Early Stages of a Garden

It’s been a cold, long winter in New York City. Yesterday was the first day of spring. Next week, we will likely be smacked upside the head with a Nor’easter once again. I am so done with the Polar Vortex.  This time last year, I was already playing in the dirt. This year, however, I’ve been keeping my excursions outside to a minimum. A winter person I am not.

We spend a ton of time outdoors during the warm months, and while our back yard has been presentable(ish) over the past 2 summers, a big overhaul was always part of the house master plan. At some point. In the very very distant future.

Backyard2012

Backyard in 2012, our first summer. The big bushy plants to the right are tomatoes. It was a fantastic year for tomatoes.

Backyard2013

The backyard in 2013. The fence was replaced and we built a planter/retaining wall to compensate the height difference between our yard and the one behind us. It was a terrible year for tomatoes.

3/4 of the way through this particularly harsh winter, our garden redo got bumped up in priority, courtesy of the water that came gushing into our basement during a rain/freezing rain/snow/rain event. We realized we needed to pay some attention  to the garden drainage and the pavement that is not sloping away from the house quite enough. Oh, and the holes. There are holes where the coal chute joins  the house.  Because, why not?  True to the old adage of “project begets project,” we figure we might as well go the Full Monty on this. In addition to the must-do-to-keep-the-basment-dry (re-sloping the surface closest to the house and installing French drains  throughout the yard), we’ll be doing a fair amount of cosmetic work, too. Woo hoo landscaping!

FloodedBackyard

This is what happens when it rains: the water has nowhere to go, so it just hangs out.

Puddle

This is actually really close to the house. Not good.

About 4 months ago, we had preliminary plans drawn by a fantastic landscape architect (aka, dad). The design calls for separate living areas in our compact yard: seating under the grape-vine (new arbor, pebbles underfoot), a grilling area and eating area (both paved with reclaimed old pavers), as well as shrubs and perennials evoking a Victorian garden.

Garden Board

The design, along with some of the materials and plants. Yep, I do suck at Photoshop.

To put the design into practical perspective, I ventured outside today and drew it in chalk, making some changes along the way. I think I worked out most of the kinks (and found a dead bird along the way).

Chalky

Pardon the ugliness, but the garden is still asleep.

Dad says good garden design has a bit of mystery drawn in. I don’t think he means all the blank spots on his sketch, but rather that one should not be able to see everything all at once, that one would wind their way through, and discover new areas. That is easier said than done with a back yard that measures about 40 feet x 18 feet. Dad proposes a complete re-think of how we use the space. The table will move to the back of the yard, where the vegetable garden is (at some point, it will get sanded and slathered with Tung oil – yep, on the list). The area beneath the grape-vine will get fine gravel, and will house a seating area with custom-built wooden benches. We’ll reduce the hard surfaces of the yard (which will also help with drainage), and use reclaimed old brick pavers as our main surface material.

Salvage Pavers

Sweet old brick pavers. How I love thee!

It all sounds fine and dandy. Once reality sinks in, including carrying all this stuff through the house, I’m sure it will be a different story.

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