We should not have been surprised.
The basic plan: we are adopting a little dog, littler than our current wiener dog, and though our kids are generally quite good and we pay attention, there is always a risk that someone could forget to shut the screen door all the way and she could escape since our patio area is not fenced. So we wanted to build a small, simple fence around that area, preferably not hideously ugly, that would enable two little dogs to run out there and do their Business without risk of immediate escape.
This itself was easier said than even planned, let alone done. We have a big privet hedge along one side of the patio, and the patio goes too close to our property line, for actual fencing to go around it without removing the bushes. (We have no idea what they are, except exuberant and healthy, and we can’t bring ourselves to just have them ripped out.) So we figured some of that ornamental wrought-iron-look garden fencing would work…except that it’s all 4 inch width bars, and the new dog’s head is likely less than 4 inches in diameter, so that won’t work.
Our next plan was to do some kind of simple mesh just along the bushes and some slightly more elaborate fencing across the front, most likely that we’d make ourselves. (Er…okay, that my husband would make himself.) First we can’t find picket fence panels premade with pickets less than 4 inches apart. We could special order something closer, or make it ourselves, but honestly with the dog coming in maybe a week we want to get this done. So we get a nice piece of 8×4 cedar lattice that we can use across the front of the patio.
HERE BEGINS THE RANT:
Okay, remember those lovely (and yes, they were lovely) people who sold us this house and were able to close in two weeks? Who put a lot of time, effort, and money into getting their house ready to sell? Whose previous landscaping style employed a lot of white gravel, and instead of removing anything old when they relandscaped to sell, they just put mulch and stuff over the gravel, leaving all the old landscaping materials where they were?
Well, in the side yard where the newly-put-in-to-sell-the-house patio is, they apparently did the same thing. Which is apparently why the landscaping on that side is suspiciously about 6 inches higher than anything on the other side of the privet hedge. And guess what they used for landscaping, apparently, over there? ROCKS. Big river rocks, about 7-10 inches in diameter, flush against one another, all over the entire area. Seven inches under a thick mattress of evil cypress mulch, a single layer of rocks, practically touching each other, all the way around. And on the house side, one of them is half-buried under the patio, and thus impossible to remove.
Rocks. This is not what I was picturing. This is not the kind of issue we expected to run into. Giant, carefully laid, probably fairly expensive rocks. So now the fence has to be a couple of feet away from the patio in front (because the rocks seem to sort of stop up there somewhere), to avoid the under-house rock, at which point we’ll pray we don’t come up with anything else heinous.
And my tarragon is wilting, and something’s chewing on my basil, and the veggies still look stunted, and I think I accidentally bought German instead of Roman chamomile. Not that this has anything to do with the rocks or the fence, it’s just something else to irritate me.
And the patio–the less-than-a-year-old, put-in-to-help-sell-the-house patio–is already starting to fall apart. Cosmetically very pretty, but not well made at all.
Anyway–The plan will be to erect 4 4×4 posts along the front of the patio, 2 on each side of the walk. On each side, we’ll put a 2 ft by 4 ft lattice panel, and in the middle we’ll make a simple 3 ft wide gate out of the lattice, with hinges and a latch. So far 3 out of the 4 posts are in, and the 4th one we’ll wait on because the first 3 are the most important, and if we can’t get the 4th one in we’ll make do with extending the mesh. (Which worked but is sort of unattractive. At this point, I don’t think we much care.)
And next spring, we’ll ask ourselves a different question: this year it was all about, “do we tear out the bushes?” Next year it’ll be, “do we tear out the patio and put in something smaller?” Because if we do that, we can replace our makeshift little fence with an extension of the nice cedar fencing we have around the rest of our yard. And we will hire someone else to do it, to pull out and deal with all the ridiculousness the previous owners left behind.
I want a garden, not an archaeology site.
