I have one bed in the garden that has extremely good soil. It was built by connecting several tree stumps with stone walls, and one section of log that was left behind when we had the trees cut down. The resulting bed was then filled with a potent mixture of compost and a purchased "soil" composed mainly of decomposed bark, sand, and fine gravel. Unfortunately, the time when this bed was first ready to be planted was when I was jumping between college and various internships each summer. This bed fell by the wayside, even with a plan drawn up and a list of plants written down, as life inevitably went about its business.
|The "plan" for this bed. This design replaced a previous one I had for the space, and now it, too, has been tossed in the compost bin, so to speak, as I brainstorm other ideas for this bed.|
I could go on ad nauseam about how this bed slowly filled up with plants that were "temporarily" stored there until they could find more suitable homes, or how it inevitably filled with weeds, including the horribly difficult-to-control Canadian thistle, but I'll just leave it at saying that those things happened. I'm choosing to focus more on reclaiming this bed for the garden, rather than its unfortunate past.
|Back in April, when I first moved home. Even then, this bed looked more like an elevated section of lawn than a garden bed. Yuck!|
|These daylilies are the same as the ones I recently featured in this post, but in the rich, well-drained soil of this bed they have far too much vegetative growth. The plants are huge and flower later and less profusely than those growing in harsher conditions, so they've been moved to another location at the edge of the dry creek bed.|
|These two Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' and Acer griseum are the only plants currently in this bed that are supposed to be here. I think one of them is too close to the maple, but that's a problem for another day.|
After the weeds had died down, I covered everything with cardboard (mostly leftover from my move) and covered the cardboard with more soil. Unfortunately I ran out of cardboard partway through and resorted to using the scraps of black plastic I've been tearing up from around the house. In retrospect, I could have used multiple layers of newspaper, but the plastic is already down and covered. I'll just have to removed it before I plant anything.
|Laying cardboard over the dead weeds will help to prevent future weeds from getting established, but more importantly it will help prevent any surviving thistles from poking their evil little shoots into the light.|
Working on this bed again has really brought home the opportunity I have here. The soil has much better drainage, higher nutrients, and probably higher pH than anywhere else in the landscape. The only similar soil is in the vegetable garden, and that's staying a vegetable garden. I love home-grown vegetables!
So with the richness of this soil newly in mind, I'm re-evaluating my plant list for the bed. This would be the perfect bed to grow those finicky plants that require rich, well-drained soil and full sun. The trouble is, I've never paid much attention to those plants because I never thought I'd have a place for them. I've spent most of my time learning about plants for either organically-rich soil in shade (to go with my rhododendron craze) or plants than can survive left alone in poor soil and full sun (like Arctostaphylos and Ceanothus). I must admit, this bed is a bit outside my ken and I'm having to go back to the books to find plants that might grow suitably in this bed without becoming monsters like the daylilies and Mimulus. I'm now having a field-day pouring over books and websites, looking for candidates for this bed. Naturally I'm amassing a list far too long to fit into the bed, and will have to whittle it down to those that are deer-resistant, at least somewhat drought tolerant, and those that won't grow too well in the rich soil. I don't want anything turning into a floppy disaster or growing itself into an early grave like Ceanothus and other natives of poor soils can.
If all goes well, I'll finally be planting this bed in the Fall. Back to the books!