Saturday, March 29, 2008

The annual spring attempt

This is my back yard (please click to zoom in). It does include some mature trees and shrubs. Other than that, it's a fifty foot (about 15m) flat square of suburban clay. I'm standing (or perhaps sitting) on our deck (more like a gangplank) to take this photo.

I've mowed most of the stuff in the foreground. It's not really lawn, just more weeds that I've managed to keep a bit shorter than the rest. The stuff further back is a bit too much for the mower. You can also see our lilac doing its thing, the compost bins (some years, compost is my best crop) and some knee- to waist-deep weeds. The ground underneath is already going from hopelessly sticky mud to impenetrably dry clay. This, I think, is what adobe is made from. Who knows? Maybe I should mix in some of those weeds and build an adobe wall somewhere, and then haul in topsoil.

I hacked back a mess of weeds today, and if I'm very smart I'll go out and make another dent tomorrow, but I did this sort of thing a month or so ago and they just came right back.

Actually, I think I could control this mess if I really wanted to. I even think I could improve the soil, and I've done it in that back corner a bit. That's where I put vegetables when I get around to planting them. The trouble is, I really don't have a grand plan in mind.

I have at my disposal one person (me), available very part time on weekends. I've managed to install an automatic sprinkler system in my front yard, and I left a stub pointing toward the back, but I don't want to put a spigot somewhere and then decide it would be a perfect spot for a patio.

I'd like to grow plants that are useful (fruits, veggies, herbs) as well as those that are attractive (flowers, shrubs, etc.). I'd kind of like them mixed, so the vegetables are tucked in among the whatever-else. This is the view out the kitchen window. I'd like colors besides green, especially in summer when all this dries out and turns to brown. At the moment, I'm going easy on the poppies because they're colorful and basically weeding around them, even though many are right where my tomatoes should go.

I'd like little or no lawn back here. I think grass is a rather silly crop, especially in our arid climate. I think I have a patio in mind to put against the house in place of the gangplank, but I haven't thought through paths or where to put what. I don't mind putting stuff in, but I don't especially like doing things over and over, especially weeding. Going out trimming stuff back, one section per weekend, is far lighter work, and something I could probably get myself to keep up, especially if I automate the part about schlepping around a hose.

What do you think? Is there hope for this yard? Are there any obvious directions I can take it?


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