Your neighbours spent the long weekend working on their yard and it shows. The flowers are blooming, veggies are staked, and there’s not one weed in that perfectly manicured lawn. Your yard, however, is somewhat less impressive. You’d love to boost your curb appeal while being one with nature – if only you weren’t all black thumbs.
Get your hands dirty.
Gardening, much like cooking, parenting, and, oh yeah, life, is all about trying new things. If it doesn’t work, meh, you tried. Spring happens every year so it’s not like you can’t try again. And just because half the hood got their knees dirty last weekend doesn’t mean you’re too late.
A lot of people get so caught up planning, prepping, and sketching they give up before breaking ground. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. In our first home, we read gardening magazines, took books out of the library, and made lists of the best sun vs shade lovers. So it was a wake-up call when we went to the nursery and only found a plant or two from our list of twelve. We subbed with whatever was available, reading those handy little info tags as we browsed, and went ahead with a modified plan. The end result didn’t have perfectly orchestrated spring flowers blending into summer and then fall blooms, it wasn’t symmetrical, and there were probably a few colour combos that clashed, but whatevs – it was still gorgeous. The lesson? Read those tags as if they’re nutrition labels, and pay attention to sun and space requirements. Those hostas might look small when first planted but boy, do they grow fast.
The main reason our garden worked was because of the soil. At the time, we lived in a home built on clay. Flowers do not like clay. So we dug our bed out about two feet and then re-filled with equal parts black earth, peat moss, and manure. Full disclaimer: it was A LOT of work and our bodies were BROKEN afterwards. So if you’re lucky enough to not have to excavate, you’re already more than halfway there. Improving soil first improves any garden, even if all you do is dump good soil on an existing flower/veggie/overturned-grass patch. Aside from being more visible, so more pop, this is the beauty of raised garden beds: dump a whole whack of dirt in one spot and boom – insta-garden.
The other key to our success? Mulch. A whole whack of awesome dirt, the newly purchased plants, and a whole whack of mulch. Not only does mulch practically eliminate the need to weed, it retains water to help keep the garden hydrated when we forget the hose. Which is pretty much all the time. Our garden doesn’t survive endless droughts, but as long as it rains once a week then we’re golden.
More than ten years of tending to the lawn has taught us how to TLC it:
- Rake thoroughly to remove dead grass. We just bought a de-thatching rake last year when it finally went on sale. It was probably worth the extra twenty bucks a decade ago.
- Spread about an inch of black earth over patchy parts.
- Hand-spread grass seed. Makes you feel even more like a farmer if you’re wearing overalls.
- Lightly tap those seeds until they’re just under the dirt. We like to use the back of the rake.
- Spread fertilizer over the entire lawn using a spreader. DO NOT hand-spread unless you want scorched patches. If that’s the look you’re going for, knock yourself out!
- If raccoons/squirrels taunt you like they do us, spread a mesh net across the grass for a week or three so the seeds can take root. This is super-handy to lay on top of newly planted veg seeds/bulbs too. The critters can’t figure out how to walk on it or pick it up… booyah!
- Water, water, water. Right before a week of cloudy with a chance of showers is ideal. No meatballs required.
If you’re thinking of starting a veggie garden, DO IT! Kids love pretending they’re farmers, picky eaters are much more likely to try something they grew and cared for, and the price of a seedling is the same as a carton of cherry tomatoes so you’ll be laughing come harvest time. Start small if you’re a newbie: one or two seedlings this summer will make you hungry for more next year whereas nothing spells discouragement like hours of labour on an eight by eight plot that doesn’t bear fruit. The easiest and most rewarding experiment? Yup, cherry tomatoes. They’re small enough for little hands that love mini-everything and also small enough the pesky critters don’t usually bother with them. You can even use a container if you don’t want to fix dirt. A close second for us is our herb garden. It’s crazy what grocery stores charge for herbs, and fresh rosemary twenty-four-seven? Nuff said.
There’s a reason your kids love playing with dirt. Gardeners enjoy fresh air, exercise, beautiful blooms, and bountiful harvests… after many years of patience and trying again. If all else fails, there’s no shame in faking it, à la YHL with their “cheaper and already grown in” trick. Instant gratification is probably the little push your thumb needs to turn green. At least dark green.
Email us to learn what we did with all that clay or if you’d like ‘a whole whack’ to be more specific!