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One of the first things I did when I moved in was plant a perennial garden. I wanted a beautiful place where I could attract pollinators and pretty critters and increase curb appeal.

11209695_10155529497160596_1965150593871578516_nIt was quite a process. I had to start by pulling all of the grass out of the chosen location. The previous people in this house apparently had a car parked in this spot. There’s a stump still in it (now hidden by a butterfly puddler), there were rotting pieces of wood, the grass was patchy, and the soil was seriously compacted. It was seriously neglected. We went at it with a hand tiller to remove the grass and loosen the earth.

1459199_10155546787610596_191760796161393705_nI mixed in some horse manure compost and fish meal fertilizer. The manure compost is made in my parents’ neighborhood, as there’s communal horse pastures and a communal barn, so the manure goes into bunkers, along with grass clippings, weeds, and yard waste from anyone in the neighborhood who adds to the compost piles. Compost helps create healthy soil with beneficial microbes and better soil consistency. The fish meal fertilizer is fairly balanced and organic. I didn’t do a soil test, though I maybe should have with the state the soil was in.

10256385_10155546787655596_3042380821303427959_n Then I placed the plants that I’d bought from a local organic nursery to see where I wanted them. All of them will grow to be bushier, so I gave them plenty of space to grow. Most of my plants had to be sun-loving; only one small spot was shady enough to put a plant that doesn’t like full sun in, so my bleeding hearts went there. I chose these plants for a very specific purpose: to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, and/or to be edible. I have blueberries, bleeding heart, crocosmia, Echinacea, aster, bee balm, and lavender. Bee balm particularly earned its name, although they visit the Echinacea and lavender frequently as well.

11150387_10155546855850596_6515258140420890126_nThen I planted them, and mulched with organic bark mulch. Add some water, and all was ready to grow!

We’ve had a few setbacks — my blueberries struggled with a lack of phosphorous, the heat has made them all require far more water than they would normally during summer, and my puppy bowled over my bigger bleeding heart and broke almost every stem at the base so I’m just hoping it will come back next spring.

17006_10155870074895596_8112323182824582318_nYou can see in this picture, on one of the few rainy summer days we’ve gotten (hence the dead grass), how much a lot of these plants have grown. I still need to pull out some of the grass around the edges that I didn’t mulch.

22013_10155853774230596_3150443862774276511_nI also have some other plants along the porch and in hanging baskets. My favorite are the fuchsia. I hung a hummingbird feeder next to the fuchsia, and I’ve had some tiny friends visit regularly. Attracting pollinators and beneficial insects is a great thing for a gardener to do, and it’s important to make sure you don’t put poisons in your garden that will kill good critters. I use only Neem oil if I have to do something more serious about a pest or disease problem, as it treats many and only kills things that eat the flesh of the plants (otherwise known as pests). Bees, birds, ladybugs, butterflies, and other wildlife remains unaffected.