I’m going to show you something revealed to me when the snow melted and I finally ventured outside earlier this spring. It’s horrifying.
Yikes. Like, YIKES. See that block in the right corner? That’s supposed to be on the wall. See all that exposed landscape fabric? Well, it’s not supposed to be exposed. Or bulging like that.
The earth has fallen. More like the earth has fallen off that hill and added a good foot to the soil at the base of the wall. Roots exposed. Shrubs died. Cats sleeping with dogs. (Ghostbusters reference. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) This was a bad situation.
A really bad, UGLY situation. So I threw myself into fixing this part of the yard. It took a lot more work and shoveling than I expected. First step, I had to keep the dogs out of this little garden area. It was a favorite spot for one of the dogs, so I knew I would need fencing. You can even see how they “terraced” a spot leading into that area by walking it so many times. I wanted to keep this and other projects I have going on as low-cost as possible. I view it as a challenge to myself to make more, recycle more, upcycle, etc… whatever Pinterest-y term you like to use.
Enter Freecycle. If you haven’t heard of Freecycle, it’s website of communities across the country and members post unwanted or wanted items for free. What is lying around your garage or basement may be someone else’s needed item for a home, yard, new baby, etc… And it’s free. Free to post. Free to pick up items. It’s a wonderful way to keep items out of landfills. Craiglist also has a free items sections, so I watch them both for yard-related postings and sometimes even plants. Just this weekend I responded to a free plants posting and went to a woman’s house and helped her pull lily of the valley, ferns, wild ginger, and hostas that she wanted to thin out.
I lucked out, and I mean LUCKED OUT, on my first attempt at Freecycle. Just as I started this project, someone in my town disassembled their garden and gave away framed chicken wire panels. They had loops on them for mounting and came with the stakes. I picked up 6 of them, and look how perfectly it fit up the side of the hill. It was like it was meant for me. I left the bottom and top panels secured only one side so I can swing them open as gate access.
Then I started shoveling soil. And shoveling soil. And shoveling soil into buckets and carrying them up the hill. And dumping soil. And raking soil. And shoveling some more soil. I scraped soil off the top of the wall. I repositioned and secured rocks that had fallen out of place. It was a long day, but in the end I felt I had redistributed some dirt where it used to live and covered up some vulnerable roots. I walked away with a broken back and a sore wrist after, but I take comfort in the health of my soil. Man, does that soil have a lot of worms in it! I won’t touch them with bare hands, but I’m glad they are there.
The area that lost the most soil and required the most work was covered in burlap. I didn’t want all my hard work to slide back down.
Oh, and this guy thought I spent 7 or 8 hours making the ultimate cat bed for him. Look at that smug pose.
As part of my recycling mode, I tried using some hardware cloth and stakes I had from a project several years ago. Unfortunately memory distorts, and the hardware cloth was much shorter than I remembered. It was not going to keep a determined dog from her favorite digging spot.
Look who’s back. He was glad when I pulled up the initial fencing attempt and let me know his thoughts on the matter by lying right across where I was installing the fencing.
I managed to move the cat and put up 36″ chicken wire. It’s worked like a charm. Not a single breach by a dog or cat since it’s gone up. You can see I started getting impatient and putting in some new plants. First I had to rip out several dead spireas and start hacking away at a forsythia that’s looking miserable. I won’t cut it all out though and give it a fighting chance if it can recover. I’ve purchased a couple of plants that I always love, heucherella and coral bells.
I have been busy every night since then going around my front garden beds, pulling and splitting hostas. I did something similar to this project several years ago with a long hillside in the front that was weedy, ugly, and eroding. I spent two summers filling it with hostas. I had no idea what I was buying at times, just what looked pretty and would grow big and strong. Now I have a very colorful hillside in the front and thankfully I can use them to fill this back hillside now. That doesn’t mean I didn’t succumb to buying a hydrangea and a peony to stick in there as well. There had been a pretty snowball bush in this bed that died, so I replaced it with a hydrangea.
I also forgot about a rhododendron I planted a few years ago in a corner of the house. The poor thing never grew an inch. It didn’t die, it just never grew. I clearly chose a bad spot for it. So I also put that back towards the fence. Daylilies are like weeds, but at least they’re pretty weeds. I transplanted many of those along the back fence and scattered some ferns amongst all of it.
I just love spring when the ferns emerge all curled up in their fiddlehead formation.
You can do it, lone remaining spirea! I believe in you. Besides 2 barberry shrubs, this was the only shrub to survive. It’s a little pathetic looking, but if it’s still trying, then I’ll give it a chance. I took off all the dead wood and will cheer it on.
It’s an ongoing project to keep planting and filling in the space. Our city offers free compost at the landfill from all the yard waste they pick up. It’s a popular offering though and they are currently out of prepared compost. But I’m watching and will be there with my buckets when the next batch is ready. My next project is a small raised garden bed beside the patio on the downward part of the hill that is eroding away. As you can tell, living on the side of a hill has some challenges.
Freecycle also helped me nab two large sections of trellis to use there as well for some much-needed privacy from our downhill neighbors. Go Freecycle!
So that’s where I have been and not in the kitchen for the past week and a half. I hope you’ll stick with me this summer as I work through some major landscaping projects to repair my backyard and try to serve us tasty summer meals for my household and share them with you as well. I do have a delicious sesame chicken pasta dish that I will post later today. It’s been quick but delicious meals like that and corn griddle cakes which have saved us from nonstop fast food or ham sandwiches.
Enjoy your Spring!