Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A progress report

As those of you who regularly read my blog may remember, we had the last of our sod stripped away in late September.  That was followed by months of digging to remove grassroots and sod netting in the affected areas before we added topsoil and amendments.  I reported progress with the backyard area in late November and mid-December.  I'm finally ready to provide a status report on the front yard area.

As a reminder, here's what the area looked like at earlier stages in the process:

From the left: the area with lawn, the area after the sod was stripped away, and the area while digging was in progress


Here are a the most current photos of the same area:

View looking roughly northwest

View looking in the other direction toward the hedge lining the street


We completed our digging at the end of December.  We then added imported topsoil and amendments to improve soil drainage.  A railroad tie and gravel path was laid to connect the existing walkway to the street and a flagstone path was added to make it easier to work in the surrounding beds without stomping on plants.  Planting has begun but is by no means complete.

The area closest to my neighbor to the north, which is sunny for most of the day, has been planted with lots of succulents.

I used cuttings and ornamental grass plugs in most of this area

The Agave attenuata in the photo on the far left was in place when we bought the property but I've added cuttings of Aeoniums, Senecio vitalis and Sansevieria suffruticosa around them.  In the top row on the right, the photo shows 3 Agave attenuata cuttings, a mass planting of Cistanthe grandiflora (formerly known as Calandrinia) cuttings I received from a friend, and Echeveria picked up on a recent shopping expedition.  The bottom row on the right shows a noID variegated Aloe received from a neighbor, plugs of Festuca glauca, and one of 3 new fernleaf lavenders (Lavandula multifida).


The area on the other side of the gravel pathway, screened to a significant extent by the existing Xylosma congestum hedge, is much shadier.  Planting has only just begun in this area.  This far, I've relied mostly on shade-tolerant plants and divisions of plants from the side garden.

Two Acanthus mollis were moved from this area where, since the removal of the Eucalyptus tree in 2013, they were getting too much sun.  I also dug up and divided the huge mass of Arthropodium cirratum (Renga Lily)  shown here, which netted 27 divisions, some of which I replanted and many which I gave away to friends and neighbors.


Clockwise from the far left: One of 3 Acanthus mollis (2 of which were moved from elsewhere in the garden), Abelia 'Confetti', one of the many divisions I took from a large mass of Arthropodium cirratum I removed from the side garden, one  of 4 divisions I made from 2 recently purchased Dianella tasmanica 'Yellow Stripe', and a mass of wooly thyme planted from flats


This is a working area of the garden rather than one for resting and relaxing.  The railroad tie and gravel path is intended for use in moving our trash cans to and from the street.

We were unable to find a contractor to extend the existing paved area over such a short distance so we made do with a path constructed of railroad ties and gravel.  The ties are placed to allow the wheels of the garbage bins supplied by the sanitation department to roll along them rather over the gravel.


A potting bench, inherited from my mother-in-law, sits alongside the garage near a compost tumbler inherited from the house's prior owner.



Garden accents are few but there are a couple.

The cat figure is an old Christmas gift from my husband that's been hidden behind shrubs for months.  The half barrel was moved from the vegetable garden to this area that's so embedded with tree roots it's otherwise impossible to plant.


The biggest source of frustration with the area thus far is the arrival of the raccoons.  They've ignored this area for the 5 years we've had the house.  Did they dig when the area was covered by lawn?  No!  Did they dig once the sod was removed?  No!  Did they dig at anytime during the time we ourselves were actively digging in the area?  No!  But, 2 days after I planted the area, they've laid their claim.

I came across evidence of the digging here this morning (not to speak of the mess they made in the side garden for 3 days running)



All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

37 comments:

  1. Dear Kris, the progress that you made is simply amazing! This area looks so much better without the lawn. I can't even imagine how much work must have gone into this section of your garden to get it to the point where it is now. But so worth it!
    Really sorry to hear that the Raccoons mess with you again!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. I'm wondering how long it'll take for my fingernails and hands to recover from the digging exercise but I'm relieved to have reached the planting (fun) stage in the front at last.

