My ranch style home, "The Parker House" was built in 1961 on a sloped piece of land that affords a view of our favorite neighbor and friend's roof to our east, a wooden fence sheltering us to our west and "Fern Gully" to the north. My husband and I had the house remodeled in 2012. There isn't much land surrounding the house, as compared to the small farm where I was raised in Southern Oregon, but through trial and error, we are learning to maximize the available space and grow healthy and beautiful things. And, we appreciate the simplicity of living in a modest home.
The remodel took six months. Once complete, we began planning improvements to the land surrounding the house. It was neglected. Ivy was running rampant and dying trees barely stood on one side of the house. An awkwardly placed Japanese maple was unkempt and suffering in the front yard. A large dark slate tile patio stretched from the back of the house to the property border. The tiles were uneven, broken and absent in areas. An unused hot tub took up a third of the space in the back of the house. About six yards back, running parallel to the house, is a green space or what I fondly refer to as "Fern Gully". The steep cliff is covered with old growth cottonwood trees, a few maple and alder trees, scattered ferns, stinging nettle and an abundance of strangling, English ivy all plunging into a trickling stream. At the front left side of the house, under towering old growth pine trees, was an unsightly pile of who knows what. And as it turns out, beneath it lie a bed of buried clay tile that rendered the soil unfit for my precious blueberry bushes.
Before the gardening adventure began, there were several long conversations with my husband discussing what areas of the property would best accommodate garden plots, what to include in the list of things we wanted to plant, and what needed to be removed. Once that was settled, we drafted a sketch of the garden areas. While we had many of the tools and supplies we needed to get started, we still needed some essential items so we set off to visit our local 7-Dees nursery in Lake Oswego to pick-up fertilizer, starter plants, seeds and slug bait. We also had thirteen yards of blended soil delivered to the house because, in addition to the garden and flower beds, we needed more rich soil to plant the lawn behind the house after we removed what remained of the existing tile patio. Once we had our supplies, we headed outside to get our hands dirty! We started by clearing out some of the soil from the garden areas and bumped-up the remaining soil with a blend of rich gardening soil (compost) and fertilizer. Then, we began planting.
We planted a variety of tomatoes including Brandywine and Black Krim in one of the sunny areas in front of the house, in a raised bed that was created out of cement, when the driveway was moved from the right front of the house to the left front of the house during the remodel. We also planted tomatoes in the sunny plot on the side of the house, along with several herbs, including rosemary, sage, chives, parsley, oregano and thyme and a variety of lettuce and spinach. The chives, a gift from a neighbor. The raised bed on the sunny side of the house is a great location, not far from the areas inside the house where I prepare meals, where I can quickly pop out to pick fresh herbs. The outdoor grill is also on the same side of the house near the rosemary bush. Next, we planted four blueberry bushes, three rose bushes, a blue princess and princess holly bush, strawberry plants, black-eyed Susan, etc. in a sunny area in the front of the house where a large unhealthy tree and the unsightly pile was removed opening the space up to full sun. Broccoli was planted in the shady plot behind the house, along with raspberries. Did I mention the cinder blocks we spent days putting in along the edge of the back yard to begin creating a retaining wall? Creeping rosemary, strawberries Alyssum and Anemone Sylvestris Windflowers were planted along the large rocks that border the front of the property. Before planting along the property border out front, we spent hours pulling ivy and horsetail with our neighbor Brad. We also trimmed the English ivy and fir hedges and planted a red Royal Rosarian rose bush on the sunny, front side of the house.
2012 and 2013 were pretty successful gardening years for us. We learned a lot about our soil and have since refined our list of what we plan to grow going forward. 2014 has been an equally rewarding growing season. We planted bush beans in the front, sunny bed where tomatoes were planted in previous years, we planted a variety of miniature bell peppers near the herbs on the side of the house and we planted poppies with fiery orange and creamy custard petals. Just this afternoon, I picked bush beans for the first time and my husband and I spent time digging out fern root, and leveling blocks, in preparation for a new sunny beds that will make up one of the four sunny beds for our crop rotation Check out my journal for updates!