Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Finishing the never-ending project

Posted by: Martha Buns under Weekend chores Updated: July 11, 2012 - 11:05 AM

 

Ever had one of those projects that took so long you can hardly remember why you started and can't tell when it's finished? We just got done-ish with one of those, a back-yard project that began almost as a whim and became a never-ending, all-consuming obsession.

 

It started with the vague idea that it would be nice to have some sort of pathway around our raised beds instead of the half-heartedly growing grass. It would give us a place to work from in wet weather, and eliminate mowing and hand trimming. Plus, it might make the area look, well, more intentional.

 

Before: And then there was just bare dirt

Before: And then there was just bare dirt

That vague idea got a kickstart when we learned the neighbors were renting a sod cutter, so we asked if we could piggyback, since they wouldn't need it for the entire rental time window. They graciously accepted, and in the space of a few hours, the grass was gone.

 

Well, it wasn't so much gone, as displaced. The paltry, weedy grass wasn't good enough to foist off on Craigslist. So lacking any place else to put them, my husband stacked up the heavy rolls of sod on our usual vegetable bed. That was in May of last year, so the pressure was one to put in a path and deal with the towering pile of sod rolls.

I came up with a pathway design, and we set about acquiring the appropriate equipment and knowledge to put in a brick pathway that wouldn't make us too mortified. Then came hours of digging in the hot sun, endless wheelbarrow trips with bricks across the lawn and yet another trip to the home improvement center. We persevered through blistering hot days, painstakingly measuring, grading and bricklaying (and re-laying), intent on getting it done.

 

Then came a series of extended family health issues. By the time we came up for air, it was late October, the vegetable beds were out of control, the grass had started to regrow and harvest was the first priority. Plus, we were just out of energy.

 

That's how I wound up going into this spring facing a second year of having the main vegetable plot being a giant dirt mound, with a weed and grass patch around the raised beds where the nice bare dirt had been last May. The only good news: The wispy grass on the sod rolls had composted, leaving nice dirt to distribute.

Now, after ruthless weeding, lots of dirt distribution and a few more trips for edging bricks, the project is done enough, and tomatoes are back in my vegetable bed. There are a few more finishing touches that can wait until cooler weather, like dividing and transplanting some plants around the perimeter. And I'd love to have a solar-powered fountain in the middle. (Will I hate the cast resin ones that are so much more affordable and lighter than the ones I really want? Should I save up for years for the real thing or go with what I can almost afford?)

At any rate, it looks more intentional than it did 14 months ago. Amazing what 16 bags of mulch will do. Now to stop myself from tackling a new pathway in the alley garden.

What projects have you accidentally found yourself tackling? Any advice on the fountain front?

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