Sunday, June 29, 2014

Problem: Too much lawn to mow >>> instant garden

I love gardening. I don't care to have much if anything to do with the lawn. If I could make the whole property into gardens I would, but my husband seems to think we should still keep some lawn areas. I suppose it is easier to play bocce ball on grass than on any kind of ground cover which really is true of almost any game unless I make a life sized chess board. The alternate squares could be a thick ground cover.  I'll put that on the to-do list. I have to keep lists or I'll forget. Thoughts and ideas flit around in my mind and it's all I can do to just capture a few here and there like butterflies in a net. The garden is where I display my most interesting finds.

There was this corner of our backyard that we were not using for anything other than that there is a clothes line across it. It has the woods behind it and borders the neighbors property on one side (which has been a different kind of challenge altogether). Over the winter I had read a book that inspired me called No Mow Lawns.  I really wanted a place that was all garden with shrubs and young trees that would grow and mature over time. I want to enjoy and appreciate every stage of the garden. Every corner has a story, a memory, a special meaning or purpose.
My husband had 5 yards of soil delivered  for Mother's Day. I was so happy. It went perfectly with the pile of wood chips that the tree trimmers had dumped in the adjacent spot on the driveway. Now, whenever I hear the sound of chainsaws in my neighborhood I wonder if I could make use of a pile of wood chips for a new project. It's not that unusual for me to get dirt as a gift. I once won a pile of manure as a door prize.
In addition to soil and wood chips I also set about collecting as much cardboard as I could.  I went from store to store and to the recycling center, really anywhere I could find boxes or paper.  I worked in sections, laying down as much cardboard as I had and covering it with a layer of either wood chips or an inch or two of soil with a general idea of the pattern of beds and winding paths in my head. I had pinned some ideas on Pinterest and wanted all areas accessible from a path at least for now.
I started with a serpentine path cutting the area diagonally from a patio to the corner over where our internet cable was shallowly buried. I had cut through the cable before on either end on separate occasions, having had to splice it together until the cable company could put in new line. and the neighbor cut through it once, leaving us without internet for a while. I wanted to be sure I wouldn't lose track of where that was as the landscape would be changing drastically.
I salvaged some paving stones from an area a previous owner had layed out which had been overtaken by the woods. The pavers would ensure I wouldn't be digging in the path and the serpentine arrangement of them made it a fun and whimsical addition. Next I knew I wanted a wide path from the garage through the garden to the rest of the backyard for the wheelbarrow and any other no nonsense traversing through the garden. The rest of the paths could be winding and narrow. As I got cardboard I'd fill in more of the garden. Sometimes it was frustrating not to be able to get more done as I was wondering where my next source of cardboard might be but it was probably a blessing in disguise because of my back problems. As long as I keep doing my core exercises then physical activity just serves to keep the blood circulating but there is such a thing as over-doing it.   I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't work in the garden, though.
As the garden began to take shape and I began to get a feel for where the sun and shade sections were I began to transplant. (How to transplant into the cardboard sections) The backyard, especially, has got to have only deer resistant plants. I love the deer. (Story) They're beautiful creatures but they can be a nuisance to some people around where I live so I plant perennials that they don't care to eat and we coexist peacefully. (Story) I checked through my list of plants for those I already had in my gardens that I could divide or move such as heliopsis, iris, menarda, campanulas, Russian sage, creeping jenny, peony, and many more (list).
Next I looked over the Master Gardener plant inventory list for our upcoming sale. I brought my wish list to the sale and found many, many plants like penstemon, leopard's bane, bleeding hearts, astilbe, ligularia, (list) and others. I included young dogwoods, viburnum, red buds, crab apples, and currents that I hope will survive the deer, the bunnies, the elements but are easily replaceable from the rest of the yard. I hope other shrubs and trees will be planted there by the birds in the future but for now I'm keeping a close watch on things as they become established.
Some areas I seeded as soon as I could with marigolds, daisies, zinnias and morning glories. It was a cold spring with surprise late frosts. I covered the seeded areas and was very pleased to see those first seedlings which slowly became big, beautiful flowering plants.
Some of the fun, fantastical, and also spiritual elements I included in the garden are a bottle tree with bottles contributed from family and friends (story), using the clothes line posts for climbing vines like morning glories and clematis, a prayer spiral of marigolds in which my sister hid a large piece of pink quartz in the middle, a salvaged stone bench from our recycling center, as well as pieces of another that just add ancient looking architectural elements to areas. My husband built me a darling little arbor that goes over the serpentine path. I'm still trying to get clematis to climb it, probably this year, now that the plants have had a year to establish roots. Sometimes there are plants we enjoy that the deer also just can't resist. This is where a rummage sale bird cage comes in very handy. One of my beautiful heuchera, coral bells, with variegated leaves is doing splendidly inside its protective cage while the other continues to be pruned occasionally by passers-by. (Other animal deterrents I've tried) (other whimsical aspects of the garden)
So, finally, the last pieces of cardboard were procured and the last loads of soil and chips were spread. I was amazed at how quickly and easily this corner went from lawn with a persistent creeping charlie problem to a welcoming garden.

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