This year's project

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

My landscaping is underway. The rocks are moved, mineral ammendments are spread about, and I'm in the middle of mixing them in. A friend of mine took a picture last weekend. My camera is only working intermittently so I'm posting his. The picute below is the "before" state. I'll post more as I progress (given a working camera). The front yard is 33' x 50' with a gentle slope.

Thumbnail by dparsons01
Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

You're all ready to go! How exciting. A blank slate!

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

It looks like the garden space faces East. Is that true? Your soil looks spectacular. The planning part of all of my garden beds is my favorite. What are the starter plans? We shall have fun.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

The front of the house faces NNE - seems 15-20 degrees off straight N but I haven't measured. The shade right next to the house may pose some challenges, but I'll deal with it as things work or don't. I'm putting a walkway under the eaves so that I can access the hose spigot and get to the side yard.

I'm putting in xeric plants. Its a combination of natives, mediterranean types, a few alpines, herbs (for cooking and smelling), and other. I'm also aiming for 80% or better evergreens.

The soil is pretty good for the purpose. It is a good bit of silt with some glay, some small gravel, and some organic matter. The clay and gravel tend to be spotty in their distribution. Its low in Iron and Manganese, and medium in Potassium - which is why the mineral ammendments. I left some of the pea-gravel that was on part of the yard to mix into the regions with more clay. I have not had any problems with drainage yet.

Main feature I want is some shrubs to provide a line-of-sight obstruction between the street and the two bedroom windows on the front of the house. This will be something to distract the eye rather than block all light. I've picked out a nice Manzanita that grows 8' to 10' with a taller to rounded form. I plant to build up that area a touch (under 1') to give them a bit more height and better drainage.

I plan to put in a low (3' to 4') "hedge" along the East side and partway along the sidewalk. This is intended to discourage people from choosing a random path across the yard and to frame the space. I picked out some Cistus for the purpose - Another evergreen.

West of the Cistus I'll start a path to meander up to the front door, using 2 large rocks (2') to designate the opening at the sidewalk. Another path will go East-West. In the NorthWest, towards the sidewalk, will be an area for ornamental Oreganos and some complementary plants. I have some medium (8") decorative rocks that I'm going to build up the area a bit and to provide something for the Oreganos to cascade over.

On the Western edge of the yard, next to the driveway, I'm going to put down some flagstone. This is kind of an extension of the driveway/basketball court that Zerbeebee uses. Around and behind the flagstone will be some groundcovers - creeping Veronicas and Oreganos - and behind that a few more judiciously placed large rocks to discourage basketballs (and basketball players) from going further into the yard.

On the West side, up closer to the house, I'll put in culinary herbs and things that want more water or shade or richer soil or.

Out in the middle of the East half will be several Sages, Agastaches, Penstemons, etc., as well as more groundcover where appropriate. I haven't planned this out real specifically, but plan to try to match up compatibility of water requirements and some height gradation. Some of this will be trial and error as there isn't great info on all the plants I've pegged. I'm sure I'll be able to play with this area over time. I do plan to plant some of the more odoriferous Agastaches along the path. It is my intention to have people smell like licorice when they arrive at my front door! :)

Reno, NV

Wow. Your so detailed and it sounds like it will be wonderful!

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Thanks. I sure hope it turns out wonderful. I'm really only detailed on a macro scale. Its a large area and the bed/sections will only be loosely defined, so I thought it best to plan to that level - the landscaping level. The gardening level is less planned has more allowance for changes and inspiration.

Reno, NV

I'm possitive it'll be wonderful. And I know what you mean about room for inspiration. Thats pretty much the way I do things then adapt to make it work. I'm still trying to get my garden set up. Bit by bit it's coming together.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

A new garden is a lot of work, but worth it. Never finished either, which is a good thing.

Reno, NV

Yup. =) It's fun to see it evolveing and the things we have gotten in bring a lot of joy.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

wow lots of thought already. I usually plan the levels and bed shape then wait for something to go on sale. I'm bad. You on the other hand have it well put together.

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

*watching*

Corrales, NM(Zone 7a)

WOW, that looks different! LOL, looks like you are ready to go.

I have some pictures of the irises you gave me last fall, they are up and blooming. I will post some for you when I get them off my camera. They did very well and are so happy in their new home. :)

Melissa

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

Dave so cool, did not know you too are starting from scratch. most interesting. I worked all day and too tired out to post much but it is looking good out there both in my back area and on the deck, lots got planted out, seeds sown. me too wanting camera.

Starting is fun. not having to work with someone else's idea of what it should be..... ;-)

Littleton, CO(Zone 5a)

Very awesome Dave. Nice clean slate. I like the bit with the rocks and the basketballs, I just learned about that gap in "my" plan today as the ball bounced through aster and catnip seedlings and the child obliviously bounced after it. Oh well, adding rock barricade to the list of needed upgrades. Hehehe.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Thanks all. I actually started thinking about this last year when I was planting other beds, so I've had a while to meditate on it. Of course, plants on sale isn't a bad approach either. I don't expect the rocks to be a perfect anti-basketball wall, just a help. Its not COMPLETELY from scratch either - I saved a nice Phlox with lavender flowers. ;)

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

LOL!

Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

What fun it will be to see the evolution of your space! You are quite a planner (so is my DH)... I kind of think about things and what I want where, but the planting and placement (once I've decided it's going in the right general location) is completely random, oh, that would look nice here, I like that here... I can't plan their exact spots until I see where I think they want to be. On the other hand, DH is out planting vegies in perfect rows! Luckily, our mix of styles usually works out really well. Looking forward to more pictures of work in progress!

Brenda

Santa Fe, NM

It looks like a good start! Be sure to take pictures. If you can build up some "hills" or raised areas that would be interesting and natural looking with xeric plants. Or a lower area, like a stream bed!

