Carefully Planned Chaos

I love that we decided to adventure into building our own paradise and our dream home. The amount of skills we have learned on this adventure so far has been significant, and it continues to grow. That being said…we are still by no means even close to a professional, or event good at some of those skills, but it is awesome that we get to keep trying and learning. And the best part, through it all we still get along!

Both K and I have had visions of what we want our yard to look like. From the day that we looked at the house as potential buyers to today, our vision has been fluid and continues to change as the yard and house develop.

2013

In 2013, we didn’t move in until the end of Summer, so we just started dreaming about what we wanted to do with the yard. We didn’t have any solid plans, just a garden area and a nice area to sit.

2014

6

This was the first year that we really got into transforming our yard. At this point, it was still full of junipers, so the first task was getting rid of them all…something we naively thought we could do by hand with some tools and a winch. Hahaha! We learned quickly just how un-realistic that thought was. First lesson learned, junipers root more permanently than concrete. Fast forward a few  years and we are still battling the roots!

 

We wanted to start growing vegetables, so we purchased our barrels that are still placed in the garden area of the upper portion of our yard. They gave us the opportunity to still enjoy growing some plants and reaping the delicious benefits.

We finally decided that we could not possibly pull out all the junipers, so we hired a company to bring in a machine to pull out the junipers. Much quicker work! We finally had our eyes on what we were actually working with and could really start making plans. Our first plan was literally the space roughly mapped out (not to scale).

 

2015

5

We had come up with a plan for our yard and got to work early in the spring. Mostly it was about experimenting to see what would grow where, and how the plants fared in the different soils of the yard. We have clay, sand, dusty soil, etc. What we found out was that the entire yard is excellent for growing. There wasn’t a single area that had fared poorly for growth and production of vegetables and fruit.

Our tomatoes found their permanent home. We used the heaviest gauge wire tomato cages we could find, and by the end of the season, they were bending in half from the weight of our plants. They were also no nearly tall enough, so we had to come up with a plan for the following year to better support our plants. K also did some research about how to properly prune them, which also helped.

 

A big step and learning curve for this year was building our first gabione wall. We are a little stubborn and didn’t want to buy the cages, so we decided to buy all the supplies we would need and built them ourselves. Armed with an angle grinder, pliers, wire and large sheets of metal cage materials, we cut and twisted and fastened our own boxes. We might have been a little over-zealous with the size, but we had no idea what we were doing, and wanted to make sure that they would not need to be re-done as long as we are living in this house. With more research, we have since learned that these first cages were massive! But they are solid and are certainly not going anywhere. They were filled with rocks that we found in a cut-block in the woods along one of our go-to driving areas. Lots of loads….

 

2016

4

This was a turning-point year for us. We made some major changes and additions to the yard.

We made a more permanent home for the tomatoes, building tall wooden structures to help support our gargantuan plants. They were buried 2′ into the ground to ensure they were solid, and provided approx. 6′ of height for the plants to grow.

 

We built a few raised garden beds so that we had a semi-permanent location for the next few years to grow our garden while we continued to landscape the slope. We also added a bed around the tree stump for our cucumber patch, our strawberry tower and our potato towers.

 

Our neighbour gave us a cherry tree, which we plunked in by our compost pile. That was originally going to be the permanent location for the compost, but that plan has since changed.

We added another wall, same style as our first one….large and sturdy. With the new wall came the first plans for the first version of our path…which was very steep.

 

And, we ran a few hundred feet of irrigation all over the yard. Some of it was for the new beds and areas that we had plants growing, and some of it is in anticipation of the upcoming design to our yard. It was less work than we expected and yet is one of the best things we have done with our yard. It was one learning curve that was pretty straight-forward. Irrigation is not nearly as scary as we thought it would be.

 

2017

3

The biggest change we made this year was the location of our main path. Originally we had planned to use the arch between our two large cedars as the main entrance to the lower portion of our yard, but it was really steep. K had a great idea to open up a portion of the garden bed at the top, and start at the shed side of our yard and build a diagonal path down to the back. This would reduce the grade of the path and make it much more manageable to not only walk, but to haul materials, veggies, rocks, etc up and down. It completely changed the way that our yard was going to look, but it was for the better.

