Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

One thing leads to another...

When it comes to the garden, just when I think I've gotten things to some point I've longed to reach, it typically reveals there are other points just beyond that horizon, beckoning...

Years ago when we finally took out a large section of St. Augustine grass in the back yard I thought I'd be fine with the chaos, I thought I wanted a wild flower meadow.

Once the flowers faded (so soon!) I put in a few freestyle raised beds.  I tried out vegetables, I auditioned flowers, I played around with permaculture techniques.  Sure enough I no longer had the previously despised monoculture, but what I mostly had? I mostly had an ongoing mess.
Finally I grasped what I'd been reading (and mostly ignoring) for years.  First things must come first.  If you want a successful garden, you've got to attend to the bones.  Beds require maintenance.  Maintenance requires access.  With Hub's help I'd already established one central path.  That path and the chaos beyond pointed out the clear need for more.  We needed more paths.

Taking sight lines and sprinkler placement into consideration I lined out several supplemental paths.  Those paths were great as far as they went but they were cleared dirt.  I didn't want dirt paths.  I put in stepping stones as a stopgap (just in case it ever rained again, which at the time, frankly seemed unlikely), but I didn't want stepping stones.  What I wanted was a granite gravel path.

At that time we didn't have any clear access to the back yard. Having a truck deliver a load of gravel was out of the question.  Our old wheelbarrow died.  We got a new one but it had a wide wheel base and the gate in our fence wouldn't even allow it through.  Undaunted, I bought and carried in five 40 pound bags of crushed granite gravel.  40 pound bags don't cover much and I knew it wouldn't be enough, but it was a start.

Summer happened. Gravel spreading was not an attractive prospect in triple digits.  Winter came and it rained!  It got cold, I got cold, and the front beds began to reveal the ravages of neglect.  The front beds that everybody drove and walked by.  The front beds that everybody could SEE.

By the time I turned my attention to the back bedding areas again every square inch of dirt in between the stepping stones was completely overgrown with weeds.  Every time I disturbed the soil or repositioned a stepping stone I unearthed a roiling mass of angry ants.

But I'm nothing if not stubborn.  Slowly but surely I eliminated the ants.  Minus the attacking hordes I got the dirt paths weeded.  I took the five granite gravel bags and spread them out as far as they would cover.

It was a limited success but it was enticing.  The finish line for the paths was in sight at long last.

The Hub had sensibly replaced that old narrow gate with a wider one that would accept the new wheelbarrow, but.... We were now having our windows replaced. The equipment and ongoing work meant there was nowhere available for a truck to unload gravel in the front.  Unless I wanted to wait?

I was finished with excuses and waiting.  Waiting was not an option.  Back I went to buy more 40 pound bags of crushed granite.  Eleven of them.

The now easily approachable garden beds were ready for their close-up.  Stepping around the plastic bags of granite gravel I'd unloaded where my dream paths would be, I began to weed.

I culled.  I eradicated.  I ferreted out nut sedge.  Panicum.  Virginia buttonweed.  I popped out crabgrass.  Common purslane.  Dove weed.  I dug out bermuda grass.  Carpet weed.  I pulled out long strings of residual St. Augustine.  I yanked and pried and removed every weed known to local gardeners and a few I swear came into being only here and simply to try and frustrate my efforts.

And so it goes, and so it went until, day before yesterday when, working mostly by feel and finishing well after dark, I got eight of the eleven bags of granite gravel spread out onto every one of the readied paths.

I was close.  So close.  Laughing at the thermometer, ignoring increasingly urgent messages from my lower back and neck, I donned my tattered gloves and tackled the colony of long established weeds in the last large bed.
Today?  Today I can barely begin to believe it but just for now, just for this moment, the two major projects in our back garden spaces are complete.

I have gravel paths.  I have weeded beds.

Just for the moment of course.  Weeding is never really completed.  The weeds in the first bed I cleared out are already showing signs of regrowth from roots I'll likely never get all the way out.
Also?  You guys, those weeded beds are sorely in need of mulching.  Without mulch I can't ever hope to stay on top of the weed situation, not to mention assisting with moisture retention and keeping the soil cooled.

At least now I have a gravel path where I can safely leave those mulch bags.  Once I get to the nursery, I mean.  With the window guys here I am stuck at the house weekdays and who wants to spend their weekends hauling mulch bags in this heat?

And so it goes....


Tina said...

Your hard work and fretting certainly paid off! Love that bed and the paths. The triangle leading to the bench is darling. Years ago, when I first began to recreate my space, I truly believed that once I established the gardens/pathways that the maintenance would be minimal. And it proved true. Sort of. I have a much more interesting place, but it still requires weeding. And re-mulching. And re-doing the beds when something isn't working. I tell people that I feel like the second Mrs. Dewinter in "Rebecca" when she's explaining to Mr. Dewinter about her father. Her father paints a tree. No, not trees. One tree. He never quite gets it the way he wants, so the tree is an ongoing project. Always improving, always changing.

Cat said...

Yay, you!! Your efforts (sore back included) were worth it by the tone of your post! It feels so good to be able to check a big project off the list. Everything looks fantastic.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: I totally get what you're saying. I'm hoping that with good access I will be better about tackling weeding and mulching (and reweeding and remulching) while the scope of the need is smaller and thusly less aggravating. That's what I'm hoping all right.

As to reworking problem plants and microclimates, that is what keeps things interesting to a certain extent - and why my favorite nursery owners children are probably going to very nice schools.

TexasDeb said...

Cat: Thank you - I do feel good about hitting the finish line. It took me SO long - lots of it my own procrastination, granted. But to be done (for the moment)? Amazingly satisfying.