Thursday, April 4, 2013

Just Live With It

I’ve been overwhelmed with tasks.  We have moved in to our new place and unpacked most of our boxes.  We’re still in the process of remodeling the 69-year-old kitchen so there is still a sense of disarray in our household.  But we’re getting “there” even though we don’t quite know where exactly “there” is or what it will feel like when we settle there.

With some of the more pressing issues taken care of I am slowly turning my attention to the yard.  But the yard is larger than I’m used to and I don’t know where to start.  I haven’t been here long enough to discover all the things that make this yard unique so I'm reluctant to commit to anything.  For instance, our recent rains revealed that there are a few places close to our patio where the water does not drain.  At all.  I had already considered putting in some kind of rock pathway beginning right where the water puddles so that idea might have “gone down the drain” . . . unlike the water.    

The best advice I’ve ever received about garden design was in Julie Moir Messervy’s “The Inward Garden.”  I’m loosely paraphrasing here, but she said that a gardener should just live with their garden for a while.  That advice has been on my mind lately as I’ve been eager to tackle new projects.  I keep telling myself to be patient and let the ideas come to me as I spend time working in the yard, as I get familiar with the sunlight, as I live through the seasons and experience the patterns of nature here. 

But I don’t think Messervy was trying to say “do nothing” either.  So I am keeping up on tasks like mowing the lawn (which I really don’t enjoy doing), and picking from the abundance of weeds.  I have also set up my compost bins and planted three dwarf Japanese maples that I brought over from our old house. 

Last night, however, I had a spare hour-and-a-half after work so I decided to tackle a small project.  At some point, along this trellised fence that marks the divide between my property and the elderly lady’s next door, there was a flower bed.  I imagine it must have looked beautiful in the spring several years ago.  But now the only word that comes to mind is “dilapidated”.  The lattice work needs to be repaired.  The weedy grass needs to be pulled.  Irrigation needs to be addressed. 

From the look of it, I thought the house next door was empty when we bought this house.  It is not.
I started by pulling out handfuls of grass and discovered that buried within the grass were various types of edging materials – bricks and red cement edgers.  I have no formal training in archaeology, but I’m pretty sure that these buried materials were placed right against the base of the fence to prevent the overgrown grass and weeds from coming in from the other side of the fence.  

I dislike this type of edging.  I dislike it a lot.  

I assume that the elderly lady (whom I have yet to even see) no longer cares about gardening or keeping her exterior in tip-top shape.  I may help her with this in small ways if I can but I don’t want to assume that my help would be welcomed until I’ve met her.  I’m not a fan of using weed blocking fabrics, but this might actually be a perfect place for using it. 

After the grass was mostly pulled out I was able to get a better look at the irrigation pipe that so prominently stands out in this small bed.  I could definitely take this down to ground level and still have access to water here but for now I think I will just add a Y valve and attach a drip irrigation timer to it and leave the other valve open for attaching a hose. 

Irrigation is always a first concern when planting here since we very rarely get rain between May and October.

This weekend I’ll try to repair or replace the lattice work and install the weed fabric.  I will pull out the grass roots that I missed.  I will use the weed whacker to trim the edges.  I might even plant a few Moon Flower seeds that I harvested unless I simply can’t escape the siren’s call of my favorite nursery and need to take the plunge and buy something that is already green.  And then I’ll live with it for a while.  


  1. It is fun to live with the space and then create. When we built it was a blank canvas that was fun filling in after a while...just your little bits and bobs of gardening will keep those creative juices flowing.

  2. I think your approach is a wise one -- at least, I hope it is, because I may be doing the same thing in the near future, leaving my established garden to start another one from scratch. On the bright side, think of all the blog posts this new adventure will generate. Best of luck with the projects.

  3. I also tend to approach gardening one small project at a time, letting inspiration flow from one project to the next so that the whole grows organically. Tackling small projects like the trellis and flower bed while you live with the rest seems like a good strategy. (You may find that your elderly neighbor does care how it looks, but can't manage the work any more and is dependent for labor on children and grandchildren who are not gardeners.) -Jean