According to the forecast, we weren't supposed to get rain until Friday - Thursday evening at the earliest. With that in mind, I made the decision last night to work more on the garden beds and hold off mowing the yard until Thursday afternoon. After all, Thursday has been my weekly mowing day for nearly a month, now. Silly, B.D.
In any case, I did make progress on the paths outside of the beds. I spent time yesterday knocking dirt off of tufts of grass, weeds, and pansies before tossing them into our yard waste bin. I saved quite a few worms, which I was very happy to see. The return of the worms is a welcome thing. It tells us that the hard work we put in the past 2 years is paying off with a healthy eco-system. The worms like our soil.
Like most new homes, when we moved in two years ago our "yard" consisted of a landscaped front portion while the sides and back portion were what is euphemistically called "construction dirt". Sure, the builder graded the land so that it sloped away from the home for drainage purposes, but what was left was horrid. The soil was a lot of hardened clay filled with rocks - large and small - and construction debris of all sorts. When we dug into it with shovels, rakes, and the garden claw, there were not any signs off life other than the rare insect sighting and a few weeds which somehow survived the land moving equipment.
In May of 2003 we brought in 35 cubic yards of top soil. Trucks dumped the load onto our driveway and nearly filled it. We parked our cars on the street for a fe days. Shawn's mother came up on Mother's Day weekend and worked with us for a day and a half on the yard. During that time, we dug up rocks, dumping them near the drainage pond behind our home, and loosened up the hard clay soil. Shawn and her mom did most of the loosening up. I loaded up wheelbarrels full of dirt and carted them to the areas where the clay had been worked. We put the cable television on to the reggae music channel to help pass the time. We drank sun tea and lemonade and ate tuna fish sandwiches. At the end of the day, we celebrated our hard work with beer and showers.
Shawn's mother left for home half way through day 2. Her contribution was large. Shawn and I continued on working that day, then Shawn had to go to work the folowing Monday. A little under half of the yard remained to be loosened, rocks tossed and covered with top soil. Shawn came home early that Monday and was able to help finished the loosening of the soil.
The following couple of weeks were spent dashing out in dry weather to move the topsoil. Weather was doing what it always does - reminding us that despite our technology and our knowledge, we can never always be in control. It's a good thing. I covered the dirt with tarps and waited until the ground was sufficiently dry, then set about moving the topsoil into place. After the 2 weeks were done, our friends Michael (of Messiahbomb) and Heather came by and helped us level the top soil and plant the grass seed. It took a portion of the afternoon. We showed our appreciation with dinner and drinks.
With watering, the grass grew in and grew strong. The following spring, I filled in bare patches with more seed and hand weeded the yard. We began carving out patches for trees and an herb bed and such and we were impressed with the quality of the root structures of the grass. The grass we planted was much better than the work done on the front yard. There, the landscapers put down about a quarter of an inch of top soil and used grass from a farm that was grown through some sort of plastic netting. The drainage is bad in the front yard and the grass is wispy and thin.
In the rest of the yard, we had put down 3 inches of top soil combined with compost. The seed we planted came from a mix designed by the University of Oregon for our climate. It contained different types of grass plus some weeds such as clover, which help fix nirtogen into the soil for the grass to grow. We've covered the whole yard in the same fertilizer and I've added a scattering of compost to the yard since.
So, it was with a small amount of pride that I saw the abundance of worms in our yard yesterday, As I shook dirt from the clumps of weeds, grass, and pansies, I looked for the worms, sometimes pulling them out of the clumps that were destined for the yard waste container, and put them back onto the ground to crawl away. It was peaceful work. I used the garden claw to loosed up more of the paths around the garden beds. My intention was to let it dry out over night, then shake the dirt loose today.
Shawn came home as I was loosening up that dirt. She attended to the pansies that we're donating for her co-worker's church fundraiser. In total, we gathered up 30 pots of pansies. Note: that is measured in containers - mostly smaller ones - but some contain more than one plant. We still have plenty to transplant to our garden borders. In addition, Shawn is taking 20 spider plant starters for Colleen to use at her event. I hope it goes well for her. She's a nice person. She's put a lot of hard work into this.
While Shawn got the pansies together, I weeded the herb bed. I hadn't intended to do that, but I became obsessed with some of the grass and weeds that was inthe bed, clouding my view of some of the herbs that are reviving after the winter. Most of the herbs are coming back and looking very good at the moment. We've discussed expanding that bed of plants and moving things around a bit this year.
As Shawn watched frogs and birds around the drainage pond, I dashed upstairs and took a shower. When I came down, there was thunder in the distance. The thunder was shortly followed by rain. I soon wondered if my gardening plans were to be foiled. This morning's newspaper had the same forecast for today as it did yesterday: sunny and warm with a high of 64. Perhaps we were just getting rains overnight then? I could still come home, mow the yard, and, if I worked hard enough, wrap up the garden beds by evening.
By the time I was about halfway into work, rain began to fall pretty hard. The radio weather forecast called for rain today and tomorrow. The Weather Channel's forecast, viewed on my Firefox plug in, agrees with the radio forecast. Ah, well, that is spring in the Pacific Northwest. When it dries out, the garden beds will still be there. I still have the bags of compost to mix into them and the rolls of ground cover to put over them. Besides, the worms won't mind and if they don't care, then that's good enough for me. Yet another thing we can agree upon.