We are reworking the front garden bed this fall. For years, there was a gigantic volunteer fennel plant dominating the space, reaching about seven feet into the air towards the fig tree. Then several other invasive, weedy, but drought tolerant species moved in. The hop vine, which was once centered near the walkway trellis until we moved the pathway, spread underground. Spring bulbs proliferated. It was not orderly, but it provided a nice screen, so we let it be. When the fennel reached the end of its natural life, we were ready for a change.
In August, I pulled up all of the asters and loosestrife and mint that had spread throughout the bed and covered everything with a thick mulch of straw. I placed the gooseberry and black current, still in big planters about where I wanted them to see if they were happy with the light levels. Then we left it all until the rains really started, because we need to drive stakes in for the new fence.
While I waited for the rains, I dug through the shed and asked around for old, dying garden implements. Rake handles and heads, small shovels, some funky edgers and seeders gathered under the plum tree in the back yard. I experimented with laying them out on the ground, asking the key question: Do I fill in half the fence completely or all of it more sparsely? We decided on sparse.
This week, we took small stakes out front to think about the uprights. Straight line? One foot in? A “bay” in front of the big red currant? Maybe a zig-zag to evoke old rail fences and provide a place for the other two shrubs? We laid it out and studied it for several days. Today Mark placed the big stakes, one to three feet in, with three zigs for the shrubs. They will be deep; there are drunken students in the neighborhood.
While he worked on the stakes, I worked on excavation. There was once a soaker hose in the bed. I found that and pulled it out. There was once a little path at one end, like a second exit. I found that and pulled it out. There were stepping stones in several places to help harvest the red currant. I found those and pulled them out. I also took out several scraggly plants and some comfrey roots. I was amazed at how far down all of this stuff was; the years of leaf and straw mulch had added up! Finally, I hauled up yards of hop roots which had spread throughout one side of the bed. Mark was worried that we would have no hops left until I showed him the mother root.
By noon, we had the rough draft of the new bed and fence. Mark will pound down the stakes another six inches, then we will lay out our garden tools as rails and infill. Once done, I will plant the two shrubs and deeply mulch the entire bed with leaves for the winter. Then, as time goes on, we will add more tools.