 

This was also when we changed the way that we would build our walls going forward. Research is such a great thing, and we realized that due to the height and the amount of material the walls would hold back, we could make them much smaller. We also took a risk and stopped making cages, instead opting to use fence posts and a smaller gauge cage material. We also ran landscaping fabric up the backs to help keep weeds out. We also decided that collecting rocks from the bush was too-slow, so we ordered some rock that was similar looking (colours) and had a truck-load delivered. This was version 2 of our gabione walls.

 

We added a small rock bed around the cherry tree beside the strawberry tower to make it look more “finished”, and added a nice little spot for some blackberries to grow.

We also started considering what the front yard was going to look like and what we wanted to do with that area. Living on a frontage road means that we do not spend any time out front. We decided not to do anything with that area yet as we didn’t want to work on both the back and the front at the same time, but we started brainstorming. We got as far as deciding that we will take the cedars out and clear the entire bed and put planters in at some point.

In October, I started to take the planning seriously and found a program that I could do a proper to-scale version of our yard. This allowed me to put in the existing items (black is what we have done), and what the future landscaping would be (purple is the future planned walls)…which has of course changed again.

2018

2

Armed with the to-scale map that I made over the winter, we started working on the next wall down. We learned that although we went to a smaller gauge wire, with smaller holes, it was still finicky work. For the wall on the opposite side of our path, we decided to modify our plan again, and we added chicken wire inside of the cage wire on the front side. The landscaping fabric kept the rocks in place on the back, but we wanted to try to make the process a little faster and more efficient. This was version 3 of our gabione wall style.

 

I added the wood caps to the last wall we did, which looked really great. It will require some maintenance with staining, but it looked fantastic. It tied in the wood and rock elements of the yard.

We didn’t make a lot of changes in 2018, but a lot of our plans have since changed and going into this year, you will notice the map for our future yard has once again changed, quite drastically.

2019

1

We started off the year with a lot of changes to the upper area that had been beautifully landscaped when we moved in. It unfortunately got a little neglected, so we decided to fine-tune it to help with the weeds that were starting to take over the beds. As you may have seen from earlier posts this year, we have turned most of the beds into rock gardens with planters for our greenery & flowers. We also added irrigation to those planters for mostly hands-off beauty.

 

We got rid of our cucumber patch. K has some temporary plans for this year, but we have decided to get rid of the tree stump to open the area up. Due to that, we will be able to extend our path down further, and add a few more sections to our terracing.

We have decided to move the seating area to the other side of our yard mostly for privacy reasons. Our back neighbour has a shed there, creating a natural screen from their yard. Our neighbours beside us on that side, do not use the bottom portion of their yard, so it will be private from both neighbours.

At the beginning of this year, I almost built a 70′ long privacy trellis that would go 10′ high as we are sick of looking at the plywood hockey backboard that our back neighbour erected a few years ago because he was constantly slapping pucks into our yard and actually hit our house….up a huge hill…Anyways, I have had to put that on hold because I need the raised beds to be gone before I can build that privacy screen and new permanent beds. It will also only be 50′ based on putting a 10′ square gazebo on one side, and a compost area on the other side. This section will be made up of 5 – 10′ beds that will be only 3′ wide. I would like to build these using the landscaping bricks we used at the top of the yard. I will then add 10′ high posts and cross-beams. The two red coloured beds will be for berries (raspberries & blackberries) with a wooden privacy screen that goes up the 10′. The green beds in the map will be lattice backs for English Ivy and Honeysuckle to grow up. I like the idea of three of the sections being green privacy walls and both those vines grow really well in our climate.

We will also move the strawberries to long beds at the bottom of our terracing. I need to re-build those beds…I have learned more over the last few years, so I have a better method to build those beds now. I may also decide to use the landscaping brick instead of wood for a more permanent and low-maintenance option.

I would also really like to get a few more walls done so that I can start growing our fruit trees. I will be learning and trying to espalier them. Never done it, have watched some videos and read some great articles…now I just have to try it. Lots of learning in our future!

Well, that is our planning chaos to date. Sorry it is a little long…if you have made it this far, thanks for hanging in with me! I will update each year with how these plans change, but it will only be a comparison from year to year. I thought this one needed the perspective of how things have changed since we started.

 

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