New garden brings many lessons

  • Blog Post by: $author
  • May 16, 2011 - 9:34 AM


It’s been nearly two years since I discovered the sinkhole. My sewer line had broken, and the excavation and repair left me with an unplanned project  -- a blank slate of a front yard scarred from the heavy equipment that compacted the

heavy clay. I wrote about it then, imagining that I would spend all winter dreaming and ordering perennials from catalogs, ready to grab a shovel as soon as the snow had melted. My high-energy boyfriend and I had cleared out landscape rock and spread topsoil in the fall. I had visions of grandeur by spring.

It didn’t happen that way. 

High-energy boyfriend gave me a ring. We got married, sold his house in an

awful market, and then worked on merging two households into one.

As my husband said goodbye to the beautiful gardens he had worked so hard to build, we started planning our own – together, as a wedding gift. We had visions of grandeur by early last summer.

The rain washed away our best-laid plans. Weekend after stormy weekend.  We didn’t get started in earnest until the weather was blistering hot. We stripped the sod, tilled in soil and amendments and shopped for bargain plants for our project. And we learned a lot along the way. Some lessons, and some photos:

  • Tape measures and graph paper are garden tools.
  • The two-hour minimum on a sod cutter rental is dangerous. My husband sliced up the front yard in 25 minutes in the 90-degree heat and was eyeing the back yard – and offering to take up the neighbors’ lawns, too. (“We have to get our money’s worth,” he said.)
  • Gyms are for people who don’t have lawns. (So said my husband after Day 2 of heaving rain-soaked clumps of sod into a dumpster.)
  • Correcting the grade is more difficult than described on
  • Whoever coined the phrase “dirt cheap” has never ordered triple-screened topsoil.
  • A landscape rake is expensive but invaluable. We learned this a little late in the project.
  • The dirt  in a city boulevard  is only slightly better than the dust in an ashtray, only it’s pocked with chunks of broken asphalt.
  • Front-yard gardens create community. There’s nothing like ripping off your lawn and spreading 12 cubic yards of topsoil and compost to pique the curiosity of neighbors, the UPS driver, the mail carrier and curious passersby. Among the questions: “Are you crazy? It’s dangerously hot outside.”
  • A husband who wears a pith helmet while operating the rental roto-tiller piques neighborhood curiosity AND prompts strange looks.
  • Purple Emperor sedum detests daily rain. We replaced it once after it rotted away. When it disappeared again, we switched our plan to asters and Autumn Fire.
  • A landscape is never finished, even after the mulch is spread. High-energy husband has installed a patio and is dreaming of a pergola fence and climbing roses in the back yard.






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