Down the Garden Path Again

I know there are wrinkles. I’ve decided to consider them aesthetically pleasing

This weekend was my weekend to try once more with the path between our deck and our neighbors’ fence. On Friday I had what has now become my yearly biopsy on my tongue (major ugh and unhappiness). That means that until I can no longer feel the stitches and any and all side effects have vanished, I can’t really talk or eat or do much of anything. It’s Labor Day weekend so 3 days off from work and then Rosh Hashanah on Tuesday and Wednesday. No one expecting much of anything from me. No family holiday dinner as there is no family in town at the moment and, as noted, I couldn’t be sure I could talk or eat in time for holiday dinner. The good news is that (1) I can actually chew some food today and (2) the weather cooperated wonderfully for garden work and (3) my husband was kind enough to go lift, buy, and lift the lumber I wanted.

I should have removed all the stones to the ivy side. Had to do it to unroll the screening

We already know the burlap failed to slow rapid growth of the weeds. It did function beautifully for my other 2 criteria: water permeable and bio-degradable. I don’t think I realized how much water collects in that area. You can see from the photos that there is one section there where it is WET. I don’t think you can tell from the pictures but under 3 of the stones the burlap actually tore, it was that wet and frayed. The new plan was again something that sounded as if it should be easy but ended up having nuances I’d not anticipated. This is why you should really hire professionals, or do a LOT of research beforehand (not my forte) or figure it’s going to take much longer than you expected or have a very low threshold for satisfaction with work done. I chose the last option. The plan was to pick up the stepping stones, line the path with nylon screening, then secure that screening with the bricks lining the mulch, with the stepping stones themselves, and with 4×4 poles along the fence. I’d used the metal U-staples on the burlap. I needed a zillion of them and I wasn’t sure how well they’d work on the nylon.

Not sure if you can see but the 3 darkest patches had already ripped through

My first surprise came when I picked up the stones and saw how quickly the burlap was deteriorating. I begin to understand the popularity of that revolting black weed block. My next surprise came with the screening. I’d ordered a roll of 100′ x 60″, enough for 2 layers of screen mesh. I hadn’t realized how SLIPPERY screen mesh can be. This is where the “easily satisfied” aspect of the job manifested. Besides the screen slithering around and bunching up, it’s late summer. Leaves were falling the whole time I was working. Despite using a leaf blower to clear the burlap before beginning work, and after putting down the first layer of screening, leaves were falling faster than I worked. There are leaves between the screen and the burlap, and leaves between the 2 screen layers. Oh well – they are biodegradable. 🙂

Leaf blower, broom – I couldn’t keep the burlap clear of debris

My other miscalculation was my lack of energy. My last solid food was dinner Thursday night. Biopsy on Friday, only water and tylenol with codeine. Water on Saturday. Late Saturday afternoon I was able to – oh, what’s a polite word for what I did? – ingest some pretzels. Little pieces of pretzel. That I could hold in the non-cut side of my mouth until I could swallow. If you don’t eat protein, and have experienced trauma to your body, you aren’t in very good shape to do physical labor. I’ve never let that stop me before and didn’t take it into consideration on Saturday afternoon either.

This is about the point I realized how difficult it was going to be to unwind that roll

I got most of the walk done – I gave up about 2/3 of the way replacing the bricks – the last step. My husband found me on the kitchen floor, conscious, but not very functional. I’d finally given up when the only thing I was aware of was a nearly overwhelming sense of nausea. I was close enough to the bathroom when I lay down that I figured I could get there in time. Other than that, I had no energy. I was drained. You know I must have seemed out of it when he asked me if he should call the ambulance. That’s the point when I figured maybe I should let him help me up so I could get to a chair. Of course being me, I refused to let him help me (he was moving too fast and strong) and I needed to take off my dirty gardening clothes (something he thought was unnecessary). I fell asleep in the chair wrapped in a sheet. Definitely a case of over-doing. I got up early Sunday morning, put on my dirty gardening clothes and went out to finish putting the bricks back into place. 🙂 I’m not loving the look – the burlap looked so much nicer – but I’m hoping this will keep the weeds growing at a slower pace. If not, I’ll think about it over the winter, and call in the professionals in the spring. 🙂