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  2. Jeeez ... that's sad. All that work leading to being frustrated by the raccoons. You have such patience. You have my utmost sympathy.

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    1. I've been working very hard on accepting the raccoons but sometimes they do push my patience a bit too far...

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  3. It is already just SO MUCH more interesting than it was. I'm really looking forward to seeing it mature.

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    1. I am too, Emily! The problem with starting with divisions, cuttings and small plants is that it does take time to fill in.

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  4. That is an impressive change! I like that you use a lot of cuttings, etc. And maybe your raccoons just have really good taste in where they dig? I hope they leave your garden alone soon.

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    1. The raccoons usually cycle through the neighborhood, Renee. Why they've chosen to honor me with their presence 3 days in a row, I don't know.

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  5. An impressive job. I love the pathways including the clever idea for getting the bins out to the street. It will be interesting to watch how quickly those plants grow-especially now you have had rain. The amended soil does look good and probably has a few earthworms which have attracted the raccoons. They really are devils. Love your Christmas gift.

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    1. While the rain to the north has exceeded normal levels, SoCal's rain is still running substantially below "normal" but the forecasters still think we're in for a stream of storms in February-March. The raccoons here seem to love grubs - any illusion I had that the grubs would disappear when the lawn did have been crushed.

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  6. I'm wondering if raccoons (like mice) prefer newly disturbed soil? It must be easier for them to dig round the plant roots, now that you've done the worst of the hard graft for them.

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    1. I've heard that they do but, if that's the case, I don't understand why they didn't start off when we were in the middle of digging out the grassroots and sod netting.

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  7. I want to call those little furry monsters all sorts of bad names but don't want to offend any of your more delicate readers. The nerve!

    You must be feeling good about all the work that you've done, it's amazing to look back at all the changes you've made and all the cool plants you've brought in!

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    1. Oh, I expect I already ran through the same series of names for my furry visitors, Loree.

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  8. Ugh, raccoons love freshly dug dirt. They will often unearth my new plants unless I put gravel around them. Between the raccoons and the voles parts of my garden look like a construction site. :/ Did you ever try out motion detection sprinklers?

    You've done so much work. It looks great.

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    1. I haven't tried the motion detection sprinklers, partly because I've read that they don't work as well on raccoons as they do with taller animals like deer, and partly because, given our drought, I can't afford having the sprinklers go off at unpredictable basis. I have tried non-toxic repellents, spikes in the soil, spiky plants and, most recently, a "mulch" made of prickly magnolia cones. The last worked the best but I have only so many cones.

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  9. Exciting progress - even the raccoons think it's awesome! Sorry, couldn't resist. ;-) Would temporarily laying mesh over the area help until they move on?

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    1. I've "caged" some of my plants to protect them and I did lay chicken wire in one of my raised planters to stop them from digging up seedlings (again) but unless the wire's weighted down, they pull it up. They're strong, as well as resourceful.

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  10. A recent New York Times science video reported on tests showing that among carnivorous mammals, raccoons were among the brightest/cleverest when it comes to fishing food out of a puzzle box. I'm not sure how that translates into useful information for your garden situation, but you are at least up against a worthy adversary!

    The new areas look wonderful and by next year it may be impossible to recall they ever hosted boring old lawn. We so rarely go to the trouble to amend and improve soil when we open up new areas here and I'm seeing what a wonderful opportunity we miss in not doing so. You and your projects are providing constant inspiration!

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    1. The digging and amending is time-consuming and mind-numbing work, Deb, but I'm convinced that it does make a difference. Although it defers gratification, taking care of that exercise before planting an area rather than on an ad hoc basis is worth it in the end.

