Seed Swaps

Pomegranate bed: Moved and planted!!!

11 Apr 2012
Sunny 24°C / 75°F

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have this project done! I thought that I was almost done in late February, after removing a ton of sod, digging placements for the railroad ties, moving them into place, filling the bed with topsoil, and then topping it off with mulch. I was all set to plant when we got a HUGE rainstorm, that part of our yard flooded, and instead of the raised bed keeping the soil inside dry, the raised bed ended up acting like a sponge and slurped up a ton of water from the puddle around it. So I potted up the pomegranates instead of planting them out, and then switched over to more time-sensitive gardening tasks: creating beds for and planting my blueberries, bare root blackberries, bare root Rugosa roses, and bare root asparagus, planting the vegetable garden, weeding, and watering. Meanwhile, nothing but weeds grew in my beautiful new raised bed.

This week I took a few vacation days since my mom was in town. She was eager to help in the garden and we got a lot done… including finally finishing the pomegranate bed project! We dug up more sod and moved the railroad ties (they’re HEAVY) and then I moved the soil and planted the 2 pomegranates, transplanted 2 lantanas from elsewhere in the front yard, and planted out the 8 ‘Baby Sun’ Coreopsis that I grew from seed indoors.

Photo #1: The moved and planted pomegranate bed
Photo #2: The now-connected street-side bed
Photo #3: Where the pomegranate bed used to be – we’ll be planting grass seed there this weekend
Photo #4: The soggy pomegranate bed back in February, pre-move




wow that looks great!

Posted on 13 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

Looks very neat, robust and fit for purpose. You have a good local supply of railway ties? I could really use some of those. What are they treated with – if anything?

Posted on 13 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

Looks lovely!

Posted on 13 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

Thanks! I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Hopefully the plants will be happy and healthy there, especially the pomegranates.
@seeingreen: I had these railway ties delivered to my driveway by a local landscaping company. They were $11/each, and my expectation/hope is that they’ll last decades! I think that they’re treated with creosote, so I wouldn’t use these for vegetable gardening. I was thinking of using strawberries as ground cover around the pomegranates, but decided not to risk it. Apparently there are a whole bunch of railway ties available for free on the side of the road in a town about 20 miles inland (one of my co-workers told me that when I mentioned that I was creating flower beds with them), but I don’t think that they would fit in my Honda Civic!

Posted on 13 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

I can’t believe you moved that. What a job. It’s going to be great!

Posted on 14 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

@xan: I put it off for a couple of months, but finally did it, and am so glad that it’s done!! Thanks. :)

Posted on 14 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

It looks fantastic! Such a heavy job to move those railway ties around, I’m sure that’s a task you’re happy to check off the ‘to do’ list.

It seems a shame to have to return some of your soil to grass, after all the work to remove the grass, the bed it looks so weed free (and dry) at the moment.

Posted on 14 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

@HazelJ: Thanks! The railway ties tested our strength a few times, and we had some unplanned sudden drops but fortunately no injuries. A few of the ties were heavier than the others – there are at least 2 sizes/weights among the ones we had delivered. And yes, VERY happy to delete this task from my to do list!

I’m planning to plant 2 pussy willows in/near that area in addition to grass seed. It’s tempting to plant other things, but that spot remains under water for a few days after heavy rain and dries out in between, so it’s a tough spot. Also, I have more than enough garden areas to maintain at this point! I really should reduce the maintenance of my current beds before adding more…

Posted on 15 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

Do you have Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway? In the Catching, Conserving, and Using Water chapter he has a list of ‘Useful Plants from Mediterranean Climates’ and says that “these plants are from parts of the world with moist winters and dry summers. Through drought tolerant they can survive wet periods far better than many so-called ‘drought tolerant’ plants that originate in deserts. Most of these plants serve several functions, such as offering both food and habitat.” (p 103) Fig, Quince, Hazelnut, Lavender, Quinoa, Rosemary, Thyme, and Yarrow are some of the more interesting and edible ones on this list. If you have a decent library system (the one thing I miss about city living) I think they would have a copy. The edition I have was published in 2009, and the original was published in 2000.

You could always mulch the area to keep it weed free and have a ready planting area for next spring or fall. I don’t mean to sound too anti-lawn crazed, just as someone who has removed a lot of lawn I know how much work it is to clear area of grass. By all means, if you are maxed out in terms of garden maintenance grass may be the way to go.

