Monday, May 2, 2011

Tracking Changes over Time

Magnolia bush in my backyard
my backyard is a constructed ecosystem.  but even so, i've tried to keep it as naturalistic as possible by minimizing turf grass, adding bushes and planting beds, and introducing edible plants into the landscape to encourage wildlife (but not in my fenced off vegetable garden).  so, despite it's constructed nature, it is still natural.  and since it is my backyard and i spend a great deal of time there, i've decided to use it as my iSite for tracking changes over time.

i live in a downtown area with a small lot and just a tiny patch of turf grass for my kids to play in.  that tiny patch of grass isn't doing well - bad soil, erosion, or my natural weed inhibitors and organic fertilizers don't go far enough to keep it lush and green.  but oh well.  if it all dies, i'll reseed it with more appropriate varieties that hopefully don't require the maintenance that kentucky bluegrass does.  in most of the yard, i have gotten rid of  my grass in favor of planting beds.  i have flowering trees and bushes, berry bushes, herbs, and far too many hostas that will all fill out later in the season, but right now they look like green sticks in the mulch.  

my annual garden is fenced off to keep the bunnies out - last year they ate every strawberry and all of my bean plants down to the stem.  everyone tells me to get a pellet gun, but i'd rather put up a fence and encourage them to go elsewhere than to kill them.  i've never been one for capital punishment, especially over stealing food.  right now, the garden soil is bare except for ornamental grass straw as mulch.  in a couple of weeks, i'll transplant seedlings.  every year, i think about how to make my vegetable garden more of a perennial garden or a no-till operation, but i haven't figured out how to do that yet.

the vinca ground cover has surprised me this year.  i planted it last year and already it has leafed out and grown tall with cute little purple flowers.  little buds are everywhere - such a wonderful departure from the brown sticks that make up our chicago winters.  

the squirrels are much fatter this year.  and there are birds everywhere.  the cardinals stuck around over the winter, but new birds are back.  i want to learn their names and more about them.  

in the fall, i let the leaves fall on my mulch beds and by spring when i lifted them up, tiny white strings of mycorrhizal fungi were below the leaf cover - healthy soil!  so important for the large norway maple that is at the center of my small yard and at least 50 years old.  the species is considered invasive because it sends off those helicopter seeds and starts seedlings everywhere.  and its shade is so dense it is hard to grow much below it.  but, it's cool to sit under in the hot summer and it is a gorgeous focal point for my small yard.  and it hasn't shaded my garden yet.  two years ago after we moved into this house, the maple lost about 1/3 of its branches in a wind storm.  an arborist said it has verticillium wilt, which is a fungal infection that weakens trees.  the arborist said to treat it as a chronic disease - keep the soil fertilized and healthy with good fungi - in order to give the tree the best shot at survival.  similar to how we try to keep ourselves healthy by eating good food and exercising to fend off attacks by microbes ourselves.  this tree is central to my landscape and i hope to keep it around for a very long time.  

the lots are small in my neighborhood and the house next to me is for sale.  it will likely be torn down in favor of another large house on a small lot and my garden and landscape will need to adapt to the changing conditions of less sun.  and i'll have to adapt too.  dynamic non-equilibrium - everything changes.  i need to roll with it and not fight it.  my garden will still be my oasis, no matter how much sun it gets in the future.  

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