It’s late Saturday night, and I honestly cannot recall the last time I worked this hard – physically hard – for 24 hours straight, and as a result, I am TOAST.
I am exhausted and sore all over, as well as pretty banged up from hardcore digging and hauling. I’ve got new callouses on my hands, a giant bruise on my forearm, and sunburn on my neck and shoulders. But I also feel really great about how much I got done to kick this project off. While the finished garden will take several years to be planted and to mature, and I have lots of finish work to do on pathways, a brick area for sitting, etc over the fall and winter ahead, the basic bones of my new garden have now been put in place. It won’t look like much to anyone else for some time, but I’m tickled.
One of the hardest parts of getting things started was to turn the sun-fried, weedy clay in the areas where I wanted to add the first plants to this new garden into the kind of aerated, draining, heathy dirt that will actually grow stuff. So using my trusty titanium, serrated hand trowel, I used a modified “double-digging” method to prep the soil by hand. Once I had it broken up pretty well, I added sand and this stuff called “clay breaker” that’s made of mulch n gypsum, and I then hand mixed and tossed til the dirt was (I think) ready for plants. ( As you might imagine, THAT’s where my new callouses came from! )
I also hauled wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of large rocks to the front yard, and then with my neighbor S’s good eye, laid out the bones of my pathways.
I had to flood the path routes with the garden hose to get these big stepping stones to settle in the ground, which made an enormous amount of really muddy mud – the good, old fashioned kind that’s perfect for mudpies and sloshing around in bare feet.
And that’s exactly what the two littles did all evening while I put stones in place – they went nuts having fun in major mud. I will admit that at a certain point I was so incredibly filthy myself that I joined in too, and the girls and I had a blast going wild in the mess. I made them both strip down and let me hose them off from stem to stern before they came back in the house for the night.
Here’s G just before she went full-on mudhog tonight. She was already pretty filthy, as you can see, but trust me, this was nothing!
And speaking of mud, if you can see past all the mud in these photos, you can now kinda, sorta see the beginnings of the actual garden starting to take shape. It will be months before I have all the hardscaping complete, and another full year at least before I have it fully planted. And then, of course, as with any perennial garden, it will take several more seasons to fill in and mature. But as I read somewhere recently, even the most wonderful gardens in the world once began as nothing more than an idea and a patch of bare dirt.
I am happy to say that my modest little garden is now, after the last 24 hours of work, at least a little bit further along than that.
So squint if you have to to look beyond the mud and the spare plantings so far, and maybe you will be able to see what I see here… The bones of a garden-in-progress.
One of the first areas of the new garden where I’ve actually added a few plants is here in the corner, behind the little bench that belonged to Henry when he was a toddler. I have some still in pots that I will put in the ground when I get time, but I like mixing the containers with plants in the ground.
In this photo, the tall plant in the middle there is yarrow., and then the little red clay pot has purslane in it. I’m not sure if you can see it, but in the left corner is a small Chapel Hill lantana, and the deep red flowers in the green pot are Wisconsin Red dahlias. There’s also a young pink penta in the photo, along with several good old pink zinnias.
Here’s a better look at the dahlias, which I love.
This is butterfly weed. I have two of them in this first group of plantings.
This is “blue bomb speedwell.”
And this is Russian sage “Little Spire.”