Some friends have expressed amazement at how quickly we got the house decorated and the gardens created. Remember, we took a total of 12 weeks off paid work to accomplish this, and in fact I tore myself away from the garden only because I started to feel a bit skint…and needed income to buy more plants!
After digging the sod out of the front garden beds in order to be able to plant bulbs and transplants, I made the back garden in the same way that I created most of my mom’s old garden in Long Beach and my garden on the south side of town. I’ve been using this method since long before it was called lasagna gardening (and if only I had thought to write a book about it!)
Our new back yard beds were made with a more instant method than “lasagna” which involved making layers and then waiting a season. Instead, I made three very large beds by putting down first a thick layer of overlapped newspaper and then a about a foot deep of garden soil followed by a layer of washed dairy manure. This will be thick enough to plant gallon sized plants in and by next fall’s bulb planting time, the newspaper will be decomposed enough to get the bulbs low enough.
The first hint of the beds: Behind a dug out strip for sentimental raspberries from my mom’s old garden (which sold about the same time as we closed on our new house) is a pile of clean non weedy clippings brought home from jobs. Under that pile is newspaper, layered thickly and overlapped. I still had not figured out exactly where the beds would be.
I had to break down and flatten this old pile of ditch soil that had completely grown over with grass. ‘Twas a difficult job with the grub hoe and took a couple of days, resulting in no good reusable soil to speak off.
sod hill (or sodding hill!)
I knew it was in my way of…something…which at first I thought would be delivery of a load of soil to the back yard. However, we realized our nice neighbour’s driveway was not strong enough for the huge soil delivery truck, so throughout the whole project all supplies were dumped in our front driveway.
Above, the compost pile grows as we accomplish fall cleanups at work. By now I have dug two edges of the bed, into which I will layer the newspaper and soil mulch.
Just before Christmas, another load of soil energy is delivered, and I start making another back yard bed. By now I have figured out that there will be three beds with two paths going down to the alder wood. The layout is somewhat influenced by the placement of a large rhododendron, which was probably a mother’s day present for the previous owner. I am not much of a rhodo fan, but it’s enormous and does have a beautiful cascading profile…
Above, dumping soil energy onto layers of newspaper…a particular challenging task when a wind is blowing hard from the Columbia river.
Above, layering newspapers in the wind. It would have been better had they been wetted down first, but i was in a hurry. During all this time, Allan spent an hour or more a day out scouting sources of newspaper from friends, recycling bins, the dump, restaurants…The project used an enormous quantity.
I did not have time to be daunted by weather and even broke out the old leg warmers that I hadn’t used in years. For about a week, the pile of soil was so cold that it held together in sheets on the top. A new fashion in garden hats.
There were times when all I could think of was whether or not Allan would be able to get enough newspaper for the next day’s garden bed expansion.
31 December: cold!
Meanwhile, I did take some breaks from making basic garden beds in the back yard to add some garden decor touches to the front garden.
We also took some time out from garden bed creation to clear the alder woods patch of debris and to remove a dangerously leaning tree, with the help of friends who hauled away five loads of firewood.
On January 5th, I went down to my favourite cafe (ever!), Olde Towne, a mere two and a half blocks away….as I did for every day they are open, five days a week, throughout the two month period of creating the garden. There I lucked into buying a boat from a neighbour. I’d always wanted a garden boat, and it solved the question of what to put in the area where that pile of old ditch dirt had been.
5 January, the exciting boat
By the 6th of January, I had three narrow beds laid out on top of newspaper and was ready to mark the paths. I wanted them wide enough for two people to walk abreast and, in case I ever decided to fertilize the lawn, just the right width for a couple of passes of the lawn spreader, so I marked the width with lime and started cutting out the edges of the beds.
Each of the three beds would end up with a trench around it (as would the smaller bed being created around the boat).
filling trench edge with newspaper
pulling soil up to edge of bed
Every few months I will be going round these beds with the half moon edger. Thus they will slowly get slightly wider as time goes on.
Meanwhile the weather was sometimes uncooperative. I moved soil in rain, and this bit of snow (below) melted quickly. Why is it that no one comments about any strangeness in a fisherman going out in the rain, but it strikes people as very odd to see a gardener wheelbarrowing soil on a rainy day?
Due to a serious lack of newspaper, I finished the last part of the third bed, between the rhodo and the camellia that came with the property, with cardboard acquired from the Imperial Schooner and Depot restaurants. One of the boxes from the Schooner inspired a powerful thirst for Wild Salmon Pale Ale.
This last section was especially difficult because the ground was quite boggy in the rain, making it a soggy challenge to dig the final trench edge. It was a hard slog so Allan helped out with the wheelbarrowing for a day.
15 January, the last of four loads of soil is delivered, for a total of 48 yards and about $1800 dollars.
I had finished the edge line around the last of the three garden beds and created a little bed around the boat…And for a moment was congratulating myself that the back garden project was, except for planting, done.
I was particular pleased with how the little boat garden had turned out, with Allan’s idea to use my “pilings” in a row the way they tend to be lined up in the Columbia River.
(The boat is also filled with soil and will be a planter, possibly for salad greens.)
Then, after a short lived moment of triumph and satisfaction, I looked to my right and realized: Behind the house I urgently needed a patio in order to not have to move everything (tables, chairs, planters) every time I mow. Then The Gravel Project became a burning need in my mind…and I made another call to Peninsula Landscape Supply and postponed the end of staycation…
22 January: Must have patio...HERE.
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