I know. It’s been forEVER since I’ve written anything. Not that there’s been any lack of activity–on the contrary, perhaps there’s been a little too much, on too many fronts. That includes a couple of rounds of developmental edits on the book I’ve been working on about this entire, decade-long . . . initiative? Dream? Thank goodness I have a patient publisher.
This, however, will be the first of what I plan to be a few updates. If you follow me on my Facebook page or Insta, I’ve been posting some photos of the landscaping progress there. This should catch everyone up.
Since my last post to this page (I think in January), winter’s planning gave way to a spring waiting game. I decided in December to work with Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery in Woodbury, CT to help with my garden designs. God knows I didn’t have the attention span or depth of knowledge to do it on my own. I had general ideas for how I wanted to fill all these great new spaces we began to construct last fall, but that was all I had. It took some time, but it was one of those cases where patience paid off.
In early May, I received the proposed plans. True to Earth Tones’ name and my objectives to support our local fauna, would utilize only native plants and shrubs. I could hardly wait to get going. I spent several days prepping planting beds, roto-tilling old grass, weeds, and rocks out of the dirt; raking, shoveling, and laying down landscape fabric to keep anything from growing until I was damned good and ready for it.
I also enlisted the boys to help me with the gargantuan task of clearing, leveling, and adding soil and compost to a large part of the backyard that had been left rutted and full of gravel in the wake of last year’s hardscaping work. There, I wanted grass. Spoiler alert: the grass grew. It looked fabulous for a while. Then, we fell into drought conditions, which remain. We have well water, so the grass is always the first casualty. We’ll see if the early work pays off and the grass returns next spring. I gave up on trying to keep the weeds and crabgrass at bay.
One of our neighbors graciously offered to let me dig up some overgrown perennials in their gardens. My found treasures included some common milkweed to get a head start on the pollinator gardens to come. Transplanting everything gave me another project to keep myself occupied while I waited to get onto Earth Tones’ packed schedule.
Their plan included two new features that were well-beyond my pay grade. First was a dry stream bed running alongside the patio on the west side of the house. That would realize a vision I’ve had for years, bringing a huge natural rock-ledge formation there the attention it deserved. They also proposed constructing a “rain garden” where most of the runoff from the property emptied into the backyard.
My plan was to do most of the planting myself. Nine larger shrubs, the areas along the stream bed, and in the rain garden would fall to the Earth Tones team. Nine smaller shrubs, approximately 120 other perennials, and over 30 annuals they threw in as a lovely little bonus for me, were mine to handle.
Five tons of soil, five yards of mulch, and three days of grueling work later, everything was in its place. The Earth Tones team’s magic took only two days, as did the vast majority of my planting efforts. However, I am a glutton for punishment. We’d planted many of the shrubs along the border between the back yard and the woods. I decided that entire area needed a lot more mulch. I ordered another 10 yards and spent two more days spreading it with a huge assist from the boys. Five-plus weeks later, I can now say with confidence, as the weeds stubbornly poke through, that it wasn’t enough.
For anyone who may have the stamina to have been following this effort over the past year, you might have noticed that my photos of the patio, which leads to the stairs, which, in turn, lead to the backyard, has shown that the stairs and landings on that west (a.k.a. rock ledge) side remained unfinished for the past 10 months. The guys had to call it quits right before Thanksgiving last year because it just got too cold to work. The top landing and step for the stairs on the opposite side of the back deck suffered a similar stall.
I am beyond delighted to report that they are now all complete, as of last weekend.
Those following on Insta and Facebook are probably already sick to death of the tales of my accidental cantaloupe and grape tomato patch, which sprang from my use of apparently not-yet-ready-for-prime-time compost as I was prepping those garden beds this past May. The cayenne-pepper treated grape tomatoes that manage to escape the determined appetites of the chipmunks ripen in relative abundance every few days. Amazingly for New England, we’ve also harvested one beautiful cantaloupe, and three more are now within days of picking. It is definitely time for another generous application of cayenne to those as well; I noticed some new teeth marks in one of them this morning, but whoever it was didn’t have the fortitude to chew through to the good stuff.
Excellent. More for us!