but they are out front and not quite blooming yet. I’ve planted some more in back because I love them and you know how we don’t usually like to garden out front! That kale looks delicious and I wish I could snip it and add it to my kale couscous breakfast (I like dinner for breakfast). I have finally planted some seeds and have purple millet coming up already. It is so exciting! I love that picture comparing the city haul and your natural mulch! I look at that and say, oh the dump will now have free mulch I better get over there – ha ha.

    1. I remember our conversation about the front yard gardens-lol. I decided this year to put most of my fruit bearing bushes, etc up front since I have to keep an eye on the rabbits since they bother my garden. They live up there in the bushes + are too afraid of my backyard with the dogs.I thought using pepper flakes would work. It did for a few weeks, so I am putting most of my spring veggies closer to the house where my dogs hang out, and that way the bunnies will not be munching on my spring greens. I went out last night and this HUGE one, which was adorable was munching near my snow peas! They are my first purple snow peas I am trying, and I was furious with the “cute” little guy, so I put my dog out there and chased him away. I also am covering it up at night since that is when they sneak in when my dogs are inside sleeping. It is scarlet kale( only open pollinated one out there-so far) and I moved them inside to some larger paper pots until they get a bit taller since I do not want to lose my baby kale seedlings. Kale couscous-sounds perfect,I think that would be a perfect breakfast!!!

  7. Excellent idea to make use of the leaves and little branches… ‘throwing’ them away would be a quite a ‘waste’… very pretty colors of the iris…

    1. Hi Lrong:-) Yes, the colors on that iris are so pretty. I am partial to purple in the garden:-) I am seeing a lot of activity below the soil after mulching all the yard debris back into the soil. Just like the forest floor it makes sense! A lot of worms and organic activity:-)

    1. :-)I know they make me smile, too. I was looking around to find other places I can put them for next spring. This has been the longest winter + seeing them poking through all the brown really lifts ones spirits!

  8. What the muck!!! Sorry. Just had to get that of the way. 😉 Anyway, re: rabbits. Yes, sigh & double sigh. Is there any way to fence it a bit? Sure you’ve thought of that so I apologize but the rabbits won’t go over the fence (squirrels will, any other critters under) but if it’s only bunnies, I don’t think they will go over anything too high. They will stand on their hind legs, though, and knock things over so it has to be sturdy enough. I use temp poultry fencing which, luckily, keeps the ducks out, too, when I want to keep stuff from them as well. PS, they also love crocus. Triple sigh. Good luck!!!

    1. lol:-) I keep the mixed garden beds of food, flowers and herbs up close to where the dogs are, so they are not getting up to that area anymore. I created new spaces last fall to deal with my little furry buddies. I decided this year to put all the fruit to the back of the lot that way I don’t have to worry about them eating everything. I have my resident racoon that likes to pick some of my strawberries, bite it and leave it! He very gently places it on a brick to leave for me the next day! He only steals a few, so it is not that destructive. I can spare a few-lol

  9. Robbie, I’m finally getting to read your post. Springtime sure is busy for gardeners! The weather has been so wonderful that we’ve been outside for hours every day – hurrah! I loved your little Iris reticulata – they truly are works of art! Do you add extra lime to counter the acidity of the oak leaves? I have a lot of oak which I tend to heave over the bank and use just maples, ash and cherry. I liked your showing the contrast between you & your neighbor’s disposal vs. recycling of yard waste. Who says it is ‘waste’?! People laugh at me because I get so excited about compost. Once you know what it does, how can you not be excited? Looking forward to seeing what else is coming up in your garden.

    1. Me too Eliza! Now it is raining and I am glad for the rain we have been too dry the past few days, but I am glad to be outside and messing around in the muck-lol. I use the oak leaves more around the plants that require acidity, but my other leaves are a mix from all my neighbors trees since they blow around here from our trees + they become “yours”, “mine” and “our” leaves. While my husband and I were working this saturday in the garden the daffodils opened up right at the end before we went inside. It was magical! He mentioned to me before we went inside, “I don’t think they were blooming before we started”-truly exciting!

