It’s a disaster, it’s Skywalker we’re after…

Earlier in the month I removed an old aluminum shed and
foundation from the corner of my yard. The shed was up against the house
and the property line, and dug partly into a slope from my yard to my
neighbours yard. There will be a new shed going in, further out from the
property line and house, but that left a big gaping hole. So I filled
it with loam ( only 4 cubic yards, not much… ) and made a bit of a hill. This was done on advice from no less then five people, all whom pointed out that having the corner of our house foundation exposed was probably a bad thing.

A bit of a short, steep hill was put in place that wrapped around the exposed foundation bits, and a grade was pulled back from the foundation into the yard proper. Unfortunately the grade where the shed used to live was a bit steep out of necessity. It’s not steep enough for a retaining wall, and it’s just a bit too steep to leave alone for long.

Then the rain came, hard and heavy, and overflowed the eaves trough
and sent a deluge of water into the freshly compacted loam, promptly
washing some of it into the neighbours formal and tidy garden space. Our neighbour likes things in her life clean, so this was a disaster. I got all hyper stressed out about it and raged a bit, mostly because I hate being a bad neighbour. I’m already the weird guy on the block who doesn’t cut his lawn and is turning his back yard into a vegetable patch… last thing I want to add into the mix is being the guy routinely washing a couple kilograms of soil into the yards down hill from me.

So began the quest for ways to prevent erosion on really small but unfortunately steep slopes in the shade. In the end I went with a burlap/jute ground cover staked in with bamboo stakes instead of metal. Mainly I want everything to eventually biodegrade, since once plants establish some roots in there the hill isn’t steep enough or long enough to worry about anything going awry. I did double layers and added hand-made berms of soil/compost/peat moss to break any water that decides to flood down the area again. ( I tested with a hose, it works like a charm ).

I’m turning it into a shade garden, slightly terraced by the berms. I’ve tossed a bunch of random perennial seeds I collected last autumn, I think they are some form of phlox, but they may be something else. I also spread some annual seeds around the area, some sort of random wild-flower mix I had sitting around the house. For a more permanent and immediate solution to holding the soil I’ve planted 3 golden leaf creeping jenny, and 3 regular creeping jenny. I’m familiar with them, they are pretty tough plants and take the shade decently. They also form a nice dense mat of green once established, so next year it should fill in really well.

While I was at Golden Acres Garden Senter ( their spelling, not mine! ) the helpful staff pointed out some fiddle-head ferns that were on stupid sale ( because it’s way past time to plant them ). So, being daring and a sucker for a deal, and always questing for plants to add into the yard that I can eat, I bought six. I think I will go back and get another half dozen or so for under the lilacs along the side of the house. The lady in the perennials section of the greenhouse said that the ferns form hefty root systems and make a good erosion control. Plus, fiddle-head greens in the spring! So I’m going to put in a big patch of them, and hope that I can get some tasty stuff out of that part of the yard, which is largely useless for veggies anyhow.

Garden Slope Shots
Garden Slope Shots
Garden Slope Shots
Garden Slope Shots
Garden Slope Shots

Soil, not dirt

So I spent my morning trucking soil ( not dirt ) from the back parking pad into the newly placed raised bed. I mixed the Alberta Gold Soil that Eagle Lake Turf Farm dropped off in my back yard. A cubic yard of soil sounded like a little, it’s not, it’s quite large. I still have about 1/4 of it left after filling the bed.

The bed is only 10 inches high, and I am just laying it on top of the lawn. Most instructions online and in the Square Foot Gardening books I’ve read suggest laying down landscaping fabric beneath your soil. Well that stuff costs money, so I did a poor-man’s solution. I used the Saturday edition of the Calgary Herald, most if it is adverts and stuff about Lindsey Lohan anyhow. The flyers, entertainment section, business section, classifieds, and sports were enough to do newspaper 3 layers deep. Between each layer I sprayed the paper with water. It should make a solid barrier for the grass, and over a year rot away. This way the grass and soil below the bed can be used for nutrients by deeper rooting plants like carrots and beets.

After that is was truck soil back and forth for an hour and a bit. First layer of soil was mixed 50/50 with my compost. Second layer was 30% compost from my bins, final layer was just the soil. I’m not sure what the Eagle Lake soil mix is, looked to be about 1/3 cured steer manure, 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss. What ever it is is very loose, and holds water like mad.

I gave each layer of soil a spray with the hose, and gave the whole works a soak at the end. Mostly I want the weight to mush down any air pockets and lift from the grass below, and to make sure the stuff isn’t bone dry and blowing away.

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