I fear I am not up to the excellence of the gardening and other creative work to be found at the Mighty Corrente, but I stay busy. Lately, I've been doing a lot of digging.
There are old planting beds along the south wall of the house that haven't had anything new planted in them since sometime in the 70s. It was mostly twigs, dirty crushed white rock and some out of control birds of paradise. Between our grubbing and the construction work, everything except a single shady tree has been removed. We started by digging up, sifting out and washing off the decorative white rock. Then we dug out a 3'x8' nail & glass impregnated patch of weeds near the back steps, just downslope of an old and prolific Meyer lemon tree. While the spousal unit leveled the ground and mortared a row of bricks in place, I sifted the detritus out of the dirt, separating river rock and good fill rubble from metal, glass and other garbage. The dirt itself is building up in a large pile, waiting to be mixed with manure and other amendments when it's time to plant.
The rubble went back to form a drainage layer. On top of that, we mixed some coarse decomposed granite given to us by a neighbor with most of the decorative rock scraped from the old planters and tamped it down into a firm yet water permeable walkway. Water is a big issue in San Diego. We use too much and don't use it wisely. Ironically, during the last drought in the 70s, many people ripped out plantings and paved vast swaths of what used to be lawns, or else laid down mile after mile of black plastic and covered it with crushed rock. This has created a situation both impossibly ugly and water-hostile, as any runoff goes right down the storm drains. The City is in the middle of a water emergency now. Our goal for the house is to put in a landscape with drought tolerant plants and do some aggressive water management, but I get ahead of myself.
The next task was to create a pleasant sitting area near the kitchen in the shadow of the sunroom bumpout. Right next to the sunroom steps, we excavated five wheelbarrow loads of hardpacked dirt and rhizomes from the old bird of paradise plant. That went into a large mound in the backyard. Next, in the wider area, we scraped away the top layer of construction crud (I could probably open a hardware store with the excess nails), weeds and junk. Into a different pile for sifting. The clean dirt underneath we raked and redistributed and made relatively flat.
We went to Home Depot and picked up eight bags of fine bark and two of cocoa bean shells. Back at the ranch, we mixed a quarter bag of cocoa bean shells into the regular bark, and then dumped the mix into the wider area (about 7'x16'). The rest of the bags followed, making a dense, chocolate scented base. Add two old benches we've dragged from apartment to apartment over the last decade and a couple of beat-up tables with uneven legs and we had ourselves a lovely spot for a warm summer evening. Mulched up like that, it keeps in the moisture for the Pittosporum that shades the area.
What's next? Sifting the dirt dug from the hole. I'm about 1/3 of the way through it. Rubble to fill up the bottom of the hole, then mix up a nice planting mix with the clean dirt and other stuff. For next to the stairs, probably some salvia - purple and dusty green against the saffron colored walls should be nice. Further along, in the part we haven't excavated yet, I'm planning an herb garden. The sitting area will get some colorful pots and plants.