Summer Begins! (2020)

The solstice has come and summer begins in the garden. I love watching the transition from the early Spring plants and flowers, with their vibrant greens and fresh new growth, over to the flowers and colors of Summer, brighter colors and yellow-green foliage.

Summer also brings the fruits and vegetables!

May Garden Update

The garden is in the midst of the Spring time bloom.

The acidic garden has all of its plants in place. We added a back row of acid-loving azaleas and hydrangeas. Then a row of blueberries, followed by a row of perennial flowers.

Acid Garden

The 2020 garden season has begun. We are all under the stay-at-home guidelines for COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped me from preparing our front yard for the new garden beds.

Our vision for the front yard has changed since I originally drew out the plans. We still plan on the northend sporting a blueberry and azalea patch, but most of the yard we intend to leave open and grassy for our new pup.

I did what I always do when preparing a bed. First, I double-dug the soil and flipped the sod to help fluff the compacted soil.

Next, I added a layer of garden compost and manure to help fertilize the soil. I then watered the area thoroughly to ensure it was soaked in. Then I covered the new bed with a thick layer of newspaper.

I did my best to preserve our large tulip garden from last year. We hope to extend those tulips all the way to the end of the garden bed.

I soaked the newspaper as I went to keep it from blowing away. Last, I covered the area with 2-inches of mulch.

Then I soaked the whole collection until sopping wet. And the new bed is ready.

If the fence seems surprising, check out that project here:
http://arboreantears.com/2020/04/26/the-circuitous-fence/

Garden (2019): Expansion

It was March and we still had snow on the ground. I was very eager to start the new gardening season. I had lots of plans and more designs I wanted to execute.

Over the Winter, I had set up a small growing area with some LED lights. It provided us with fresh greens and herbs throughout the winter. I added an auto-watering system, making the whole set-up almost self-sufficient.

April

It was a colder and harsher April in 2019 compared to the previous year. I was quite eager to get started, but there was nothing to do yet while the ground was hard. I did enjoy watching the star magnolia tree blossom.

May

Two weeks later and it was a different world. All the tulips, daffodils, and crocuses I planted last fall were popping up. My wife and I prepared for our annual Kentucky Derby party. Spring had finally sprung.

June

This year I was working towards adding garden infrastructure. I added some trellises (thanks to my new woodworking hobby). I added a bunch more plants to fill in gaps. We added some beautiful flagstone paths to the south-side garden and put in a bunch of perennial flowers and bushes. The Russian comfrey plants were the star of the show, with their large soft-textured leaves and beautiful compact violet flowers.

July

August

August was bringing in beautiful summer flowers for us to enjoy. Our house was full of vases with clippings.

September

Unfortunately, I had to remove the fruit trees I had planted the previous year. I had learned the hard way about ensuring winter critters are unable to chew up the bark of the young trees. So, I put in two new apple trees on the back end of the yard near the garage, along with more perennials, forming a nice flower bed. I decided to forgo putting in new pear trees for now. One of the spots I had chosen didn’t quite get as much sun as I had predicted.

Garden (2018): Building Paradise

This was it. This was the real deal. We had bought our first house and the large back and front yards were blank slates ready for my design visions.

Design

I spent the 2017-2018 Winter designing a permaculture garden for the backyard. I wanted it to have plenty of space for annual vegetables, ample perennial foods, and a plethora of colorful flowers throughout the seasons.

The first thing I did was make an accurate representation of the entire yard, front to back.

Map of the yard, each square is a square-foot.

I then took this map and started mapping how much light each area was likely to receive based on what I had observed and measurements of the sun angles and obstructions to that light.

I had been reading Edible Forest Gardens (both volumes) by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. It is the best design book I have read for setting up an urban food garden. I used their process to help guide my choices and put together an extensive list of species that I thought would work well in my limited climate.

Using the solar map, I started mapping out patches and zones, based on the permacultural design principles.

Mapping of patches and zones and future infrastructure for the gardens.

I knew it would take a few years to see the vision come to life, so I decided to focus on the back yard, really wanting my annual beds to be available for the planting season. I picked a number of plants that would best fit each zone and work well with their neighbors. I also thought much about creating various layers: herbs, shrubs, trees, vines.

Here’s an image of the map as I was adding plants to it. This wasn’t a definitive plan, as things in the real world never match what’s on paper. However, it served as a good design tool as I began to create the real space.

Work-in-progress mapping of placing individual plants into the patches, planning out each layer and purpose.

Digging

April had arrived and the soil was just ready to be worked. Now the back-breaking labor was upon me. Thankfully, I had spent all winter working on my upper body, knowing I would have many beds to dig in the Spring.

I also wanted to try hugelkultur, a technique of adding wood into the soil. As the wood decays and breaks down, it invites beneficial fungi to the party and helps keep the soil moist and full of nutrients. So, as I dug the beds, I added some logs, branches, and twigs deep into the beds.

I double-dug each bed, flipping over the contents as deep as I could. While digging out the beds, I dug out so many large rocks and stones. I started filling containers with rocks. I tried to cover the beds with tarps as I dug them out, hopping to keep them moist and avoid direct contact with the sun.

I then had a truck-load of compost dumped on my drive-way and covered each bed in a thick layer of the compost. I then covered each bed in a layer of newspaper and cardboard. This would ensure weed suppression for a couple seasons and help the soil to attract plenty of worms. I then ordered a truckload of mulch and covered the newspaper with mulch.

By the first of May, my backyard garden was set-up and ready for planting.

I spent the next several months filling in all the plants that I had designed. I had to make a few changes and had trouble finding some of the species I wanted. Unfortunately, I lost many of the photos I took over that summer and only have a few from October.

Garden (2017)

In the summer of 2017, we had bought a new house. It was across the street from the duplex we were living in. I had painstakingly moved all my raised-bed boxes and dropped them into the new yard. However, we did not get to do much gardening this year. I found only a single photo, showing the blooming flowers in the front yard.

Garden (2016)

The garden at the duplex continued to thrive, and I tried to pack more plants into it each year. Unfortunately, I don’t have too many pictures for 2016. Here are a few from that August.

One new addition was a elderberry bush that I had planted near the alleyway. I figured a beautiful plant like that would crowd out all the weeds that were growing there, while also providing wonderful flowers.