Wow, I see that it’s been over a month since I last posted.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy, busy, busy in the gardens.

First of all, the alley.  Oh, how it has changed.  We have covered the entire 31′ x 7′ strip with cardboard to smother the grass and added layers of leaves and organic waste matter from my SIL’s floral business, which is conveniently located two houses away.  It’s a win-win because she has avoided surcharges on her garbage bill and I don’t have to haul the stuff in or pay for it.  Some patches of this still need more organic material, but we have plenty of leaves so it shouldn’t be an issue.  Then on top we have placed burlap sacks with the hope that they will assist in preserving the moisture needed for the organic materials to break down.  While they will help keep the moisture in, they will also LET more moisture in, something black plastic wouldn’t have been able to do (we also considered this).

My hangup with the alley is:  once all this beautiful material has decomposed and we are establishing perennials in it, will it get washed away?  Do we need to do some kind of edging or ground cover to keep it in place?  This is cheifly a concern down by the driveway.  Ideas?

The sheet-mulched alley

The sheet-mulched alley. Sheet-mulched because it has layers, or sheets, of organic material under the fabric, not because they happen to be bedsheets! 🙂


We have done a similar project in the front yard, but only with leaves, and I don’t think enough leaves.  We plan to have a flagstone path installed in the path-y looking opening next year.

New beds in the front yard that will get full sun.

These new beds will get full sun for edibles and ornamentals.

I am currently researching if we should mulch some of our leaves and allow them to remain on the lawn.  The unclear point is how many you can actually leave on and benefit rather than damage the lawn.  I guess what I have to remember is that the backyard grass is pretty darn junky anyway, with a number of dead patches – and I mean, bare soil dead – so if I kill off a little grass, it won’t be a big deal.  But clearly the preferred result would be healthier, greener grass.  Our backyard is the epitome of the term “green concrete.”  There is really nothing to that dirt.  It’s packed and pathetic.  Hopefully adding the leaf material would attract some beneficial organisms to the soil which would aerate, decompose the thatch, and make the grass grow even greener.  But I don’t hold my breath that one batch of chopped up leaves will have that all happening next spring.  Will keep researching.  At any rate it is raining and we are going out of town for the weekend so we have a few days to develop the game plan.

Also still thinking about and learning what to do with the boulevard.  Found a nice information sheet at the Union Park Council Website that has given me some food for thought design-wise.  I think we’d have to remove some soil if we were going to create richer soil lasagna-style in the leftover space.  And of course then you have to put it somewhere . . . so will continue to think about this over the winter.


We got so much done! So much! Yippeeeeeee!

Remember the alley? I shoveled the rock into three piles, pulled the weeds up, pulled the plastic edging up, removed some plastic. Next: lay pavers to have a pad for the garbage can and to access the behind-the-garage space. Then: slope land appropriately. Following that: sheet mulch the heck out of the whole strip. Here’s hopin’ for some black gold!

Alley before

Alley before

Alley now, although this picture doesn't do the work justice!

Alley now, although this picture doesn't do the work justice!

We also finished painting/staining birdhouses and putting them up.  Supa cute.  FINALLY!  This project has been hanging over me (hahaha) for well over six weeks.

Hard to spot them, but there are three birdhouses - one in the foreground tree, one in the background tree, and one on the garage.

Hard to spot them, but there are three birdhouses - one in the foreground tree, one in the background tree, and one on the garage.

Also marked the plants so I’ll know where they are in the spring, stockpiled green materials from SIL’s floral business (two doors away) for the above-mentioned sheet mulching, AND kept the kitchen clean throughout all of this.  If that doesn’t seem to fit, it does, because we still had to eat.

Yum!  Green garbage will feed the soil goodies!

Yum! Green garbage will feed the soil goodies!

Ah.  Labored all of Labor Day, but am all set for the first day of all kids tomorrow.

How could I forget one of the most important things?!  DH hung this cool old window for a decoration . . .

Window decoration.  Still has the glass.  Tres cool.

Window decoration. Still has the glass. Tres cool.

The tomatoes are ripening, thank God!  It’s only been three weeks since they formed!

The site of our future mini raingarden

The site of our future mini raingarden

I have been thinking raingarden.  My last post was about ideas for where to put one.  Well, today I got a call in to Gopher State One Call to mark the utilities in the little triangle at the corner of our lot.  We are going to try a mini one there.  That way I can learn about how to do the infiltration test, etc. and do the whole thing on a mini scale before proposing a big fat huge grant project to the watershed district.  It will be a trial.

The space between the fence and the retaining wall will become a perennial garden

The space between the fence and the retaining wall will become a perennial garden

We got our fence!!!!  Yipppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Now we get to think of what to plant in the annoying section between the retaining wall and the fence.  We knew we wanted the fence higher up on the yard because of the dog’s unpredictability.  We didn’t want some small hand to become lunch.  But now it creates a planting opportunity.  At first I thought shrubs, now am thinking perennial garden because of staining issues.  That way when we need to stain the fence we can get at it in the spring before things start to grow or even tramp it down in the fall when all is done.  With shrubs, we won’t be able to get in there.  But I do want to incorporate some shrubs somewhere, especially berries for birdies to munch on and maybe for us to munch.

I don’t have photos right now, but in keeping with the journaling idea of this blog, I’m going to make a little update anyway.

  1. Hostas: Added several lovely hostas to the back bed, the one I sheet mulched a few weeks ago.  Three are ones with huge leaves, like elephant ears.  I hadn’t planned to use this bed this year, but needed a place for these beauties, so broke down and did it.  The layers of this bed are decomposing nicely, though I have doubted my wisdom in using the wood chips.  They will take a long time to decompose.  On the plus side, they will help the soil stay loose as well as retain moisture throughout the soil.  So while I don’t think they are bad, I think I will try to stay away from them in the future, at least as a layer.  Maybe they’d be best only as a topper.  Of course, my dream is to get it to the point where you don’t care what your top mulch looks like because the plants are so thick in the beds you can’t see it anyway.
  2. Rock edging:  My parents found a rock pile on their property and we are the lucky recipients.  Woohoo!  So now a full quarter of a bed is edged off 😉  Maybe in the fall when the crops are done we can steal some from by my aunt and uncle’s property.
  3. (Drum roooooooooooooll please) Fence!!!!:  We paid for a fence today to be installed by September.  It will be a four-foot high semi-private fence.  We (especially our dog) are very excited.  I would love to line both sides with shrubs, especially shrubs that make berries for birds, or berries for us.
  4. Reading:  Of course, I continue to read.  In addition to the reviews I’ve already posted, I’m now on Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway.
  5. Dreaming: The alley really bothers me.  It is horribly ugly, but we have moisture problems in our garage, so hubby is less than enthusiastic about ripping up the plastic and rock he installed.  Dreaming of berry bushes for next year.