Nothing like winter’s chills to get us thinking about spring. After so much work on the inside of the house, we spent the spring and summer months of last year planting in the garden and enjoying our first harvest of vegetables and flowers. Mom and dad K helped us install a bluestone cap to the unfinished retaining wall in the back and brought hand-hewn flagstones from Ohio that used to be in the basement of the farm house dad grew up in for a path in the front garden. (For their age, my parents totally rock!) The kids love meandering via the garden to the front door while we unlock it and it’s a lovely sentimental connection to our country roots.
Away went the old scruffy holly and gangly rose bushes (mom replanted them at her house in Ohio – she loves orphan plants) and we repurposed gravel-bound hosta and day lilies to new locations in the updated layout, added an assortment of flower and foliage plants topped it all off with a Japanese Stewartia tree. The garden now looks like the start of a shady woodland path with clusters of like plants grouped together and interesting discoveries to make as you wander along the path. The top photo was taken shortly after the garden was planted in July and the one below is how it looked when we first moved in. In October we planted hundreds of bulbs for waves of spring color along the path and clusters of crocus and daffodils here and there among the bushes. A bed of bearded iris will make a big show in front of the stewartia tree through June and July. The kids have no idea and I can’t wait to see their faces when the things wake up and the delight begins.
In the back we planted raspberries, tomatoes, beans, strawberries, onions, eggplant and herbs in raised beds along the fence and in March started our family composting operation that includes worm bins in the basement and a year-round compost system in the back garden. Because the soil is contaminated from the nearby Gowanus Canal with industrial waste from the last two centuries, we are careful to practice safe gardening and installed a barrier at the bottoms of the new beds to keep the roots contained and put clean fill in the beds. We’ll use the composted organic kitchen waste in the garden. We mulched tree leaves to provide winter cover for the flower beds. Both the front and back will likely undergo major changes with future renovations – thank goodness they look half way decent now in the mean time! It was a lot of back breaking work – especially digging all the trash out of the back flower beds. That was a project that took the whole family weeks!
We used a pick axe and our hands to break up the cement-like soil packed with bricks, rocks, broken glass, household trash and riddled with roots. Next was sifting 10 gallon bucket after bucket of gravel and glass shards from the remaining soil and adding back at least a dozen bags of soil and amendments to take the place of all the rubble removed before finally planting roses, shrubs and flowers. The difference was amazing. Mom and dad took the buckets of gravel for their driveway in Ohio so I suppose you could say we traded some small rocks in for some bigger ones. Every time they visit now they bring us a truck load of good Ohio topsoil – we’re so lucky!!
Over the winter we have a couple more projects: building a fence with a gate to protect this year’s vegetable garden from the digging adventures of our new pup, Roxy, and installing a raspberry trellis before spring comes and thorny canes take over the yard. We’ll be sure to post pictures of the bulbs when they come up in spring and keep you updated on plans for the vegetable garden. Last week we worked close to forty pounds of worm castings into the soil and have plans to raise one of the containers another 12″ for nice deep tomato roots. This year I’m buying plants instead of growing from seed – we only need six tomato plants so it’s a lot more practical. We’ll definitely plant Japanese eggplant again, some pole beans and look forward to our first season of mature raspberries and strawberries – that is if we can outsmart the critters who like to eat them. The down side of having one of the only gardens around is you’re the go-to snack joint for the local birds, squirrels and raccoon population.