Grow Plants, Grow!

We have plants! No more mud, no more growing chasm in the backyard where the runoff was carrying our dirt away. The landscapers finally arrived and we now look a lot more finished.

front yard 2015-08-07 11.27.53Can you find the plants in this photo? There are 29 of them (not counting the ones in the pots on the porch)!

I was excited to be able to hire help. All our previous homes were “fixer uppers” and we did most of the work ourselves. This time we didn’t have to do the heavy lifting. I thought it would be a breeze—sitting on the deck watching someone else wrestle stones into a rock wall, pointing to where the boulders should go, designing next year’s veggie garden while the planter beds appeared as if by magic.

It wasn’t that easy. The guys installing our plan are incredibly hard workers. And the very nice guy running the company is reliable, capable, and determined to make me, the customer, happy. He may know all about irrigation and retaining walls, but even he admits he knows zilch about plants.

To him, a plant is an object you install, not a living “creature” that needs the best environment and lots of TLC. So I’ve had to be around keeping tabs on all the activity. Even so, mistakes were made.

2015-07-30 14.50.19His initial proposal was to remove some of our dirt and replace it with top soil, then go from there. I wanted to know how much dirt they were going to swap out—18 inches? Two feet? Of course not. So instead I asked for our nasty subsoil clay and sand to be left in place, and to have four inches of compost tilled in as deeply as possible. He thinks I’m crazy. But why pay for more minerals when we have a yard full? All we really need is some humus, and now we have it. In a few years, we should have perfectly acceptable loam. I hope the plants can hang on until then.

2015-07-27 18.23.22Several truckloads of rocks appeared on the empty lot behind our house, and the work began. We live on a slope, so three retaining walls were added to create level planting areas. I was grateful I wasn’t the one hefting all those rocks in the summer sun, and plied the workers with lemonade and cookies.

Next it was time to plant the front yard. I was concerned that the trees would be planted properly, as they were not cheap! Sure enough, the holes were dug to the right depth, but barely large enough to receive the burlap wrapped roots. Not knowing enough Spanish to explain what I wanted, I found the diagram we’d been given in my master gardener training. It clearly shows the saucer-shaped hole that trees require. Lots of nodding and ahh-ing later, they dug a bit more.

csu tree planting summaryThe next morning, I found burlap sticking out of the ground next to the largest, most expensive tree. Oops. More diagrams, more nodding and ahh-ing, more digging, and the root ball was exposed, the burlap removed, and the tree finally nestled safely in place.

2015-08-07 11.52.05Shrubs were added, drip lines attached, and the area mulched. I went out and uncovered the bottom halves of the plants that had been buried under six inches of shredded bark, and pulled the mulch back from the tree trunks so they won’t rot. I checked the emitter placement on the drip lines, and made a mental note to adjust them as the plants grow. (No point watering the tree trunk when the roots are many feet away!)

The front yard being basically done, the drip was turned on. Several days later, I pulled back the thick mulch and discovered xeric shrubs sitting in soggy clay. Turns out they were getting watered every day! Yes, we need to water more to get them established, but I don’t want to drown the poor things. We discussed an adjustment to the watering schedule. He just doesn’t believe that newly planted shrubs can be too wet, but the customer is always right. What a great guy!

2015-08-07 11.53.28I got home last night to discover one of my two 4 x 10 foot veggie beds was completed and filled. I was so excited! I rushed out with packets of lettuce and kale seeds for a fall crop—and discovered the entire two-foot-deep bed was filled with pure compost, not the top soil we had requested. Oops.This morning, the workers are resignedly shoveling compost back into their wheelbarrows. I guess I can’t plant my fall veggies quite yet.

The sod arrives early next week, and the yard will be done. All that accomplished in less than a month—it’s incredible! We intentionally left some empty spots for me to plant perennials in, but most will have to wait for spring. Meanwhile, I am picturing all those roots happily spreading in the warm soil. Grow plants, grow!

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