Monday, November 1, 2010

An Exercise in Focus

New mulched path along the future woodland garden (left)

I’m making an effort to stay focused on one area of my y
ard this year. My usual habit in the garden is to flit from one thing to another surrendering to whatever interests me at the moment, and therefore rarely actually completing anything. This has been fine in the past when gardening served primarily as an escape from the stresses of life and for my own personal satisfaction. However, now I want to be more focused. There are new reasons for my garden, and I want to share what I’m doing with others.

After the recent permaculture course, I had a million ideas floating around in my head with the tendency to want to do a little of this and a little of that just to try out these new ideas. However, I’m attempting to change this habit so that I have some solid working examples of permaculture practices to show people as I move forward with my urban permaculture project. So, much as I would like to work on my front yard, I am determined to focus on getting my backyard to a place that is more complete. At this point I think I have a pretty solid plan for my beds and what I want planted in different areas of my yard, it’s just getting areas completed that’s the big hurdle.

This weekend Guy and I worked on hauling wood chips to complete (or nearly complete) the path system in the backyard. I say nearly complete, because there is one area at the top of the driveway that I’m not quite certain what to do with yet. I’m thinking possibly chickens, but I need to mull this around a bit longer and look into some chicken tractors. That’s another story. Now I’m doing my best to stay focused on mulch :)
Potential chicken tractor site with the
abruptly ending mulch path
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, if you live in an urban area there is an unlimited supply of organic matter free for the taking. I’m fortunate that I have several municipalities in the area that leave mountains (well, small hills) of organic matter for community members to haul away. There’s plenty of woodchips of varying textures available now, and soon there will be plenty of leaf mulch too. I’ve been dreaming of a lawn free yard for years and this weekend I have the job half finished. My backyard is now mostly lawn free except for the spot I can’t decide on yet, and the front yard is well on its way.

The paths have also allowed me to more easily define my garden beds. Because a large part of my yard was once a well-packed gravel driveway, most of my beds need to be raised. Therefore, you will see cement blocks in the pictures. I’m not a fan of rectangle beds, I like softer shapes, and I’ve found that the cement blocks are an easy way to design beds in any shape I need and holds the new soil well. After a year I can remove the cement blocks and continue to add organic matter to the bed without worrying about the soil eroding away. The beds become more hilled, tapering down to the pathway, but much nicer looking without the blocks. You can see examples of both types of beds in the picture below. By the end of next year, the cement blocks should be gone and the beds beginning to look more established.

A view from the brick patio. You can see the newer garden
 addition with the concrete blocks on the right and the
older beds on the left and back center.

I’m pleased with the results of the weekend. Now on to amending the existing beds and building some Hugelkultur beds (using woody materials as a base for a bed). Besides looking for those wonderful jack-o-lanterns that everyone wants to pitch, we will be hauling soil, leaf mulch and horse manure regularly until we fill in the beds. Hopefully, in a year of two we will be able to sustain the beds with the organic matter generated on the property, but for now we need outside help.

Hope to see you at the leaf mulch pile.



  1. Looking good. What will go in the woodland? Cherries?

  2. I'm not sure yet. Cherries sound good :) I'll keep that in mind.