Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Taking on the Parking Strips: Part 1
Why is it that I always seem to wait to do posts on my big projects until the following year? Perhaps, it's because I like the drama of the big reveal, rather than spreading it out over a year. Regardless, I finally decided to do a few posts on our front parking strip, which we tore up and planted last spring.
Like pretty much every American house, ours has these strips of grass between the street and sidewalk. Affectionately dubbed "hell strips" and "parking strips", they are usually left mostly to their own devices, largely ignored by most homeowners. Here in Portland, like everywhere else, they are usually weedy grass, weedy gravel, or weedy rocks (do you see a common link?)
Of course, like most gardeners, I can't leave any amount of ground bare for long...and as I've filled up the rest of our tiny plot with plants, it was only a matter of time before the parking strips fell under my ravening gaze.
So, beginning last winter (in January or February) I started, bit by bit, digging up the hard, compacted sod from the strip. Every weekend, I'd go out and dig up 3 square feet of sod, break it up and cart it to the "holding area" in the back.
By the end of February or beginning of March, I had dug up almost the entire thing! While the soil in the strip wasn't great, it was still far better than the horrible, heavy clay that makes up the front garden...not fair!
So close to being done with the digging!
Once I had the sod removed from the entire strip, we framed out the borders, using the same method we'd used for the rest of the garden, using hinge joints and 2x6 pressure-treated boards. No, it's not going to last forever, but hopefully by the time they wear out, I'll be able to afford something a bit more long-term...or I'll have moved to my country estate ;-)
The nice thing about having the entire area dug up at once was that we could lay our irrigation hoses underneath the new paver pathway, linking the two beds. I can't tell you how nice it is to just attach a hose and let it run for an hour, knowing that everything is getting watered...and none of that water is going to waste.
Here is the new paver path, and the irrigation hose, which is buried underneath.
Now, all that winter, I had spent hours and hours coming up with plans for the parking strips...literally. Dozens and dozens of ideas...whenever I was bored, I'd turn my attention to the design. Of course, when it was time for planting, the plant went out the window, to a degree. Still, I stuck to my planned palette of plants, except for a few impulse purchases last spring (we all have to wedge those in, right)? For the most part, I knew I wanted to have mostly grasses, punctuated with perennials that are tough and drought-tolerant. I didn't want the parking strips to just be "better than lawn", I wanted them to feel like a real extension of the rest of the garden.
Gordon looks pretty delighted at the work.
Boots also shows his approval.
Here the strip is, mostly planted up except for a few plants I hadn't managed to procure at that moment (that's what the beautiful bamboo stakes represent).
And here it is from the other direction. You can see in this shot the narrow paver "path" we left along the curb side of the garden...hoping it was enough to allow people to get in and our of their cars...and avoid trampling the garden, if possible. One thing is for sure, parking strip gardens are TOTALLY at the mercy of your neighbors (and their pets).
Even though I still plan on editing the strip (well, and the rest of the garden), it makes the whole garden feel more "together" somehow, now that that ridiculous strip of ratty grass is gone!
Here the garden is last Memorial Day, in the next post, I'll show you how it progressed throughout the rest of the year :-) Sadly, this was the last BIG PROJECT we had on the slate...and now it's mostly editing. What about y'all...do you have any big projects you are planning for this year?