  10. What a lovely purple post Robbie 🙂 I, too, love purple, especially when it is vividly contrasted with turquoise but then I think I was a male peacock in a past life ;). I think that when you are gardening naturally you have to accept that it isn’t going to be a pristine affair and that sometimes nature is going to want to revert to muck. We have learned to love muck here. That means that we have some moisture in our soil rather than blow away dusty silt. I love those iris and the best thing about them is that they will grow just about anywhere. I bet they grow in Antarctica 😉

    1. Purple in the garden is a favorite of the pollinators:-)+ now it is a favorite of mine,too! The purple and turquoise sound like a great combination + I would throw in an orange/red-lol. I LOVE COLOR:-) It is like the Forest floor it all works in perfect harmony, but “US” in the city too often try to make it “perfect” and forget that “Muck” needs to happen and plants need to stay up which means it is not always perfect at certain times of the year. I even use old bushes/tree wood that we trimmed out to line beds until they break down enough to be put into the compost pile. Free edging + it really does not look too bad with native flowers:-) I decided to grow more spring bulbs this year to help with the early spring bees, so those purple retiuclated iris are a favorite + I agree they will grow anywhere!

      1. Clever 🙂 I love it when I see permaculture ideas popping up in urban situations. It gives me incredible hope that people are waking up to the fact that doing something about the problems we are having isn’t some government agencies issue, its in all of our hands to do something. I love the look of your garden. Can’t wait to see more of it as spring kicks in more and the ground starts to heat up :). Our place looks like it was dragged backwards through a blackberry hedge. I am SO glad it is autumn and soon winter and all of the trees are going to lose their leaves. I might be able to get some of those hidden blackberries out of the picture before they go ballistic next spring…its an endless game of find and murder here on Serendipity Farm 😉

      2. I know some of us are doing it in urban situations, but it is taking SUCH A LONG TIME for others to break their habits that hurt the environment. When I first moved in the horrible “chemical trucks” that people used to keep their green grass “GREEN” was so annoying. Here I was working to keep my “lot” organic + across the fence they were using round-up, chemicals on their lawn + having lawn service men come every month to spray their yards. I would just go inside and close all the windows. It is changing slowly since in the past few years, I see less of the “chemcial trucks”:-) “endless game of find and murder”=lol…it does feel like it sometimes when things take over:-)

  11. Oh, I love those irises, Robbie! They have such a beautiful design on them. Such a wonderful feeling to see everything starting to come back to life. The hardwood trees are starting to get the flush of “spring green” down here and makes me feel like spring is actually getting serious. 🙂 Looking out at the mountains, there are so many different shades of green right now. Love what you do with your leaves. Maybe your neighbor will get that “hmmmm, that’s a good idea” thought in their heads and do the same thing. Lead by example is what you are doing!

    1. I love the design,too:-) We had snow flurries today! I do find many neighbors are not bagging + mowing leaves etc. back into their lawn:-) We don’t have much green here yet. I can imagine your mountains must be beautiful through the seasons! I thought of you the other day when I stood up and had dirty knees on my jeans! lol

  12. What beautiful Irises Robbie! They’re simply amazing. What a nice start to spring for you… I agree that how we deal with our muck is a top priority in our gardens, and in our lives in general too. We seem to be afraid of it sometimes it seems which is nonsense but then anything goopy or yukky does that I guess and we see the compost as that too often. We put most things back in our garden too, but we’re lucky in that the city takes away the garden refuse we can’t use and makes it into compost they sell back to us so we get it back and use it that way. Not so direct but very functional and helpful to many gardeners in this city. Lots of ways to deal with Muck in a useful way I guess. Thanks for a great post and beautiful photos. It’s wonderful that winter is Finally over and spring is here again. I can feel your excitement! I feel it too…. 🙂
    all the best,
    Steve

    1. It was a nice start to spring, but we got the flu at our place, so been down and under for a bit! Just part of the muck of life sometimes! On the mend and hoping to get back outside, and see how it is greening up with all this rain! Great idea to collect and give back to “you” for your own use:-) You stay well and as you always say, “Peace” to you Steve:-)

    1. and when I see your creations, I feel the same:-) This last post you made ” Purity does exist” the photos were stunning!!!! I don’ t know how you do it with all the food, dishes + natural/man made props. You are so adept at that you make it look as if they all fell in place perfectly at that moment..the feathers + eggs-blew me away:-)

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