Marty's Garden, Late October 2022
The gardening season is ending. Most annuals have collapsed. I pull them out but give them a good shake over the beds. This way I am guaranteed fallen seeds and new seedlings for next year. The front yard has undergone a transition this year. I gave myself an early 65th birthday present in April and had a new front yard designed, based on ideas I presented to the landscape architect. All the grass was removed and in the middle of what had been lawn, a raised bed was built. But this was not an ordinary raised bed. At the front of the garden, you see a stacked wall made out of local bluestone. On the opposite end, facing the house, there is only a partial wall where large boulders seemingly spill out of the raised bed. The bed is planted with a variety of perennials and grasses, complementing similar plantings surrounding the bed.
The (currently) empty space with the boulders will be turned into a large bed, mostly for heaths and heather, which are acid lovers. To that end I dug the soil, which was compacted from the equipment used by the landscaper, a bulldozer, boys, and their toys!
I added in peatmoss. On top of that I added more garden soil and dug it all in. Finally, last week another cubic yard of garden soil was added plus more peatmoss, and I gave it a final good dig. Handfuls of pelleted gypsum was added as it helps to open up the compacted clay soil underneath. I will leave it fallow during the winter, allowing the freeze and thaw effect to get down into the soil and break it up. By spring it should be quite hospitable for my acid loving plants, which are currently bedded in on the side of the house, where they are seemingly happy.
My new front garden would have mulched paths, but we needed to consider drainage from a downspout coming off the house. When I was presented with the design for the new garden, I pointed out that oversight. The “answer” was additional rock around the downspout to guide the water. When there was grass, the water was directed to the middle of the lawn, and all was well. But with the mulched paths, suddenly the gush of water went past the rocks, down the walkways and took the mulch with it. After the first heavy rain (and it was extremely heavy!) my mulch ended up down the sidewalk and in my neighbor’s driveway. Obviously, their solution did not work. We thought guiding the water all the way down the garden would be the answer. First, we dug a (rather) shallow trench to guide the water and filled it with river rock. It worked, up to point. Where the water had to take a shallow turn, it decided to keep going straight, still taking the mulch down with it. Ultimately, a deeper trench was dug, a 4-inch perforated pipe was connected to the drainpipe and laid out on a layer of gravel all the way out to the edge of the garden. Then we moved all the river rock back on top, so the pipe is invisible. Now I have a meandering river of rock going out to the front of the garden which actually guides the water, even in a heavy downpour.
The mulch from the paths was re-used it in the garden beds. A crew came an added two concrete steps (which look remarkably like blue stone) to the front of one path and three steps on the other side. Then they put down landscape fabric and used gravel for all my paths. Now my new front garden is complete. The steps hold in the gravel, the perforated pipe and river rock allow water to percolate into the ground before reaching the edge of my garden and the gravel looks great with both the blue stone wall as well as the wood surrounding all of the other beds. As I walk there is that pleasurable crunching sound of the gravel underfoot. In Holland gravel is quite often used to paths in the garden or even to the front door. The crunching sound will tell you someone is approaching, and, in a way, it is a very low-tech early warning system similar to today’s video doorbell. You may not know who is at the door, but you know there is someone. I hope it is a fellow gardener!