Tips for renewing your landscape

Landscapes need to be re-evaluated for features that no longer work, such as this out-of-control Wisteria.

There is only so much we can blame on the weather, and besides, we can do nothing about the weather. So we have to take responsibility for the problems in our gardens.

Believe it or not, plants are destined to grow bigger and wider and tougher every year. My garden is 15 years old, and I have to take responsibility for some of the mistakes I made that are becoming problems.

My most pressing — or rather hanging — problem is a vigorous wisteria. There was a plain, two-story south-facing wall that needed some greenery. I knew better than to plant flammable juniper or yew under the eaves. I wanted color. Well, wisteria was my choice. It has decorated the wall with luxurious blooms — albeit for merely a few weeks. The rest of the year, the plant aggressively sends out runners on the ground, runners and vining parts in the air, and has covered a goodly part of the wall and has encroached onto the roof. I am constantly whacking it back. Wisteria was a great idea, but the wrong plant in the wrong place. So this fall, it will be lopped and sawn down, the underground runners coated with herbicide. I can encourage the honeysuckles which have been bullied by the wisteria.

Lawns have taken the most amazing beating this year. Even those of us who used properly timed pre-emergent herbicides in the spring ended up with crabgrass, the most annoying, rapidly spreading spotted spurge, and a season of purslane. Where did those things come from? It has been windy all season, and the seeds are little and numerous. One large purslane plant can produce 240,000 seeds that are viable for up to 40 years!

My lawn has had some perennial dry spots due to poor water distribution from a few sprinkler heads. I usually use supplemental water, but this year during the June heat, I was in Oregon taking care of my godmother’s garden — well, any excuse will do, won’t it?

The bottom line is that the fescue burned out. Many of us have discovered that it was not dormant but downright dead and the plants could be pulled out by the handful. So sad? Or what an opportunity? I have been waiting for this. It is now time while the soil is still warm to prepare the soil where the fescue died and plant the mini clover that I have been wanting to integrate into my lawn.

And while I am at it, it is time to re-evaluate my lawn generally. We are in a serious drought, and no one knows how long it will last. Watering a crop just to cut it down each week does not make sense to me. I am aiming to lower my water consumption, and, yes, I have irrigation water, but it does not matter. We all need to be better water stewards. Clover takes 25% less water and best of all stays green all year round and tolerates the heat because it has deep roots.

The people who sell grass seed, herbicide and fertilizers encourage the growth of mono-culture lawns consisting of a few perennial and annual grasses. This is not ecologically sound, so I am going to remove grass turf and plant a “turf” to be made up of some grasses but mostly 20 different broadleaf plants that bloom, hardly ever need mowing, use less water, no fertilizer nor herbicides — and stays green most of the year.

Whew. These two projects should keep me busy until the snow flies.

A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Bonnie Orr is one of four columnists featured. To learn more, visit wwrld.us/cdmg or call (509) 667-6540.

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