Okay, fine, I get it. It was their house, they could landscape it any way they wanted. We bought the house. No reason, seeing this lovely carpet of evil cypress mulch around everything, that we should have just assumed there was, oh, say, dirt under it.
Apparently the house’s previous owners employed Landscaping With Gravel in their past life, and then just covered up the gravel beds with mulch at selling time. And under the gravel is this horrible landscaping cloth, the stuff designed to prevent weeds from coming through. In some places the gravel is thicker than others, but it’s plenty thick everywhere. This is pissing me off. On the one hand, yes, there are very few weeds. On the other, trying to plant anything is HELL.
The right thing to do would probably be to hire a landscaper (or take a week off work and do it ourselves) to completely rip all the old stuff out, give us nice planting beds and start from scratch. But we being we, it’s not gonna happen. We bought the plants, we knew where we wanted them to go, we tried to dig the holes to plant them, and we discovered what lay beneath the lovely but anti-earth mulch (see saveourcypress.org/ ) was anti-plant-life mess, so naturally we just hacked through what we didn’t like and planted our plants there anyway, with a bunch of manure and soil and hopefully healthy otherness. This is probably not a landscaper’s best suggestion, and we may live to regret it.
The yarrow, being yarrow, is thriving like crazy. Something keeps chewing on my echinacea, so it’s not growing at the rate I’d like to see. And I ordered some basil, carpet thyme, marsh mallow, and St. John’s Wort from Richters ( richtersherbs.com –they are awesome!), and the basil and SJW seem to be doing okay so far. The mallow and thyme aren’t planted yet.
We also discovered that as part of last year’s landscaping efforts, some lovely peonies and dwarf lilacs had been planted around the property, which has been a nice discovery. But the gravel thing is driving me nuts. I’ll probably just perennial the hell out of the front yard, punching out most of the landscaping cloth as I go, and give the whole area to things that laugh at barriers.
In back, where the veggies are growing–the peppers and zukes look good, but one of the tomatoes looks sort of stunted, the canteloupes are dying, and the rest is sort of mediocre. As much amendment as we tilled into this soil, it’s still probably too dense and silty to support really fast-growing life, and we don’t want to put nasty chemicals in there to grow our veggies, because then we’d be eating the chemicals…
Sigh…the bucolic dream of happy lovely gardening sweetness is so not happening, except for the lettuce…
More later. New ugly discoveries about the backyard are making my husband curse, so I should probably get out there.
Greengrade for the 2-day period:
Bad: bought gogurt for the kids’ special snack, ate off disposable plates and out of disposable bottle at lunch
Good: brought the drink bottle back home to recycle, since the place I got it from doesn’t. And planted LOTS of veggies!
I think it’s almost all in place now.
This morning I planted a row of lettuce plants along the fairly shady side of my house, so hopefully they won’t get completely shredded in the summer heat. It’s sort of weird landscaping, I guess, but I know myself well enough to know that if I have to put on shoes and walk out to the garden in back in order to get salad, I won’t eat salad. This way, I can wander out onto the patio barefoot and grab a handful of leaves, and there you go.
And the backyard veggie bed is nearly full. (Still worried about the distance factor–reference previous paragraph!–but it’s what we’ve got.) I planted snap peas along one side, which I’ll train up a cage thing, then my 2 tomatoes and 3 peppers, then 3 cukes and 2 zukes. At the other end, on a whim, I put in a couple of cantelope plants–never tried growing them before, but I thought, what the hell?
I also planted sweet fennel in and around the squash and cukes and melons, because it is supposed to be abhorrent to the nasty little worms that get into your squash and cukes and are able to winter over so you can pretty much never plant squash in that spot again. And I’m planting marigolds all around the bed, because they are also supposed to keep bugs away. I got a whole flat of nice “french vanilla” marigolds–they don’t have that sort of mustardy color I dislike about the general species, and they are sort of scattered around the bed. I like it.
I need to research other kinds of “companion gardening,” other plants that grow symbiotically well with each other…