A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES (OR RATHER A SITE TO MAKE YOUR EYES SORE)!

As most of you know, we recently completed a relocation to a new area and ended up buying a new house right before winter hit.   The thing about buying a house going into winter over here is that winter lasts a LONG time….months and months actually. It was only a matter of days after we moved in to the house that the snow started coming down full stop.  It wasn’t so bad, though, because we were trying to get the house set up, painting, buying new things, etc.  Hence, we weren’t really even bothered by the snow at all.   But, it did mean that we really didn’t get to see the grounds for quite a while as it was buried under white stuff from almost the day we moved in.  I guess we really didn’t pay much attention to the details of the grounds as much as the house itself the few times we saw it before we bought it.   However….now that the snow has melted and we can actually walk through the wet and muddy grounds around here, we’ve discovered that we seem to have a garden! However, this supposed garden isn’t very aesthetically pleasing at this point.

Have a look –
1 (1) 1 (2) Definitely not an English garden, is it?   Aesthetics aside though, it seems someone was very into herbs before we got here as evidenced by all these tags I found in different spots in the garden….1 (4)

1 (7) 1 (6) 1 (5) 1 (3)

Neither my husband nor I have ever had a garden before. However, neither one of us is thrilled with how this looks right now, nor do we have any idea what to do with it to make it better. It goes without saying that those sorry-looking boards have to be done away with somehow.   And the garden itself?  No idea.  We’re not much into flowers, but instead prefer plants and trees. I’m not such a gourmet cook that I’m using fresh herbs in my cooking and about the only thing we’ve ever grown in the ground is a pumpkin (weird, I know)!  Also, neither one of us really has the time or inclination to do the whole ‘gardening’ thing.   His idea is just to rip the whole thing out and continue the lawns there. But I’m wondering if there aren’t other possibilities.

This is on the back of our property, hence, not really visible from the road or even the windows of our house. It’s very much an aside, I guess. But, I’d still like to come up with something interesting to do with this.  As we’ve got a few weeks before the lawns are dried enough to get out there and work on this, I am asking you, my creative friends here in the blogosphere, tell me what you would do with this space……Just rip it up and flatten it back into lawns? Keep the herbs though I’d never use them? Plant something different? Install a water feature? Enter an ugly garden contest?

Any ideas?

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96 thoughts on “A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES (OR RATHER A SITE TO MAKE YOUR EYES SORE)!

  1. Ooh!! I love gardens. Just getting a vertical garden installed 🙂 I think even if you don’t want to continue with herbs or include flowers, there is a lot of scope. A cousin has installed a swing, some gravel/marble decor around path, arches and some giant colored plants.

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  2. When it comes to yards, I’m so not the creative type. My first thought was flower garden, but if you don’t like them so much, then that is out. If you have a busy life (as I do lately), it might be best to flatten and grow grass. My mom used to fill in big dead spots like that with wild flowers. They grow fast and thick. But, they leave a mess behind to clean up after they die. I will have to give it some thought!

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  3. Oh dear, Torrie, it does look as if you have your work cut out. I doubt whether I could be of much help: in our household, it is my husband who is the Chief Gardener (as well as Under-Gardener – if there is such a thing). He has planted some nice bushes and flowers, which form a border around the lawn. In the middle, he installed a bird bath, which is quite popular with our feathered friends. But I don’t get involved; instead, I just nod, admire and then get on with my own stuff. I’m sure your other cyber friends will have far more imaginative ideas. Whatever you decide, have fun!

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  4. I think it very much depends on the qualities of the area you are talking about. Is it shady? Full sun? Damp? Is the soil free-draining? Is the ground acidic or alkali? They may seem like tedious questions but finding out now can save an awful lot of wasted money on plants that die later.

    It’s doubtful that many of those basil plants have survived under such snow although it looks like you’ve been lucky with the thyme. That might be worth keeping in a pot nearer the house so you can reach it easily – lovely on roast chicken 🙂

    If the spot catches evening sun and is sheltered from the road, how about making a seating area? Flowering shrubs and perennials around the edge to soften the edges?

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    • I have no idea on the answers to most of those questions except this is most definitely a full-sun area. Right now, everything is damp up here (actually a sodden mess). Will keep the pot near house idea in mind for future roast chicken! (How do people learn all this?)

      Alas, while this area is sheltered from the road, it is a common corner with 2 of our neighbours’ properties and can be seen from their back decks which aren’t on top of this area, but close enough that it wouldn’t be as private as a seating area should be.
      I guess I do need to do a bit of finding out on the soil type free-draining thing…OMG.

