Friday, July 6, 2012

Creating an Oversize Garden Bed

You might be wondering after reading my last post what exactly I'm doing with my time if I can't manage to pull out a couple hollyhocks.

Working on the entrance bed is the answer to that.

This bed has gone through a lot of changes in the last couple years and I continue to pick away at it this season.  (you can read more about the trials and tribulations of creating this bed in this post)

At the end of last summer this bed was a mess.  I didn't have the time to complete such a big project and I had jumped ahead too quickly, buying plants I wasn't ready to put in the ground.  Half the bed was covered in weeds and the other half had plants thrown into the ground haphazardly before the snow flew.  I knew I needed a better plan when I started work again this spring.  To add to the trouble, in January I watched the garden flood and realized it was imperative that I think a little harder about the placement of plants.  So I drew a picture.


Actually as you can see this version was my fourth picture.  It wasn't the last either.  In fact, the plan I finally went with was changed on the fly as I worked in the garden this spring but it was really helpful having an idea in mind as I worked.

Initially when I started the clean up it was mid-April.  The ground was damp and the weather cool.  Digging was relatively easy and I spent hours in this garden developing a rhythm.  I started in the area most overcome with weeds, digging and pulling.  Hauling weeds away (and never ending glass shards) then hauling fresh compost back and beefing up the soil.  The sides of the bed were edged, plants were moved and then finally mulch topped it all off.

I started in the weediest sections
Mulch turned out to be a real life saver this time around.  Last year I left the ground bare and as soon as my back was turned the area would fill in with weeds.  This bed is approximately 50 feet long and 30 feet wide at its widest point.  The narrow section in the middle is approximately 18 feet across.  Quite a huge space to tackle so this time around I worked in areas about 4 x 4 feet to start, clearing and replanting, and finally mulching which allowed me to move on to next section without the fear of a weed takeover.

Clearing ground a few feet at a time
I had expected to have this bed finished by the time the weather turned hot but sadly I was wrong.  I'm still digging.  There's a lesson here somewhere about taking on too much.

At the beginning of June I had only finished this small section
The good news is that I'm getting there.  I've gone past the halfway mark and I'm relatively happy with how it looks.  It's a bit sparse as the plants are quite small yet but hopefully in a couple years time things will fill in and start looking proper.

As seen from a dirty upstairs window! 
Unfortunately the weather in the last week has turned summer hot so some of the work has stopped.  I'm no longer moving plants around and instead just plunking in the new ones I have purchased and trying to get them settled for a hot dry summer.  But weed removal is continuing, as is edging and mulching.  I hope to get the section on the left cleared of weeds in the next few weeks and then put this project aside for the year.  I'm ready to walk away for awhile and try an activity that doesn't involve weeding!


19 comments:

  1. I love it!!! I love immersing myself in big projects like yours. It's going to be so gorgeous! What did you do to to fix the drainage problem?

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    1. Tammy, I need to do a post about that, thanks for bringing it up. I didn't really fix the problem at all, just trying to work with it.

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  2. You did bite of a big chunk of land to develop. This is the size of some city lots. WOW. I am impressed that you are doing it by hand. It is looking quite nice I think. It won't take long for your plants to fill in. Can't wait to see it evolve.

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    1. Lisa, we did rent a sod cutter at one point so not completely by hand. This really is a big bed compared to some people's yards but as you can see, our 'front yard' is about an acre in size and a small bed would have looked out of place.

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  3. I would never question how anyone is spending their time, considering what a slug I've been in this heat:) I am so impressed by how much you have accomplished, Marguerite! My arbor bed is about half this size, and it's taken me two full weeks at least to get it weeded so that I could spread mulch over it. Plus, my area is pretty well filled with plants, so I had even less space to weed than you. Let's hope the mulch cuts down on weeding for both of us--it's too darned hot to be out pulling weeds!

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    1. Rose, I really really hope the mulch does the trick. So far I've had to go back over the finished spaces a couple times to hand pick small weeds poking through the mulch but that's minor compared to what the situation was when I left the ground bare. We're just really starting to get the heat now so I"m trying to wrap this up quickly as it's just too hot to work in this weather.

