After college I moved into a townhome and lived there for about 5 years. I loved the low maintenance and convenience of it; however, I missed having a yard. Some of my fondest childhood memories are helping my dad spread pine straw or helping with an outdoor project. So, when we were thinking about moving we knew a nice yard was a must. Since my last post, our yard has burst into a rainbow of colors and fragrances…it’s truly stunning. The previous owners did a great job of choosing some really beautiful plants. What do we have? Well, now that stuff is actually flowering I’ve been able to figure out what some of those mystery plants were! We’ve got Hostas, Lilac, Peony, Spiderwort, Japanese Maples, Cherry trees, Azaleas (the large and small variety), Lilies, Iris’, Rroses, and various flowering ground cover to name a few.
We’ve also loved watching the landscaping come to life in the natural areas around the house. I’ve included some photos below. The top photo is one of the most beautiful aspects of the yard, the trellis between our property and the neighbor. Recently, delicate yellow roses have completely covered the trellis…it’s quite a sight. The bottom four photos are landscaped areas across the yard. The two photos on the left were taken in the main natural area along the side of our home. The photos on the right are the natural areas beside the front porch. We’re absolutely in love with the red Japanese maple. We recently also added some additional plants including: some hanging flowers, a hydrangea, iris’ (because people are just giving them away) and Lilly of the Valley (because they are my absolute favorite).
Now on to the edibles! We both really wanted a vegetable garden but we couldn’t get much to grow at the townhouse. So, we knew we wanted to try again since we have a little more room to grow. I don’t even want to admit how many hours it took me to decide what and where to plan, but I will. Prepare yourselves because you’re about to get a glimpse of the crazy.
Step 1: Where to plant?
- We live in a rather shady neighborhood, literally shady not sketchy, which I love! But it makes things a bit difficult when I need at least 6 hours of sunlight for vegetables to grow.
Step 2: Chart the sun/shade in your yard
- My dad suggested that I sketch the shaded areas of the yard at 9, 12, 2, and 4 o’clock. Once I was done I layered the sheets on top of each other to find the sunniest spots. Kinda brilliant?! This technique actually worked! It was really easy to see where the sunniest parts of the yard were.
Step 3: Step outside your comfort zone.
- After referring to my sketches I discovered that the largest sunny spot was on the outside of the fence. GASP! A garden that people can see from the road!? I know, blasphemy. I had to get over myself and the thought that vegetable gardens were meant to be hidden away in the back yard. While working on our garden we’ve actually gotten a lot of complements on it. I’m proud to say that we’re officially working outside the box on this one.
Step 4: Create the garden bed
- If you live in the South you know about our clay situation. If not, let me break it down. We’ve got about an inch of dirt and meters of red clay. So, we had to create a raised bed to accommodate the veggies. We enlisted the help of my dad (he had all the tools and know-how for this sort of project). We decided to use half-round garden timbers because they were inexpensive and durable. It was a rather simple project if you have the tools to do it.
- Level out the ground so that the wood sits flat
- Cut the ends of the boards at a 45 degree angle so they fit flush in the corners
- Nail the corners together
- Drill holes every few feet and hammer in ¾ in. x 2 ft. rebar into them (to keep the boards from moving around)
- NOTE: Don’t smash your finger with the hammer. My dad was the victim of a vicious hammer attack that led to a broken thumb. So, be careful and go slow.
Step 5: Fill garden with dirt
- We decided to use a combo of equal parts top soil and manure. To get a good mix we alternated bags in the planter then cut and mixed them together. This was the simplest task to accomplish.
Step 6: Decide what to plant
- This was the most stressful part of the process for me because I couldn’t find a single source for gardening. I looked at books, websites, blogs, and took advice from friends to get the answers to my questions. Why can’t there be just one place that all this stuff is held?! Sigh. It took me days to figure out the combination for our garden…and I’m not even convinced I did it right. But one day while I was buried in a chapter on “planting combinations” it hit me. I realized that this is my first try and I’m not got to get it perfect so why stress about it. So, that’s what I did.
- A lot of plans included veggies that were cool but we’d never really eat and I wanted to make sure we’d eat what we planted. We went with tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, spinach, lettuce, carrots, egg plant, oregano, basil, chives, fennel, and Swiss chard.
- We also planted a few other herbs in pots around the house including: rosemary, orange mint, Thai basil, parsley, and cilantro. These were put in pots around the house because we’ll be using them a lot or they tend to take over vegetable beds.
Step 7: Water regularly
We’ve decided to water in the mornings for a few reasons.
- As it gets increasingly hotter during the day they will need that moisture for as long as possible.
- It’s cooler and more comfortable for us to water in the morning rather than in the afternoon
- Reduces the prevalence of slugs. Apparently, if you water at night (when they are active) they are drawn towards the water. And at that point you’re basically inviting them in to your garden. NOTE: I found one of these guys hanging out under a potted plant. He’s so pretty I let him stay — with the agreement that he’d leave the garden alone. 🙂
We’ve put countless hours into our yard and we couldn’t be happier with how it’s coming along. We’ve enjoyed watching the yard burst into life and can’t wait to see what summer brings.