My garden, spring 2015
Since I moved in 14 years ago, the little garden area in my backyard has been a perpetual science project.
Located under the staircase leading up to the balcony/deck on the second floor of my house, the area is not really conducive to becoming an outdoor living space or serving any practical purposes. As a new homeowner 14 years ago, I decided to take on the challenge of making it an ornamental space to give my postage stamp sized backyard some kind of visual appeal.
Before I could even start planning on what to plant there, it was clean-up time as previous owners/occupants never really did anything with the space. Waste and debris accumulated there – lots of it – in the form of organic and non-organic waste. I spent two weekends clearing out garbage of all kinds including newspapers, candy wrappers, bottle caps, beer cans, dead branches and leaves, lots of rocks as well as some unidentifiable household items, but fortunately, nothing requiring “CSI” intervention. There was so much junk to be hauled, my muscles could only do so much in one day, but what a great workout! I am sure a “Fitness Boot Camp” program could have been planned around it.
Planting season 2 was an experience in itself. I planted a few easy ones to get things started but they immediately died. The soil was nowhere near being ready to sustain life and the resident insects there were still in party mode. My mission in the second season was to get rid of some of the old soil, add new soil and fertilize it sufficiently to be able to sustain plant life. Along the way, I discovered random wild root systems lurking about a foot down that needed to be pulled out. Unfortunately, while pulling out some very tenacious roots, my lower back made a popping noise (and not in a good way) so I was out for the rest of the season.
In planting season 3, my back had healed well enough and I managed to get the soil conditioned in time to get the season started, only to discover that the neighbourhood squirrels had a voracious appetite for almost everything I planted. I read online that a good way to discourage squirrels naturally was to plant onion bulbs. I woke up one morning to find little bits of onion skins scattered around the postage-stamp sized backyard as the squirrels seemingly feasted on those too.
In planting season 4, I stayed away from any plant source that involved bulbs and discovered what should have been there in the first place: ground cover plants. Given the garden’s placement, it only received partial morning sunlight until 11:00, so the journey began to find virtually indestructible plants that liked shade. Hostas and Japanese spurge took off like crazy and the lily of the valley I planted the year before seemed to survive the squirrels and gave me three stems. I think we finally have a garden!
The years that followed involved much online research and trips to the garden centre, buying a few individual plants to see if they would take. Some did, some didn’t, and some resurrected a year or two later, causing congestion in the little garden. Continue reading