Cleanup: part 3 - the big "box"

Another day of garden bed cleanup! Nice and sunny, which is great for my spirits, but since the bed I'll be working on is partly in the shade cast by the house and deck, it's going to make for some tough photos. Here's the bed:

It's another raised bed I built in 2002. I refer to it as "the big box". Growing in it last year was plumbago, purple coneflower, shasta daisy, eryngium, columbine, and a couple of others. The large toppled tree-looking thing was a castor bean.

Here are a couple of closer looks at the mess:

Ugly! You can see part of my abandoned "mister" watering system. I haven't used it in several years as I've found it nearly impossible to get coverage of all of the plants once they're mature, so I'd rather go in there with a hose once in a while when needed. I also try to water as little as possible, but it's unavoidable in the heat of our summers (usually). I'm leaving the mister system in there "just in case".

There's some green in there -- the shasta daisies -- so I can't just wildly rake and rip stuff out. There are a few columbine plants emerging as well:

So my method is to take pruners in one hand, and with the other hand grab a bunch of stems, give a gentle pull and twist to try and snap them at or near the ground. I'd rather leave a couple inches of dead stem than accidentally rip out the perennial it's attached to. The pruners are for stems that don't snap easily. It's a feel thing, and you get the hang of it pretty quickly. I'll also pull out any weeds I notice, which in this bed is mostly violets (they're everywhere in my yard!) and vinca major. The vinca is not strictly a weed, but it's planted at the base of this box, and usually manages to get a couple of vines up and over the edge of the box, mainly during late summer when I'm not paying as much attention. You can see one of the vinca vines in the columbine photo above: it's the only green stem showing.

Everything comes up pretty easily -- only the castor bean "stump" takes a bit of tugging to get out:

If there's ever a riot or angry mob that forms in my garden, I'm grabbing a castor bean stump. It's like a small tree, but lighter. This box is finished! Took about 20 minutes.

As with my other clean-up jobs, it's not perfect, but it doesn't have to be. In a month or so you won't even notice the ground. Remember the vinca that I mentioned is growing at the base of this box? Time to get rid of some of it:

More cypress vines on that tripod trellis, a shrub-like Rudbeckia triloba "carcass", some Blue Zinger sedge, and the vinca. Time to get chopping! The sedge actually looks fairly good, with quite a bit of green (well, blue-green) in it. I'm tempted to leave it alone, but I've done that in the past and have learned that although it looks good right now in comparison to all of the browns around it, once things green up it will be the shabbiest looking plant of the bunch. Best to cut it back and let it freshen itself up.

Although there's a mass of vinca vines, it's not too hard to get rid of them. I've learned that it's best to just cut them back as much as possible. I gather a bunch of vines in my hand and try to pull out as much as possible. Anything stubborn gets cut with the pruners. I'm ruthless with the vinca, as I'll still need to prune it back at least one time during the summer.

There we go: nice and clean. Well, clean-ish. In a month or two you'll never notice the debris that's left.
This part took about 30 minutes. So less than an hour for the whole job. Perfect!

Hmmm, that box really needs to be cleaned and stained again this year...

How long did it take? 50 minutes -- let's call it 1 hour
Total time spent on clean-up so far this year: 2:30 (2 hours 30 minutes)

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