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      • Oh, shame that’s it’s not private if it gets full sun. Can you plant anything or put up a trellis that would make it more private without blocking out the sun?
        If the garden is a sodden mess then it probably isn’t free-draining. If you pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it that helps you answer some questions. If it squishes together and stays there like plasticene then it will be clay. If it semi-falls apart then it’s a more workable loam. If it just collapses then it’s a sandy soil.
        Heavy clay will be slow to drain, but will hold on to nutrients well, so tends to be good for robust plants whose roots can cope with the wet and need lots of food ie roses.

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        • Actually, the garden itself isn’t as sodden as the grounds around the garden. I think this would be a workable loam. But I will try your squeezing test to find out for sure….perhaps on a non-rainy day? Thanks for all the input on how to find out what we’ve got back there.

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          • If it’s already drying out after all your snow and flooding then you probably don’t have heavy clay, or if you do someone has already started to break it up with compost and sharp sand. Either way that’s a bonus as clay is hard work! The squeezing test should work whatever the weather in that there’s a difference in soils no matter how wet they are, but you may not want to stand outside in the rain 😉

            I don’t know if you have the equivalent of garden centres where you are, but if you go to a dedicated gardening shop they should not only sell testing kits for soil acidity/alkalinity but should also be able to give you advice on what grows well in your area. Another thing to do is look and see what is thriving/dying in gardens near yours for tips on what to grow or avoid. It’s always less hard work if you play along with the natural conditions. 🙂

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        • Oh, trellis probably not practical. Planting something….I think it would have to be awfully large to make that area private….right behind that garden are the gardens (same sort of gardens) of 2 of our neighbours (you can actually see one of their gardens in the top right of the first pic)….again not up against their houses, but close enough to just not be private.

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  5. I’m not going to be much use to you given we’re not really used to finding our garden hidden under snow for 6 months of the year. Kind of a weird concept now I think of it. How do you ever eat winter vegetables??
    Also, I am not a gardener. We invariably allow ours to overgrow every year. Not keen gardeners, we tend to stay out of if it’s too hot or too cold and wet. So we don’t get out there very often. Spring and Autumn are pretty good but then we spend them cleaning up the mess we left not doing it in Summer and Winter.
    Good luck!

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    • You guys sound like us……we’re not much into the whole not-being-comfortable-in-the-weather thing either. As for winter veggies…….thank goodness we don’t have to depend on our gardens here for that! We probably get them from yours!

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  6. I am not much of a gardener myself but when I moved into this house I just dug up the boarders stuck some scented roses in and then scattered some wildflower seeds about . The smell of the roses and the colourful wildflowers looked gorgeous and was very low maintenance. Failing that, coloured gravel always looks nice. 🙂

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  7. Concrete? Nah, I am not a gardener and I am only interested in edible gardens. Even then, I only have 3 lemon trees, a Rosemary bush and two tomato plants. The rest is ornamental and the Yak does all the gardening here. However, the fact that it’s all mapped out for you could just could mean it’s time to plant a few veggies and herbs? Even if it’s in just one? Then I would put grass in t’other. Or concrete….or a Japanese rakeable stone/sand garden? Bonsai? (Ignore me, seriously, I am NOT a gardener….) 😁

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    • Concrete…..hah, that’s probably my kind of garden..one that doesn’t require any degree of upkeep! Love Bonsai, but am not sure those plants would work here, though I have seen some interestingly trimmed trees nearby along this line…….Hmmm……Stone and sand garden also sounding like I might just be able to keep up with that. Thanks for all this! Perhaps you would send said Yak over to work his magic here?

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  8. I love the idea of beautiful colourful gardens but I discovered I don’t have much patience to do the continuing maintenance 3 seasons out of 4 to keep in beautiful and lush.

    Since I don’t have an instinct for landscaping, I’d probably sod the entire thing and then let other changes – like the introduction of your favour shrubs – evolve.

    This is where I have to admit that a number of years ago I went to our local nursery and they had landscapers that would come to your house and help design a plan with you at a very reasonable cost. I thought it was money well spent … and then it was deducted from the plants I subsequently bought.

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    • Am with you on the lack of initiative to keep up with the maintenance of a garden. I think that’s the biggest thing in favour of your suggestion to just sod the whole thing and get the focus on something else. Hrumpf! Still thinking on it. I just think there must be a use for this little patch here…probably not a garden, but something interesting…

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  9. So, first of all, I, who knows nothing about gardening, am curious to know whether this garden will yield anything. Is this a lost cause of might there by some vegetation yet to sprout? Barring any chances of that happening, I always think a rock garden is a nice low maintenance way to go. Do you think it would work in this kind of area?

