Just a Hello!

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Good Afternoon Everyone!

My husband and I bought our first home two years ago and I'm going to be planting my first flower garden this year. Although I've done a lot of reading on the internet I'm a complete newbie.

We think that the previous owners of the house 'flipped' it, and although they stuck some plants in the ground they didn't pay any attention to sunlight and soil conditions and the bed that's there is barren. (There are 3 Rhodies in the front of the house that are very very unhappy...I'll be going to the rhodie forum here shortly)

Anyway, I'm going to 'redo' the bed that had been created at the side of the garage. It's a North facing wall that is mostly shady. I cheated and bought a 'garden' from Michigan Bulb and I'll be planting in the next few days. They provide the plan and send you the correct plants. The bed will be 22 feet wide (the length of the garage) and 6 feet deep and it's deepest. (The garden plan I bought was created 18 ft wide, so I bought additional flowers fpr the extra 4 ft.)

I dug a little in the bed last year and there was a lot of large rocks and chunks plastic and stuff in it, so I'm going to clean it out and remove all the junk that's in it first. Than I have eleven 40 pound bags of compost that I'm going to mix in before I plant anything. (Is that enough compost? I wasn't sure how to calculate that right... I figured my first calculation of 122 bags was WAY wrong... LOL)

Here's what I'll be planting:

From The Predesigned Garden Plan:
Lady Fern
Perennial Lilies (looks like an asiatic lily)
Widows Tears
Lily of the Valley
Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart

'Extras' that I bought (I got carried away!):

Pink Flamingo (Dodecatheon meadia)
Pink Magic Butterfly Violet
Poker Primrose
Chameleon Flower
Pink Sundrops
Ajuga Blue Carpet
Virgina Bluebells

My husband just shakes his head because he thinks I'm going to kill everything. (He has no faith in my gardening abilities... hehehe) He swears he can already hear them screaming because they can see my 'brown' thumb coming for them. I'm determined to prove him wrong, as is my duty as a woman. Ha ha ha! I would appreciate any advice, tips, tricks, well wishes etc. I do have a flower bed in the front of the house in the shade that will hold the extra plants I bought that aren't going to fit in the bed by the garage, so they won't be homeless.

Thank you for allowing me to ramble on.... I'm SOO excited to be here!


Sounds like it will be beautiful....good luck and don't listen to your husband. LOL

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

So much of it is finding out what works for you, how it grows, what it likes, how you like it once you've lived with it....

Lincoln, NE(Zone 5b)


Good luck on your new venture. Gardening is a great enjoyment for me as well as a stress reliever. It's hard on me physically, but I feel such an accomplishment when it's completed. Although my gardens are never "complete". There are always plants to move, replace, etc.

The plants you have selected should work for your shady area.

To figure the amount of compost, you can use the following formula to get the cubic feet. Most bags state that it covers x cu. ft.
length x width x depth
Your area is 22 x 6 = 132 sf. If you want to add 3 inches of compost to the area, that's 1/4 ft so you can multiply by .25. 132 X .25 = 33 cu ft

If you need the measurement in cu. yds (for mulch or whatever) divide that number by 27. 33/27=1.22 cu.yds.

I hope that makes sense.

Good luck on your project.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Did you already receive your plants and are they in good shape? Michigan Bulb isn't the most reliable mail order nursery in the world

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Thank you for the well wishes and the advice! I feel more confident already!

Tricia thanks so much for the math on the compost! I was way off both times... guess it's back to the store for a 'few' more bags of compost. Now if the weather will hold out for a few more days I'll be in business!


Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

ecrane3, I got my flowers yesterday and from what I can tell they look good. The potted flowers looks green and healthy and moist. The bare root flowers I'm not 'real' sure how to tell if they're good or not... and the bulbs look okay to the best of my knowledge. Meaning they don't appear damaged or 'shrively'. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Thanks for the heads up!


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Glad to hear that! I was a little worried because I'd heard of people having bad experiences with them, but who knows, maybe they read all the feedback and decided to do a better job!

Green Lane, PA

Sounds like you are having fun! Don't overlook hosta - they do attract some slugs, but as far as I can tell, they are one of the easiest and most rewarding plants for shade... They tolerate many conditions and soil types and (until the end of the season) make your garden look lush and full - even if you have a "gap" in bloom time... Best part - they are so easy to divide that you will soon have plenty to spread around without spending another dime. Good luck!

