Thursday, April 30, 2015

Landscaping Time! Day 1 & 2, Grading & Planting!

This week was the big kahuna as far as the landscaping!  When you live in an area where everything lies under snow or is frozen solid for months at a time, you have loads of time in winter to grab some coffee and curl up in front of the fireplace with gardening catalogs...and spend hours on the Internet planning your garden.

Consequently you have tons of time to plan and dream.  By the time warm weather rolled around, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted trees and shrubs that were drought-tolerant, would survive our pretty harsh climate, provide flowers and fruit safe for animals and people, and be interesting.  I plan on planting flowering shrubs to attract pollinators to the vegetable garden and fruit trees, and placing plants in groups in the chicken yard to provide cover and shade for the chickens.  I drew up a plan for each part of the property:  front yard, back yard near the house, chicken yard and future vegetable garden area.

This was a big job that had to be done in stages, and my husband and I had already agreed that we sure as Hell were not going to attempt to dig any more planting holes, it was 'professional with heavy equipment' time.  So we hired Heart's Desire Landscaping, a local company I found after interviewing several landscapers.

So our plan was this:
  • Grade and de-rock the back yards as much as possible--I was sick to death of tripping over the approximately nine billion rocks out there.
  • Create some interest and break up the flat, boring drearyness of the back yards by adding some small hills that would be planted with shrubs.
  • Dig planting holes for trees and shrubs.
  • Dig out a hole for the small pond I have.
  • Trench for two new hose bibs, one in the chicken yard and one in the future vegetable garden area.
  • Trench to run electrical to the chicken coop so we can have a damned light out there and an outlet for the heater.
  • Plant trees & shrubs, adding in actual soil and compost because we have no dirt in our dirt. Place stakes around plants so they survive our ridiculous winds, also chicken wire so they don't get nibbled to death.
  • Run drip irrigation to all of the new plants. 
After all of this is done, eventually, in the future have a *small* amount of lawn (and, I'm sure, dirt) placed with a large gravel area surrounding it--I envision a grass area with an irregular, curved border.  Landscape fabric will go under the gravel to foil the superweeds we grow around here, and a new sprinkler system will be laid for the grass area.  But the grass/gravel will be a project for another day.

*Whew* So today was the start, and I was delighted to see Aaron and his crew arrive with a backhoe and begin de-rocking and grading the chicken yard and vegetable garden area.  The chickens, needless to say, were locked in while the big yellow autochicken did it's thing and dug.  They were NOT happy.

 Grading is done, little hills are made and I run around with a can of marking paint, spraying where the trees and shrubs will go, then we drag the plants into place.

The surprise big rock that was unearthed by the backhoe was left as an accent. The shrub is a 'Pink Dawn' viburnum, the tree a Bartlett pear.

A Satsuma plum tree, a Silverlace vine on the right alongside the coop to grow up and over the shed and an Eastern Snowball viburnum on the back left.

I'm hoping these plants, an American cranberry flanked on either side by 'Autumn Magic' chokeberries, will grow big enough to hide the neighbor's not-so-attractive woodpile and cool, but neglected Airstream trailer.

Planting holes are dug with a huge auger.  Nothing else was gonna get through our terrain.

One of the planting holes dug by the auger.  They all looked like this, loaded with rocks.
On this side of the fence, left to right, a dwarf pink Flowering Almond, an 'Austrian Copper' rose and another Eastern Snowball viburnum. 

A tiny Ivory Halo dogwood in the foreground, a thornless Cockspur Hawthorne tree and beyond it, two red twig dogwoods flank either side of the walk gate.

The next day is planting day.  The pear tree and pink viburnum go in and the viburnum is staked and wrapped with chicken wire.  The random found rock actually looks pretty spiffy there!

 Weedcat watches to provide the ever-vital proper chicken supervision.

The dead-looking plant on the right is the only survivor from the old house--a Curly Willow plant.  We lost part of it in the windstorm a few months ago, but the rest is doing great. It will be part of another plant grouping with the little hill.

Eastern Snowball viburnum on the right, Satsuma plum tree and silverlace vine to grow onto the coop.

The part of the back yard nearest the house, 'Before'.  Ugh.

The black thing on the right is my little pond shell.

They dug a rock bigger than my head out from right next to the house.  When it comes to rocks, like my sister says, 'Find the queen and kill it!'  I couldn't agree more.

Digging the hole for the pond liner.

Two trees going into the yard near the house, a Lavender Twist redbud on the right and a Showtime crabapple on the left. I'm hoping the redbud will overhang the deck a bit.

Planted, yay!

Some of my plants hadn't arrived yet, so since we already had the auger here we decided to go ahead and dig the planting holes for them now so we wouldn't have to bring the thing back.

Somewhat hidden in the weeds are an Arrowood viburnum and a 'Brandywine' viburnum.

 The pond liner goes in and some of the existing huge rocks are gathered from where they sit on the property and grouped around it.

Pink dwarf flowering almond on the right, three Alpine currants line the fence behind and to the left of the pond.  Another Curly Willow grows in the back left corner next to more huge rocks.

The pond has two more small cascades we'll add in along with more rocks. 

Next we moved back into the future vegetable garden area, which will have raised beds, a compost heap bin in one corner and a bench in the middle under a tree. In the far back right corner is a Thornless Cockspur hawthorne tree.

In the middle of the garden area, a Sugar Tyme crabapple flanked by two 'Profusion' beautyberries, with space for a garden bench between them.

Only one problem cropped up...now I had called the 'Call Before You Dig' folks out not once, but TWICE--the first time when we had the chain link fence put in, the second time to re-mark for the landscaping.  Despite this, they somehow managed both times to miss the neighbor's phone line buried four feet on our side of the fence and mismarked the location of this communications cable.  Needless to say, the auger found them both.  Luckily for us, since we had done what we were supposed to do and called, the repair was all on the utility companies.  Always use 'Call Before You Dig', kids, it can save you a ton of money and headaches!

The little orange flag on the right is where this orange cable was supposed to be.  The auger took out our Internet.

In the front yard, the landscaper's removed two really, really poorly placed plants that were here when we moved in--a lilac planted right over the sprinkler controls, so that whenever you wanted to turn on the sprinklers you had to dive headfirst into the thing, and a rose bush next to the walkgate that would reach out and seize anyone foolish enough to try to come in.  We got tired of giving blood to the thing on an almost daily basis, so out they both went.  Sadly neither was able to be transplanted somewhere else on the property.

But by the end of the day, all of the plants we had were in the ground!
We let the chickens out, it made them happy and they threw dignity to the winds and ran around.

...and stood around worshipping the plants.

 Next up will be the trenching!

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