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    • So here I am answering though I also have no idea about gardens and plants! LOL! Anyway as someone earlier said there is one plant that looks like it survived the winter…..am not sure if the bush or anything else will show up in there. We have a while before the ground dries up here so I will be watching for any sign of life over there….rock garden definitely would work and I love rocks!

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  10. I am a gardener and I am jealous! I would LOVE to have that garden plot, with full sun no less! No way I’d turn it back to lawn. I can’t tell from the photo but it may be possible that previous owners already *improved* the soil for growing things. (Many herbs aren’t too fussy about their soil so that’s not a sure sign.)

    I see a place to grow food. Given what you said about the two of you, I’d ease in and only try a few things the first year to see if you like it and so as to not become overwhelmed. My thought would be to weed and then mulch the bed now. The mulch looks nice, keeps weeds down and buys you time while you decide what to do. (Sun=weeds.) A couple tomato plants, beans? Maybe a flowering shrub, like a butterfly bush? Might need a little fencing for vegetables if wildlife is an issue – they can decimate a garden.

    If it was me, I’d make it a lush oasis of plants, flowers and vegetables – but I love plants and working in the yard! –Colette

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  11. I think the best idea is to grass this area until you’ve decided what you want to do with your piece of garden. Maybe you’ll decide to make some shrubberies and plant a few trees around the edge of your property.

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  12. A border garden with shrubs and perennial plants is always nice. The perennials come back every year. So, only some tidying is required in fall and spring. Also, a small kitchen garden with a mixture of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers is charming as well. 🙂

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  13. It’s not really what you think of when you hear the term ‘secret garden’, but what a find under the snow! No idea what to do with it though – my fingers are definitely not green – but some great ideas above.

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    • Yes, I think I’m about at the speed of your aforementioned tulips on kitchen counter. I’m a little overwhelmed by this find. How funny though that you mention the Secret Garden…..I almost called this post that! Nice to know we’re on the same page 🙂

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  14. well I do not have time to read the other comments (and I tried – they were interesting – but I am getting ready to log off for the night and must now leave a comment – so I am sorry if I say what was already suggested)
    but you Have to keep this.

    well you do not have to – but I would at least try it for one season.

    the hard work has been down for you – which is making the plot – and if you do not like the wood – just get some bricks or stones. yeah, stones would look nice.

    anyhow, also be careful if you are going to keep it – because you do not want to walk on some of the life that is going on there – it is dormant – but alive.

    and I seriously believe that everyone should grow a few herbs – even if not for cooking – there are other reasons. I actually have a few posts about it and could write even more about – but herbs are fun too grow because they flower and can be so pretty. but also they make life better.

    for example, some lavender can add healing aroma to the air and house. and rubbing some between your fingers can be realizing and healing to the body. same goes with mint – and then there are drinks that can be garnished with mint – just be sure to keep the mint in a pot or it will invade the entire garden.

    but I think it is exciting to see what comes up in this little plot. and what a gift to have the tags there. A very nice person left those behind. and many things will reseed and come back – like the basil and a few others.

    but seriously, this can be a gift to learn – and starting small is an adventure and just fun.

    and while I have been gardening since about 2007 (even though I started doing some in the 1990’s – it was until 2007 when I really got into it) – and while I am getting ready to do it less and less (time thing) I have two raised beds and a few pots that I will grow my favorites in.
    And the fabs for us are
    Japs and other green peppers.
    Tomatoes (cherry ones and different larger ones) –
    basil (of course)
    one eggplant
    snap peas – which are hit or miss
    orange pepppers
    chives

    and I also have rosemary that is barely hanging on after some cold winters.
    stevia keeps coming back – and I started with a .99 cent plant just for fun.
    Also have tones of oregano – and I never svn use it – but the bees like it and it doe snot take up much space.
    my garlic never comes out (?) – but the onions I grow are always a gift int he spring and fall.

    and here is a photo of what I call garden delight – it is where I go to the garden area (small) harvest a few things – rinse clean – then toss it in a pan with some olive oil, pieces of meat, maybe some cheese, some salt – and then put it on top of crusty sourdough bread.
    crack open a bottle of red zin and the summer night just became that much better

    and there is something amazing about eating food you have grown.


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    • Wow! You are really excited about this! I almost feel bad to see so many excited people when here I sit with this little patch of garden and just no idea how to proceed when others of you could just magically transform it into something super enjoyable and even productive. I never thought about the herbs for health reasons. But I do think you’re right….the only way to go with this if we do it is starting small and keeping it fun. And you’re right of course…..it’s a shame to waste it when the plot’s already been dug and prepared……….thanks so much for your detailed response. You have reignited my excitement of this!

