This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life. I love it all!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Garden Beginnings

As I have already stated, our yard space is a quarter acre and oddly shaped. As a result, and partially due to the garden layout that has come to my mind as this undertaking has unfolded, I have tried to create garden spaces that are sort of gardens within the garden.

There is the Upper Garden which sits at the top of the hill above the house. This is where my gardening began. We I started out all that was there was just a previously planted Italian plum tree, a couple of rows of raspberries and a vegetable garden I attempted right in the ground. I planted a couple of apple trees which I tried to espallier and a cherry which didn't turn out to be a dwarf so its fruit is nearly impossible to retrieve.

Then the raspberries died and about that same time I lost interest in gardening for a time. The upper garden remained fallow and eventually a rather unhealthy lawn took hold.

For whatever reason, about eight years ago we decided it was time to take back the upper garden and we began landscaping that area. We invited a landscaper from the Garden Spot here in Bellingham to take a look and draw up a plan. She gave us some great ideas for the anchor plants like Rhododendrons and Oregon Grape.

I purchased a Mantis, a cute little garden tiller that works like a horse and has been a real god-send ever since its arrival. This little 2-cycle tiller has tines that will not break, and in the 5 years I have owned it I have never done anything except empty the gas at the end of each season. It still starts up with one ot two pulls of the starter and I can't imagine what I would have done without it. Best of all it only weighs 20 pounds.

The Mantis made quick work of the hilltop even though the land up there is chalk full of rocks. The Mantis would either bounce off of them causing me to dig it up and toss it in the rock pile or the Mantis would clog up with certain sized rocks that brought everything to a halt until the rock was dislodged. When the hilltop was tilled, the weeds and lawn raked out and the land leveled, it was time to build the hardscape.

We chose to build a cedar arbor kit we found in Canada (much cheaper than any we could find in the US at the time). It became the entrance to the upper garden. A path of pavers was built through the arbor entrance leading to a 6' X 9' patio. On either side of the patio we built 2-4' X 8' raised beds for vegetables and herbs. These were made of cedar as well. When completed the area was dramatically transformed and began to look like the framework for a real garden.

Next the plants were brought in and placed according to the plans we were given by Garden Spot. We did wind up shifting and even adding plants since we chose to take in more space than originally planned for this garden area. The latest photo of this areas shows the dramatic improvement over the past 4-5 years. Now recognizable only by the blue water fawcet. Oh, and that blue fawcet? It has an interesting story as well. It is commonly called a farmer's fawcet. It allows the water to drain down below the frost line after it is turned off so freezing temperatures will not burst a pipe during the winter. When we moved into this house it had only one fawcet and it was located under the back deck. It required a section of the deck be removed, you got down on your belly and reached down among the bugs and cobwebs to obtain water for the entire quarter acre. Unbelievable, but true! We now have three of these farmer fawcets, one next to the barn, another behind the gazebo and the one pictured in the upper garden. Water? No longer a problem in my garden.
The upper garden is now home to a pear, two apple, the original cherry, a new dwarf variety cherry and that old plum tree. The raised beds provide us with several herbs including Italian parsley, oregano, sage, chives, rosemary, fennel, thyme as well as lettuce, onions, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, peas and green beans.
Two new raised beds added this season have greatly added to what we can now grow and that project will be discussed in a future blog post.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

In My Garden

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

--Cicero

My backyard is my favorite place in all the world. It is a quarter acre of lawn surrounded by ever growing numbers of flower beds, gently taken back from what was almost entirely weeds and very little else.

The yard is an odd shape, fenced in on all sides to ward off the deer that used to wander in and munch on whatever I tried to grow. It is surrounded by five neighbors most of whom care little for their own yards so the six-foot high fence is practical in that regard as well.

Slowly over the past 13 years we have transformed this space into a paradise in which we can't seem to spend enough time. With our summers our own, however, and the weather much more cooperative, our garden seems to take gentle leaps forward, each one making it closer to our dream.

The mystery surrounding a garden is that the gardener will never know how the story ends. Yet I continue to inch forward, planting new varieties, new species, some new hardscape.

I sit among my flowers and trees, the fruit trees with limbs bowed down with promise and the patches of vegetables supplying our summer dinner table and marvel at what I have created in such a short time.
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This summer I have finished some projects, taken on some new ones all with the goal of our September party for Kate and Nick looming on the horizon. The yard must peak at that time so that it is at its most beautiful, the lawn its greenest, the flowers their most bountiful and with not a weed to be seen.

These photos of the site in our yard where a gazebo now stands. These are the before and after photos.

So I will place photos and progress reports on this blog for the next couple of months documenting the progress made on my projects, showing before and afters of past and current projects as well.

These are before and after photos of the hardscape of our upper garden. Today the landscape has filled in and it is a lush and beautiful place to sit and watch our squirrels scamper about and the butterflies flit!