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Starting From Scratch, Is It Too Late In The Year?

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Starting From Scratch, Is It Too Late In The Year?

Postby hunyluv_cda » Aug 28, 2012 5:54 pm


I joined this group last year after we bought our first house (a new build on an infill lot) & I posted some photos of the yard. (viewtopic.php?f=3&t=24596) I got some ideas about building a path & what to plant (thanks everyone!) But with working full time & then having a baby (and 3 big kids to take care of), I didn't have any time to plan something for the yard so it sat until this year, full of weeds. (Blush)

This spring my partner managed to build a pretty impressive walkway! (Well, at least I think he did a GREAT job considering he'd never done anything like this before) Now we have a big pile of soil in front of the house & I'm wondering if it's too late in the year to do anything or should we just wait until next spring? Do we work with this extra pile or get rid of it? We're still pretty set on not having any grass but with having kids, we're thinking a full blown "rock garden" may not be the best choice" either...

I took a close up photo of the soil - to me it doesn't look like good soil at all as it's got thousands of tiny rocks & some bigger ones too (I guess from when they dug the basement for the house) Do we need to get rid of these rocks or do we just work with it?

I'm not really sure what else to say? I'm just getting sick of having such an ugly yard & would LOVE to get it going. If we've left it too late in the year then that will give us more time to plan I guess, but I'd really like to get started on it sooner than later now that I'm on mat leave & have lots of time to devote to making it look great!

Thanks & looking forward to the replies :)



Front of house, right side - we use this gate quite a bit & will expand the walkway next year.

Front of house, left side - we don't ever go down this side of the house unless we need to service the A/C unit.

Lots of dirt from digging up the front to build the walkway - what do we do with it?

Close up of dirt - it's very chunky & rocky.
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Re: Starting From Scratch, Is It Too Late In The Year?

Postby hotsummerone » Aug 29, 2012 2:16 am

You can grow grass, keep the soil elements.
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Re: Starting From Scratch, Is It Too Late In The Year?

Postby Countryboy » Aug 29, 2012 10:18 am

hunyluv_cda wrote:This spring my partner managed to build a pretty impressive walkway! (Well, at least I think he did a GREAT job considering he'd never done anything like this before)

I think so too, Lori... and I'm *or was* a pro. :) Yr walkways should always be the first hardscaping to place and that's a good start.

I'm not sure tho, that I'm the best person to answer other questions. I am a big proponent of grass as the easiest maintained type of yard. U will never convince me that anything else is less work to keep up than a once or twice a week mowing. 'Specially with kids using it.

So I would be going with the soil *as rocky as it is* u have, and amending it to grow grass. And for two reasons. One - u don't have to 'get rid of it'... simply level it out near to where it is already. And two - gravel is high enuf in minerals that u shouldn't have to add Potash and Potassium.

The only thing u should have to add is organics and u can easily do that while you're raking/shoveling/pushing the gravel to level it out.

Me??? I would get one or two bags of peat moss, spread it out on the 'lawn' area and mix the old soil in with it . . . level off the whole area and then seed it.

But then, I have noooo problem turning a lawn, or parts of it, back into a garden bed sometime in the future. Usually at the time I finally figure out what I REALLY want to do with a certain area. ;) LOL
Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.
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Re: Starting From Scratch, Is It Too Late In The Year?

Postby countrychic » Aug 29, 2012 10:20 am

That soil doesn't look good for planting. So rake it off.

As for the garden, now is a great time to plant a garden. You get the best deals on plants, as most nurseries and centres have marked down their prices or have closing for the season sales. Also the temperature has cooled, so less stress on the plants when moving and planting, and less drying out, so less watering. Throw some good compost into the hole when planting, and mulch or throw some leaves on top and you're good until spring.
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Re: Starting From Scratch, Is It Too Late In The Year?

Postby Heidi S » Aug 29, 2012 5:55 pm

I agree, now is a great time to plant - if you have already prepared the beds and area with good soil, and good planning. Get rid of the crappy soil you have dug up. If you have an area that is not going to be used for any growing - move and spread it there if you have nowhere else to put it. Weed the entire area to get rid of next year's problem as best you can. You can take time to screen the old soil to remove the larger rocks to make it better to work with.

1. Make a drawing of your lot, or the part you are working on now. Use accurate measurements of spaces, structures, setbacks from city areas (ie sidewalks). Then figure out where the compass points are and the sun exposure is around buildings, fencing, trees and neighbouring structures.

2. Know your zone for your area - which tells you something about the plants, trees and shrubs you can use. Zones run from 1-9 in Canada. 1 is the coldest and 9 is the warmest. This is a measurement of cold tolerance for the deepest winter measured by maximum cold temps known to be tolerated. If you are Zone 5 for example, you can also grow things that are ok in Zone 4, 3, 2 etc. but you are taking risks to grow Zone 6, 7 etc. Unfortunately, these are really only guidelines, because Mom Nature has ways of wreaking havoc whenever you think you have things figured out, but guidelines are good for beginners, since it gives you some idea of what you should be looking for in garden centres. One caveat of Zones is that there are plants that just have never been properly tested in all Zones, so they may be fine in your area, but without testing they won't be labeled as such.

3. Layout your bed shapes and grassy areas on your drawing, making grassy areas easy to mow, and beds relatively easy to reach through from front to back for ease of weeding etc. Be careful of not putting trees and shrubs too close to the house for several reasons. a) typically the house and its overhangs create a rain shadow which ends up being like a desert - very hard for plants to thrive in, and you have drainage systems to remove water; trees can penetrate these systems, and any watering you do can overwhelm the system - which are expensive to solve. b) you don't want to end up with the shrubs under your eaves, needing severe pruning to prevent damage to your house.

4. Transfer your plans to the yard using a garden hose to outline shapes, or spray paint and don't be afraid to make changes to make it work in real life.

5. Start your new garden spaces with good soil - bring it in and spread it around, mixing it with the subsoil, and be prepared that you may well be adding more next spring.

6. Make a shopping list of plants you want for the areas you are going to plant making sure you choose types that are suited to the sun exposure available in the spaces available. Consider the foliage types, colour highlight and contrast, and shapes to get variety and a pleasing repetition.

7. Trees and shrubs in particular will be on sale at your garden centres now. Those that have been grown in containers vs. dug up and balled/burlapped, will adapt quite well to being planted now, according to your site plan. I can say I have had good luck with using bone meal in the planting hole, mixing some new soil with the old, digging a hole at least twice as wide as the pot it comes in, and using a mild starter fertilizer with rooting hormones in the first two weeks after planting. When you take WATER, WATER, WATER until the leaves have fallen, and freeze up starts. You can also put in some perennials if you find ones you like in a similar manner. Then layer a good amount of mulch around your new plantings after the ground freezes to protect them from winter's worst.

8. Don't rush planting your garden, and don't over plant from enthusiasm. I admit I have had to do a fair about of removing things as my garden has matured because I got carried away and didn't want to see open spaces at the beginning. Then, suddenly it will seem overgrown and just as frustrating.

Talk to your garden centre professionals for good local advice, and if you see neighbours with good gardens, make friends with them! Gardeners love sharing knowledge and plants!

Cute house by the way - lots of scope for a nice small space city garden!
Heidi S,
Prince George, BC
Zone 3!

Master Gardener in Training....
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