Welcome to March’s edition. Spring is here and I would encourage you to take the time to notice the changes. It seems as if one moment the trees have no leaves and then the next moment they are either in bloom or full of leaves. The reality is we are all so busy and the changes are so subtle that it appears to happen all at once. So make yourself take note, see the flowers in bloom, see the buds opening up, see and hear the birds chirping etc. I make myself notice it all even though this time of year is crazy busy, I do not want life to happen without me participating in it. I’ve seen it a thousand times but each time is the first time when you see it through a child’s eye of wonder and it is healthy for our soul.
This month’s yard is huge, it almost looks like a park, especially behind the lenses of a camera. We installed it in the spring of 2012 so it is going on its sixth year, which is another sub point that I want to address in next month’s article. With a yard this large sometimes it’s difficult to know how to begin and that is what I want to discuss in this article. I think it will be very helpful, especially for you DIY’s. For the rest that have no desire to do it yourself, this will give you a road map of what to discuss prior to our ( is this presumptuous of me) first meeting.
The main question for this property is how to make an efficient, conscious use of such a large space without waste.Ted and Martha, could have anything they wanted in their yard given its size. I remember the first meeting, we had to determine priorities though I knew it wouldn’t matter because it would all fit. However when they said that they did not want a pool that really got my attention. I knew I’d would have tons of space to work with almost too much. As we continued our discussion, I understood that Ted was close to retiring and prior to purchasing this home they had considered the kind of backyard they wanted. They moved from Arizona to be close to their several daughters who among them all had about 12 grandchildren. That was useful news for me. I think 12 is a football team and with each grandchild inviting a friend you could have two teams. That gave me an idea of the size the lawn needed to be and aside from that they liked lawn especially coming from a desert area. . With the approximate size of the lawn I now knew the approximate length of the planter beds. Behind them were two-story homes that peered directly into their backyard, we were going to need trees for screening/privacy. Therefore with trees being a major component of the landscape that gave me the width of the planter beds. Now I had both my measurements, length and width.. They also requested a fruit tree area, a garden area and a playground area for the kids.
For the fruit trees, Martha wanted citrus and stone fruit so we needed to decide what kind to know the quantities and size of the area. . The amount was sufficient enough that I decided to separate them, stone fruits to the west, citrus to the east. If they was going to be a hot side of the yard it would be the west side and the stone fruit would benefit from th heat. . Citrus would be perfectly content on the east side. After the citrus walking westward came the garden area with raised boxes. I jokingly asked her if she wanted to sell at the Farmers’ Market, she smiled and said her grandkids would be able to eat what the gardens would produce. Following the gardens came a pathway that led to the lawn. Lastly came the decision of where to put the playground and how many bells and whistles they wanted, which determined its size. Being that they at the time had grandkids ranging in age from “in the oven” to 14, I couldn’t see them running all the way across the lawn to save a child that fell from the play set. I positioned it close to the patio, but in between the landscape. That way when you stepped out into the backyard it would not be the first thing you’d see but close enough that if a cry was heard help would be there. They decided on a midrange play set not wanting to make it too big because when the kids grew the space wouldn’t be used. Wee determined based on the play structure that a 25 ft. by 20 ft. area would suffice. .
Now I had all the major pieces in place with their proper sizes. You might be wondering how I figured out what size to make the lawn..I know 10 fruit trees need a certain amount of space to grow and the same is true for the citrus.. Also to feed their football team they needed about five or six garden boxes.’
Though I had the rough dimensions for the planter bed I had to decide how to divide them up.. The property had a detached garage, which meant I had walls that needed some screening. I also wanted the landscape close. I did not want patio, lawn and then the planters, I wanted the plants close so they could enjoy the flowers, hummingbirds, butterflies etc. Therefore I designed some smaller planters off the patio that would break up the lawn but also draw their eye to the life happening and take them into the bigger planter beds. The design was now formed in my mind and I just needed to to put it down on paper.
It was going to be a big job, a couple months with a crew, however I was grateful that we were able to cover so much ground in our first meeting. My next challenges, which I will discuss in next month’s article, would be irrigation and drainage. I had to consider water pressure, distances and cost.
Gardeners, start planting but keep a few “tents” for tomatoes and squash for our cooler nights. Remember to group scented plants with non-scented, plants such as squash, which get aphid, next to garlic, or basil next to Chile peppers, which also get aphids, though you would think they wouldn’t.