Advances in Gardening Series: A Progress Report

Yes, you’ve seen this before. But Erik looks so bad ass with his sledgehammer, I just had to put it up again.

Some of you may remember that back in November we ripped out most of our back yard, redesigning the layout to maximize our growing space, and accommodate interests we have now that we didn’t have when we put in the original plantings.

We’ve learned from this experience that you should never be afraid to change your garden. Stuff grows back. Too often we get in a rut and are unable to see the potential of our own familiar spaces. Beyond that, we get attached to plants, even if they’re doing very little for us or the yard, i.e. : “But that shrub has always been there!” I don’t know if we’re even attached to the plant itself, but rather to the idea of permanence.

Anyway, our yard looked like it had been bombed flat for a couple of months, but it’s starting to green up now, so I thought I’d share a few progress pictures.

One of the features I wanted in the new yard was a rotating bed to produce medicinal herbs and flowers, lots of them, enough to dry and store in bulk. I tore out my old, tangled herb bed and laid out what I call The Fan of Pharmacy.  Here’s the area in November, with drip installed and some tiny seedlings in place. Chaos reigns in the background:

Now below  you can see a new pic of the fan from a similar angle. The plants in this rotation are calendula, chamomile and poppy. The calendula and chamomile are just starting to bud and flower. In the left foreground you can see The Trough of Garlic ™ and to the right, The Germinator ™, both of which are also part of the redesign. The birdbath has always been part of our yard, but it used to sit somewhere else. In the background you can make out The Screens of Discretion (tm) and two raised vegetable beds. Right now they’re mostly full of salad stuff. That’s the chicken coop in the rear left. In the dead center is what I call The Hippie Heart (and yes, that’s tm’d too.). I’ll come back to the heart:

I like the view better from the other direction. In the center foreground you can see twig with a label tied to it. That’s one of our brand new fruit trees.:

This below is a pretty uninspired picture of The Hippie Heart, a raised bed which is about 5 feet across, made by simply digging up and mounding earth–and adding some compost and other stuff. This bed came about because we had an open space in the center of our yard, and heaven forbid we have any unused space in our yard!:
The original idea was that we’d just mound up a raised circle, and allow natural pathways to evolve around it, sort of like a roundabout in the center of the yard. But a circle didn’t really fit the space. What fit was sort of bean shaped. While working on it, I realized the shape was closer to a heart than a bean. Now, we’re cynical big city types, and aren’t likely to put large valentines in our yard, but the thing wanted to be a heart and I saw no way to stop it. Besides, I like having a heart in our yard that looks up at the constant helicopter traffic.
I’ve deemed this bed as my experimental work space. I’m curious about growing plants out of things I have in my cupboard: seeds, spices, etc.  The center of the heart is planted with bulk bin flax. The edges are planted with lentils.  Since I have no idea about the origins of the seed, I’m not sure what it will produce, but it’s fun to find out. In the summer, I’m going to switch it out for sesame and cumin and chickpeas.
Next up in Advances in Gardening, what happened to the rest of the herbs.

Leave a comment


  1. a couple things…
    first of all i LOVE the sledge hammer photo totally worth reposting. very bad ass.
    secondly – its true. we get attached to our gardens and don’t start a new. but it is so important. so thanks for inspiration.
    lastly that heart shaped planted area. also bad ass and lovely. you guys make me happy.

  2. Your yard makes a cold (weatherwise, that is) gardener’s heart sing. Nicely done! El corazon is destined to become a trend, replicated by all would follow the beat of your lead…

  3. Flax did very well in my yard a few years ago. It got very tall and eventually fell over, though, so I expect you to do another post with some witty pun about that.

  4. I am completely in love with your garden & inspired by your redesign. Your words “Too often we get in a rut and are unable to see the potential of our own familiar spaces.” resonate.

    Thanks for the post & wisdom. A TM hippie heart right back at you.

    Erik remains bad ass with a sledge hammer, definitely meriting a visual repeat.

  5. -1 degree here. The fact that your garden is green and you can make a valentine in plants is making me uber jealous. Props to you guys for all the hard work. I’m sitting inside by a fire.

  6. For my part, you can post Erik’s picture often. I kept returning to it often the first time. I course, the text was why I kept returning…again…and again…
    That heart is really cool. I do keep things in one place. That needs to change.

  7. Paula: We sure do have a Room of Shame–Erik’s office. OMG. Words can’t describe it. But more often than not we have a Whole House of Shame. Housekeeping falls under the category of Least Favorite Activity.

    Jessica: I’ve heard flax falls over. Rosamund Creesy talks about building a support for it in one of her books. I should find that.

    Anna: Sometimes we wish for winter, because we never get to take a break here. I wish I was sitting by a fire right now. Our winter lasted exactly two weeks.

    Everyone: Erik is blushing re: being considered bad ass by the community.

  8. Hak: I OK’d your comment but for some reason it has not appeared. Hopefully it will show up soon.

    To answer your question, the fan is oriented roughly E to W, with the point in the East. I arrange the plantings so the tall stuff goes on the North side (that’s the right in the picture). Overall, that spot in the yard gets good, fairly consistent sun all day long.

  9. I love the idea of Valentines for helicopters. I was thinking of putting a “He Went Thataway” pointing finger sign on my roof, but the love sign is much better.

  10. came across your blog recently and then spent the better part of my workday going through your archive. I’m new to gardening and for the past six months I have been trying to transform my sloped, rocky, weed infested lot into a garden.I like your advice “never be afraid to change your garden. Stuff grows back.”

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