Tag Archives: island landscapes

We are Landscaper Gardeners in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island on the Pacific West Coast of Canada. Our motto is…”when you do what you love and you love what you do…you are one with the landscape. Creating a perfect garden paradise. We will create a landscape (an area) or garden space in a style which requires little or no irrigation…xeroscapes…if you so desire!

Garden Oasis

We have continued the work on the “Front Yard Oasis” this fall.  The design is coming together and it is even more stunning then the computer generated design.  We have continued excavation of the river bed.  What we originally thought would be 3 to 4 more yards of waste has become 9 to 10 yards of excavation.  Painstakingly done with shovels and wheel barrows.  The yard is very rocky so we have sifted through much of the waste to keep the larger rocks to incorporate back into the dry river bed we will be creating.

The garden bed areas are now all installed and filled with organic soil, peat moss, bone meal and blood meal…and are ready to plant.  A path way will be installed to run along the river bed to allow stepping access to the garden areas and to visually separate the patio from the river bed.  The path will consist of 3 inches of rainbow rock that has been purchased at “Hillside Stone & Garden” near Duncan BC.  We will be using low edging along the pathway that Beryl – our garden owner has purchased.  It will help to define the edges of the river bed and the pathway as well as the patio and will keep the decorative rock from mixing with the river bed.  We excavated the path down to approximately 3 1/2 inches to ensure the path will be slightly lower then the patio so the stone will not migrate onto the patio.

These are the original designs on paper.  In a future post I will post the original designs with the actual designs to show the evolution of creating a garden space and how similar and also how different it becomes.  There will be many areas that mirror the designs but also differences as there are always changes and challenges that come with such an undertaking.

Cleaning an overgrown garden bed

We do regular lawn maintenance for Teresa and Patty and were ask to clean the garden bed along the house.  It was a 2.5 hour job and had a truck load of waste to take away.  Happy planting Teresa 🙂

A Front Garden Oasis

The work continues on the new front garden design with a large patio…actually two patios of poured and stamped cement of different colours.   We brought in a small excavator and took out approximately 9 yards to level the ground and prepare it for the bender board to pour the patio.  The yard is almost ready for the cement and then the dry river bed.  We will have to take out another 2 to 3 yards of soil to level the ground beyond the patio for the dry river bed but it is slowly coming together.

Xeriscaping a low maintenance front yard!

We were hired by our garden owner Gail in the spring to re-do her front lawn.  The lawn is approximately 1000 square feet of poor soil and very poor lawn.  Gail had struggled with the lawn since she had moved there.  After years of trying to get the grass to grow she decided she needed a low maintenance xeriscaped area.  When I went to meet her, I agreed.  My motto has always been, when you are trying to grow something, you want it to thrive not just survive.  Her lawn was barely surviving…although the weeds were prolific, nothing else seemed to thrive.  As a retired farmer Gail realizes the importance of water conservation and thought it best to get rid of the lawn and conserve the water for better uses.

Gail said as each year went by the lawn became more unhealthy then the previous year.  The lawn is patchy at best and really required a new design.  Gail had already decided she wanted all of the sod removed and disposed of.  She wanted a rock wall across the front and a path to her side garden for her to be able to water with her garden hose.  She also wanted as much of the front lawn mulched as possible.  she wanted a design that would compliment her beautiful home and create curb appeal.

I suggested we frame the entire front yard with a perimeter of river rock.  It would not only add a new layer to the design, but more importantly it would allow good drainage of rains and help to keep the mulch in its place.  The last thing I wanted to happen was for a heavy rainfall to wash all of the mulch to the sidewalk and the road.  Without the perimeter of rock it was a likely problem as the lawn is on a gradient towards the sidewalk and the road.

The work began on Monday taking out all of the sod and disposing of it. A sod cutter works great for such a big job.  The perimeter of the lawn had to be cut out with an edger as the sod cutter cannot get close enough to cut it out.

Once we went over the lawn with the sod cutter we realized that although the grass was not growing above ground the roots were a solid mass with some as deep as 6 inches.  We had to run the sod cutter over it twice to rid the area of roots and start with a clean slate.  It was labour intensive but a necessary requirement to ensure a long lasting low maintenance design.  We did need to take the lawn down by a minimum of 2 inches to make room for the mulch but it ended up coming down 5 to 6 inches which actually worked out better in the long run.

