The Olive Tree Bed

Sometimes I look at “before” and “after” pictures of the yard and even I’m astonished, and I’m the one who created the change.

Here’s what I call the Blast Furnace corner. This is the south-west corner of the front yard. This area is in full sun all day and gets absolutely blasted in the late afternoons, the hottest part of the day. This is what this corner looked like for the first year because I just couldn’t decide what to put here. The requisite useless boxwood hedge, a couple of struggling duranta bushes, the far corner taken over by cape honeysuckle (Tecoma campensis) and the near corner taken over by Mexican petunias. The whole area in front of that…

olivebed1

If you take no other lesson from this post, let it be to never ever use weed cloth as a long-term solution in Florida.

olivebed2

This is what happens when you leave weed cloth in place long-term. The really persistent weeds, the ones that are especially tough and hardy? They’ll eventually just grow through the weed cloth, making pulling them impossible. I’d guess this particular weed cloth was in place for several years before we moved in, because not only were the grass and weeds one with the weed cloth, the plastic was disintegrated enough to tear like tissue paper as I tried to pull it out. I worked for an entire morning with a pickaxe, ripping up the ground to take out the weeds, grass roots, and shredded plastic weed cloth. I try very hard to be no-till, but there was no helping it here.

Here’s a wheelbarrow full of this mess.

olivebed3

After ripping it all out we cut the useless boxwood hedge to the soil level with heavy loppers, below the root crown whenever possible. They have an extensive root system and as you can see from the above picture, there is a large orange tree right on the other side of the fence. Orange trees have shallow root systems so ripping the boxwoods out of the ground with their roots, or digging up the roots, would have damaged the roots of the orange tree. The roots will decompose in place and add nutrients to the soil.

After the boxwoods were cut down, chopped up, and taken to the compost pile, we chopped back the cape honeysuckle and mexican petunias. Both are moderately invasive and sending runners underneath the fence. I would have preferred to remove them entirely if possible, but my husband thinks they’re pretty. I may add aluminum flashing as a runner barrier to keep them in check.

Then it was time to plant!

olivebed5

That stick in the ground at the right corner is my baby olive tree. It’s hard to see against the mulch. Here’s a better photo.

olivebed6

Olive trees grow slowly so I can only hope to eat olives off of my own olive tree before we move. Goji berries are a trendy “superfruit” that we can grow. Goji berries are also used in Chinese medicine, Chinese soups and Persian rice dishes like zereshk polov. They’re sold at Chinese and Persian grocery stores for a tiny fraction of the cost of health food store goji berries, but I’m interested to find out how they produce here. I’m not sure how large or productive these bushes will get but they’re already covered in delicate blue flowers. The beach sunflower is a native low-growing drought-tolerant spreading groundcover with yellow flowers that attract pollinators. The only piece missing in these beds are nitrogen-fixers, so I’ll probably add some buffalo clover and/or pigeon peas.

It’s so much more attractive already. Here’s one more photo.

olivebed4