Self Sowing Garden Preparation

It won't be long before the warm weather approaches (or at least I keep telling myself this) and gardening begins for the 2009 season in earnest.  One of the projects I have planned this season is the self sowing garden.  A self sowing garden is pretty self explanatory, it has plants that seed themselves year after year without much attention from the gardener.  It can be any combination of annuals, biennials and perennials as long as they seed readily. Annuals tend to grow faster and may be more suitable for the instant color but if you're willing to wait one season for the perennials to bloom then by all means go ahead and plant them!  This is a great technique for the cottage garden style as many cottage garden type plants self sow.

I've been actively perusing the seed catalogs that I've already received this year and I've seen many interesting possibilities for this garden but before I can plant anything I need to prepare the garden bed.  The first step to prepare my self sowing garden was to figure out where I wanted it and why.  This garden will serve as both something fun to look at and will also serve as a small informal privacy screen.  Some of the plants I am planning could reach 5-6 feet tall which will create the height necessary to screen off a small area on the eastern side of our house.  The garden will frame the entry to a grassy pathway that will eventually sport an  arbor.  The garden will be located next to a small (and young) grove of deciduous trees.  Behind the self sowing garden I planted a crape myrtle, a crab apple, a witch hazel (a deer took a good munch out of it), a redbud, a viburnum and two azaleas last year.  It's a hodgepodge of trees but they are young and can be easily transplanted should I need to in the future.  Behind those trees is a row of four hemlocks I planted for privacy screening reasons.  They aren't doing the job yet but I'm hoping this next growing season will spur on some growth. 

After deciding on the garden's placement I needed to prepare the soil.  On a warm day last week I turned over the grass and soil over to the depth of a shovel. Turning the soil exposes the roots of the grass which will hopefully kill it off and allow the organic material to enrich the soil. I need to continue this process for another 2-3 ft by 10-12 ft. area and I expect to have to go over the whole area again before planting to remove any weeds.  After that I'll amend the soil a little with some compost.  In the picture above I labeled the self-seeding area and the next area to turn under.  I had one issue with the planting in this area, there is a gas line.  I knew where the line was so I placed the edge of the bed next to it and continued away from our house.  The gas line should be buried underneath the frost line and the garden shouldn't interfere with it in any way.  The gas line was also one reason I'm planting a self seeding garden.  If we should ever have to dig the area up for a gas line repair it won't be difficult or expensive to repair the garden.  The roots of the annuals and perennials in this garden won't reach the gas line like a tree or a shrub would. 

In this picture you can see the green grassy pathway on the right that the garden will help to define.  The small grove of trees to the left will eventually create a shady passage while the self sowing garden will informally screen the passage to the backyard.  I'm leaning toward natural stepping stones set into the grass for the pathway.  If I could find some re-claimed bricks or other suitable building material for a pathway I would be tempted to give them a try.  The next step is to figure out what to plant and how!

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