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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back Yard Project Part One, or Back on the Chain Gang

Back in January, I wrote a post called So Here's the Plan which outlined my plans for our, as yet, blank canvas of a back yard.

Naturally, almost as soon as we put the back border in last year, I was dissatisfied with it and wanted to enlarge it.  However, we knew there was an easement there and weren't sure where the utilities actually lay.  A call to 811 quickly resolved that issue and we came home one day to find bright little red and yellow flags across the lawn, marking the phone and gas lines.

The other thing that needed to be done was that Eric had to replace the backflow valve (I think that's what it's called) on  the sprinkler system, which froze over the winter.  So he replaced the valve last weekend (and now we just have to pray we don't get another hard freeze) and we were able to run the sprinklers to see where the spray heads are.

At last! I had a clear idea of the amount of room we had to work with.

Now to move the rocks! 

 My poor husband had visions of moving 25 tons of rock with his bare hands, and we giggled together when I found this amusing cartoon by British cartoonist, Norman Thelwell.  

I'm not sure if Eric found it so amusing when I dug up an mp3 of The Pretenders' Back on the Chain Gang to play for him, lol.


But as you can see, we're really only expanding it a foot and a half at the most and it really wasn't much of a chore to move them.  

Even though we didn't expand it much, I think that will give us the room we need to create a pleasant border, with some taller shrubs against the wall and shorter plants in the front.  Who know, I may be able to hide that ugly wall eventually.

When I first started on the border, I realized very quickly that trying to remove all the sod would be a huge chore.  So I decided to take the easy route.  What I did was to plant some base shrubs where I wanted them and then lay down a layer of Weed Block around them, and then finish with a thick layer of mulch on top of that. After several months, all the sod underneath had died off and I've been digging it back in to the soil a bit at a time.

Much easier than trying to remove all that sod at one go. 

So when we were expanding the border, I decided to use the same approach.  Basically just covered all the sod with a layer of weed block and covered it with mulch.  When I'm ready to plant in it, I can work the soil a bit at a time and in the meantime, with mulch over the whole thing, it sort of looks done.

You can see, in the center of the photo, one of the flags marking the AT&T cable. We laid the rocks just to the inside of that line, so we can dig in the bed without worrying about cutting the phone line.

I love it when things come together right :-)

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.


Deborah at Kilbourne Grove said...

Bigger is always better, isn't it. Good to have some free labour, lol.

Kimberly said...

Nicely done, Jayne. I can completely relate as I created "phase I" of a new front patio garden space in the middle of my front yard. The border is WAY to skinny in many areas. My excuse is, "I plant to widen it as the plants mature".... yeah...I MEANT to do that!!!! :)

Jayne said...

LOL!. As they say, Kimberly, "a garden is always evolving." I've discovered that is the truth!

Jayne said...

Thanks Deborah, yes it's great to have help. My husband admits he knows nothing about gardening, but he is happy to help were he can :-)

Kyna said...

I'm glad to know that it's so easy to have someone come out and mark utility lines. I'm thinking about doing that when I decide to plant a tree or two north of my house. There's phone, cable and electric to worry about...

Nice job Jayne! :D

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I like the size you made the planting area. I think that wall will be a good backdrop once the plants fill in. I like it. Does it belong to you? It might be fun to paint some birdhouses or something on it.

I am thinking I want to pull a few inches of grass around the edge of my east beds to expand them a little.

Jayne said...

I was thinking about painting the wall too, Sue. I suppose as long as I only paint on our side it won't hurt. (the other side faces the little no-outlet road that goes behind the house) Not sure if I'll paint a sort of mural on it, or just paint it a more neutral color. As the fence either side weathers, that wall is really going to stand out.

Kathleen Scott said...

Looks like a lovely long space.

I was thinking of you today when I looked out at the Flowering Senna (Senna Corymbosa) . It's evergreen most years in your area. Fast-growing. Forms a nice dense bush/tree screen. Host to a couple species of sulphur butterflies. Flowers yellow and the birds love it for cover and nesting. Just the right size to fill a segment of wall.

Jayne said...

Thanks Kathleen, that looks lovely. I wish I had seen your comment before the weekend was over. I would have gone to the Arbor Gate to see if they had any!