Regrading & the terror of morning glory

We last left off with the beginning of the back yard project. It was comprised of a volunteer cherry tree, a large weeping cypress, a buried brick pathway, two mounds of sword ferns and daffodils, and lots and lots of weeds.

The weeping cypress wasn’t a bad tree, it just wasn’t right for that space. Someone had placed it pretty much right in the middle of the yard & had let it grow at a 90 degree angle. I imagined the amount of digging necessary to remove it, and thought “I don’t want to do that.” That’s when I put a post on Craigslist for a mature weeping cypress and just one day later two guys came out and dug it right out of the yard and took it away! If you ever need to get rid of a nice plant, I recommend this method.

After that tree was gone, we started digging out the buried bricks and stacking them up with the rest of the bricks that were laid out back there. Around this time, my Mom came for a visit and did some *major* helping, including cutting down the rogue cherry tree, lots of brick stacking, and some help with the regrading. We continued the regrading for much of the summer. In retrospect, the smart thing to do would have been to hire some folks to do this for us. We’re stoked about doing lots of work ourselves, but sometimes you just need to admit a project is beyond you.

Right around the time it started to get super hot out, we stopped spending time in the garden, and it started getting pretty wild. All those weeds we’d been keeping in check with all the digging started to go crazy. This included ridiculous sprouting morning glory brought to us by two different neighbors. Don’t get me wrong. Morning glory can be really lovely. But it’s also a tenacious little devil.

We were whipped back into shape by a visit from my Dad & Stepmom, who spent an afternoon of their visit in our scorching, wild garden with the weed whacker and a rake. Brave souls. They also helped us get lots of compost mixed into the top soil, then plastic placed over the places we’d already tilled and graded to solarize the weeds away.

We were so inspired by their efforts, that we got back out there daily amassing a gigantic pile of soil that would need to be removed so that we could have a border bed that would be about 1′ higher than the rest of the yard. In September, our neighbor, who owns a landscaping company, had a couple of his guys cart this huge pile of soil into a huge dumpster we’d had placed in the driveway. It was at that point that we started to really see the shape the yard would take. And the only thing that was left

It’s around this time of year that the rains start again, and it also starts to cool off. This means it’s also a great time to plant. With that in mind we started to think about what we wanted from the back garden. We knew we wanted a private place to relax, and a safe place for the dogs to play. We also wanted to space we could use to entertain when the weather was nice. We had a 6′ fence that afforded some privacy, but not what we were looking for, so we needed some columnar trees to place along the fence. We also needed some mid-level perennials for color and foliage interest, and some low ground covers right in the front.

Buying plants in bulk like this can be expensive, but we learned from our efforts in the front that it can also be done in stages if you have a good plan. Here’s some of what we started with:

  • arborvitae
  • various columnar cypress
  • a purple smoke bush
  • sambucus “black lace”
  • a curly leaf bay
  • a white birch
  • a kousa dogwood

There were various other smaller, flowering perennials in there too. But at this point we were headed into late October, and it was getting too cold to do too much. So we did to final things:

  • We put plastic tarp around the edge of the border so that it wouldn’t erode in the rain & held it with bricks.
  • We put some crop cover in the ground to act as green mulch in the spring & keep the soil from eroding with the winter rains.

Next time I’ll walk you through what we planted on the South side, planting spring bulbs late in the season, and we’ll be almost caught up to the current garden! So much has gone on already this season, like trying out straw bale veggie gardening, planting a new lawn, creating a space for a chimminea, creating new container groupings (including a banana tree!), and taking down another cherry tree. Stay tuned!

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