Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reclaiming the yard

The summer that we left for the Marshall Islands we did not do much in the way of gardening. During the year we were gone the yard got overgrown with weeds and the only plants to make it out alive were the five lavender plants that apparently thrived on neglect because they grew from modest potted-plant size into actual shrubs.

I was pregnant when we returned and we were busy dealing with reverse culture shock as well as holy-hell-we're-going-to-be-parents shock, so again, not much yard work was accomplished. The following spring Joris was a newborn and we felt pretty accomplished if we had managed to take a shower AND unload the dishwasher on any given day, so, once again, the yard remained neglected.

Last spring, Joris had just started walking and although he was still putting everything in his mouth, we had actually gotten somewhat of a grasp on this managing-the-day-with-an-infant thing and we could have actually done some gardening. And we wanted to. Very much. But the sheer size of the weeds and the seemingly unending list of what we needed to accomplish was just utterly overwhelming. We did manage to make the front yard somewhat presentable and every now and down we would fight our way through the spiderwebs to sit out in the backyard, but it was never a relaxing experience; all the weeds and the overgrown bushes just seemed to shame us for sitting down instead of grabbing the pruning sheers and gloves and getting to work.

This year, we were determined to take back the yard, especially since we will be around all summer and want to be able to enjoy our outdoor spaces.

This is what it looked like before we got to work:

One of the biggest problems was the ivy since it's a plant that just keeps crawling, taking over space and killing everything in its path. If you have never tried to pull up ivy, just take my word for it that it's really freakin' hard. We ended up hiring a guy off Craigslist to help us pull everything up - and it still took 8 hours to get it all (and we keep finding more roots each time we're out there).

We pruned the trees and bushes and removed an ugly, crowding butterfly bush (discovering a white rose still clinging to life in the middle of it).
We pulled up all the weeds from the flower beds.
We removed all the weeds from in between the patio stones.
We got a free load of arborist wood chips and although it by no means compares to beauty bark, it does a good job preventing weeds and giving the flower beds a more uniform look.
We discovered we have 13 trees on our property, not including the landscape trees on the outside of the fence, along the driveway.

The most awesome project however, was the vegetable boxes that Jacob built. He used the wood from the crawl space that we had to remove when we put the new insulation in, years ago. And then he filled it with dirt from a big compost / dirt pile from the backyard. Not only is the unsightly pile gone from the backyard now, the soil is proving to be super fertile and perfect for growing vegetables.

Joris cooperated awesomely by being able to keep himself entertained with a stick, digging in the dirt, transferring worms from the yard to the vegetable boxes and looking at roly polies.

This is what the yard looks like now:

One of Joris' favorite activities is helping me water the plants.

The first vegetable! (The starts when I bought them were labeled sugar snap peas, but I think they might actually be snow peas). Other veggies we're growing include tomatoes, bellpepper, broccoli, zucchini, yellow and acorn squash.

I'm also trying my hand at growing some perennial flowers, with varying degrees of success so far. (With three varieties I can't make out the difference between the flower starts (if there are any) and the myriad of weeds, but others are more distinct.

Jacob and Joris also built me this potting table:

We have enjoyed multiple gatherings in the backyard on the patio and the back yard is a much nicer place for Joris to play now since we don't really have to worry about him being attacked by rats in the ivy or simply disappearing in the thick curtain of weeds.

So, we are no longer ashamed of having people join us in our outdoor spaces. I'd love to have you over for a barbecue, some lounging around (we put up the hammock, too!) or a play date involving perhaps a kiddie pool... Come on over!

1 comment:

Sarah B said...

Wow, that looks great, Carine, and like it was a lot of work. I love the veggie boxes and the potting table. Did any of your starts survive? Mine all died. Pfft. I think you need greenhouses to make veggie starts that will survive Seattle.