Once the lawn and roots were taken out and disposed of (7truck loads of waste), it was time to prep the entire bare area.  We used a landscape rake to level the entire area. Then we built a stone wall across Gail’s front lawn to add depth and beauty as well as hold the mulch in place.   We dug out the entire perimeter lower then the rest of the lawn and put garden edging in to keep the river rock separate from the mulch.  We also added  layers of wet newspaper and landscape fabric underneath the river rocks.

Then we used recycled newspapers….8 to 10 layers deep on the entire yard.  We wet the newspaper first so it sticks to the ground.  This creates a barrier so that weed seeds in the soil cannot sprout or grow.  We were not willing to lay landscape fabric down on bare soil.  The landscape fabric does what it is supposed to…it has tiny perforated holes to allow rain water to flow through it but cannot hold the weeds back.  Many fabrics have a 5 year or 20 year guarantee on the package. That is not for the duration that it will keep weeds out…that is for the duration of its life before it completely breaks down.  There is a big difference.  For anyone who has ever used the fabric in their garden they know that is only a matter of time before a tiny weed seed sprouts and pokes through one of these perforated holes in the fabric and begins a weed trend that does not stop.  Once the weeds begin to poke through the fabric, the only way to get them out is to pull all of the fabric up and weed it from underneath.  It is not the current seeds that are sprouting but rather the old weed seeds trapped under the fabric and they do sprout and grow.

We purchased commercial landscape fabric and yes there is a big difference.  It is a strong mesh material that allows the water to seep through rather then the cheaper fabric with perforated holes.  Commercial fabric is 25% more but it is the only fabric to use when I am covering bare ground to impede weeds growing.  We layered the fabric and overlapped to ensure there were no bare areas that weeds could sprout.  Then we covered it with a medium dark mulch.  The dark mulch is larger chunks and less likely to blow away or move around in a rain storm.  We covered the entire remaining yard with 4 to 6 inches of mulch.  We raked it all out and then we watered it down.  We knew a storm was coming the next day and rather then take a chance on the mulch being so dry and light it would migrate, we watered it down to weigh it down.  The re-design turned out beautiful and Gail is very happy with it and so are we!

 

 

Transforming a front garden space

In the fall of 2016 we worked with our garden owner Chrissy to transform her back yard.  Chrissy wanted a back yard oasis and we transformed her yard into exactly what she wanted.   She ask that we get in touch with her so we could do the same with her front yard in the spring.   So I designed a front yard design that would go with her house decor and extend her garden area to allow her more room to create what she wanted.  I went to work on the design as she required permission from the strata council.  I sent her the design and she presented it and it was accepted.  So here is what we did!

Before and design concept of area after.

Note: The existing garden in place is 12 feet in length and 40 inches from the front exterior of the garden to the foundation.  The concept for the new garden is to keep the existing back perimeter of the garden 12 inches from the foundation wall and extend the front garden out to a maximum of 54  inches and extend along the sidewalk 24 inches as the garden design is circular and will extend out in the centre further then the existing garden.  The front perimeter of the garden will be a rock wall defining it from the lawn area.  The front perimeter will be prepped by removal of a small amount of sod.  Landscape fabric will be placed under the stone to deter weed growth.  The rock wall will be approximately 8 inches high and will be placed approximately 4 inches back in order to add mulch in front of stones for ease of lawn cutting.  There is currently a hydrangea and several spring bulbs in the garden which will be left and some small shrubs and flowers added to the new garden.

*** The rock wall shown above is an example of what the design will look like.  The wall will not be exactly as shown.

The front garden area is now transformed and here is the new look!  I take my hat off to my son Tim who did a fantastic job…WOW what a transformation.  Here is to you Tim…Cheers!

