Thursday, March 10, 2011

The site - overview

We bought our house (circa 1967) 3.5 years ago. This was the first time in my adult life with a plot of land at my disposal, so it was very exciting to learn about plant and soil biology and try my hand at a bit of gardening. I was a biology major in college but had focused on neuroscience, and since plants don't have brains Kingdom Plantae was pretty much virgin territory. You might think that a lot would have been accomplished since we bought the house, but two out of three years we've been here I've been massively pregnant during prime planting season, late spring. And my husband is the chop-up-and-compost man, not so much the plant-things-and-make-them-thrive man. So progress has been piecemeal, although I've had a chance to deeply study the yard and it's extant plants, and get some beginners experience at growing annual veggies. This year I am planning a big expansion of the annual garden on the side of the house, and maximizing perennial edibles in the front yard.

Between the two of us we've managed to take out some of lawn and put in a big collection of berry bushes (blueberries, huckleberries, currants, gooseberries, and honeyberries, plus individual specimens of aronia, silverberry, gaulnettya, and Chilean wintergreen.) We've also put in a fig -- which may or may not be getting enough heat, we'll see this year -- an Asian persimmon, and a four-way grafted monstrosity of Asian pears. Last fall we removed some trees and shrubs that weren't doing anything for the yard and eating up significant full sun territory. One of these, a huge, abused, suckering Gravenstein apple tree, will be missed, but the space it was taking up will be put to much better use with several dwarf fruit and nut trees, and extended annual garden space.

Goodbye, you vigorous old geezer of a tree

The front yard was already landscaped when we bought the place, containing about a dozen different roses, an azalea hedge, several decorative trees and a plum tree. I've filled in more of this with a bunch of bulbs (love you, Van Engelen) and some miscellaneous perennial flowers. Some of the trees have been removed to let in light, but the bones of the front yard are in place. We're filling in the space with perennial veggies and fruit (rhubarb, artichokes, strawberry patch, runner beans, perennial greens) and some intensively-planted fruit trees. Since the new trees will be young, we'll fill in with some annual veggies this summer. In order to attract bees and keep everything looking like a landscaped yard and not a food garden, everything will also be interspersed with flowers and herbs. Many of these new plants will be placed in former lawn converted to compost beds using the lasagna method. There's still some grass, but I hope to remove most or all of the rest next fall.

The back yard was more of a mess when we moved in. Most of the south end of the yard is shaded by an urban trail/bike path with a wild mix of Hawthorn and apple trees growing along it. This limits sun to the west side of the house and an area very close to the back of the house that gets some intense southern rays. Most of the back is in part or full shade in the summer, limiting food production. Despite this we are building six double-dug raised beds on the west side for annual veggies, and also have a new arbor to grow grapes and raspberries. Some of the new trees will also be squeezed into the back.

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