Once all the rocks were in place, I covered the turf that extended into the bed with newspaper several sheets thick. This grass-killing trick had been effective when I used it under the mulch rings I placed around my trees. Then I went in to the woods and dug up bucket loads of loamy topsoil, mostly with a shovel so I could pick out the rocks, sticks and vines as I went.
I dumped this topsoil into the new bed space, on top of the newspaper and up against the back wall of rocks, in effect forming a raised bed around two sides of the house.
Then on April 10 I called my favorite mulch guy and had ten yards of double shredded hardwood mulch dropped near the woods. This is prettier—and more expensive—than the pine bark nuggets I buy for mulching around my big trees (below, on the ground). It will also break down much faster, helping to enrich the soil as it does.
I spent a day hand-forking the aforementioned ten yards of mulch into my garden. It was super-tricky, delicate work as many of my perennials were just starting to emerge and hard to see, and I didn’t want to smother them.
But after eight hours of mulching and only a few blisters across my palms, it was done. And looked pretty nice, I thought. There are a few spots that can use another stone or two, but I will fill those in once I’ve fully recovered.
It’s not the fancy hardscape I’d most love, but for $285 worth of mulch and untold hours of bodybreaking labor, I finally have some decent-looking garden beds that are in keeping with the informal, cottage nature of the house. What’s more, this project massively contributes toward my goal of making maintenance around here as easy as possible. Now I just run the string trimmer right up against the rocks—which means no more futile hours spent hacking enroaching turf out of the beds. Plus, the mulch will help keep weeds out and moisture in during the hot summer while feeding the soil and coddling the earthworms beneath.
And, I am really excited to have gained a bit more extra bed space, complete with pretty decent soil—thanks, forest! I have already started planting some fun new additions, including peonies for the shadier areas and sedums for the sunny front corner. My plan is to eventually colonize the rock wall with sedums growing over it and through the spaces between rocks.
The garden has really come on in the weeks since these pictures were taken, so a little virtual plant walk will be coming soon.