 

Creation of my Garden Labyrinth

The work continues on my Garden Labyrinth in my own yard as discussed in a couple of previous posts.  We have now built another garden box and I have started planting the first one.  I have added ever-bearing strawberries to the first box.  The strawberries are later to come to fruitation.  The harvest will begin late in July, about a month after the regular strawberry harvest starts.  Ever-bearing strawberries will produce until late in the year.  I have eaten strawberries as late as December.   I planted two rows and will now plant sunflowers in the back half of the bed.  The sunflowers will create a privacy back drop and will be a beautiful addition as they mature.  They will be facing East so they will get plenty of morning sun.  The sunflowers will also attract many bees and insects that will serve to pollinate everything I have growing in my gardens.  The strawberries were a gift from one of my garden owners who wanted to divide and had lots to give away.  They have weathered the winter a little worse for the wear but are already perking up.  I have tested my soil and it is a well balanced soil and does not need any enrichment.  The first two garden boxes built are 11.5 inches high by 4 feet wide x 8 ft long.  The newest garden box is built from pine 2 x 4’s and is 16 inches high by 4 feet wide x 7 feet long.  Four feet is the widest we will build them as anything wider will be hard to weed.  We have reinforced each box with a brace to ensure they do not bulge from the weight of the soil inside.

I also have regular bearing strawberries that I planted underneath my Japanese ornamental cherry tree so my grandchildren will have strawberries to eat for many months.

 

 

My Garden Labyrinth

In an earlier post, I uploaded a garden labyrinth design for my own back yard.  The challenge is to create privacy and grow all of my own food this year.  Each year I grow more of my own food and this year I would like to grow 100% of it organically.  I have purchased all organic seed.  This is important as seed that is not organic has residual chemicals which would be left in the soil.  I have purchased organic soil from Milan on Brenton-Page road-250-667-1029     https://www.facebook.com/highlineenvironmental/

The first two garden boxes took 2 yards of soil to fill.  Each box measures 4 foot x 8 foot and are 12 inches high.  I placed them parallel along the south side of my driveway with enough space between them to get a lawn mower or a wheel barrow between them.  This area of the yard is very wet due to the gray water from the laundry room being drained here, so it should be a perfect place for a growing medium.  I have added bone meal and blood meal to the boxes and worked it in.  I will test the soil today and see how high the nutrient level is and if anything more is required.   In a few days I will plant some early vegetables.  It is a busy season already so I will have to fit my garden time in after work as I did the last two nights.  When buying seeds it is important to verify they are organic non-GMO seeds.  West Coast seeds are offered for sale at almost every garden centre and many other retail outlets.  They also offer mail order for convenience.  They are high quality certified organic seeds and their website is a wealth of information on gardening.

Cheer!

See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

Pruning Fruit Trees

I was hired last year by a garden owner – Sharon – to prune her fruit trees.  Sharon owns a small farm near Nanaimo airport.  She had purchased the property the previous year and had inherited two fruit trees – one apple and one cherry tree.  The trees had not been trimmed for several years and were living in the shadow of a massive Douglas fir.  The trees as you will see were covered in moss and very unhealthy.  I told her I was not sure if the apple tree would recover…it was a 50/50 chance.  She really wanted to try and save it as it had produced wonderful apples the previous season.

I told her it would be a three year plan if the tree survived.  I did not want to over prune and kill the tree.  The rule for any pruning job is to never take more then 1/3 off as it can stress the tree.  I was very happy to hear the apple tree had not only survived but thrived and she had a bumper crop of apples.  I know I cannot take all of the credit as everyone had a bumper crop last year.  Mother nature always has a way to communicate a hard winter coming with the amount of fruit trees bare.  A harsh winter coming means you will have alot of fruit.   So here is year one and year two pictures.  It was very late in the season last year when she called me to prune and I was concerned about damaging the trees but I knew if they were to be saved and healthy then pruning was a must.  The cherry was already in blossom but I went ahead anyway.  I sprayed the trees with “Safer’s De-Moss” and used a soft brush to rid the trees of most of the moss.  We trimmed some of the overhanging branches off the fir tree to increase airflow and minimize the shade as much as possible to inhibit new moss growth.  The product is environmentally safe, is a potassium based soap and is safe around people and pets.

I trimmed all of the dead branches off of the trees, trimmed all suckers off and took some branches out of the middle to increase air flow and sunlight reaching the centre of the trees.

