Thursday, November 27, 2014

To Build a Garden - Progress Through this Year

Hello! It's been a mighty long time since I posted an update, but I've been super busy deconstructing 30 years of neglect and reconstructing a garden on our little acre.  This has been an immense amount of work so far and at one point I had wondered what I had gotten myself into! But I am determined to transform this place into something wonderful and so keep plugging along.

I am breaking up the yard into several different garden sections including 2 wilderness gardens, a side garden, an eventual patio area at the base of the deck, a perennial plants area over the septic mound, slope gardens, a firepit area, a zen garden, shade gardens, and a large veg garden area so far. Holy cow!

Let me just give an overview of  the progress this year. Here's what it looked like when we moved in Summer of 2013. You can see I started cleaning even at that very early stage; in the far back right corner I was tearing out overgrowth:

The first order of business was to weed whack the 4-8ft tall weeds out of the way. Hubs took on this job summer 2013. That's him in the far back corner of the image:

The weeds were a jungle:

Once the weeds were knocked out of the way, I could see what I had to work with:

I wanted a woodland garden in that cedar grove behind the septic mound, so I went to work ripping out 30 years of overgrowth, blackberries, and garbage including old smashed burn barrels, soda/beer cans, tarps, and leftovers of a woodpile long hidden and gobbled up by the woods:

This took several months of ongoing work. I finally had cleared a space in Fall 2013 to plant a few Korna Kousa dogwood trees. A pink one and a white one. Just a few weeks ago I planted narcissus Thalia underneath them:

The cleanup of the cedar grove continued until I was finally able to clear off the nurse stumps that I have planted native bleeding heart, trillium, creeping dogwood, redwood sorrel, and Himalayan blue poppy on. I also busied myself with constructing a path through the woodland. It's still a work in progress:

Once we had the woodland area entirely cleared of overgrowth by this Spring, it was time to bring in the mulch. 30 yards of mulch:

To keep the weeds from coming back up, we had saved the cardboard boxes from our move and laid them out across the large area that we would be covering with 4-5 inches of mulch.:

We also raised the canopy of the grove by 25 feet. Well, the hubs did most of the trimming, but I helped out, too. In the photo below, you can see how much this opened up the yard and the woodland garden area:

Once that task was complete, we laid the mulch down and results were amazing! This is July of this year. It's beginning to look like a real yard and garden!:

That giant wood round will eventually be rolled up to the firepit area, but we haven't gotten to that task quite yet:

Now moving to the area below the deck where eventually we will put a patio. I haven't done much with this yet. Pretty much just trimmed back the giant huckleberry bushes and weeded the area. Before shot:

After shot:

Moving on, we arrive at the perennial garden I am building over the septic mound. Here, I am ripping out grass/moss and replacing them with perennial plants and grasses I found on sale, were gifted to me, or have been started with seed. Anything I plant here I pretty much have to be willing to lose if the septic ever needs replaced. So far, I've only got about a quarter of the area cleared off that I eventually want filled in with plants. This photo was taken around April of this year:

And here it is in July this year:

Moving on to the massive veg and fruit garden project. This is a big one and has consumed a bulk of my time this year. It was once a horse field and is filled with various junk including many rotted pallets.  I began cleaning the first section of this area out in February of this year. It was once a veg garden many, many, many years ago and had once been filled with piles of horse manure so the weeds were immense. In the fall of 2013 we piled cardboard and old plastic pallets on top of this area to try and kill the weeds, but it was still necessary for me to pull the foot-deep rootballs out by hand. Yep. Me and my pickaxe are gonna transform this land:

Here is veg garden section number 1 finally cleared of weeds:

And here it is August of this year planted with all manner of veggie goodness. What a transformation!:

Here is veg section number 2. Cleaning began this spring and was completed this September. There was a lot of junk that needed disposed of from this area. That ugly fence belongs to the neighbors and they removed that this fall and are replacing it with a nice greenbelt of evergreen trees/shrubberies this coming spring. They also plan to re-roof and paint the garage, so it shouldn't such an eyesore anymore. Yay!:

I had 15 yards of garden soil/compost brought in. We used cedar logs from trees that we thinned from the cedar grove for the borders of this garden:

This is what it currently looks like. Next year there will be corn and pumpkins and sunflowers in this space. Hurray!:

Just above the veg garden area is a tennis court. It is surrounded by a slope that is covered in nothing but weeds, weeds, and more weeds. I am working on tearing out all the weeds and replacing it with drought tolerant plantings. Oh, and random posts that I suppose were supposed to become a fence once upon a time, but never came to fruition. I put copper tops on them and fixed hooks to the posts from which I hung garden lanterns. This is also another HUGE project. I didn't get as far as I had hoped with this this year, but it's coming along and is a priority for next year:

I have planted grapes along the fence at the top of the slope. They really seem to like it where I planted them and have been growing like gangbusters even though they are brand new this year. Slope planted with new plants and plants divided and moved from other areas of the yard:

Below and to the left of the tennis court is a space that was once used to tie the horses in place. We added a crossbar and hung a garden bell in this space:

Since the ground in this space is hard as cement and filled with gravel, we decided to create a zen garden and added borders and filled it with sand and a few large rocks. I will be weeding and replanting the sloped area around this space this coming year:

Behind the now zen garden is what will become wilderness garden number 2. First order of business was to weed, cut back, and build steps and paths through this area. The staircases on either side have been rough-cut in by me and my pick-axe this year and will hopefully be completed next year:

We are planning on having a large delivery of rocks brought in so we can finish off various staircases like this one with the rockery:

Here is the wilderness garden area the stairs lead up to. In front of those giant trees, to the right of the apple trees, but above the tennis court is a space that I weeded last year and attempted to grow wildflowers in. I failed miserably as even though it is wet in the fall/winter here, the summer dries the area out in the summer and it receives no supplemental watering. This year, I am trying Camassia quamash and alpine strawberries in this space. I noticed the alpine strawberries had reseeded themselves into the hardpan and gravel in the full sun last summer and were doing quite splendid, so I'm taking that cue from nature and trying them in this hot, sunny space. Also, the shed you see in this shot, I initially wanted to paint, but it is so rotten, we have decided to take it down and replace it with a new modern shed. That will likely happen in the next couple of years:

And finally, along the side yard, I have been cleaning out the gully that was filled with 30 years of cuttings thrown over the side. The trees had been pretty mildewy in this area and cleaning out all the rotted cuttings, trimming up the trees, and getting airflow back into the area helped a ton. I haven't had mildew problems on the trees this year:

I also weeded the edge of the yard and planted a boxwood hedge to try and delineate the edge of the yard from the woods a bit more:

Well, that's most of the projects I've been working on this past year. I have many more ambitious garden plans for next year including planning an alpine garden space, more staircases, and hopefully adding some fruit trees and shrubs. I also want to find more time to post updates on this garden build. I finally feel like the garden is coming together, even if very slowly.