Or, Slowly Making My Backyard Completely Edible
I’m making a move on our yard.
I’ve slowly started to clear out patches of garden bed – mostly of four years worth of weeds, moss and clover that have grown and expanded until they completely cover the dirt. Container gardening has been so much fun (and I think I’m sincerely going to miss being able to water in just one concentrated location) but I think it’s time to start planting things in the rest of our yard.
Our Yard Now
We have a ton of huge perennial bushes that do all right with no care whatsoever. There are two enormous hollies, countless leafy plants with pale purple, bell-like flowers, riots of daisies, and so much ground cover, mini trees and grass plants that it is absurd. I’m going to start with the ground cover, since it’s so good at expanding and, hopefully, would be able to grow back and cover my mistakes if the new plants don’t survive the winter.
Our Deck Vegetables This Year (April, June, July)
We have lettuce, tomatoes, beans, and herbs in our deck container garden. The basil in particular is extremely happy, and we just added two strawberry plants as well. The first move I made (Maddox, too, since he diligently helps me to weed and loves repotting plants and spraying them with water) was to transplant the raspberry bushes from two holes that I’d randomly dug in the lawn, back when I didn’t have a shovel. Needless to say, the spot was shady and the plants were choked with grass, and while they survived, they didn’t seem very happy.
Pissed-off Raspberries After Transplanting, then Happier, Settled-in Raspberries
The raspberries are flourishing in their new, sunny, actually-in-a-garden-bed spot, and have rewarded us with a handful of berries this year. Next year, I might fence them off to give them additional support, and if they do well, I’ll let them slowly expand to the right, pulling out ground cover to make room.
This morning, we started clearing out one of the beds by the fence to the left side of our property – I let Maddox pick the bed we would work on, since pretty much everywhere needs some help and weeding anywhere would be a good start. We only weed for about 20-30 minutes at a time (it’s pretty hot and buggy out, plus I’m 7 months pregnant) plus I use lawn chairs to avoid continuously crouching on the ground. We toss weeds onto another lawn chair to dry out so I can compost them on top of our 2 years-dead Christmas tree Barry (did I mention that we haven’t done a lot with our yard?) in the corner behind the shed.
The space around one of the purple flower plants is 3/4 of the way cleared, and I explained to Maddox how happy the plant was to be able to breathe now. We found a cool green grasshopper and oodles of moss, and uprooted a tree that had started to take over the fence. There were a lot of brown leaves in the bed, and big sticks that I’d tossed in there for convenience while mowing, and once we cleared some of that out, we were able to find actual plants to pull out – mostly clover and wild strawberries, which I’d keep, but they don’t produce fruit in that shady section of the yard, and when I moved them to the deck, the fruit that they did produce was mealy and flavorless.
Operation Stealthy Mint Attack
Once this area is clear, I’ll pull back a little bit extra ground cover, remove the maple seeds that become huge surprisingly fast, and sneak my mint plant into the ground. I hear that mint does well in shade, and if it does TOO well, I can pull up the rest of the ground cover and turn that bed into a yummy mint haven. I find nature to be incredibly beautiful, but have not yet progressed to the point in my gardening where I can grow flowers. I would much rather snack on my yard.
It’s thundering now, which is a complete tease because my tomatoes need water. I haven’t decided whether to add these to the actual ground or not – these have done so well on the deck that it’s almost a shame to move them – plus it might be more fun to do a raised bed for tomatoes, beans and cucumbers next year in which case, clearing spots in our beds for tomatoes might not be worth it.
Making Some Room
I do want to find a place to hide my basil plants (two are doing well, one had a fruit-fly altercation and is still recovering) but haven’t yet unearthed a sunny spot that is just right for them. Someone on freecycle asked for yellow and white flowers, so maybe if she comes by and clears out some of our daisies and brown eyed susans, I’ll have space to pop in a basil plant. I’m not optimistic, though – the daisies are over three feet tall and are crowding onto the lawn, and the susans are cropping up in random places all over the yard, even crossing stretches of grass and weeds.
So far, I’m not brave enough to mess with the front yard – we have two Japanese maples and a lot of green plants that look good even in the winter, while requiring pretty much no maintenance. I’d like to replace the patch of ground cover next to our steps with lavender eventually, but Jon is attached to it, plus I need to see what lavender looks like through the different seasons before doing anything drastic to our neighbor-facing landscape areas.
Yard-Farming in the Future
It would be funny if, in 5 years, our front garden beds were entirely tomatoes and basil, and our side and back were squash, cukes and beans. All of our ground cover would be replaced by herbs and berries, and the asparagus plants that I’m tempted to try (even though it’s a long term labor of love, at least three years for the plants to get ready) would be growing alongside our deck, instead of our gigantic hollies.
We have a row of poplars that provide shade and privacy from the neighbors behind us, and they are somewhat impossible to mow under, due to how the lawn tilts down to where their roots are. I’d love to replace all those weeds with shade-friendly (poplar-friendly) wildflowers, but lack the motivation to crawl under low-hanging poplar branches to clear them out. Pretty, delicate ones, like morning glories (the non-poisonous variety) so long as they can take the shade.
It’s fun to plan a yard. I frequently envision the rooms of our house in my head, mentally rearranging and then leaping up to try it out. I hadn’t tried it outside before, but it’s kind of similar, and has the added benefit that gardening is kind of zen, and it’s a very peaceful task to do on a day-to-day basis. There’s a chance that I may be receiving a grow light set for my birthday (cross fingers!) and, while I’ll be sorry to scale back for the winter, it will be fun to plan, order and start seeds, and to see how many of my herbs I can keep alive over the long New England winter.