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  11. Five star home?
    We get just the one bin (and a clear bag for recycling) ((garden waste is supposed to be taken to the dump, most of ours gets mulched))

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    1. To the best of my knowledge, Diana, most, if not all of Los Angeles sanitation services now offer 3 types of bins: one for non-recyclable trash; one for plastic, glass and metal recyclables; and a third for green waste. Why we have 3 green cans, I'm not sure - we inherited what the prior owner had but seldom have reason to use more than one. I do compost some of my green waste but I haven't wanted to make room for a larger compost area (yet).

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  12. Love the transition from sun plants to shade plants! You've definitely done the groundwork the right way, and I know it will pay off well as the plantings fill in. Much too bad about the racoons...

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    1. I hope my plant choices for the area work out, Amy. I'm looking forward to seeing the area fill in too!

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  13. Your progress and newly planted space are impressive; the raccoons, frustrating! I've heard that they don't like hot pepper so perhaps sprinkling the ground with cayenne powder would be a deterrent.

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    1. That's one deterrent I haven't tried! It's next up on the list!

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  14. You are making a terrific job of changing your whole garden to being 'water wise'. Your hard work is obvious not only in what you are achieving in the new areas but the rest of the garden continues to be well cared for! Your light levels must be high (like here) so that even some plants lists as for sun will appreciate some shade where you have it. Acanthus is a good case in point, in the UK it is considered a full sun plant but here and with you it is a shade plant; I am still coming to terms with the fact that many plants I am used to growing in England in full sun, need shade here, it is partly the reason for creating my little woodland walk. I must also add how much I admire your fortitude towards the raccoons, I would go crazy!

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    1. You're right that one has to be careful about the guidelines for sun exposure, Christina. Acanthus, as well as Arthropodium cirratum, will survive in full sun but they don't look great.

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  15. Those darn raccoons! Naughty little rascals. I like the look of the railway ties - I wonder what else you could use them for. Funny question, but are all those bins yours? If so, I wish we were allowed that many!

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    1. Yes, all the bins are ours. I think we've filled all 3 green waste bins only a few times over the 3 years we've been here but the bins were here when we moved in and there's no extra charge for them, so I haven't asked the sanitation provider to haul the extras away. However, now that we're done with some of our biggest landscaping projects, I may ask them to take away at least one - they take up a lot of space.

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  16. Impressive work! I'm really interested to see the sansevieria grow. How wonderful that you can grow it outside. Sorry to hear the raccoons are harassing you again.

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    1. I have one Sansevieria in a pot, the parent of the ones I planted in the newly cleared area. It pups heavily. It's also developed arms that I've described elsewhere as Shiva-like.

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  17. Huge progress! That must have been a lot of work. I couldn't get over the sheer number of plants you put in the ground. I'm glad you had so many cuttings and offsets.

    What do you do to repel raccoons? We've never had any in our garden but I know they've been sighted on our street.

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    1. I can't say I've had much success in repelling raccoons, Gerhard. They visited us a few times a year at our old place (usually a mother with offspring) and I tried turning the hose on them but, if they were bothered, it didn't show. In that situation, they were focused on our neighbor's oranges and did little damage in my garden. They haven't been nearly as kind here, where they regularly uproot and often tear up plants while digging for grubs. I've tried chemical deterrents (non-toxic granules and ammonia-soaked ties), cages around plants, chicken wire over soil, spikes and broken pottery buried in the soil, and spiky plants. What's worked best thus far has been using prickly Magnolia seed cones as "mulch" - although whether that's because it bothers them or because they're distracted by the seeds left in the cones, I'm not certain. Getting rid of raccoons, like squirrels, is pretty much impossible as far as I can tell. I'm working on acceptance.

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  18. Drat those raccoons! Despite they're attempts to undo what you've done, it's looking great. The railroad tie edges are a clever solution to the problem of rolling anything along gravel walks. -Jean

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    1. The railroad tie-gravel path is working well so far, Jean. Heaven help us if the city changes contractors with bins that don't fit the current specs!

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  19. Those stupid raccoons! You know how much I commiserate with you on their destruction. You've made some wonderful progress despite the setbacks from them. The railroad tie and gravel path is very smart.

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