|Agastache and variegated horehound on the hillside|
In my past, I have NOT spent time amending soil. Why not? It was a combination of excitement over just getting the plants in the ground and, admittedly, laziness. Many little green and flowered plants just couldn't live in the heavy clay soils. Many of them expired from unsuccessful attempts along with starts and starts in different areas of the yard or lack of attention. Now, when my neighbors walk by and look at the yard, they ask me how I do it because EVERYTHING seems to grow. What I try to explain is that they haven't seen the sad expired skeletons of leafless and lifeless plant material and the weeds and weeds and weeds! Expired plants are removed as soon as they start going south and added to their compost pile grave on the western side of our yard getting ready to contribute to a survivor! The critical mass of weeds have been removed over time and in sections.
When we moved into our house almost 15 years ago, the parkway along Gaylord was just weeds without trees and vegetation. The front walk perpendicular to the public sidewalk and the street was breaking apart. Moving west across the parkway and toward the house, was a sloping main yard. On the north was a failed attempt from a previous owner to create a rock garden. On the south was dying grassy knoll. The rock garden consisted of a Caryopteris or Bluebeard Bush, lots of Sempervivum or Hens and Chicks lining the north side of the steps and some very happy low growing Sedum. There were three aspen on the south side along the property line and a small evergreen on the north. Closer to the house were some nice columbine and a bed of iris under the front window. The columbine went away before we could move in....someone decided they would look better in their yard. The south side yard consisted of a lilac bush placed under the kitchen window.
|Backyard birdbath, garlic chives, retaining wall|
It seemed bleak. Bleak but not overwhelming. I was excited to have a basic blank slate with a few defining moments!
When I started working on the yard, I started by digging weeds. Changed to, unfortunately, using Roundup for a couple of years. Finally, ditched the chemicals and went back to digging and pulling and deep mulching. Just to let you know, I no longer use Roundup and other chemical weed killers and fertilizers. I know now that it ultimately hurts humans, the soil, and the plants. I control them by pulling and digging before they form flowers; apply natural pre-emergent products to help keep seeds from germinating and forming plants in the yard; put in a critical mass of plants, deep mulch the beds and try to keep the grass healthy.
When I talk to new gardeners in Colorado, I forget how much time we spent slowly pulling and digging weeds, making mistakes, re-learning, re-planting, checking the micro-climates, re-conversing about our yard design and, finally, coming to a consensus on what would live and where it would live. I sense that we are having some success but it came in stages.
In the beginning I spent time digging old tree roots out of our parkway to plant iris along the front walk. At least four times we weeded, planted and re-planted grass in the other parts of the parkway. We finally gave up and moved the iris and dry sun garden to the area where the grass would not grow and put grass in the shade of our 13 year old Linden trees. I've taken over both sides of the slope with natives and sun loving, blooming, dry-land plants. The Aspen, thankfully, died so they could be replaced with trees that don't spread all over the yard. We've planted four trees - two lindens (April 2001) on the parkway and two tartarian maples (April 2014) in the upper yard. All of them are from Denver Digs Trees and the Parks People. The Lindens were free. The Maples were very affordable. Now we are moving the old front walk farther from the now maturing and growing spruce tree on the north side of the yard.
Over the years I've experimented with natives and non. We've removed pounds and pounds of grass, extra soil, invasive plants, aspen sprouts, and other weeds. We've spent time debating the design and putting in a new design. We've trimmed and hand watered to our hearts content. And now.....a new phase.....adding our compost to our own gardens to work toward vegetables and more prolific growth of our flowers, trees and plants.
It's an evolution. It's done with care, love, and research. Next up....sharing time, plants, design!