Saturday, May 16, 2009

Project #1 - It's Underway!

A good day in the garden - at least in the building part of it. I actually got farther than I had hoped. The day went something like this.

7:00 a.m. Working on the raised bed. All the materials were laid out in the carport - landscape timbers cut to length and holes drilled last night. It was a great morning for a project like this - overcast and cool and just the birds to keep me company. By 7:30 the first corner is in. Digging is less hard than I had feared. Fortunately The Tree Man's son had dug up a large section when he grubbed out the stump two weeks ago. I quickly found that I was digging out too much dirt and not too little, as I assumed I would do.

The big challenge was getting it level, the ends perpendicular and the sides parallel. If I could get the first row in properly, the rest would be easy. My father and brother would have measured and drawn plans. I, on the other hand, had spent the past year contemplating. So what does a girl do when she has grown up in a family of engineers? She plans it in her head and then wings it on the installation - and it worked just fine.

10:30 a.m. The entire back wall is built and the lower (left) end. Now I am ready for the hard part. I had assumed that the front would be harder to dig out since that part of the yard had been all in grass, whereas the back part had been a flower bed and therefore previously tilled. What I had not anticipated was that I had guessed exactly right on the amount of rise in the land - from left to right. The timbers I had cut fit exactly right. I only had to dig out a shallow trench for each new timber across the front and the rise worked out just right.

12:00 noon - The box is complete up to the first full four-sided row. And it looks good. Along the way I have hauled out three wheelbarrows of good dirt, two of bad dirt - mostly clay - and one load of grass and root scraps. The latter look like chunks of old decaying bone. It occurs to me, tho, that in a way they were the bones of the tree, so maybe it is a fitting image for them. I was able to leave more than a foot of space for the native honeysuckle, altho I did have to cut several of the ground level roots, and was able to make a small swale to carry any extra water away rather than letting it stand.

Time to take a break for things like food and regular garden maintenance - deadheading, cleaning around the pond, and cutting flowers for the house. Also a nap would be nice!

4:00 p.m. - Look out Laura Ingalls Wilder! I have a mini-cabin - at least that is what Mitchell thinks. He keeps looking for the door. I did have to make a trip to Big Blue for four more landscaping timbers to complete one more row than I had planned, but that was a nice break in the work. While there I picked up some gravel - well 750 pounds of gravel - for the bottom of the box.

Drainage is the crucial element in this project. The plants that I want are xeriscape plants - agastache, penstemon, and salvia. They need for the water to run thru the soil and then drain away - and not stand around their roots. I'll accomplish this two ways: first there will be a couple of inches of gravel and a couple inches of sand in the bottom of the box, and secondly, I'll take advantage of the natural drainage of the site. The land slopes from right to left and from the fence into the yard. So water will naturally run away from this raised bed. By putting in plenty of stone and sand I'll be able to take advantage of and encourage the natural run off.

8:30 p.m. - One last thing to do today. I ordered the plants! Agastache 'Ava' is a dark cerise that could go four feet tall - wow! With the fence as a background it will look great. Penstemon 'Elfin pink' is a clear pink about two feet tall. Penstemon 'Blue Lips' is a clear blue beardtongue with a lavendar throat. It's only 10 inches so will go near the front, along with Shimmer Evening Primrose (Oenothera fremontii 'Shimmer'). At the very front will be Red Mother of Thyme - a three-inch creeping thyme that will spill over the edges of the box - someday. I don't know how quickly they will ship out, so doubt that I will have them for next weekend, but surely in two weeks I'll have it up and running! I will also be moving some plants from my garden - some sea oats for sure, and probably some salvia 'May Night'.

If I can still walk and lift my arms, I'll get the gravel in tomorrow and look for sand.

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