I first heard the term “Hell Strip” in our Master Gardener Intern year Water Conservation class.  It’s that narrow piece of yard between the sidewalk and the street.  In my yard it’s been mostly weeds, as we don’t have a sprinkler system and we don’t water the yard.  The reason this was discussed in class was so we would consider removing turf (or weeds, as in my case) and planting water-wise native perennials instead.  One of my classmates did just that and I was able to see the finished bed during the DCMGA Garden Tour last month.

I began working on this strip last February, but my initial efforts didn’t really succeed.  I removed as many weeds as I could by hand and then applied a layer of wood chip mulch.  Well, all I managed to do was stir up more seeds to the top, and they grew right through the layer of mulch.  Not at all the results I wanted.

So, I took notes on how my classmate created her new, improved Hell Strip and I began digging yesterday.  The goal is to dig out all the dirt down as far as I can (probably no more than 6 inches), then put down a thick layer of cardboard, and then fill back with new soil / compost, and cover with mulch.  I’m hoping to get that all done this week, as the weather forecast is for an unusually (for June) cool week. 

Here’s what I’ve accomplished in 2 mornings. 

digging out dirt in the hell strip
This is not nice soil. It’s no wonder weeds are thriving.

It doesn’t look like much, but it’s much more work than just simply digging.  There’s chunks of concrete and rocks and trash and oh, so many clay clods.  I shovel some dirt into the cart, then  break the chunks of clay and dirt up by hand and also sort out the rocks and cement pieces, throwing them into a bucket.  Some are too big for a bucket, so they get piled to the side.  Next I add about 1/3 again wood chip mulch and then I spread it.  Yesterday I spread in the swale along the south fence line; today it was under the Bradford pear tree.  Plus I added another couple of loads of mulch. 

Hoping to get it thick enough to stunt the grass and weeds, but not too thick. Don’t want to harm the roots of the tree.

Today I dug out four cartloads, plus 2 extra loads of mulch.  You can see the gaping hole on the side of the mulch pile (the same mulch pile from last December!).  The goal is to eventually spread most of that mulch pile around the pear tree and onto the Hell Strip.

wood chip mulch pile
Wood chip mulch pile from last December when we mulched the limbs of the pear tree.

I’ve decided I will only do the smaller strip near the mailbox this year.  Maybe this fall I’ll tackle the other strip – it’s twice as long, so I’m not looking forward to doing it.  Also, I’m trying to pace myself, because I really need to be able to move the rest of the month!  Yesterday I didn’t feel too bad, but today I am noticing some stiffness.  Good thing I’m still young!  LOL

When I came back inside late this morning, I noticed my hoya is blooming again, this time many more blossoms at the same time. 

hoya plant in bloom
The hoya plant from Propagation Class (Mach 2017) continues to delight.

They have such interesting blossoms – I’m fascinated by them.

Hoya blossoms.