The lilac bush roots don’t play nicely with the bricks, but notice the gently undulating wrinkles

Some Ideas Are Better Than Others

some of my ideas DO work – will be adding to the trellis fencing this fall – grow more ivy

I was wrong. Okay everyone? Happy now?? 🙂 I admitted it. You were all right and I was wrong. But my idea wasn’t wrong – it was my implementation. 🙂

burlap walkway – first iteration – loooking towards the street

I HATE that black weed block. In my initial days of homeownership, before I spent hours and hours planting flowers and herbs, I hired landscapers. We’d built a deck, and I wanted to safety-proof it for our new-born son. The service put down weed block and then a very thick layer of mulch all around the deck. For years we would add a fresh layer if the mulch bed was wearing down. That probably helped to kill our cherry tree – suffocating the root system.

current view along the back of the deck, w/ compost bins where once there was a cherry tree

Time goes by, children grow up, hobbies change, views from the house change, and ultimately, as I’ve recorded here, the time came to “do something” with the back yard. With the kitchen renovation I saw the backyard every day. The window had always been there, but I used to sit with my back to it, not sideways to the view. Now I see the back yard all the time. I began working my way from my viewpoint around the back to the compost bins and then this year to the side strip between the deck and my neighbors’ fence.

stage one looking from the street end to the back property line, with my blue hydrangea (and neighbor’s grass clippings)

That strip gets very little sun, but all the rain that everyone else gets. We don’t usually walk there except to get to prune the ivy growing up the deck privacy screens or to get to the water spigot on that side of the house. All of this means that that side of the house tends to be nothing but weeds. I wouldn’t mind too much if the weeds were mowed, but that wasn’t getting done either. I decided to make a path. I wanted it to be ‘green’ – it should be permeable and it should NOT have that hated black weed blocker that lasts for generation after generation, and should you decide you WANT to plant, you need a machete to cut the weed blocker to get to soil. I wanted a semi-temporary solution until I figured out what should be done as a permanent solution.

3rd iteration – adding bricks to block mulch run-off

First I weed-whacked all the weeds as low as I could get them. I pruned the weeds and the garbage out from the base of the ivy. Next I covered that area with fine burlap. I know that weeds CAN grow through burlap, but I’d picked a very fine mesh and I was hoping for slowing the growth, not obliterating the growth. I put down stepping stones so that we could use that path even after rain when the ground would be muddy. I put down mulch at the base of the plants to help slow weed growth and make it more attractive. I noticed that the mulch was higher than the other side of the path, which meant a heavy rain could wash the mulch right across the path into the fence. I put down bricks on the burlap to line the mulch and hold it back. It looked VERY nice, in my opinion.

penultimate iteration – lots of stepping stones, bricks mulch, no mud (see the low spot up there?)

My family complained that the stones were too far apart for a comfortable walk. I’d been thinking of a ‘working stride’ not a “stroll” so my initial spacing worked for that. They also pointed out that weeds could/would grow throw the burlap but I demonstrated how easy it now was for me to pluck the few daring plants. They were unimpressed. I went and bought more stones and made a comfortable path. The the rains came. With the rains came faster more abundant growth, and much more humidity. Perhaps I’d have weeded better without the humidity, maybe it would have always been too much, too fast.

weeds thru the burlap, up close and personal

I’m going to try one more “patch” this year and then let it go. The path is 54″ wide. I ordered a roll of fine mesh window screen material – 100′ x 60″. I’m going to pick up the stones, roll out the screen, put back the stones. If this does not sufficiently slow the weeds to a point where I can battle them successfully, I’ll admit complete defeat. Next year I’ll call in a landscape service. 🙂

Maybe I should just get goats