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Yes, Hostas are wonderful, my neighbor has a yard full. I never realized there were so many different types. She seperated hers last fall and donated them to my front yard garden area. It looks like most of them are coming back okay, I can't wait to see how it all fills in. Slugs? Eeeewwww! Good thing I have several pairs of garden gloves.... mud? worms? I can handle it. Slugs? I'm not so sure! LOL


Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

My New Garden - Day One

I was so anxious to get started this morning! I ran to Steins this morning in search of a hoe and new gloves, and whatever else I saw that I might need. I found a wonderful woman working there that had a ton of tips and suggestions! One of her suggestions was to get a tiller to help shred the lawn that I need removed to enlarge the garden. What a marvelous idea! The rental place was on my way home so I stopped in and sure enough, they had a little baby tiller. I tossed it in the back of the truck and away I went.

My husband shook his head and said he didn't think this was going to work. But he didn't say another word, just went to bed for the day (he works nights).

I ran a tape measure to 5 feet away from my the garage wall and stuck a screw driver in the ground to mark it. Then went to the far end of the wall and marked 5 feet there. (This I used a kitchen knife... it was all I could think of). I ran a string between the two items so I knew where my 5 foot mark was. (It was very simple, but I was so proud! LOL)

I raked all of the wood chip/mulch off the existing bed and removed some bulbs that were coming up. (I don't know what they are or where they came from...) I spent the next 15 minutes trying to start the darn tiller. I think this is one reason I wish my hubby let me do more around the house... I wouldn't be so clueless. I knew about the choke and the priming button thing but wasn't sure what to do first. But after trying a fw different combinations it started! Yeah!

Of course my joy was short lived... it was indeed a baby tiller and couldn't get through the lawn. I called the rental place and they had a bigger one... if I had a trailier to haul it. Trailer? Good grief, I'm not that brave! I cleaned the baby tiller and took it back to rental shop.

I tried the big shovel, but I could barely get it through the ground far enough to get underneath the grass... so that was short lived. I also sat down and tried my little hand shovel.... no...I'm not crazy enough to try and dig up 22 feet of lawn with a hand shovel.

I sat and pondered while I looked with amazement at all the worms in the dirt. (Worms are good right?! LOL)

I quit with the back yard for the day. I swallowed my pride and sprayed off the garden tools and put them in the garage. I decided I would wait for hubby to help in the morning. I was really trying to prove my 'independance' but getting this done myself, but I'll have to try that again some other time! ha ha

I decided to concentrate my effort on the front of the house. I fed my sickly rhodies some new plant food with acid stuff in it, and apologized to them... again... for not figuring out how to make them healthy yet. But I assured them I was still trying.

I checked on the hosta plants in the other little corner garden in the front. I moved the 3" of woodchip/mulch and I saw a bunch more popping through. (I told hubby that that was WAY too much mulch...so I took the extra and added it to the pile in the back yard. I planted 6 chameleon flowers in the front of that section and gave them some transplant/shock preventer food. I wished them well and promised to do my best to keep them alive and asked that they not pay ANY attention to the 'big mean man that mows the lawn!'.

Then, it was time for a shower... jammies... and dinner!

Day one wasn't a complete waste, but it didn't turn out like I had planned. In my mind I envisioned this all being much easier... and it would all be done when hubby got home from work in the morning. I guess that's why it's called yard WORK.

Now, it's time to relax... I'll let you know how tomorrow goes! (I'm such a goof!)


Ogden, UT


Bless your heart. I know how you feel, I don't have a husband, and the whole tiller thing just wasn't working, how to haul it, how to lift it, how does it start? and then trying to hold on to it. Not an easy task. Luckily, my sweet neighbor helped till out an area for me.

You are doing great! Very important to work the soil and amend it.
I agree with ecrane3 about the bulb company. Anytime I have ordered through a catalog I haven't had much luck. Once in a great while I get lucky. I find I have better luck with the bulbs. I now buy my plants at the nurserys or home depot or lowes, or grow them in the greenhouses. The only time I order through a catolog is if they have something I just love and have to have that I can't find in local nurserys.
That said, don't be discouraged if you have trouble with some of the plants.

I love gardening, such a feeling of accomplishment to work hard and take something that doesn't look so good, and create something beautiful :)
I get excited each year just watching the perennials peek up through the soil.

Hostas are definately one of my favs, I bought a few last year, and have started some different types in the greenhouse. I am aiming for all hostas with some asiatic lilies underneath my tree in the frontyard. Right now its a mix of too much stuff and looks messy.

Happy Gardening :)

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

There are plenty of great mail order companies who I order plants from all the time--Michigan Bulb just isn't one of them! That's why the Watchdog is so great, it lets you learn from other people's experiences. But I'm a huge fan of mail order gardening overall, I've gotten a lot of wonderful plants that way that I would never have gotten otherwise

Adrian, MO(Zone 6a)

If you want to kill a plant just overamend the soil, overfertilize,overwater, overprune
and just generally pamper them to death. the best thing is to have a soil test done
you'll probably be amazed at how good your soil actually is. Have fun and always buy the plant that YOU think is beautiful, cause if it doesn't want to grow for you or you have to pamper it too much you'll probably not like it anymore anyway. Most of all have fun and don't put too much faith in those garden books.ha! They all start out saying fill in the blank plant is very hardy and by the time you get through the book you'll think that there is no way you'll ever be able to grow that plant. good luck and garden with your heart and by your gut instincts.