Posted on 15 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

I do have Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden, although I admit to not looking at it for a while… I used to flip through my garden books every winter, in between gardening seasons, but since the gardening season is ongoing here I didn’t manage that this winter! Thank you for looking up plants that thrive in Mediterranean climates – my lavender, rosemary, thyme, and yarrow definitely seem happy here, and I’ve been thinking of adding a fig somewhere and possibly a quince. But I think that the spot that I moved the pomegranate bed away from is more challenging than a typical growing space in a Mediterranean climate since the roots will be submerged for several days at a time after a heavy rain. I think that that would cause root rot in most plants, unless they were adapted to living alongside a flooding stream (such as willows, red maples, cottonwoods, etc).

You’re right that it takes a lot of effort to remove grass from an area! And I’m intrigued by your idea of mulching the area to reserve it for future planting. In the long run I’m considering having a weeping willow / elderberry thicket growing in that part of the yard, but I have to do more research first. And I could transplant some of the Jerusalem artichokes by the side of my house to that spot, since they’re adapted to periodic flooding. Hm… :)

Posted on 17 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

I mulched heavily in the many open spaces in my front yard/curbside garden at my previous home and it was quite successful. It kept the weeds out, and when someone offered me a plant I was able to plant it right away filling in the gaps gradually (that may be less of an advantage for you since the site needs are so specific).
Odd bits of grass and weeds would still pop up in places, but they were pretty easy to pull on a weekly tour of the gardens. (I mulched thickly, I would say probably four inches deep. If you’re sure you’re not planting anything for a while you could put cardboard underneath the mulch too.)

My (wild) elderberries seem to be growing in the lower lying, soggy/boggy after a rain and dry in the summer areas here, so I suspect they would do well for you in that spot. They make an interesting jelly, but it’s the elderflower syrup (made from the blossoms) that is really neat. Here they flower in early summer after most of the flowering trees & shrubs are finished which I also like.

I have looked into weeping willow myself but have yet to come to a conclusion on how far it needs to be from my foundation, septic field, and well – there seem to be a number of opinions. I have yet to find anything conclusive or that appears to be based on scientific study of appropriate distances. If you find any in your research please let me know.

Posted on 19 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

That’s good to hear about elderberries – I think that they may be ideal for that spot. I actually mis-wrote: I have two PUSSY willows (not WEEPING willows) in pots that I’m planning to plant in the front wet area of the yard soon. We don’t have a septic system or a basement (our house is on a slab) so hopefully that would reduce the chance of the willow roots causing harm…
I just looked up pussy willows, septic systems, sewer/water lines, and foundation damage. Many sites said not to plant pussy willows on or near septic fields, and to keep them at least 15 feet from buildings and water/sewer lines. This site had some interesting ideas about how to keep the pussy willows small and tidy-looking that sound good: "Many gardeners plant pussy willow trees in their landscape for the beauty of their gray, silky buds and flowers. Unfortunately, pussy willows have invasive roots and should be planted away from septic tank fields, sewer lines or water lines. The invasive nature of their roots is an advantage, however, when they are planted to prevent erosion along stream and pond banks. Pussy willows are considered a small tree or a multistemmed shrub that can grow up to 30 feet in height. If left alone, they become bushy and unkempt in appearance. Pussy willows require severe pruning nearly every year to keep the plants strong and healthy. Don’t be afraid to remove long branches to enjoy in spring arrangements. Ed Moran, assistant garden superintendent at Reiman Gardens, uses a European technique called “coppice pruning” or “stumping” on the pussy willow trees at Reiman Gardens. Every spring, after the plants have flowered, but before leaves start to appear, he cuts the stems to within six to eight inches of the ground. This severe pruning encourages vigorous regrowth and prolific flowering the following spring. It also keeps the plant more compact with long, straight stems free of side branches. Coppice pruning maintains the plant as a multi-stemmed shrub."

Posted on 23 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

Congratulations! I’ve used ties (called sleepers here) before but ours are not that long. I can imagine what a beast of a job that bed was, and TWICE? yikes.

Lots of things coppice well, but I hadn’t heard that of pussy willows. Makes sense though, osier willows are coppiced to allow long, whippy growth for basketry. Your pussy willow prunings will also be useful for that sort of thing, if you are so inclined.

Posted on 25 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

Thanks! That project was a BEAST, and I’m glad to have it behind me and to be able to enjoy the result. :) I’ve never tried coppicing, but it seems likely that a healthy willow tree can stand up to anything. Mine are still tiny and in pots, so I’ll hold off on torturing them for a while. For the moment I have my hands full with gardening, and tend to relax online or with a book or getting other outdoor exercise in my spare time. I have a lot of crafty friends, though, and may join their ranks one of these days. Willow baskets might be a nice place to start!

Posted on 26 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

Or woven willow screens and fences in the garden ;)

Posted on 28 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

I have to say that that application is the more likely one! :)

Posted on 28 Apr 12 (about 7 years ago)

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