Getting through the first stages

Patty Siddall explains preparing a location for a new garden project.

There was finally just enough dry weather at the right times for me to start my garden project on the Easter weekend.

The transformation has begun and Auriel’s Garden (named for my angel of new beginnings) will soon begin taking shape to offer a new sanctuary and peaceful outdoor retreat. My work in the yard has unearthed evidence that this space is an old garden, once loved; a large old magnolia stands majestically against the back fence, a small wind chime hangs in the old apple tree, a spiked dogwood ornament was hidden among the old spirea, a few crocus have poked through and the sandy soil is richer than one would expect. I appreciate the work gone before. It will make my job just a bit easier as I prepare the garden beds for their new guests.

Those who have done some gardening will know that this first stage of the renovation can be more tedious than fun.

There’s different ways to approach the removal of sod. If there’s no rush to plant, consider laying cardboard or newspapers on top of the sod and then cover with several inches of compost and top soil.After a month or so, the grass beneath will die and the newspaper will compost down to mix with the new soil. If the budget will allow, a sod cutter can be rented for about $95/day which makes lifting the existing grass easy.

Or, there’s the good old fashion way of using an edger and sharp spade to cut the lawn into squares, lift each piece and cut off the good soil beneath before sending the sod to the landfill.  I’m anxious to get my favourite plants moved over from the old garden and my budget doesn’t allow for equipment rental, so I’ve chosen the latter – tough work but gratifying to see take shape.

I could have defined my beds with a long garden hose but have had a bit of practice shaping beds so I felt confident enough to use a can of landscape spray paint and draw the beds out. In both the front and back gardens, I will create curved beds around the perimeter of the yard and leave some turfed areas in the middle.

I had my garden without any lawn at one time but at the encouragement of my daughter, reintroduced turf again and agree it showcases the garden beds better and offers space for my puppies to lounge. I have created wider beds than normal because my total space is limited.  Its recommended beds should be at least 4 feet wide.  This allows most dwarf shrubs enough space to mature.

Once the turf is lifted front and back, I’ll add at least 40 bags of mushroom manure, 4 bags of peat moss and about 3 yards of top soil. This should amend the soil with enough nutrients to help the root systems of new transplants re-establish quickly. One tip I must pass along which I consider very important for the health of every garden is the need to amend soil with a top dressing of compost around the base of all plants at least every other year. Yes, plants might survive without it but they become more susceptible to disease and will not flourish or reach their potential. I consider it a gift to the plants in return for their presence feeding my spirit!

When we meet again, I’ll share the fun of the design process.

Patty Siddall operates a local garden business and shares this space with business partner Betty Drover every other Friday. Contact: 250-364-1005

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