Kwajalein, Marshall Islands(Zone 11)

Len - oh how right you are! Experts say this and that, but if you love the plant, and it loves you- it will grow. Just about anything can be analysed to death. Good luck Christy, have fun. Its a lot of work, but more than worth the effort. Enjoy!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Christy- that sounds like a wonderful day, despite the setbacks!

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Day 2 of my new garden was busy. My hubby dug up the sod and we spent a couple of hours trying to remove as much dirt as possible, as well as all those worms! We opted to use the compost as a mulch and laid it on top of the bed.

I spent the morning of day 3 planting my new flowers. My husband, who thinks he's a comedian said (with a laugh) that I was taking them to put them in their final resting place... their grave. Humpf! ;-p

I'm concerned about them now because it appears that the portion of soil that once held grass appears to have a much higher clay composition than I thought. I didn't realize it until I watered and saw the water the pool on top. It was disheartening to see, but we'll have to wait and see what happens. I'm thinking I may end up having to turn this into a raised bed this fall depending on what happens.

This has been a learning experience, and one thing I've learned is that I'm horribly impatient! I keep walking out to the garden thinking that flowers are miraculously going to appear... sheesh! It's been 2 days... how come I don't have big beautiful flowers yet??? (Just kidding!)

You all are wonderful, and I appreciate all of the words of advice and well wishes. I'm definately taking notes! I've watched my mom garden my whole life and never had any interest in it, but she always made it look easy. Now when I tell her about my gardening escapades she gets a good laugh. LOL


Assonet, MA(Zone 6b)

Good morning Christie; My sides hurt from laughing. I can just see each step (or mistep) as I've done them also (still doing). Good thing we have twisted dh's that find our escapades amusing if not just ridiculous. Good luck with your gardens and keep us posted - your a fun read.

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Thank you DaisyCat! I'm glad that my humor comes through because I've learned that you really need to be able to laugh at yourself, especially when trying new things! I'm also glad to hear that I'm not alone in this craziness and someone else has had the same experiences! Wait 'til I tell my hubby that I'm not the ONLY one who has some of these problems! (He probably won't believe me! LOL) He says I can't buy anymore plants until these grow.... little does he know, I already have a plan. ;-) If my bulbs don't pop through in the next few weeks, I'm going to buy new plants and put them in the garden while he's asleep... maybe he wouldn't know the difference! ROFL!


Lincoln, NE(Zone 5b)


It's nice that your hubby is willing to help, even if he thinks it's their final resting place. Last year my hubby rented a large tiller and tried to clear some areas for me. We found it didn't work because of the way the sod was installed. So, I'm the one that ended up digging out the sod by hand. After the sod was pulled up, I added the dirt and compost and then used a small tiller to work that down into the clay.

I've bought some of my plants on ebay and have been happy with most of the buys. I've had a few disappointments over the size of the plant, but the majority have been worth the money. I add the shipping cost into my bids so I know that I'm not paying more than what I can buy here locally. I also check to see if I can find 2 or more things from the same seller to save on shipping costs.

Post some pics of the area if you can. I'd love to see what you've done.


Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

About the clay soil-Dig it up, add compost and cow manure and mix it all together. Also starting a compost pile is a great idea. Sounds as if you are having a great time, and that is the true test of a good gardener. Every planting is an experiment, so enjoy!!

Paxton, FL

Hi Christy!I first started gardening about a year ago,and soon found out that gardening books aren't always what they claim to be.I just found some local gardeners in my neighborhood and asked their advice!So if you have any gardening questions in the future and can't find the solution anywhere on Dave's Garden then that's always an option.


Schriever, LA(Zone 9a)


Sounds like you're having a blast! Please don't give up. There is a learning curve and it seems everyone has to get through school..Of Hard Knocks. You so remind me of myself. I love your enthusiasm and you are well informed. A garden is a living canvas and you are the artist. One day it will take your breath away. I am 50 years old and think I finally have it down. I get lots of compliments from my non-gardening friends. It is quite nice. Then...I visit my mother and her garden...and realize how much I still have to learn. Try to take one section at a time. Decide on the "bones" such as trees and shrubs and fill in with annuals for color. Next year, add some perennials in addition to the annuals. You are definitely on the right path. I have to say that developing a relationship with your local nursuries will serve you well in the long run.

