I’m not sure what’s out there now should qualify as “after,” especially since I’ve had three years to try to make it look spiffy, post-removal of the groundcover. But if I view gardening as all about the process, not the product, then I feel better about the in-between state of things.
A lot of the parking strip garden is self-seeding annuals at this point, like cerinthe, california poppies, bachelor’s buttons, pansies, alyssum, sunflowers, and these crazy tall asters that busted out everywhere. My mom raises a lot of stuff from seed every year, and I am the lucky recipient of the overflow. This year it was some annuals – marigolds of various hues and heights, petunias, nasturtiums, lobelia – and also some perennials which I hope will be true to their name and return year after year. They are largely deciduous (herbaceous?), though, so I really need to get going on some evergreen stuff to fill in during the winter, so it doesn’t look quite so much like a moonscape.
The soil is fairly arid, with an underlayer of clay. For the small plots where I wanted to plant veggies, I double-dug the ground with a spade and added as much organic mulch and compost as I could afford from the garden store. The smartest thing would have been to really dig out the clay and get a big load of good soil delivered, but time and budget constraints (and impatience to at least plant SOMETHING before winter) precluded that, and even though I regret it a bit, it is what it is. I just keep adding compost every year and figure it will gradually transition from horrible to halfway-decent dirt.