Cleaning up the Front Yard – Part 1

As I’ve said before: This property has been neglected for a VERY long time. There has been no gardening or yard maintenance carried out here for years but underneath all the overgrowth is pretty decent, unpolluted soil. It just requires a big clean up! I wasn’t able to do any gardening this summer with the move. I had great plans for all the work I would have done by now but with packing and cleaning and painting and fixing and building and more cleaning and unpacking .. well I promised Awesome Hubby that I would leave the garden until the kids went back to school. So I dug up my most favorite plants from the old house, harvested all the herbs and vegetables that I could and postponed my Autumn Vegetable Garden plan until next year. Now that’s its time to bring all the houseplants in for the year I need to find a place for the outdoor perennials that have been sitting in pots for 2 months too.

I looked at the pots on the patio table: thyme, sage, lavender, lewisia cotyledon, strawberry and miniature tea roses. The first 4 like a well drained area or even sandy soil. That got me thinking I have garlic that I harvested from the old house and garlic will do well in the poorest soils too. The last 2 like a well draining loamy soil but are tolerant of sandier conditions if well mulched. I decided to plant my fall garlic with this grouping of plants as the tall, green spikes will add some height and interest around the small shrubs. All of these plants like full sun but will tolerate partial sun conditions and still produce. So now to survey the “gardens” around the house and find a site.

Gathering the supplies

Group Plants with similar requirements for site specific planting

The front yard is South facing but alas is heavily shaded by mature trees. In the centre of the front yard the shade is so deep that even the creeping buttercup won’t grow there. I’m working on a woodland design for this area. Closer to the porch, the yard gets about 6 hours of dappled sun in the middle of the day and these areas are completely carpeted with creeping buttercup. There is a raised bed to the right that has been mulched in wood chip and there’s a narrow gravel bed along the house to the left. The gravel strip would be great for the lewisia cotyledon, lavender, sage and thyme (alpine/rock garden) but not suitable for the roses, garlic or strawberries. I checked out the raised bed as it should be well draining and its location gets the most sunshine. It was also the least weedy area. Under the wood chip there was dark, rich sandy soil, 2 inches under the soil was black plastic weed barrier and even richer looking soil. There was also a lot of garbage. This site will be perfect for this grouping of plants. I grabbed my tools and supplies and set to work.

Cleared raised bed

Weeding by hand reduces the disturbance to the soil. The blue plastic makes me cringe 😦

First I hand pulled the weeds and raked back the wood chip. Then I picked out all the litter and dug out the black plastic weed barrier. I smoothed the wood chip back into place and scraped the moss off the stone wall. This only took about 30 minutes and the bed looked nice and clean (except for confetti sized pieces of blue tarp that had long ago disintegrated, I will need to mulch the bed to hide that). As I stood back to take a photo I noticed the triangle shaped bed between this raised bed and the steps up the path completely overgrown with weeds, as is everything on this property. I couldn’t ignore how it was ruining my photo so I had to clear out that bed too.

Weedy triangle bed

Admiring the cleared out raised bed only to notice weed mania to the right!

I hand pulled the weeds and found the richest black soil hiding underneath. I did have to dig out some grass that had reclaimed the edge of the bed but most of the weeds pulled easily. There was a lot of litter and random squares of black plastic to pick out. A quick rake and I stood back to admire the beautiful prepared bed. Hmm it looks perfect for seeding with some butterfly attraction mix maybe 🙂

Scoop of Black Gold

Add one scoop of worm castings per planting hole

By now my back was a bit achy and I needed a break. While I was sippin’ a mug of hot tea I moved the potted plants around the raised bed until I found a pattern I was happy with. I then grabbed some bulbs of my homegrown garlic and separated the cloves. Whenever I plant something in the ground I make sure to add a generous scoop of my homemade worm castings to the planting hole. Worm casting inoculate the soil with beneficial bacteria, increase the humus content and provide water soluble, slow release nutrients. Adding a scoop of worm compost to the planting hole makes sure all the benefits are easily accessed by the root system and protects from transplant shock. This gives my transplants the best chance of surviving after they spent the summer drying out in little pots. I’m pretty good at saving dying plants anyway but with worm castings my plants can recover from the worst abuse or neglect. Besides the nutrients added by sheet mulching, worm casting are the only fertilizer I use.

Cleared weeds to right, planted bed

One bed planted and one prepared.

It took about 10 minutes to plant the 12 plants and then another 2 minutes to poke 30 garlic cloves down into the soil. Garlic has to be planted right way up, about 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart. I didn’t have anything on hand to plant in the area closest to the door yet (a flowering climber to wrap around the railing would be pretty) but I found some abandoned ornaments in the front “lawn” and gave them a new home.

Front Raised Bed Complete

Low maintenance perennial bed that will provide food, fragrance and flowers right at our doorstep.

All that was left to do was hand pull the random weeds growing between cracks in the wall and path and give the area a quick sweep. Awesome Hubby has already used our power washer to quickly blast off the moss from the paths and once I finish clearing out the weeds we can scrub the paths up nicely. I’m quite happy with this raised bed for now. Its a sweet perennial bed of fragrant herbs, juicy fruit and delicate flowers. The garlic will establish a root system and put on a little growth before overwintering and resuming growth in the spring. All I need now is a little fresh mulch to tuck the bed in for the winter.. and to scatter some seed on that prepared corner before Mother Nature fills it in for me 🙂

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