Garden Update (May 17, 2011)

First up I need to clarify the meaning of the last post. A lot of people thought I was talking about gardening hardship, when I was actually talking about work deadlines. I was REALLY tired and not too with it when I wrote that post. Please excuse my lack of clarity.

Hardening off (back and forth forever) is certainly a pain in the butt, especially now that the kitchen floor is covered in trays and we can barely open the fridge door. However, my complaints were about NOT being able to garden rather than being overwrought by the work I have before me. Sitting at my desk and plugging away at a computer when there is a backyard out there that needs to be transformed into a garden is a certain kind of torture.

All I want to be do is garden!

But this is life as an adult so moving on….

It rained a lot this weekend, but I was out there anyway. It was my first weekend off (sort-of. Not really. But mostly.) since Xmas and I decided ahead of time that I was going to take full advantage rain or shine.

We got very wet and I’m suffering for it now, but at least the garden is starting to look like slightly more than an anthropological dig or an uprooted burial site on a television crime drama. Now it looks like a mud wrestling pit!

Here’s what the yard looked like just before we moved in.

Here it is, this morning, it all of it’s “glory.”

Before I go any further I have to address that mulch in the bottom right corner. The bag it came in said, “natural cedar mulch.” Davin says it is natural and that it’s just unexpectedly red wood. I say they are lying liars who lie and it is dyed. I absolutely abhor dyed mulch. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. And now I have it in my yard. Gag!

  • This weekend’s crowning achievement was installing the cinderblock wall that you can see in the bottom of the picture. We’ve planted it up with an assortment of sedums. I’ll post a photo once it has grown in a bit.

    The wall was needed because we have a sloped yard. All of the work we are doing is in an attempt to even it out as best we can (by hand) and make tiers.

  • The three raised beds on the left hand side were built using scrap wood. As a result the sizes of the wood determined the layout and subsequently the eventual placement of pathways. We still need to place a few more beds down that side. Our intent is to go right up to the compost bin, which sits in front of the ramshackle shed. That area is full of violets that I want to dig up and move, as well as a young lilac bush that was put in by the people before us. They look really wonky in the picture, but that’s because this image is an amalgam of several pictures and some were rotated to fit.
  • The bricks that sit to the right of the raised beds are just there for placement. They mark where I have created two levels or steps. I purchased the cement urns at a flea market over the weekend and they sit at the edge of the steps. The recycling box is just there to hold grass and is not part of the design.
  • The little pear tree is blooming. I planted ‘Silver’ thyme underneath. We also planted asparagus back there and two raspberry canes way in the back corner (you can’t see it well). There is a patch of garlic back there as well. I planted that shortly after moving in.
  • I’ve dug up a lot of goldenrod (Solidago). A LOT of it! There is more yet.
  • The rest of the back half still needs to be dug up. That’s where a lot of the edible annuals (tomatoes, peppers,etc) will be going so as you can see I’ve got a lot ahead of me. And it’s needed in short order! We still have half a bag of duck manure waiting to be added in. And we haven’t found the gravel we want to lay down pathways with.

Hopefully this will look more like a garden next month. Hopefully.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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33 thoughts on “Garden Update (May 17, 2011)

  1. Wow it looks great!!! I can’t wait to see it all planted up, it’s going to be amazing. I love the cinderblock wall garden.

  2. It is still an amazing amount of work done so far, and I bet it will be so worth it! I would love to put asparagus in myself – how many crowns did you put in your space?

  3. so jealous you have a yard! I think it will be stunning in a few weeks (hopefully the sun will come out!)
    I feel your pain about being “grown up” and having to set aside garden time for “real work” – can’t I just win the lottery and “work” on plants all day?

  4. Looks great! I’m so jealous of your yard. It looks like you’re getting the most out of some limited square footage.

  5. Wowsa! Mega major progress, Batman! Looking fantastic… I can’t wait to see updates on the transformation. Inspirational, as always, Gayla!

  6. I can so relate. I started “from scratch” basically too, and once I have a plan, I cannot rest until it is complete–even if work or other pursuits are calling, and even when my body is physically unable to lift one more shovelful.
    I don’t know if you have the same species of violets as I do, but watch out–mine are EVERYWHERE.

  7. Love the cinderblocks planted with sedums, I’m thinking about doing that to create some cheap raised beds for my fall garden. Did you put rebar or something down the inside of the cinderblocks for stability or just stack em & go? Also, while your mulch is quite red, your daffodils? (as far as I can tell from the photo) are quite cheery and look great :)

  8. The first thing I saw in the picture was that mulch, and I thought, yuck! Gayla doesn’t seem like the red mulch type! Love how you provided an explanation right away.

    This all looks like so much fun! I can’t wait to have my own space to grow.

  9. Awesome possum Gayla! You have come far in a short time. Maybe not as far as you’d like, but I love it and look forward to seeing it grow into your own special space! Thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule to share with us. :)

  10. Looks like you’ve made a great deal of progress!

    On the cedar mulch front: At a previous house I purchased cedar mulch and it looked quite red when I first put it on the garden, but it did weather to a more natural straw/silverish colour within the season, so perhaps yours will too. From the picture it doesn’t look quite as red as the really bright, reminiscent of dyed pistachio-type mulch that they sell.

