Our backyard garden is constantly a work in progress. The first year after moving in was a whirlwind, as we built raised beds, planted berry bushes and installed a gently-used playground for the boys. Although the progress has slowed, there have still been noticeable additions including the mud kitchen with a mosaic for the kids – a great success. However it was last year around this time that we tackled a larger project that had been causing me grief; we successfully installed a new garden bed along the side of the house.
Every spring I experimented with and quickly lost a succession of seedlings in this strip, mostly due to the heat reflecting off the brick and the woodchips doing a poor job of conserving water. What survived the spring sun was lost to squirrels and curious toddlers. In addition to the lack of functionality, this was neither an attractive area of the garden, nor were we happy with the insects that were moving into the woodchips. In its place I envisioned a bed of hostas complimented by seasonal flowers, and after taking measurements, we purchased concrete edgers similar to these ones and got to work.
The first step was marking off the area that would be included in the new bed and removing the turf & woodchips. The edgers are round on one end, and so the bed doesn’t have to be square as they can easily be arranged in a curve. We started by placing the stones down (but not settling them in), to verify that we had the correct quantity and also to be able to visualize how the finished bed would look. This also enabled us to make adjustments to the original plan while the stones were easily movable. Then, utilizing a board cut specifically to the selected width of the bed (to guarantee that each stone would be the same distance from the house), we settled the edgers into place, making sure they were all aligned and even.
A load of soil was the next step. The removal of the topsoil created an edge on the turf side, and the added soil serves to hold the edgers in place on the opposite side as well as providing the nutrients needed for healthy plants. Using river stones I created a spot under the faucets to coil the hose (so there wouldn’t be an endless mud pit), and downspouts were incorporated in such a way as so to not wash away any plants or topsoil.
The then comes the fun part: selecting plants and planting them! My initial vision had been for hostas with a seasonal rotation of flowers to add some color along the house. However, I quickly realized that utilizing the sunniest portions of the new bed could possibly triple the space in our garden for growing vegetables, and so it was quickly filled by my sons with tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and watermelon. Sunflowers provided color in the rear, and marigold protection against insects in places along the pavers. A narrow section along the very end of the bed has proved ideal for strawberries, and the pallet planter was relocated to add a vertical aspect to the bed (and guarantee more strawberries!).
There is a section of the new bed that is more shaded and has ended up somewhat resembling my initial vision. Fillied with perennials and forming more of a flower bed, this is the area that contains hostas alongside some irises my wonderful neighbor divided for me. Over the winter we tucked in pansies for color, and with the warm weather we’ve had recently I noticed the canna lilies that were somewhat an experiment in overwintering are actually coming up. I also have this tendency to rescue mums that are no longer wanted after having lost their autumn color, and so there is already a smattering of green joining the strawberries that survived the cold temperatures. However, there is also plenty of bare soil on the other end of the bed… our last frost might still be a month off, but we’ve already started our seeds indoors and are dreaming of the tomatoes, peppers and vegetables we’ll be soon harvesting!