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!
To all of our clients…thank you for giving us the opportunity to show you what we can do for you! Cheers!
Call us for all your lawn and landscape needs… thank you from Tim, Trevor, Mike, Miss Ryla, Kathleen and baby Ashlyn.
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.
See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂
We were hired by Pinky to do a complete clean up of her rental property in Ladysmith BC. We finished the back yard the first day and moved to the front yard. The Rose bush in the front yard is the largest I have ever seen. It is a very old Rose and is thriving here. We also trimmed and pruned her deciduous hedge that runs parallel to the sidewalk. There were shrubs that were overgrown as well. However, they too were very mature healthy plants. I am always amazed at the end of a clean up just how beautiful the garden design is, as sometimes it gets lost in the overgrowth. Living in a rainforest has its challenges…everything grows 365 days a year as nothing really goes dormant due to our mild temperatures.
Before ↑ & After↓
Before ↑ & After ↓
Before ↑ & After ↓
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!
The last week of weather on Vancouver Island has been brutal. First snowstorms and literally inches and inches of snow accumulating with freezing temperatures and wind. The snow here is always very very heavy when we do get snow…which is seldom. Then we were graced with warmer temperatures and rain. During this week of stormy weather mother nature provided us with beautiful silhouettes in nature. With the storms comes many many trees, shrubs and plants that now have winter damage. This beautiful tree in my yard which was stunning when the snow came, had several branches break under the weight of snow and ice.
After the storm when I realized the tree was damaged, I played a waiting game with mother nature as the branches were frozen in the snow. Now, today, I have cut the branches off with a landscape saw, giving them a clean cut at the trunk.
I will not be using wound paint or any other kind of sealant on the tree as I know it is a myth that it requires it to heal. Trees are incredibly resilient and will heal themselves if left alone. Wound paints and dressings claim to prevent rot and help trees heal from pruning wounds, but research suggests that they actually do more harm than good. When you cut off a tree limb, or the bark gets damaged, the tree never actually “heals.” Instead, it compartmentalizes the wounded area with a special type of calloused wood – like a scar – that keeps out bacteria and helps the rest of the tree recover. Wound paint can actually interfere with the trees recovery by preventing it from creating the calloused wood to compartmentalize it and can weaken the tree. Tree wounds heal from the inside out so dressing it with wound paint can actually seal in moisture causing tree rot and allowing fungus or bacteria to survive and possibly thrive. The last thing I want to do is interfere with the trees natural recovery processes…after all trees have been on this planet longer then humans and have evolved to heal themselves most of the time.
We were hired in October this year to create a back yard oasis for a newly retired lady who has such a green thumb I was envious. Her flowers in pots were so healthy and beautiful. I first visited her in September when everything was in bloom. Such lush healthy plants were a feast for the eyes. She wanted everything in raised garden boxes to tidy up her small space. We suggested cedar as it stands up to the test of time and is so beautiful. The job took much longer then expected as the rains came and have stayed. With 29 days of rain in October it hampered our effects but we persevered. The largest garden box built is 15 feet 4 inches long. It had to built at our house and then trucked to her place to put in place. It took three of us to load it and had to ratchet strapped into the truck. It took 1 yard of wood chips in the bottom and 1.5 yards of organic garden soil to fill it. Each of the garden boxes were built to be portable. The rules of the condominium complex are: anything built must be moveable and it must be a minimum of six inches from the fence.
The greatest challenge of the job was to level everything for the boxes and the patio. The sod was taken out first and then the soil taken out to level it. We added 1/2 of a yard of sand behind the garden boxes so weeds would never be a problem. The sand is about 6 inches deep. It also allows good drainage during rainy season. We considered adding mulch behind the boxes but knew it would hold moisture up against the boxes and encourage moss to grow. So sand was the best choice. Another 1/2 yard was used to level the patio area and poured between the stones to hold them in place.
So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Half of the garden boxes were built at our house and half were built on site. We also added a patio in an area 5 x 10 with a beautiful garden potting table we built for her to complete the job. It has completely transformed her back yard and we love how it looks and more importantly…So does she!
What a wonderful lady and a wonderful project…thanks Crissy! We shall miss your great cups of coffee and your mmmm sticky buns for coffee breaks!
Happy Gardening…see you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂
Patio area before and after
Before and after corner garden
Back yard before and in progress
Largest garden box complete and planted
Recently we were hired to plant a privacy hedge in Ladysmith. The weather is perfect for planting trees…for the trees…not so much for people who don’t like the rain. The trees were purchased at Dinter’s and are very healthy and full. The root balls were packed in clay and wrapped in burlap. This ensures the roots stay moist. The trees were 8 to 10 feet tall and weighed about 120 lbs each.
Preparation for planting.
- We measured the entire length of the planting area.
- We divided the number of trees by the length so we knew how far apart to space the trees.
- We set a couple of trees in place to see how they looked against the fence and to decide how far from the fence to plant them.
- We calculated how much soil we would require for the planting. In order for the trees to thrive we mixed 1 part organic garden soil with the original garden soil.
- We knocked off half of the clay off of the roots of the trees to ready them for planting. You can plant them with the clay and the burlap on them but we chose not to. The roots must work that much harder to grow through the clay and burlap to get to the soil nutrients. Since the clay and the burlap are designed to protect the root ball against dry conditions and we are in rainy season, we knew they would not be at risk.
- We picked up 1.5 yards of soil ( You can find a soil calculator on line or ask your local soil retailer to calculate how much soil you will need depending on the area you are planting.) and 2 bales of coconut peat along with 2 pails of bone meal and 2 pails of blood meal. This helps to minimize the transplant shock as the nutrients feed the tree a balance of what it requires. The coconut peat is sustainable unlike regular peat moss that comes from bogs and is not sustainable. Both lighten the soil, hold moisture and improve soil structure.
- We took all of the sod out and started digging holes. We dug the hole 2 times bigger then the root ball and 2 times deeper. This allows the roots an easier time spreading out and growing. We placed the first tree in the hole and measured from the centre of the root ball to the centre of the next root ball to ensure they were equally spaced apart.
- We mixed our soils together and added 2 cups of bone meal and 2 cups of blood meal to each wheel barrow of soil. Then we placed the soil in the bottom of the hole, placed the tree and packed soil around it until it was just above the ground level. This ensures as it settles it will be flush with the ground.
- We picked up 1 1/2 yards of mulch and top dressed the trees after planting as it holds moisture during dry seasons, helps to control weeds and for its pleasing aesthetics. Happy Planting! See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂
Recently, someone ask me about a garden clean up. She has been on my website and loved the work I do. I explained to her, I charge an hourly rate which includes one person and one truck. I do not charge for taking garden waste away and do not charge for truck time for picking up materials or supplies. I only charge for the hourly labour. I provide the tools, lawn mowers, fuel and anything else required for the job at no extra fee or cost.
She said her concern was the length of time it would take. She had been on my website and saw that some gardens seem to take months. Then I realized that she thought the garden jobs on my site had taken months to complete and she thought I had been working full-time at them. I said yes, some of them have taken months..but it is only part-time I work at them. Depending on the garden owner and their budget, the weather and my time constraints, some of them I work at part-time. If the garden owner has a large job and wants it done immediately, then I do try and accommodate that but usually a very large job is part-time and does take months.
I have regular clients that have me set days in their garden and I also take on what I call “one off” jobs where I am hired to plant or prune a hedge or re-design a small garden or do a one day clean up.
That being said I thought I should clarify for everyone on my site how my business operates.
Cheers! See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