Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Before August 9, 2008

I always judge landscape gardener sites by their before/after section. But now that I’m putting up my own here, I realize the error of my ways. What about the in between part, where the old ugly stuff is ripped out but the new things haven’t matured into a recognizably lovely pattern yet? What if there isn’t even a pattern to begin with? Uh oh.

We moved to a little Craftsman bungalow in Northeast Seattle three summers ago. The previous owner had a professional landscaper put in a very nice, low-water use garden around the house, and his only regret was that he’d let the pro talk him into using St. John’s Wort as a groundcover on the street. Once it’s in, it’s virtually impossible to remove. I asked around and was told by various garden experts that it might take a backhoe to get it out, and that the seeds and shoots left in the ground could regenerate for up to five years. A bit daunting, to say the least.

St. John's Wort - Pure Evil

St. John's Wort - Pure Evil

But, since there wasn’t another good place to put a veggie patch, and I had enjoyed having a small raised bed in the parking strip of our previous house, I enlisted my parents to help me with the dig-out aspect of the project and got to work. It took hours of back-breaking labor with shears, clippers, trowels, mattocks, and pick-axes to get the worst of it out, but it was also kind of fun. I viewed it as a challenge, to do what the experts said couldn’t be done, at least not without power tools.

Partway Cleared

Partway Cleared

We went inch by inch, foot by foot, yard by yard. I put up a sign on our retaining wall to apologize to neighbors for the mess, and promised that something better would eventually appear. They had quite a while to wait, as it turned out. In some senses, they’re probably still waiting!

In the next post, you can see what it looks like three years later. Not as much of an improvement as I would have hoped for, but still better than the awful groundcover. And the weeding is getting less onerous, now that some of the plants are filling in. Much more to do, but that’s gardening for you.


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