Where Only The Tough Survive

TLW (The Little Woman) and I have a very difficult yard in which to grow stuff. It’s low. It used to be a swamp but heavy clay soil was imported to raise the grade. Still there is one low spot which subsides and traps water in spring or after heavy rains. It’s wide open to winter winds… We’ve planted a hundred trees and only a few survive. We’ve searched and I think found a species that can grow along this edge of the property, the high bush cranberry.

It’s not a cranberry at all but it does produce tasty red fruit which persists through winter. It’s Viburnum trilobum. It’s native to Canada and my earliest memories of it relate to my mother making gallons of jelly from the fruit. You could find it anywhere, in exposed fencerows, anywhere in the forest, and it loved to be at the edges of the swamps. It has a profusion of white flowers in spring and clusters of red berries at a good height for picking. Imagine that, toughness, versatility, beauty, privacy and delicious food all from a single plant!

Well, I won’t have that. I bought more than 1000 seeds and I intend to keep planting until I have enough shrubs. You guessed it. The perfect plant has one negative. Part of its toughness comes not from producing seed for next year but the year after… Yes, in Nature the seed lies dormant all next summer when it may sprout roots and nothing more. In the following winter seeds grow cotyledons which then emerge in a later spring. Being impatient I’ve a handful of seed stratifying in a bag of moist loam simulating summer. About April, I will place the bag in the refrigerator to simulate winter and plant the seeds in pots in June, saving my patience a whole year… 😉

So, in a year or two I will plant a row of these near perfect shrubs just as I did today with hardy grapes. If I live long enough, my pathetic yard will produce more flowers and fruit than all my neighbours combined. It’s all going to be good. BTW, the newest swath of grass seedlings have taken hold and more mud will grow much more than weeds next year.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.

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2 Responses to Where Only The Tough Survive

  1. Grece wrote, “About the only thing you DO grow Robert, is tall grass and weeds.”

    That was the case when I retired. TLW was not mowing anything and darkness was over the face of the deep. I remember buying a John Deere mower that got stuck in the swamp at one point. This year, a lot of weeds have been sprayed and mowed to death but we now have hundreds of trees, flowers and veggies where once only weeds grew. The worst weed, quackgrass, is almost eliminated from the area intended for lawn. The newly planted lawn is a bit weedy and covers about 1/3 of the space intended for lawn but I have enough trees now that deer have nibbled and it’s hard to notice. I did lose a few good trees to hares last winter so I will have to be on guard. Fortunately, snow lets me track them down and they don’t like to travel much out in the open so I think I can control that.

    The garden produced a fair bit this year: tomatoes, onions, sweet and hot peppers, garlic, asparagus, raspberries, pumpkin, gourd, rhubarb and grapes as well as a number of fruit trees have managed to survive two years or more, the critical time.

    Next year, I will put less effort into planting new trees and more into tending the garden and planting the remainder of lawn. I will plant from seed a few more species but the total number of new trees planted will be small, probably less than 50. In fact, I intend to start collecting grass-clippings to continuously improve the soil of the garden. A disruption of the process will be a connection to the soon to be planted municipal sewer. That will require work on the patio and some plumbing in the house but the technology used is mostly horizontal drilling so trees, grass and berms will not be affected, just the patio whereunder lies the perfectly good septic tank which must be replaced by law.

    So, while I am great at growing long grass and weeds, we do grow much more than those. TLW and I do plant some long grass, called “ornamental” but the only weeds we intend to grow are hostas and trees. They will spread naturally if left to themselves but we use the berms and nice straight rows to delineate trees. I’m planning to plant a row or two of sweet clovers near the grapes and apple trees. Some consider that a weed but it’s for the bees and they fix nitrogen for my trees…

  2. Grece says:

    About the only thing you DO grow Robert, is tall grass and weeds.

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