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  4. Hi Marguerite: I agree that being so hot in Ontario, I should return to the island..I'm definitely considering it. You are making great, steady progress on that very large flower bed.Is that black mulch you are using? My step-son made me two huge flower beds on the island and I'm sure I'll be struck dumb by how weedy it will be by next Sept..My brother-in-law says mustard weed takes over..I'd like to weed here but heat is a killer..they say it will be like this all summer..great job you are doing, happy gardening...Lannie

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    1. Hi Lannie, yup it's black mulch. I actually like the natural stuff but it seems black is always on sale here so that's what I buy. I'm hoping in a couple years as the plants fill in I can mulch with compost but right now the spaces between plants is so huge I needed a huge mass of mulch to fill in.

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  5. wow Marguerite that is a big bed I hadn't realised it was so big, the full view from your up stairs window with all the lawn around makes it seem small until I realised the 'bushes' behind it are infact trees!
    I know just what it's like with all the weeds and how fast they can grow back, I too have found that I need to cover a weeded area and I am learning it is a good idea to get it planted quickly but plants cost money, which makes it expensive when you have big gardens,
    I had sometimes bought plants for parts of the garden that were not ready and I am very strict with myself now if there isn't a suitable place to plant it in the garden immediately I must not buy!
    you have done a really good job and the results will increase as years go by and the plants develope, Frances

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    1. Frances, I had to do a double take when you mentioned shrubs. LOL, I hadn't realized it but yes, out of context I can see how you mistook the trees for shrubs. Would you believe that's our apple orchard you're looking at! Those trees are about 30 feet tall. I've tried to be very strict with plant buying this year, like you I tried not to buy until I had a place ready to plant. I lost too many plants this last winter due to letting plants sit in pots too long and then not placing them in good positions over the winter.

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  6. Nice to have a plan and work with it, version 4 or whatever! Summer came on like someone flipped a switch here. Boom it was hot! Love the view of the garden from above, really gives perspective. You have done a lot....it looks great!

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    1. Janet, I know what you mean about flipping a switch. One minute it was spring here and easy to work outside and then suddenly the first weekend of July and it was blistering. Time for the beach!

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  7. What a HUGE project! It's really amazing I think how much you've managed to get done! Did you quit your day job or what?! Can't wait to see it in a couple of years when everything has grown in.

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    1. Jane, I wish I could quit my job! At this time of year I can't wait to get home from work and get my hands dirty.

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  8. It boggles my mind that you could even *imagine* completing this project in one year!! I would probably imagine it as a 4-year project (about 25' x 15' each year), and then it would end up taking me 5 or 6. I always need a plan on paper before I plant a new flower bed (even a much smaller one than this), but I always end up changing the plan when I actually start putting plants in the ground (and then again a year or two later when I see how the real garden is different from the garden of my imagination :-)). Once this gets finished and has a few years to grow up, it's going to be spectacular! -Jean

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    1. Jean, I'm a little naive perhaps?!! or just crazy determined. Although I enjoy getting outside and creating a new garden I'm also really impatient for the garden to start looking like a proper garden. I'm a bit happy to hear you change your plans as you garden. You always look like you have everything impeccably planned out, I can see already changes that will need to be made in the fall or next spring.

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  9. I see progress! Real progress! And like the other commenters, I can't believe what a huge area you are tackling. Your plan of getting at one small area at a time, and locking it down with mulch is working. Soon those little plants will fill in and it will be such a beautiful, large, impressive garden.

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    1. Thanks Laurrie, it seems to be working and I'm so glad. Last year I thought, don't put mulch down because you will need to move plants, and it was a disaster. Every unfilled space quickly filled with weeds and created that much more work. Now hopefully next season instead of trying to take my garden back from the brink I can work more on placing plants.

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  10. You've worked hard and it looks great! I couldn't imagine finishing this in one year either :) and that's beside the fact that I couldn't afford to buy enough plants or have enough vision as to what I want.

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