Year 1

Year Two

This year I was so very happy to see all of the new growth on both the apple and the cherry tree.  Incredibly, there is no moss growing on any of the new growth and most of moss is gone from the older limbs.  So this year, I trimmed less off, taking all of the suckers and topping the cherry tree to bring it down lower.  Sharon cannot reach the top to pick the fruit.   We also took some larger limbs off of the fir to continue to open up the fruit trees to sunshine.  It is obvious the trees are very happy now.  Here are year two pictures.   Stay tuned for year three next year.  Thank you Sharon for giving me this opportunity!

Cheer!  See you in the garden or the garden centre!

 

Creating A Spring Flower Garden

Originally this job was supposed to be completed before Christmas.  There were 300 plus bulbs that needed to be planted once the garden was built.  However, Mother Nature disagreed and so the bulbs had to wait.  There was also a boxwood hedge to plant along a newly installed walkway.  That is if Mother Nature could ever release her icy grip!

The spring garden design was a simple one.  Clean the garden area along the driveway, install garden ties, amend the soil and plant the spring bulbs.  Simple right?  Wrong!  Previously there were coniferous trees growing on that side of the property and had been taken down long before my arrival.  Their stumps were in the garden bed area and the roots were everywhere.  Some had traveled underneath the paved driveway bulging the tarmac upwards.  Intertwined with the tree roots grew english ivy…everywhere.  I never ever thought there would be something more difficult to remove then english ivy.  But I was wrong again.  When I originally looked at the job last fall the ground was covered in leaves and did not give a clear picture of the labour that would be involved to beautify the area.  And so the work begins.  A pic axe was purchased to chop the roots out and a chain saw was used to cut the roots off at the driveway edge.  The easiest part of the job was planting the boxwood hedge.

Organic soil was purchased from Milan at HighLine 250-667-1029 located on Brenton-Page Road near Ladysmith.    You won’t find a better soil.  Milan creates the soil himself from organic matter.  The soil is well balanced with sand and rich organic compost.  I added bone and blood meal, peat moss to retain moisture and triple steer manure to enhance the growing medium.  However, this soil is so rich that you could just plant and grow.  I amended it to minimize the work for the garden owner.  She is not an avid gardener so this will allow her to have a no fuss garden for a couple years.  She will not have to add anything.   I planted over 300 bulbs of daffodils, tulips, narcissus and crocus’.  I am looking forward to seeing this garden in full bloom this spring.  stay tuned for the update in a couple of months.

Warning: If you are using a pic axe or any other equipment for digging or cutting, make sure you know if there are water lines, hydro lines, gas lines or telephone lines in the area! 

 

 

 

My Garden Labyrinth

I have now lived in this location for 3 months.  I have spent countless hours researching, sketching and incorporating the numerous benefits in the yard. As I said in an earlier post, privacy is my biggest concern.

The back yard gets full sun throughout the year.  I know that the back lawn stays green most of the year from the gray water that feeds it daily.  It was important for me to incorporate a plan that would utilize this gray water in my  garden effectively and efficiently.  I am on town water so it is not an option to water my gardens all year with town water, not only the cost, but with the hot dry summers on Vancouver Island the watering bans start earlier every year.  Incidentally, I am a renter and my landlord has given me the green light to landscape the entire lot as I wish, so that is a bonus.

Each year I grow more of my own food and this garden should suffice in growing all of my own food.  So the plan had to address the privacy issues, create beauty,  utilize the gray water and produce enough food for six of us.  I am including my sons and grandchildren as it is of utmost importance to me for each of us to eat as much organic food as possible, while saving money!  Last year I grew about 60% of my food.  I canned and froze much of what we couldn’t eat fresh and have been eating it all year long.

Privacy Issues – The fence enclosing the yard will provide a backdrop for me to plant shrubs and bushes to allow the privacy I want, but will take time to grow and cover the fence.  The immediate concern was how to create a garden area throughout the back yard with fruits, vegetables and flowers that would be high enough to enclose the area for privacy.

I have always loved the idea of a labyrinth and decided this would meet all of the garden challenges.  Creating a labyrinth from raised garden beds would give me the height for privacy, allow the soil in the containers to draw the gray water from the ground and filter it before it hits the plant roots, create beauty in the garden, incorporate a patio area in the middle while creating a play space for my grandchildren as they love to be in the garden with me.

And so here is my Labyrinth garden plan!  I do know that is a preliminary plan.  The garden plan will evolve and change as it comes to life!