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      • well I am so excited to hear that I could share a bit of garden joy. It was a small hobby of love for me for a few years there- and seriously – email me if you ever have a question – I might not know the answer – but I just might. And I used to follow a bunch of garden sites and watched Paul James all the time (a.k.a. the gardener guy) but his show stopped airing and well, I am moving into a new phase too – however, I will always make time for a few herbs or potted plants. just so easy and so rewarding.
        🙂
        and the only other tip I have right now is the biggest lesson I learned – it call comes down to healthy soil – and part of that is done by making compost tea. there are many ways to make the compost tea, but I cheat (partly because I did not want compost bin in the yard) but I buy a bag of compost and soak a bunch of scoopfuls in water. a few hours later, I use the liquid as my tea – and pour it near the base/roots – and it is a rich elixir for the plants.

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          • wel the compost tea is just one word for it – you could also just call it liquid garden food – and it feeds the soil with rich nutrients and helps your plants ti thrive. 🙂

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  15. The thyme and probably the oregano have survived – the basil is soft and not likely to come back from the root. What state are you in, again? I have a giant sage plant that is fabulous in so many ways, and easy to care for (I do nothing but chop it up every so often). Sage also should survive the winter. Rosemary won’t – it hates being covered in snow.
    Damn I have more, but have to go to work!

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    • We are in Pennsylvania (right on Lake Erie). Wow, you seem so knowledgeable about all this….I’m such a novice. I guess that’s why I came on here with the query….I knew there were people like you out there that would be able to offer some insight into what might work! Thank you!

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      • Ah, okay – I did most of my gardening in the US in Akron, Ohio, so I have a reference base for your climate!
        Any interest in strawberries? The birds and squirrels might have a good go at them, if you have a lot in your area. They are easy, about all you need to do is feed them something like Miracle-Gro every couple of weeks. You will also have great luck with zucchini and other gourds, I expect. Another easy herb, if you like it, is dill – but it isn’t called dill ‘weed’ for nothing. I had it move many yards and self seed into my driveway in Akron! It was pretty and smelled nice so I didn’t mind too much. If you don’t want it everywhere you have to chop off the flowers or seed heads, but they do get away from you fast. You could probably grow fennel and kohlrabi too!
        Otherwise… Dig up the two surviving herbs, put them in big pots, and do as suggested before to return it to grass 🙂

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        • Small world, huh? How cool is that that you know right where I’m at?

          I really appreciate the tutoring session…..I know I’m well behind on all things plant-like! I do know we have squirrels and birds here….tons of birds. They make me crazy actually. But strawberries a particular favourite of mine so that does sound exciting! Thank you again! Your enthusiasm is contagious!

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  16. I am an avid gardener but I would eradicate that raised garden immediately. The way it’s placed look like it will make for difficult lawn mowing for one thing. If you want herbs, you can grow them most attractively and successfully in pots near your kitchen door. I would give it a full year before doing anything. Sit on your deck and imagine where gardens might be most enjoyable to you. Pay attention to the sun. Talk to your neighbors about whether you have rabbits or deer or voles which are such pests in my suburban gardens. And I wouldn’t spend the money on shrubs or trees without a good garden plan first. Most good garden centers have somebody who will come out and do a landscape plan based on your lifestyle and budget. It will end up being much cheaper and infinitely more attractive than if you start plopping things in helter-skelter.

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    • Thank you for this. I think I needed someone to say this (besides my mother)…to give it a year and see what happens before we plunge headlong into something we know so little about. I don’t even know what a vole is but I’m off to Google it now! Like the idea of herbs in smaller pots rather than this giant swimming pool vat of dirt out here. So many ideas on where to go with this….it’s even more overwhelming than finding a secret garden under the snow! I think you probably have it right though…..this garden, where it is right now, could be practical but really wouldn’t bring enjoyment as it’s not in a good place for us to view.

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  17. Love the blog and I can completely relate to finding stuff in your garden that’s a complete surprise since you bought it! I love colour so anything that breaks up the green would be my suggestion but ideas suggested of bird tables and slating it with low maintenance items making it a feature whilst minimizing the effort is always a win:win in my book! Keep us updated on what you decide 😄

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  18. Miriam says:

    I’m sort of a failed gardener, so I understand why someone might not *want* a garden. It’s work, like anything else. I’m actually looking forward to trying my hand at gardening again, but I’m going to start really small and only plant a few things- salad greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, green beans. I actually love herbs (and they’re hardy since they’re basically weeds) so I would keep some of those.
    In our old house, the last step before our major downsizing, we had a huge perennial bed right in the middle of the back yard. And all kinds of flowering bushes scattered around. We just didn’t have the time or energy to maintain all that so we ended up mowing things down, wishing it was just grass. Weeds take over so fast and landscaping is a big commitment! So I do understand your husband’s opinion 🙂

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