Friday, August 5, 2011

Total Garden Fail - and Then a Come Back

Front flower bed before: Swampy muck over clay,

topped with moss and funky green growth

This week brought about what felt like a "total gardening fail". Optimistic to finally have a space to plant in the ground, I went to the plant nursery and returned to our future home with armfuls of flowers and herbs that I loved and couldn’t wait to grow in our entry way.

What do we find upon attempting to plant them in the front flower bed? Sandy, mucky, water-logged soil, and deeper down: clay. The drainage was so bad we ended up digging up the whole bed, fearing some kind of leak in underground pipes. We didn’t find a leak, just an unfortunate land gradation that dumps lawn water back into the flower bed, and some old sprinklers that were soaking everything in sight.

After a night of being heartbroken that my Edenic vision wasn’t going to work, I re-grouped. I can’t afford to install a French drain, so I decided to work with what I already have and seek out some hardy plants that would be able to survive my wet, clay, shady area.

We put new tops on the sprinklers for a more controlled aim, and adjusted the sprinkler timing to morning for a shorter time. We built a stone barrier between the lawn and the flower bed to keep some of the water out. We mixed in several bags of compost/potting soil, worm castings, and used mychorrizal fungi to strengthen the roots of each plant we put in the ground.

Here's what our bed looks like now (we will cover the dirt with mulch this weekend):

Will these plants survive their new environment? Only time will tell. But I have been reminded to be ready to adjust my vision of what my garden (or my life) should be or look like, to be flexible and open to new possibilities.

From a gardening perspective, I learned that no matter how much I may love a certain plant, it doesn't necessarily mean that I should try to plant it wherever I think they should go. Instead, I am learning to work WITH nature, rather than exhaust myself trying to twist nature's arm until it bends to my will.

P.S. If you remember our sad neglected orange tree from this post, here's what it looks like after some sprucing up: much more presentable I think!


  1. You guys are amazing! I love the wall and I'm sure your plants will do better than you think they will. Way to go with the sprinkler redo; sounds like you've been working hard. Sorry about the slow mulch. I'm going to give them a call on Monday to find out the status of my request! =)

  2. Thanks Erin! My family was nice enough to make a stop over at SMUD to get a small load to tide us over! We shall have mulch, loads and loads of mulch!

  3. Stacy, your entryway looks welcoming and inviting already. All your hard work will pay off.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!