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Year Five of My Six-Year Front Garden Project

January 25, 2020

imageAttentive long-time readers may have noticed that my five-year front garden project has now morphed into a six-year front garden project. That is because I accomplished so little in year five.

When the 2019 garden season began, the tasks required to finish this project seemed quite doable: (1) plant a row of shrubs across the front of the property, and create a perennial border between those shrubs and the grassy path; (2) create a small woodland border above the shrubbery between the grassy path and the woods; and (3) replace the battered and kitschy “wishing well” cover over my well with something like a fake rock that will blend in with the landscape. Almost none of this got done.

What happened? I think I had trouble getting moving on this after the big push of getting both the shrubbery and the front slope (a total of about 1000 square feet) finished in year four. I suffered a similar lack of motivation the year after I finished the side slope garden. (See New Front Garden: Year 3 Progress Report.)

This year, my motivational slump was exacerbated by uncooperative weather.  A rainy spring that lasted well into June put me behind on all my garden chores and delayed getting started on the front border project. (I was still trying to finish routine May garden chores the first week in July.) Then July turned hot, too hot for me to be out doing heavy work. The result was that I didn’t really get started on the front garden tasks until August.

With summer already turning into autumn, I scaled back my goals and focused just on getting the row of shrubs planted along the front property line.  I removed existing vegetation, including digging out several scraggly lilacs that had never been happy in this location and a volunteer aspen that had snuck in and established itself among the lilacs. Then I got to work amending the soil in a strip six feet wide by thirty feet long. By mid-September I was ready to get plants in the ground, and I took advantage of the fall sale at a local nursery to get what I wanted.

I chose native shrubs that are well suited to my sandy soil, two northern bayberry (Morella caroliniensis) and two beach plums (Prunus maritima).

front border shrubs

I planted these on the property line. The area between the shrubs and the dirt road will be left wild; native plants already growing there include wild strawberries and dewberries, bluets, goldenrods, flax-leafed aster, and sweetfern. The area between the row of shrubs and the grassy path will become a perennial border, and the existing circular bed at the turn into my driveway will be dismantled and incorporated into this border.

I already have many of the plants I intend to include in the new front border, and I will spend time over the winter designing it. I hope to get the soil amended in spring and early summer, with the goal of getting plants in the ground by the end of June. That will leave several months of good gardening weather that I can use to create the new woodland border and to replace the well cover. When all that is done, my five six-year front landscaping project will be complete.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2020 11:41 am

    I was wondering if you ever finished your project. I can definitely empathize with you. Sometimes, after a large project, I’ve had enough for awhile, too. I’m now looking at renovating the garden at my new home in Michigan along with adding patches of wildflowers as well as some evergreens. It’s overwhelming if I look at the entire project, but taking it a little year by year is also part of my plan. I’m looking forward to seeing your completed project this year.

    • January 27, 2020 8:27 pm

      Kathy, I’m also looking forward to seeing it completed this year! (fingers crossed)

  2. GARY A ENOS permalink
    January 25, 2020 11:56 am

    Great Jean! You are my inspiration. My native plant/Monarch project is in it’s forth year coming up.

    • January 27, 2020 8:28 pm

      Gary, If I have a monarch presence this year anything like last year’s, I’m going to follow your lead and register my garden as a monarch waystation.

  3. January 25, 2020 2:24 pm

    Weather is a factor that’s difficult to plan for! You’ve accomplished a LOT and, in the long run, whether that was over 5 or 6 years won’t matter much. And then, when is a garden ever really finished? I accomplished virtually nothing on my back slope last year partly due to summer’s heat but, now that I have a mountain of stone left from dismantling our weird indoor BBQ during our remodel that I need to put somewhere, maybe that’ll push the project along. Hauling those heavy stones down there is daunting, though.

    • January 27, 2020 8:29 pm

      Kris, I’m not sure how much the weather held me back and how much I used it as an excuse to do less this year. But after a year’s break I’m feeling ready to dive back into this project during the coming season.

  4. January 25, 2020 11:11 pm

    Too many times out expectations get changed by the weather. I am sure you will get everything accomplished. Great to have a plan.

    • January 27, 2020 8:30 pm

      My personality is such that it’s impossible for me not to have a plan 😉

  5. January 26, 2020 11:50 am

    My gardens have really been suffering from my “motivational slump” which has been going on for two years. I spent a couple years trying to establish a routine and timetable for planting some red Russian kale, snowpeas, peppers, and radishes. The kale was great the first year and supplied salads and smoothies for myself and left some to share. The second and third year cabbage worms came along. Everything else meant for human consumption has been decimated by the deer which have overrun our suburban area. We won’t even mention the rain. I’m not sure what I will do this year. Maybe I need to adopt a new plan.

    • January 27, 2020 8:34 pm

      Debbie, I’ve had those wildlife experiences that sap my motivation. My nemeses are the woodchucks (groundhogs) that love to build dens in my sandy soil. Two years ago, one moved in and constructed a very large den in my front garden. (I call it the “Woodchuck Palace.”) Each time I succeed in trapping the resident woodchuck and reclaiming my garden, another one moves in. I swear the word goes out on the critter grapevine: “Hey, did you hear? That really nice place over on Fox Run is vacant?” I keep hoping foxes will move in, but I think this den is a little too close to human activity for their liking.

  6. January 30, 2020 11:49 am

    Beach Plums and Bayberry sound like good choices. I don’t have experience with either, but I understand that American Plum is excellent for native bees, and many birds like Bayberry.

    • January 30, 2020 3:02 pm

      Jason, I don’t have previous experience with either of these plants, either — so we’ll see how well what the books say about which plants will do well in my conditions match actual experience.

  7. Joani Cyr permalink
    January 30, 2020 2:56 pm

    I hope to stop by this summer to see the progress in your lovely gardens, Jean. 😉

    • January 30, 2020 3:03 pm

      That would be great! I’ve been working on the design for the new front border, which includes several divisions of the Siberian irises (‘Hubbard?’) that you gave me last summer.

  8. February 2, 2020 8:49 am

    Hello Jean, I seem to have suffered a similar slow-down and lack of motivation in the garden last season as well, which meant I spent the whole year doing garden maintenance, finishing off a few small areas and tweaking others. I don’t think it’s anything to be upset or worried about, it’s just one way of catching up on the breaks you *should have taken* while you were too busy slogging it out in previous years.

    • February 6, 2020 8:20 pm

      Sunil, I do feel a little deadline pressure. I expect to move out of this house by the time I’m 80, and that is only 8 years away! I would really like to have this project completed and have a few years to see it mature before I sell the house.

  9. February 2, 2020 11:09 pm

    Hi jean, I never get everything accomplished that I have set myself to do. But I have learned to focus on what I did accomplish. You have done so much in five years, and your garden is looking great. Gardening is never finished, and it keeps me going!

    • February 6, 2020 8:23 pm

      Deb, I’m usually pretty good at breaking a big job into manageable portions and sticking to a schedule, but I know that everything will not always go according to plan. And, of course, finishing this particular project doesn’t mean finishing the garden; I’m anxious to get back to the back garden, which has suffered from neglect during the five years I’ve been focusing on the front.

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