A small space in your yard, either between buildings or along a border, can become a source of complaining if it requires maintenance yet does not seem to offer any benefit. Such a space exists between our yard and our neighbor’s. For the both of us this space is a dead-end, leading only to the backyard fence but no gate. Neither of us have a door exiting the house at this point, nor a walk way. While it holds utilities for the both of us, it is mainly a strip of usually forgotten grass which needs to be mowed.
When considering the garden as a whole this past winter, I realized I would rather transition this area into a large flower bed to attract butterflies and bees. I also knew that it would be a big undertaking if I did it all at once. Instead, I plan to take it on in stages, increasing it over time and as I have spare flower seeds to plant.
Limitations and Challenges
On our side it is about 7 feet wide, on a slight slope, gets partial light, and contains some utility ROWs (right-of-ways). It is protected from rain by our house on one side and their house on the other, again about 7 feet further. However, the bottom of the slight slope drains the backyard and a downspout from the corner of our house. The result is a vast difference in moisture from the edge next to our house and the edge next to the neighbor’s yard.
These challenges actually created opportunities. Flowers which grow in dry areas would do well next to the house, while those who can handle moisture or non-regular wetness would do very well further away. I now was able to plant a larger variety of flowers by noticing the micro-environments happening in this area.
The progress of this bed did not happen over a weekend, but slowly over the past few months. This has allowed it to grow organically rather than planned out to the detail.
Internal conversations as of late have tended along this line:
- It is getting warmer outside. I really need to get a move on with building some raised beds and lasagna gardens (for flowers).
- Oh, it is cold again. I must have been jumping the gun. Good thing I did not plant anything.
- Well, rain today. Can’t do much work outside right now.
- Warm…again. Yeah, I really should have gotten something built for outside. I’ll do that tomorrow…
- ::siren:: I doubt anyone would judge me too much for not improving the yard in some way while the tornado sirens are going off.
- Oh, my, it is cold! I think I will focus on an indoor task today.
- …okay, so is it warm, or cold? Warm, let’s go outside …(few hours later) my goodness, it is getting colder as the day goes on.
At first, I let this dictate as to whether I should start garden projects outside. However, after a few back-and-forth’s I realized that if I waited till it was “perfect” I would miss the window. Right now, something is better than nothing.
I grabbed some old packing boxes, box of shredded paper, shovel, kids’ wagon (filled with unfinished compost from compost tumbler), and headed outside. Layering the items I began a lasagna garden. While it is smaller than I would like, I remember that smaller can be better. This is especially true when trying to do multiple things at once. Right now, something is better than nothing.
With a garden bed already begun, I realized I needed something for edging if I was to help keep out grass and hold the bedding in place. A quick rough measurement of the area allowed me to pick up some bricks from the local home improvement store. Jack was less than thrilled with this trip, though I think it had to do more with shopping in the rain than it did with the act of shopping itself. Personally, I figured we would dry off and there could be worse things to do than shopping for garden supplies in the rain.
The total for the edging quickly added up, so I adjusted my expectations to have a shorter bed than I desired.
Once home I placed the bricks around the bed. They reached 75% of the way around, but it was good enough for now. The side which was not covered was against the house and a bit of the fence.
I found some more paper to shred and emptied the compost tumbler, again, to find more material to put on top of the cardboard. We had received a shipment of cold items in the mail, the insulation of which was shredded cotton (jeans?). This was added to the materials and has worked well at keeping the grass out.
After everything was dumped in the bed I covered it with a partial bag of peat moss I had in the garage. While it is a light material it will mix well with the future organic material.
As seeds were bought or found I added them to the bed.
- Daffodils from a science experiment found their home here, as did a few older daffodil bulbs from a long while back which never got planted.
- Hollyhocks, a flower I always wanted to have in my garden, were planted in the spaces in the concrete blocks along the fence. These should form a nice tall, colorful backdrop for the rest of the garden. Not only will they help hid the fence, but they will attract insects as well.
- Butterfly Weed and Chamomile seeds were spread around, as well as a few purple cone flowers.
I am starting to see several of these sprout, though I was not expecting much out of them as I planted them on my time schedule, rather than at their optimum time.
A watering dish was also created and installed in the bed. One thing I have learned since installing this is that the water evaporates out of it at a quicker rate than I thought it would. If we experience a few sunny days in a row I need to add water to it myself. This is due to its shallow nature which appeals to butterflies and other insects.
What you can not tell well from the picture is the slope on which this bed is situated. The far right block, along the front edge, and the far left top block are almost equal in height.