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Sunday, June 3, 2007

You Can Take the Girl Off the Farm can't take the dirt out from under her nails. I have to confess that my main love is gardening; designing, constructing, and maintaining the garden, with the emphasis on designing and constructing; I maintain out of necessity to keep my design working. As much as I love quiltmaking, needlepointing, and genealogy, gardening comes first. So, I get more of the other activities done when it isn't gardening season.

When we moved into this place 4 years ago, it was a mess, covered with weeds and dead or near dead trees and shrubs. First I cleaned, then I got out my graph paper and began laying out the concept. We moved after the worst summer of the drought when most Colorado communities were short on water and some even ran out. Penrose, 5 miles down the road from us ran out completely and everyone lost their landscaping. Water for basic household necessities had to be hauled in tanks from Florence, which luckily still had water, although we were on restrictions as to its use. This was also the summer when a community in the mountains right behind Canon City had a huge, raging wildfire that burned around 100 homes; there were horrendous forest fires all over the state that year and smoke, helicopters and tanker planes in the air all summer. Our normal moisture for a year is around 12 inches, so water for irrigation is always a problem. So I decided to do a landscape design that wouldn't need large amounts of irrigation.

I planned a mini prairie for the side yard with prairie Blue Gramma Grass and a border of the plants that I had moved from my rooftop garden in their pots. These were mostly plants that didn't require much water. Next to the plastic covered carport structure I would build a raised bed veggie garden. Between the carport structure and metal shed along the fence I wanted an herb garden. Between the veggie garden and prairie grass I installed a tiny pond with a fountain and still hope to eventually have a flagstone patio with rustic benches made from split old silver cottonwood logs.

In the small front yard I laid a tiny blue grass sod lawn on one side and a creeping thyme lawn on the other. I am in the process of rethinking the thyme lawn since the bindweed and other prairie weeds insist on sharing the space and I can't spray them without killing the thyme. I hate to give it up since it should be gorgeous, but the weeds are more energetic, here, than I am.

It's been such a big project and I move slowly and have to rest often, so only a small amount of my plan has been implemented each year. The necessity of fighting the weeds and elm seedlings, who still thought the yard belonged to them, also took a lot of my time so the back and west side yards have had very little done to them so far. I did lay artificial grass carpeting between the house and garage to keep down the weeds and provide an area for Mandy's inflatible swimming pool and some of my patio furniture, but it wasn't attractive. The portion closest to the back door was also excavated during the construction of the sun porch and carport which made it worse than ever.

So this Spring my major project is the construction of an 8 foot by 8 foot raised flower bed and laying a concrete paver patio close to the back door so we have a place for the inexpensive plastic umbrella table and chairs that have been sitting on the artificial grass and not used very much. Yesterday I finished filling the bed with the 14_40 pound bags of topsoil and 8 bags of mulch, stirred and leveled the soil, and planted a variety of Lavender plants with a supporting cast of other xeric plants and then spread California Poppy and German Chamomile seeds to fill in between. I looks a little bare right now, but in my mind it is lush and colorful.

I have also laid 16 inch pavers around the bed and am now ready to excavate the ground between the garden and house to lay the rest of the pavers for the patio. The day I started this project I wanted it done immediately, if not sooner, but...I soon realized that I needed to work a while, sit a while, work a while, ad infinitum, until the job is done in order to not do myself in. I'm finding that the best part of gardening is the sitting and admiring what I've done so far. It is very satisfying to see my ideas actually taking shape and color.

This week I also pulled weeds and volunteer flowers from the veggie garden paths and spread mulch that is supposed to keep weeds from growing on half the paths. Today, just before the late afternoon thundershower, I planted some squash, pepper, and cucumber plants. I still need to purchase tomato and eggplant plants and finishing cleaning and mulching the rest of the pathways. On the drawing board is the construction of one more 8 x 8 raised veggie bed, but probably not this year. The early lettuce and spinach are flourishing and tiny lettuces, cilantro, spinach and radishes are sprouting all over the place. If hail and grasshoppers stay away it should be a successful harvest.

The pictorial history of Toad Haven Gardens is available here. This is my most popular Webshots album and I am so pleased that other people can enjoy my creature friendly Toad Haven as well.
As tired and sore that I get doing these projects, I've realized that it is a warm, tingly, happy kind of tired. Much better than the sad, miserable pain and exhaustion that I have experienced from my struggle with chronic illness. I am so thankful that I am able to do this, and I can tell that it is improving my muscle tone and endurance so that I don't feel so much like a semi-invalid.


Allison Ann Aller said...

This truly is a victory garden in so many ways.
What a great post! Thanks, Fran...

paula, the quilter said...

You and I are synched. I am currently revamping our landscape. The landscape in front of the house is just about totally xeric. I need to rejuvenate one flower bed and the east xeriscape needs a major overhaul because of overgrowth. The back is getting a new planting of concrete in areas and then new beds.

Rian said...

Wow, you sure have come a long way! The place looks like Eden compared to when you moved in!

west meadow said...

Simply amazing! You inspire me to go and dig in the dirt. I love what you've done.

Deb Geyer said...

it looks like a very nice place to be! And it looks like a lot of work!!