Removing the sod was the simplest part of the project. We paid a crew to strip the sod and haul it away, which took one day. But, having learned from prior experience that removing the grass roots and plastic sod netting, then adding topsoil and amendments to improve soil quality and drainage makes a major difference to the health of future plants, we spent a good part of October digging. Much of our soil is heavy clay and a lot of it is embedded with rocks, the legacy of the rock quarry that once operated on our site. The good news is that we've made considerable progress. The bad news is that we have the aches, pains and battle scars to prove it.
We're done digging in the backyard. We've added about 4 cubic yards of topsoil. Our new path, consisting of 3100 pounds of flagstone, is down. And I've planted creeping thyme alongside and between each and every stone - 13 flats in all.
|Photos show, from left: the state of the backyard lawn prior to removal, the space after the sod was stripped away, and the area at present with flagstone laid and creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum 'Minus') planted|
Closer shots show all the empty space.
|North end of new flagstone path|
|Mid-section of new path|
|South end of new path, which links to the existing flagstone path, creating a continuous path circling three-quarters of the house|
I've slowly begun the process of filling in small portions of the new garden area we've gained by taking out the lawn.
|I added Argyranthemum and Briza media (aka quaking grass) here|
|I planted 3 Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara', a compact grower, Geranium 'Rozanne, and Salvia chamaedryoides 'Marine Blue' here|
|I added Seslaria autumnalis 'Campo Verde' (some moved from another area of the garden), Alternanthera 'Joseph's Coat' and Gazania plugs here|
There's a LOT more space to fill. I have plans for some areas but not all. Integrating them to create a coherent landscape remains a concern. Meanwhile, we've started work on the neglected front area along the street as well.
|Photos show the ongoing metamorphosis of the area inside the hedge along the street, from left: grass lawn prior to removal, area after the sod was stripped, and the current work area with a shade to screen us from the sun as we dig|
We've had numerous setbacks in this area. The soil here is heavy clay and riddled with tree and hedge roots (in addition to rocks!), making digging particularly difficult. We discovered that those roots have cracked several irrigation pipes while careless digging damaged others, requiring my husband to spend countless hours on plumbing repairs. (
|We also need to install a path to the street here for use in hauling our trash bins for the weekly pick-up and, as we couldn't find anyone willing to accept a contract for the job, my husband is building it himself, using railroad ties and gravel|
|After clearing sod netting and adding a thin layer of new topsoil around the ornamental pear tree, I planted woolly thyme as a groundcover|
I took a break for a plant shopping trip to Santa Barbara County with a friend last weekend. Much of what I bought is intended for the backyard but some also went into filling holes in the front and side yards. It was wonderful to focus on the fun stuff, if only for a while.
After a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, I'll be back to digging in the front this coming weekend, although I may fit in another nursery run if I get a chance - I do still need a lot of plants and I want to take advantage of the rains expected to accompany El Niño to get the plants established before drought conditions take hold again. In addition to the empty spaces in the backyard, we pulled out 2 more sections of mostly dead Ceanothus hedge so those areas need planting too.
|The Ceanothus weren't especially tall but they were very wide and their removal left large expanses of exposed soil in these areas, which slope down from the main area of the front garden toward the street on the southwest side|
Best wishes to all of you celebrating Thanksgiving this week. However you're spending the holiday, I hope you enjoy it!
All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party