  11. Looks great Gayla! I know you will have it looking finished and fantastic if only you just had a bit of time to devote to it. I was looking back at the old picture and saw where you had promised to tell us one day the doozy of a story of how you got the house. Pretty Please? :-D

  12. Wow! It really looks wonderful. It is so fun to see what you’ve done so far. Regarding the mulch, I’ll say this… I work as a residential flower gardener, and after I’ve planted, I usually have a landscaper come in and spread natural bark mulch, which is an earthy (natural) brown color, as one would expect. But when I have a small garden to mulch, I have to buy bags of either either pine or cedar mulch, and every time I spread them out, I think… eek! it’s red! And then in a week or two, it doesn’t look so red anymore. So, here’s to hoping Davin’s right, and it fades to a lovely warmish gray ;) And also, here’s to hoping you get more time to enjoy in your new backyard…

  13. The yard is looking great! I am impressed with your ingenuity at making the best with everything you have. I am in the process of building raised beds from scrap wood, but I made the mistake of designing the plots and ripping up the yard before measuring the wood. (I like how you specifically mention here that your beds were made to fit the wood . . . very smart)! Now I am tackling a lot of “creative” ends to tie together. Any strategies or tips on what kind of hardware (nails, screws, brackets, etc.) are especially handy when tacking mismatched wood together?

  14. Absolutely amazing!
    Good for you for working in the rain too!
    Can’t wait to see the progress continue & what it looks like in full growth! You’ve got a wonderful perspective to take the photos from.

  15. Phew. Thanks everyone for your well wishes! I was hesitant to post an in-progress picture because it looks so… in progress right now. My vanity wanted to wait until it is finished. But my logical mind thinks it is important to show the reality of process, especially when you are doing all the work by hand, using recycled materials as we are. We had an idea of what we wanted to achieve, but the materials have been informing the decisions more or less as they happen so things have changed for better and for worse along the way. So far I’m just happy to have this new space.

  16. Kristi: I’ve lost track. I bought some bare roots and others were given to me by a friend. I’m really looking forward to the harvest… a year or two from now!

  17. RE: The cinderblocks. I’ll do a separate post on that once everything has settled in and the plants have had some time to develop. No, we did not use rebar. We used straight-sided blocks and so far they feel pretty secure.

  18. you have both already done so much … it looks amazing … really appreciate being able to see the ‘work-in-progress’ photos … truly inspiring … home isn’t built in a day, etc

  19. I feel your pain. I am renting a house with a yard too for the first time! The grass was starting to take over everything. I am trying to create some beds to plant some food. Yet, I am doing it all by myself — my partner is working Montana for the summer while I am working in NE Oregon. Work has been so busy and it has been raining, snowing, and being spring that it has been hard to get a garden in. I just want to garden not “work”. Some progress — greens and herbs are starting to come up, some strawberries and raspberries are planted in the backyard. The front yard — the big bed of grass is about half way dug out — still not sure what to plant because the deer take over town.

  20. Wow, Gayla, comparing the 2 pictures you have done SO much. Just getting rid of all that grass and goldenrod is such a huge job in itself. Looking forward to seeing the progress through the season. It’s looking great.

    Curious about your plans for the aluminum tub that is partially sunk in the ground.

  21. I’ve seen red cedar mulch (undyed) look like that, never fear!

    I also have been posting intermediate pictures. I’d rather my garden was beautiful and perfect, but really I think people will learn more from seeing gardens at all stages :)

  22. I feel that you’re going to enjoy the evolution of your garden. You’re off to a great start! And recording the steps is essential. When you look back you’ll be thrilled by your accomplishments and learn from you’re mistakes. Your before picture reminds me so much of what our backyard looked like when we bought our house. Now it’s our oasis in the city.

  23. I also really appreciate the “in progress” pictures — it gives me a feel for what it will be like to build my own garden from scratch one day! I think your garden already looks awesome compared to what it was and I’m looking forward to the updates.

  24. Wow — what an an impressive, inspiring contrast between the before (you moved in) & after photographs.

    Your post made me smile more than a few times — you may be overwrought (I really hope you aren’t any more) but you still have your sense of humour.

    I started writing my comment before reading all the other comments — just read now you almost didn’t share the “in progress” photograph. I’m so glad you did. Your garden is developing & growing organically in more ways than one.
    And I do believe gardens look great at any & all stages as long as they are being tended with care.

  25. WOW, your work is so inspirational to me! I’m an amateur gardner and am so happy to have found your site!
    I’ve been trying to research what to plant under a meyer lemon tree (it is in a block planter box, 2 ft sq. x 4 ft high, open to the ground) and I can’t seem to find any useful advise.. do you think nasturtium would do OK?
    Congrats on your amazing garden!

  26. I look forward to seeing the progress next month. Please don’t forget to post an updated picture! I love seeing how gardens evolve from drab to jawdropping and I can tell that this one will be lovely!

  27. Love your pix! Love your book! Need some help – how can I convince my husband that his plants should be farther apart?!?!?!? EVERYTHING we have is in a contaniner/pot, but all are so close together that the pots are touching. Shouldn’t the pots be far enough apart so that the leaves are not touching?

  28. Looking good. I remember gardening when we had garden space at our old house. The hardest thing was keeping the critters away. I guess you don’t have those problems living in the city.

  29. I really enjoy watching a undeveloped yard turn totally upside down and become a beautiful garden area. You have done an amazing job on your yard!

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