Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Spring Planting Plans

In Cincinnati, it has begun to snow and the temperature is predicted to drop to -3 on Christmas Eve. While cooped up inside, I am dreaming of spring and planning my garden.

Our backyard has run a little wild. It is a large lot with a slight slope parallel to the house. The kitchen door leads to a deck with rotted steps, decomposing trellis, and jury-rigged supports. The lawn is quite moist and overrun with wild strawberries. It is enclosed with four different types of fence – contributions of three neighbors and a previous owner. There is a medium-sized and a small (struggling) maple. A few bushes occupy the back, right corner. The yard’s centerpiece is a 30-foot downed tree that missed the house by only a few feet.

In the sunshine, the yard doesn’t look quite so dismal. It is large and, when the trees are in leaf, very private. I find the motley fence and the strawberries charming. It has a great deal of potential.

Despite my botany degree, I have never gardened. My green thumb has been confined to houseplants and the occasional window box. I have wanted to transform a yard since I was young, but never had the opportunity. Now that I’m “all grown up” and in a place of my own, I can create a plan and make it so.

I was inspired by the musical recording of “The Secret Garden” to landscape our backyard as an English Cottage Garden. This style of garden is eclectic and messy, and in keeping with the cottage-like exterior of our house. It is a mix of flowers and herbs, annuals and perennials, shrubs and plants. I hope it will be a cacophony of color and scent.

I have been researching cottage gardens on the internet and in the library. I am currently reading The cottage garden by Christopher Lloyd, English cottage gardening for American gardeners by Margaret Hensel, and Cottage Gardens by Philip Edinger. I found a good garden plan on the Better Home and Gardens website and another plan at I searched with the keywords “cottage garden” and “Ohio” to find local tips on creating this type of garden and ran across this website. I plan on joining the College Hill Gardeners to make some gardening friends.

I am overwhelmed with all the planning and preparation I have to do. I think I may try to do an adaptation of the plan from with a garden border along the sides and back of our fence line. I would like to install an arbor over a gate I recently discovered near the center of the back fence. I plan on digging out the beds as recommended in the plan and edging them with a stone or brick mowing strip. I may have to enrich the soil. I have to figure out where to buy the plants…is online purchasing cost-efficient?

I would love to do the entire back, side, and front yards, all at once, but that is too costly and time intensive. Eventually, I would like to plant an extension of the cottage garden along the south-facing side of the garage and a shade garden (ferns, bleeding heart) along the north-facing side of the house. I would also like to create a containered herb garden on the back deck. These projects will have to wait until later years. It is probably best that I gain some experience before tackling the entire yard.

Soon, I will drag Mike into the cold to measure the yard. I will then transfer the measurements to graph paper and post the current layout for your comments. I welcome any help with the garden plan!


Blogger Ilona said...

Definitely enrich your soil. Start with one particular garden- it will expand soon enough, believe me, but you don't want to bite off more work than is comfortable within your timeframe and experience. Weeding midsummer can be really awful. Don't let them fool you in June-they look all innocent and little, but they are waiting for a chance to take over. You can get a grip on a smaller garden- and learn from there. that is my garden wisdom for the day;)

2:14 PM  
Blogger slateberry said...

If you find a local garden club that hosts plant swaps, you can save a bundle of money. Sounds like you have plenty of strawberries to pawn.

6:08 AM  

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