Though it would have been helpful if I'd decided to create this new garden space a little earlier in the season, late is better than later, and it was only October. Romie tried to talk me into waiting until spring, but I would have none of that nonsense. If we worked quickly, we could get rid of a lot of grass, work the soil, and get a few things planted before winter. That would give us just that much more lead time on having a garden that actually looked like a garden the next year.
As I was cleaning up in Max's Garden, I brushed the leaves away from the small cement block that has "2005" imprinted in it. The block is next to the arbor entrance and I made it two years ago to commemorate the birth of what is the largest single garden here at Our Little Acre.
It was in 2005 that I was bitten by the gardening bug - specifically at the Cleveland Botanical Garden Flower Show that spring. The flower beds near the house definitely benefited from my new obsession and I soon ran out of room for the plants that followed me home from the garden centers. Just a few years prior, we had let part of the vegetable garden at the back of the property grow back to grass, after not planting it to its capacity for several years in a row. But now that I really enjoyed gardening and was taking it to the next level, I wanted my garden back - and then some.
So we pondered how best to rid the area of grass. I wanted to skim the sod off the top and then till it. Romie said that would be too much work. He wanted to put Round-Up on it and wait for it to die. I said there wasn't enough time to wait for that to happen. We compromised by putting Round-Up on it and then tilling it immediately after.
This meant we ended up spending three days of raking the grass out of the newly-worked ground, because I didn't want to take a chance of having grass coming up all over my new garden next spring. Luckily, the fall weather held until we got it all ready to go and we got a few things planted.
Start to finish, it took us about two weeks to get the grass removed and the soil tilled up. Now, three years later, it's as if it has always been here. In fact, we worked with such fervor in the spring and summer of that next year (2006), that it was hard to believe the garden had only just completed its first growing season. No doubt the fact that we had nearly an ideal summer that year worked in our favor, because if it had been 2007 or 2008, the drought conditions would not have allowed so many plants to become so quickly established. Timing is everything!
Last year, I decided I didn't like how Max's Garden was so separated from the rest of the yard where we spent most of our time. From the house to the patio to the pool - each flowed into the other. Then there was a large expanse of lawn perfect for playing softball (which is just what was done there when the girls were on teams all those years), that you had to traverse before reaching Max's Garden and the vegetable garden.
During winter, we have plenty of time to dream and plan what changes we might want to make with the gardens. While watching the snow swirl about out my window, I came up with a plan to make the transition to Max's Garden a little more inviting. When spring came, I set that plan in motion.
I grabbed a can of spray paint and roughed out the areas I wanted worked up. To the left and right I placed abstract triangular areas, with a grassy path leading to the arbored entrance to Max's Garden. Unlike the rest of the garden, I wanted these areas to be sparsely planted with specimen shrubs and unique plants with dark mulch to set them off.
The opportunity to test a Troy-Bilt tiller couldn't have come at a better time. Our tiller was over thirty years old and just couldn't cut it anymore. But the Troy-Bilt made short work of things and soon the new garden area was done and planted, with such things as a group of three Red-Twig Dogwoods (Cornus sericea 'Cardinal'), Lilac 'Sensation', Amsonia hubrichtii, Yucca 'Colorguard', Juncus inflexus 'Afro', Agapanthus, and Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice').
Because the trees in and around the gardens here at the back of the property are becoming larger and providing more and more shade as time goes on, the sunny part of the garden is shrinking. This past summer we expanded the east and west borders of the vegetable garden by about two feet each so that we had enough room to plant the edibles. I can foresee the need to do this again in another couple of years if we want to grow the same things we have grown in recent years.
It only took me a couple of years to figure out for myself that a garden is never truly "done." Even if the size of the garden stays the same, what we grow there changes all the time. We embrace the tried and true, yet the novel and new beckons. Gardening may tire us out, but we will never grow tired of gardening.