Sunday, May 22, 2011

Taming the Jungle

My yard looks pretty tame and suburban from the front, but there are parts of it in the back that are pretty wild.  The above-ground pool takes up a lot of the yard, and the grassy area where the dogs play and do their business takes up pretty much the rest of the back.  Just below the back deck is this area that we've paid zero attention to since we moved in four years ago.  When we moved in, there were three large banana trees and some shrimp plant. 
Over the years of neglect, the banana trees have spread.  If you don't know about them, they operate kind of like mushrooms.  There's one root and the trees pop up off the same root.  Like dollar weed.  These banana trees really are kind of like weeds.  Three, I could handle, but ten?  They die back every winter and you can cut them back, but they grow right back up again.  And they can get as tall as a story and a half to two stories.  In the summer, the ones in this bed grow up and block the sun from the back deck - and consequently, the house, which is already kind of a dark house.  I was thinking that today I'd go out there and dig them up while they're little.  Then I couldn't find the shovel.  So I thought maybe I'd just start by clearing out the other stuff and get it out of the way so I'd have room to work when I did find the shovel.

I have no idea what this is on the left, but it's pretty.  The one on the right is shrimp plant.  I'm sure it has some other official name, but the shape and color of the bloom is reminescent of shrimp, so that's what it's known by around here.  These and monkey grass are what's mostly in the bed with the bananas.

I got a lot done, in spite of the stubborness of the roots.  The ground here is awful.  It's dry and hard-packed and even the hoe bounced right off.  I actually resorted to using a hatchet to break up the dirt so I could pull the roots out.  I also sawed off two of the small banana trees , but couldn't get the stumps out.

They heal up pretty fast.  When you first cut them, they're greenish white and oozing milk.  Minutes later, they're brown and look like they've been cut off like that forever.  Another thing you may not know about banana trees is that they smell AWFUL once you cut them.  I can't even begin to describe it, but I realized my mistake too late and had to do a lot of my work with the stench of cut banana tree in my nose.  I had to take lots of breaks.
I had some company as I worked and took my ice water breaks.  We noticed a nest being built over the kitchen window a while ago, but thought it had been abandoned.  Nope!  Mama made repeated trips to feed these little guys, who made lots of noise.

As I stood back to look at my work so far (which doesn't really show up in this picture), I saw a piece of vinyl lattice stuck under the porch and an idea came to me as to what to do with this space.  I may have to work on it all summer, but by next spring, I will have the best space for a real garden!  I'll put in raised beds in the flat bit and a wall garden (supported by lattice work along the bottom open area of the deck) for herbs.  I'll need to add a fence to keep the dogs out, but it doesn't have to be fancy.

It's inspired, really. 

I love my EarthBox, but I've discovered that I need more light than it gets on my front porch to actually have a harvest of any sort.  I have two tiny yellow squash.  There should be so much more.  I'm still forming ideas on how to make sure this works, but I love having a long time to plan it out and get it ready.

I'm already thinking I need a couple of blueberry bushes in there too.

After all, there's gotta be somewhere for this little guy to take his afternoon naps!


karisma said...

Your jungle is looking a lot more organised than mine. I went to a garden once where the lady had banana trees, she told us you have to cut them down after they fruit, not just to make room but to give the new shoots more nutrients etc.

ari_1965 said...

I got stuck on the idea of banana trees and didn't really take in the rest of your post. My fault. It's a Minnesota thing. I kept thinking "Banana trees? She has banana trees?"

How silly of me to get hung up on that. There are banana trees in Minnesota, too. They are 4 of them. They live together in a spacious condo in The Como Conservatory's rainforest room.

I love blueberry bushes. I hope you get four, which should provide enough for your family and to send me jars of jelly.