Okay, fine, I get it. It was their house, they could landscape it any way they wanted. We bought the house. No reason, seeing this lovely carpet of evil cypress mulch around everything, that we should have just assumed there was, oh, say, dirt under it.
Apparently the house's previous owners employed Landscaping With Gravel in their past life, and then just covered up the gravel beds with mulch at selling time. And under the gravel is this horrible landscaping cloth, the stuff designed to prevent weeds from coming through. In some places the gravel is thicker than others, but it's plenty thick everywhere. This is pissing me off. On the one hand, yes, there are very few weeds. On the other, trying to plant anything is HELL.
The right thing to do would probably be to hire a landscaper (or take a week off work and do it ourselves) to completely rip all the old stuff out, give us nice planting beds and start from scratch. But we being we, it's not gonna happen. We bought the plants, we knew where we wanted them to go, we tried to dig the holes to plant them, and we discovered what lay beneath the lovely but anti-earth mulch (see saveourcypress.org/ ) was anti-plant-life mess, so naturally we just hacked through what we didn't like and planted our plants there anyway, with a bunch of manure and soil and hopefully healthy otherness. This is probably not a landscaper's best suggestion, and we may live to regret it.
The yarrow, being yarrow, is thriving like crazy. Something keeps chewing on my echinacea, so it's not growing at the rate I'd like to see. And I ordered some basil, carpet thyme, marsh mallow, and St. John's Wort from Richters ( richtersherbs.com --they are awesome!), and the basil and SJW seem to be doing okay so far. The mallow and thyme aren't planted yet.
We also discovered that as part of last year's landscaping efforts, some lovely peonies and dwarf lilacs had been planted around the property, which has been a nice discovery. But the gravel thing is driving me nuts. I'll probably just perennial the hell out of the front yard, punching out most of the landscaping cloth as I go, and give the whole area to things that laugh at barriers.
In back, where the veggies are growing--the peppers and zukes look good, but one of the tomatoes looks sort of stunted, the canteloupes are dying, and the rest is sort of mediocre. As much amendment as we tilled into this soil, it's still probably too dense and silty to support really fast-growing life, and we don't want to put nasty chemicals in there to grow our veggies, because then we'd be eating the chemicals...
Sigh...the bucolic dream of happy lovely gardening sweetness is so not happening, except for the lettuce...
More later. New ugly discoveries about the backyard are making my husband curse, so I should probably get out there.