There’s been a whole lot of daydreaming going on around here (from sewing ideas to wanting to make hats) since there hasn’t been a lot of doing, thanks to this pregnancy. My latest daydreams are revolving around my garden, and I’m pretty dang excited to show some absolutely massive changes that have happened to our yard and to share what I want to do now that the changes are in place. When we bought the house last year, we had a list of construction projects that we wanted to (eventually) do in the house to make it our dream house. What we didn’t realize, is that the property needed a major construction project as well. After living in our house for a bit, we discovered two major flaws in the property – 1) It was hard to get into the house. There were steep and uneven gravel paths leading to the house from two directions (since we are on a corner lot), but both turned out to be pretty treacherous in the winter. Adam and I have both fallen on them and got really worried about getting in and out of the house safely with baby. 2) Nobody ever came to our front door. The way the paths were laid out, everyone approached our house through the mud room off our kitchen. The kitchen is the messiest and least inviting room in our house whereas I’ve worked really hard to make our living room inviting, so that has been less than ideal.
We started by hiring a landscape architect. It was a fascinating process to work with him on building a site-map for our lot. He had great ideas about how we could change things that Adam and I never would have come up with. The scale of what he designed is huge, so it’s a 10-20 year plan (we don’t ever want to move again!), but we needed a place to start and we are so glad we hired his help. We decided that we would take the plunge and build the driveway up to the front of our house.
The quick explanation of what we did was to dig up a patch of grass along the edge of our lot, have it graded, and put in a compacted gravel driveway with parking spots in front of our house. There’s a short, inviting gravel path from the parking spots to the front door (see the first picture in the post). The parking remains hidden from view from the front door because we were able to save and move around a bunch of very large plants (mostly rhododendrons) that were already on the property.
Various delays meant that the project finished a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, it beat baby here, but the timing was less than ideal because for several weeks we had no paths to our house, which wasn’t so easy to traverse as a very pregnant lady. Adam and I (and Tig) were mesmerized by the giant machinery moving around giant amounts of fill, so we did a lot of staring out the window and trying not to worry about what could go wrong. (Of course some things did go wrong, as always happens in massive projects, but fortunately they caught the fact that they broke our septic pipe immediately!).
Since we had the giant machinery in our yard, we opted to go ahead with another part of the plan at the same time – simplifying the side yard. My office has french doors off the basement that opened into several steps. The side yard was then a weird mix of gravel pathways, berms, and odd patches of garden. Clearly, someone had spent a lot of time gardening in our property at some point in the past, but it certainly wasn’t the last owners and it wasn’t done with any sort of coherent plan for the space.
So, we flattened the side yard all out. Now I have a huge vegetable garden! Okay, let me re-phrase that – now I have the space to put in a huge vegetable garden! My office now opens onto the same level as the garden so I get even more light and it feels more spacious. I’m going to put in paving stones where the gravel is so that I can have a little office seating area outside. And where the woodchips are is going to have raised vegetable beds. We also discovered that we had a lovely view from the side yard once all that clutter was gone, so we are going to put in a seating area and fire pit at the end of the yard to take advantage of it!
So now that the machines are gone, we get to my planning for what is to come! (Not in time for this summer, but I’m hoping that life with baby will settle into a routine enough by fall that I can start building beds and planting things by then. And if I have to wait until next spring, so be it. Daydreams are still fun in the meantime!) Since I’ve never had a garden of my own before, I started by getting stacks and stacks of books from the library (some on decorative gardening but mostly on vegetable gardening since that’s what I’m most excited about).
My mom is an amazing gardener and I found that the two books I’ve used the most actually came from her library. I settled on Square Foot Gardening as the approach that made the most sense to me (also knowing that my mom has used it quite successfully before) and have used his method to plot out a scale map of my garden space. I’ve made many different lists of different types of fruit and veg that I want to plant and feel like the book does a great job of holding a beginner’s hand step-by-step from planning to planting to harvest so I can actually make plans that have a chance of success! I’ve used the Western Garden Book to figure out what strains of bushes and trees to get (and learned that I can grow peaches here!). I’ve also used it as a reference for the decorative parts of our garden – the massive dirt digging left several new beds that I’ve tasked my gardener mother with helping me choose some simple ground covers to plant ASAP before the weeds claim them for their own. It has a bunch of helpful themed lists (like “Ground Covers & Lawn Substitutes” or “Deerproof Plants”) as well as an encyclopedia of relevant plants.
I was really hoping to use and love The Rooftop Growing Guide, but found it to not be that helpful. I selected the book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review with high hopes (no pun intended) of using it to guide planting on the top of our little carport turned potting shed that I see straight out my office window. I had dreamed of planting a fern garden on top of the shed, but the book quickly taught me that our shed isn’t structurally sound enough to bear the weight of planting on top. Since I had to scrap that idea, there was little else I found useful in the book. It assumes that you know a fair bit about gardening and then walks you through step-by-step how to apply your pre-existing knowledge to growing on rooftops and overcoming the unique challenges that rooftop growing causes (such as weight limits, wind exposure, and reflected heat). If you have gardening experience and want to grow on a rooftop, it does seem like a really helpful and unique book, but, unfortunately, neither of those conditions apply to me right now and the book doesn’t include much more broadly relevant information. If those conditions do apply to you, I highly recommend checking out the book – you can get more information here.