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Thanks Roybird. I am planning a couple raised areas and a couple lower areas. These will also correspond to water requirements.

Santa Fe, NM

Good thinking.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Its been a few weeks and I've been creeping along on the progress. Since I first posted I've finished mixing in minerals, tested the soil again and added more Greensand (mineral source for Potassium and Iron), watered and leveled to fill in the low spots, and have started shaping the space and putting things in. First picture shows the Manzanitas in their spots in front of the windows. I used some volcanic rock to frame their spots and to allow me to elevate the soil a bit there.

P.S. they are supposed to get bigger - about 10' high.

Thumbnail by dparsons01
Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Side view of the same.

Thumbnail by dparsons01
Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

This one is of "The Sentinels" which are two rocks that will define an opening to the path that will go from the sidewalk to my front door. They are there to encourage people to not shortcut the corner. I do have one rock that is a bit larger, but it is so ugly that I couldn't put it out there.

To the left of The Sentinels in the picture, I'll be putting in Cistus as an evergreen, xeric hedge. On the right I am in process of creating a mounded up area for ornamental Oreganos. I have a number of red, layered, sandstone rocks that I'm going to use around the edges of the mound to keep it in place and to give the Oreganos something to cascade over. I took a picture of the mound of earth, but you can't even see that it is mounded hardly so I'll post a picture once there is something to see.

Thumbnail by dparsons01
Dolores, CO(Zone 5b)

I can't wait to see those manzanitas grow up... and the rest of it as you continue your progress. You must have the healthiest soil in NM now! Good job!

Santa Fe, NM

This will be exciting to see! I have some starts of the fern leaf tansy going in pots and will probably pot up more by and by if you want any, Dave. Remember, it is very xeric, stays green and likes poor soil. So you can stick it somewhere not heavily amended.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

I'm looking forward to it growing too and am quite excited myself. I can't move dirt and put things in fast enough. It will also take the larger plants a few years to reach size, so its going to look a bit out of balance until then.

LoL bsavage. I don't know about the healthiest. Also with the mineral additions and my having disturbed the soil structure, it will take some time for the soil and all that is in it to re-balance itself. Hopefully the plants will like it well enough and will benefit long term.

Are you referring to this plant Roybird?
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/154295/

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

Looking like a good start, Dave. You could try brewing some microbe tea I get from Thomas Giannou out of Spokane. That stuff works fantastic and will get the appropriate microbes going quickly to help eveything along in the disturbed soil.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Thanks for the suggestion mulch. I did add some beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria (dried form), but I'm sure the tea would get more in that are going strong. Have you used it on xeric plants that prefer a leaner diet?

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

I have not as I have mainly used it in the hoop house so far. It does make a drastic difference. If I spray the grass clipping mulch I know I will have to add mulch soon as it is actually the microbes the worms are trying to eat when they eat decayed material. They practically inhale the mulch after I spray it.

The plants, especially the peas, are vigorous and robust when I use it.

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

gotta link?

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

http://www.tandjenterprises.com/

Do not telephone them if you are in a hurry, just order online instead. If you get Thomas on the phone he will talk your ear right off. But it is amazingly valuable information, I learned a ton from him. Just don't try calling if you are on a tight schedule!

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

I think Thomas' is a great approach for veggies or anything that likes a nutrient rich environment. I'm not sure on xerics or plants that like a lean diet. For sure some of it.

I've been investigating what goes into an appropriate diet for xeric plants. Many of them do well with a diet that is rich in mineral content (not all minerals) but lean in nitrogen and organic material. In that environment they will develop a mycorrhizal relationships which helps feed and protect the plants. In an organically rich environment the xeric plants don't always form the mycorrhizal relationships. I've seen pictures of Ceanothus roots that showed nodules (indicating mycorrhizal relationship) when grown in a lean environment but not in a rich one. Key is that the plants haven't developed a resistance to some pathogens that will grow in the rich environment and they will get diseased and die in short order. The beneficial mycorrhizal organisms and dryness act as defenses in this respect. There are reports of 5 year lifespans on some xeric plants that live for 20, 50, or even 100 years in the wild. The Cistus is one of these that supposedly lives not more than 5 years. A friend of JamesCO's in CO has one that is over 20 years old in his yard.

At any rate, I don't consider myself and expert - just trying to take the best approach for this. My final decision making bit of logic is that it is much easier to add more than it is to add less, so I'm starting with less on the nitrogen & organic material side and will add more if and where it is needed.

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

Very interesting, that is an area I have not explored. All the interrelationships are so much more intricate than we might suspect...

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Yes they are. I'm wondering how the mycorrhizal relationship is formed. I don't have much to go on other than both the plant and the micros have to be there, and if the plant thinks it has everything it needs it may bypass the friendship (maybe).

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

I think the microbes help in the uptake of what the plant needs, so I am not sure why the plant would bypass the friendship.

I also use Giannou's Biovam which is different from the microbe tea I brew from him. Biovam is dried microbes but has to be used with a special fertilizer which provides essential minerals in particular to help the microbes until they are established in the plant's system, even when you apply the Biovam directly to the roots when transplanting.

So there are apparently certain things that can be lacking that prevent the microbes from becoming established.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Found a new document on the subject.

http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/Lect26.htm

Ennis, MT(Zone 4a)

Wow, that is interesting. So you were right that the plant may reject in certain situations.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Yes, and something I want to avoid.. I want to understand this better. It is very foundational to life. The same question can be asked with respect to us and our diet. We are directly interdependent with the micros too.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

This one is interesting too. It looks at the relationship specific to Oak, but also goes into what happens when the system is disturbed.

http://www.laspilitas.com/classes/mycorrih.htm

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

Thanks for the link, Mulch.

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