This area of the yard is right between the stand of natural "forest" and the lawn. As can be seen, the soil is sandy. In June 2008, I had a truckload of top soil delivered. Part of this was used to make the first row around the part of the yard that was more or less untouched by the bulldozing. I refer to it as the "first row" and it is clear in the image below that it is simply a meandering bed that follows the contours of evergreen. This row is higher than the area shown above, roughly 12-18" higher. It is planted with ceanothus, vinca, yarrow, day lilies, sedum, thyme, several kinds of artemisia, hellebore, persicalia, lavendula, calamus, crocosmia, St. John's wort, and probably several more practical and bee-friendly plants. There is a new walnut tree visible in this picture.
Row two is mulch and it blends in with the first row because the plants in the first row have mulch around them. Row 3 is the dark row you see going nearly from the edge of the driveway and around to the left. It is planted with six types of lavender, from the Horizon Herbs seed package so it will eventually be dazzling. Try to imagine it as a blaze of color!
To explain the logic behind this experiment, I am trying to do several things but slowly. The first truckload of top soil was used to make vegetable garden beds in the backyard, several experimental plots that were more or less circular (one in the backyard and two in the front), and the first planting rows seen above.
Same area: 27 September 2009
A few weeks ago, I had a load of compost delivered and so more rows have been made.
Keep in mind, I am almost 67 years old and already do the work of six people so the Zen of effortless gardening is very appealing. I have no doubt that a couple with more time and energy could have accomplished far more than I have, but the point is that what I have done was done without much expenditure of either time or money. From the picture, it might look like 65-70% of the area is already completed, but in reality, the strip on the left goes along the side of the house so probably only 60% is complete.
There is a plan for everything and over the weekend, I will take pictures of what has been planted, shot from the opposite direction because I have used some permaculture principles and planted rows of trees, starting with some the deer like and then some they don't like so as to set a sort of boundary for them.
At the moment, there are some temporary crops, such as lots of kale for mulching. Come fall, rhodiola and some other medicinal herbs will go where the kale is. Meanwhile, some plants will have a chance to establish themselves. The overall plan is very simple: alternate beds with rows of mulch (from trees my neighbor cut down). The mulch and soil are suffocating the lawn and the "weeds" though I have had to weed a little bit, mostly at the edge of the mulch. The CobraHead is the best gardening tool I ever used and I find I am using it 99% of the time that I am not using a rake or shovel. The mulch rows are wide enough to allow comfortable foot traffic and access to the planted areas so there is zero need to tromp on what is planted.
Additional Notes for the Curious:
One yard of top soil or compost is equivalent to 27 bags of potting soil or compost that you might buy at a nursery. So, a truckload of soil is the equivalent more or less of 200 bags which is probably a few pallets! If someone were a fanatic, he or she would want to make all his or her own soil through composting but this would take years. I used "organic" compost and top soil but when I asked what the word meant, I discovered that it means no chemicals were used to decompose the yard waste. The original waste may or may not have been organic and this is probably true of nearly everything labeled as organic. They claim to run tests, but I seriously doubt these tests are performed very often. Therefore, my plan is to use plants that detoxify the soil, again, assuming that what I have now is already better than most of what is grown but it will simply improve with time.
Tomorrow, I will get out there with a close up lens and take pictures of what is growing.
Summer Solstice 2010
If you compare this to the second picture on this page, this would be the area forming the "second row" which was just dirt when we started. These are lavender plants, nearly at their prime.