Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Landscaping on the cheap

I've owned this house since 1999, and I call it my cliff dwelling.  It's a pretty nice house that's surrounded on three sides by 7 story apartment buildings.   The front of the house faces a street, but the sides are only 4' from the neighbors, which means that there's a lot of peekaboo opportunities.  Most folks keep their shades closed.  It's been kind of odd living there; from time to time I'd bring a piglet home and let it run around in the front yard while it healed from whatever was ailing it, and I kept a few chickens (allowed by Seattle zoning code) for fresh eggs, but I've got to say having 450 neighbors does get on my nerves. 

The iron fence in the front of the house I salvaged from a church that was being demolished.  I picked it up, and then put it up as you see it.  It's a little odd in the orientation (look at the slope) but no one has ever noticed or if they have, they havent' said anything.  I put that retaining wall in, and did a soldier course of bricks on top as an emphasis.  The masonry wall behind that was original to the property -- maybe  1905 or so, which for a Seattle house is ancient. 
I brought in a truckload of compost from the farm, and I'll use that to plant the landscaping plants.  I've neglected the yard for a year or so, and it's time it looked better.  At the bottom of the picture above you can see a closeup of the soldier course of bricks.  I like that the bricks and wall look like they've been there as long as the house; they're only about 5 years old. 

This particular batch of compost has a variety of materials in it.  A little bit of straw, some broken down wood chips, and a bit of cow and pig manure that's been worked in over the last year.  I think it'll do great holding the moisture and providing plenty of good nutrients for the plants to thrive.  My goal is to water as little as possible. 

Part of the food we get includes potted plants and trees and stuff.  when we see something interesting go by, we'll fish it out and plant it, and see if it survives the rough trip.  The plants are all tossed into a freezer and frozen solid, which kills many of them.   These plants are survivors. 
This year the stores were selling these really pretty Japanese maples.  They're really red -- click on the picture for a bigger version - and they're shade-tolerant, which works pretty well for my cliff dwelling. 

The plants I get are the inverse of what is popular - what I get is what didn't sell.   So this year Japanese maples didn't sell, and European fan palms, and a few blueberries, and some... well, it's a little random, but I figure I pulled $3500 retail worth of plants and salvaged them.  When they toss the plants they do make every effort to kill them.  So for the trees they'll cut the trunks off. 

I'm going to plant all of this tomorrow.  Should look great.  And it makes me happy to save even more stuff from the landfill. 


Anonymous said... wish I could find trees and shrubs like that in the trash. I guess it starts with looking in the trash though! I cannot remember if it was Seattle or not..but I remember a story of an old lady who would not sell her home so they developed everything around her..reminds me of your place!

Urbancowgrrl said...

The house where the woman wouldn't sell was/is in Ballard right down the street from where I used to live (before we fled the city). So, do you live in Seattle and commute all the way to the farm every day? When we lived in Ballard most of my plants were from cast-aways from landscapers (Oh, you don't want that? Can I have it?" kind of thing) or in the Spring when people are out gardening on the block if anyone was digging something up I'd ask. Once I grabbed a plant off the lawn next to someone's yard waste bin that had been there for three days in December and planted it to see what happened. Two Springs later and it was a big healthy Wax Myrtle - really beautiful. My neighbors who threw it away couldn't believe it. But Wax Myrtles are hearty little things with the right environment. Scavenger gardening is definitely fun - and necessary in an expensive place like Seattle!

Nancy Dowling said...

hope you get all those planted before they come to take your buckets away again