Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Frustrating day

Today seems to be one of those days where nothing goes as planned. It's actually not raining today, at least not yet, and I thought I would get a few things done outside. There are rows of Bradford pear trees along the road in front of the house and all along the east side, and I've been waiting for them to drop their leaves so the garden area would get some light. The previous owner had let them grow as bushes, so very year I trim them up into something more resembling a tree, and cut down a few of them completely. When I bought the property there was no grass in the front yard due to the very dense shade, along with the foot deep leaves laying on the ground all winter that smothered anything struggling to survive there. This was taken standing by the raised beds looking toward the driveway.  In this view there were 5 more Bradfords, 2 ornamental peaches, a weeping willow, 3 maples and 6 assorted shrubs.  Yep, no grass could survive that amount of shade.

The past couple years I've bagged the leaves with the riding mower and used them for compost in the garden beds and around trees, but I left the riding mower up north this year. The push mower that's here also has a bagger, but I can only go 8 or ten feet before having to stop and empty the bag because the leaves are so deep. Ok, that's doable for getting some deep mulch on the garden beds, except the mower is very cold-blooded and reluctant to run when the temps are in the low 40's. LOTS of pulling on the starter rope before it finally decides to run, then 10 feet later it gets shut off so I can empty the bag. Actually, it shuts itself off when you let go of the handle. Next time I may zip tie the safety bar to the handle so it will keep running. Anyway, after a dozen or so of these start-stop cycles it decided it wasn't going to start again, no way, no how. The gas is from June, and I suspect that may be part of the problem, plus it's due for a tune-up.

Ok, I'll switch gears and do something else, like weed one of the beds so I can plant the chard. I had real good luck growing the chard in a stainless steel restaurant pan this summer up north, but it hasn't been faring so well since I got back to TN. With many nights around freezing I was concerned that the roots would freeze so it has been hauled inside at night, and back outside during the day once it warms up. Between the deep shade from the Bradfords and the seemingly never ending string of gloomy overcast days it just hasn't been happy. I have never minded weeding, until I moved here and have to contend with the wire grass? that takes over everything.  I did get one bed cleared, worked eight bags of chopped leaves into the soil, transplanted the chard and got the floating row cover on.

I didn't take any before pics, but this is what the next bed looks like after getting half of it weeded.
Nasty, nasty grass. Pulling it can cut your hands and will definitely give you blisters, and the rhizomes can go down a foot or more, and run for what seems like miles. I've pulled some that were 6 and 8 feet long, and they had broken off so who knows how long this stuff can actually run. The two beds in the back in this picture don't have much grass, maybe due to the deep shade, so those are easy to weed. I even got a few bags of leaves/mulch on them before the mower decided it was done for the day. So, no more mowing, and my back is telling me I'm done weeding.

Ok, maybe the weed trimmer will run and I can clean along the edge of the wheelchair ramp and front of the house. After getting the trimmer out, winding some new line on it, gassing it up, and pulling the starter about a million times it did run for a bit. Maybe 5 minutes. Then it also decided it's too cold to do anything and stopped.

I'm not even going to think about getting the chain saw out! LOL My arm is going to complain enough as it is. 


  1. Small engines are such a pain. I know several hundred experts will start telling you what is wrong yadda yadda but in my experience no one can keep small engines running. They are so fragile that sitting idle even a month will change them somehow into non-starting hunks of junk. Now the expert small engine repair guys will get em going in short order and say something like it needed a new float or whatever but I noticed something last time I was there. They work on their own small engines as much as mine. So the only sure way to keep small engines running? Is to become a small engine mechanic yourself :)

    I got too many irons in the fire already for that.

  2. Engines are something I've never gotten into. Other mechanical stuff I'm pretty good with, just never torn into an engine and really don't feel like learning it at this point. In a perfect world I would have goats or sheep or hogs or something to keep the grass down, but even if I hadn't taken most of the fencing out here (actually the vines took much of it down, I just cleaned up the mess), I haven't been able to figure out how to move livestock from north to south and back again each year.
    When small engines act up around here, if an oil change, new plug, new air filter and fresh gas doesn't get them running again I know a good small engine guy. :)

  3. You have a lot of beds, which means lots of work! The chard looks very good and i hope it can survive the weather.

  4. There are 8 raised beds, one has asparagus, one was planted with raspberries which have now spread to a total of 3 beds, so there are really only 4 that I could work up and plant with something. Since I'm not here for the main growing season I have only kept one or two planted, and just mulched the other two which helps a bunch with the heavy clay soil here.

  5. I have the same procedure for small engines myself. I think that stuff you are pulling is running Burmuda grass, nasty in the garden indeed. If you are not opposed to chemicals, I think they sell a spray at Lowes that will kill grass but not harm your garden plants.

  6. Swamp Dog, I'm vehemently opposed to chemicals, especially around things I plan to eat. I guess I'm stuck with pulling and mulching to try and control the grass.