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

Christy, I'm new to DG but definately not to gardening. I'm 57 and started out "helping" my father with his veggie garden when I was about 5. You may not have patience now but gardening will eventually teach you patience. You have enthusiasum and enjoyment of the process in your favor. At my age I've learned to slow down and enjoy the whole process beginning with all the hard work and ending up with the reward of all those beautiful growing plants! I admire you for sticking with it--you will NOT be sorry. My hubby and I built our dream house (did it ourselves) about 2 1/2 years ago and I've been landscaping the 5 1/2 acres we carved out as our yard. He loves to tease me about all the "weeds" I plant in the yard but, like your hubby, he helps me out with the heavy work if I need it. He's really proud of all I've done, he just has to have his fun with it. I predate the computer age but have learned to love it as a very helpful tool for my garden planning. I Google EVERYTHING before I put it in my gardens. I check to make sure it's not an invasive plant, how long the bloom period is, how disease resistant it is, etc. That info is soooo helpful. Also, if you do get slugs in your hostas (and they DO love them), my remidy is to just put out strategically located lids (has to be shallow so they can get in) with beer in them. They love it--crawl right in, get drunk (LOL) and die. And like daltri, I'd love to see your results--bet it's all going to be beautiful. Happy gardening!

Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Hello! Although I have not been around here for a month or so, I am happy to report that I have not given up my attempt at gardening. I've had a few medical issues that have kept me on the sidelines for a little while, but things are better now.

So, how's my garden you ask? Well, thriving isn't quite the word I would use, but there are a few things that appear to be alive, other than weeds. Of all my flowers, the lilies are definitely doing the best. They're very tall and should be ready to bloom very soon. (I'm anxious to see what color they're going to be).

I did notice today that a few of my lilies are missing leaves....I suspect the neighborhood bunnies have something to do with that. (Those cute little snots!) And, someone has eaten all of my lily of the valley. I had 6 of them but only two or three of them began to grow... than all of a sudden I don't have ANY of them left.... hmph! I'm not sure if that's due to bunnies or squirrels, but they better knock it off! It seems that anything that starts to bloom gets eaten. I'll be headed out to the store tomorrow looking for some type of detterent. I put up a small wire fence, but unless they're HUGE bunnies and squirrels I think they're going to go right through it. I think I read somewhere that a plastic owl may help..... I may just go buy a few dozen of those....

This has truly been a learning experience. We put a layer of compost/manure on the top of the bed... I learned ( a little too late) that manure contains weed seeds and, according to my mother, you're supposed to use some type of weed killer stuff on it. Would have been nice if mom had mentioned that before I grew my first weed garden! ;-p

Here I thought my garden was really taking off and it was just weeds. Seeing as I couldn't tell the difference between the weeds and the flowers I decided I better let them grow for awhile and see if I could figure it out later on... that didn't help. In fact when it was time to weed the garden I think I pulled more plants out than I did weeds. In fact, on the first attempt I was only able to weed about 1/3 of it and had to wait for another day to finish the rest. I was a little bit smarter the second time.... I went out there with pictures of the flowers I planted and tried to compare the leaves. That helped a little. But by the time I was done pulling all the weeds my garden was pretty sparse. I blame the squirrels.... and the rabbits.... I'll post a few pictures of what I have left.... you'll find me over in the plant ID area next.... there are still a few things that I can't figure out.... why don't weeds grow with a big 'W' on their leaves or something... sure would make it easier....

Thanks for letting me ramble on, it feels good to be back here.


Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

So here's the picture of the 'Left' half of my garden, (I apologize if the photo is too large.... I cropped it and I hopefully shrank it enough)

These are my lilies, the graveyard of my lily of the valley (to the right of the lillies in the front), an astilbe in the back, a bleeding heard in the front and either widows tears or a butterfly violet in the front.


Thumbnail by StressedTek
Racine, WI(Zone 5a)

Here's the right half of the garden...

More widows tears and/or butterfly violet, another astilbe in the back, a fern in the far back corner... and a few things that lack identification.... weeds most likely.... I sure bought ALOT of flowers to have all this empty space.... of course there's no telling how many I pulled thinking they were weeds.... too funny!


Thumbnail by StressedTek
Bellevue, NE(Zone 4b)

I have enjoyed reading this. I was born in Racine! I am a pretty new gardener and I used to kill everything. Here is the best advice ever given me on gardening: Plants want to live. I always felt like they were really hard to keep alive, till someone told me that. You can always move an unhappy plant to a new location. I love gardeners - they are the nicest group of people! They aren't afraid of giving away their best secrets. If you have questions, haunt your local nursery and ask questions - I keep learning so much that way. They may even have some fun classes for you to take. I hope you keep enjoying your garden!

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