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We should not have been surprised.

The basic plan: we are adopting a little dog, littler than our current wiener dog, and though our kids are generally quite good and we pay attention, there is always a risk that someone could forget to shut the screen door all the way and she could escape since our patio area is not fenced.  So we wanted to build a small, simple fence around that area, preferably not hideously ugly, that would enable two little dogs to run out there and do their Business without risk of immediate escape.

This itself was easier said than even planned, let alone done.  We have a big privet hedge along one side of the patio, and the patio goes too close to our property line, for actual fencing to go around it without removing the bushes. (We have no idea what they are, except exuberant and healthy, and we can't bring ourselves to just have them ripped out.)  So we figured some of that ornamental wrought-iron-look garden fencing would work...except that it's all 4 inch width bars, and the new dog's head is likely less than 4 inches in diameter, so that won't work.

Our next plan was to do some kind of simple mesh just along the bushes and some slightly more elaborate fencing across the front, most likely that we'd make ourselves. (Er...okay, that my husband would make himself.) First we can't find picket fence panels premade with pickets less than 4 inches apart. We could special order something closer, or make it ourselves, but honestly with the dog coming in maybe a week we want to get this done. So we get a nice piece of 8x4 cedar lattice that we can use across the front of the patio.

Stake-sinking time.


Okay, remember those lovely (and yes, they were lovely) people who sold us this house and were able to close in two weeks? Who put a lot of time, effort, and money into getting their house ready to sell? Whose previous landscaping style employed a lot of white gravel, and instead of removing anything old when they relandscaped to sell, they just put mulch and stuff over the gravel, leaving all the old landscaping materials where they were?

Well, in the side yard where the newly-put-in-to-sell-the-house patio is, they apparently did the same thing. Which is apparently why the landscaping on that side is suspiciously about 6 inches higher than anything on the other side of the privet hedge.  And guess what they used for landscaping, apparently, over there? ROCKS. Big river rocks, about 7-10 inches in diameter, flush against one another, all over the entire area.  Seven inches under a thick mattress of evil cypress mulch, a single layer of rocks, practically touching each other, all the way around.  And on the house side, one of them is half-buried under the patio, and thus impossible to remove.

Rocks. This is not what I was picturing. This is not the kind of issue we expected to run into. Giant, carefully laid, probably fairly expensive rocks.  So now the fence has to be a couple of feet away from the patio in front (because the rocks seem to sort of stop up there somewhere), to avoid the under-house rock,  at which point we'll pray we don't come up with anything else heinous. 

And my tarragon is wilting, and something's chewing on my basil, and the veggies still look stunted, and I think I accidentally bought German instead of Roman chamomile.  Not that this has anything to do with the rocks or the fence, it's just something else to irritate me.


And the patio--the less-than-a-year-old, put-in-to-help-sell-the-house patio--is already starting to fall apart.  Cosmetically very pretty, but not well made at all.

Anyway--The plan will be to erect 4 4x4 posts along the front of the patio, 2 on each side of the walk. On each side, we'll put a 2 ft by 4 ft lattice panel, and in the middle we'll make a simple 3 ft wide gate out of the lattice, with hinges and a latch.  So far 3 out of the 4 posts are in, and the 4th one we'll wait on because the first 3 are the most important, and if we can't get the 4th one in we'll make do with extending the mesh. (Which worked but is sort of unattractive. At this point, I don't think we much care.)

And next spring, we'll ask ourselves a different question: this year it was all about, "do we tear out the bushes?" Next year it'll be, "do we tear out the patio and put in something smaller?"  Because if we do that, we can replace our makeshift  little fence with an extension of the nice cedar fencing we have around the rest of our yard.  And we will hire someone else to do it, to pull out and deal with all the ridiculousness the previous owners left behind.

I want a garden, not an archaeology site.

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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 ) 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 ( --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.


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December 2012

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