Last summer, my Mother-in-law bought the house directly behind ours. It’s a cute Ranch-style home that sits on a corner lot. The house was in great shape, but the garden needed a little TLC. We started renovating the garden in July 2018.
There were a few must-haves for the new garden:
- Plant deer resistance plants.
- Flowers and foliage to cut for floral arrangements.
- Plants to attract butterflies, bees and birds.
- New, low-maintenance fence.
Where To Start?
This photograph shows what my Mother-in-law’s garden looked like when she moved in.
First Job was to Replace the Fence
The first course of action was to replace the old fence. We opted for a horizontal design made from standard 2×4’s and 2×6’s. The benefit of a horizontally designed fence is that it’s super easy to replace the bottom board that rest along the soil line. The soil line is typically where a fence rots first. With this horizontal design, you simply replace the bottom 2×4 rather than the entire section. Easy peasy and super practical.
Second Step was to Prep the Soil and Dig Out the Border
Once the new fence was built, we tackled the garden. The most important thing a garden needs is healthy soil. I ordered a soil testing kit from Michigan State University I scooped samples of soil from all along the border and mailed it to the Soil Lab. The results were available in a couple of weeks and the test let us know we needed to add nitrogen and lime and we needed to maintain the organic material level.
So, I ordered compost. Lots of compost. 8 yards of compost to be exact.
Creating the Border
We kept a simple rectangular border roughly 6 feet deep and 150 feet long. The border extends the entire length of the fence. We used string lines to ensure we dug a straight edge for the border. It took a bit of manual labor and shovels to define the edges.
Once the edges were defined, we cleared out the weeds and unwanted plant material. The previous garden was over run with day lilies and ribbon grass. Both considered too aggressive for a low maintenance garden.
We kept a small section of day lilies, but most were removed. We spread the compost into the new border and tilled it into the soil, covering the existing border with roughly 3-4 inches of compost.
The Perennial Border Today
It’s been roughly one year since we started our perennial border. The new plants are growing well and its actually starting to look like a garden. We have plans to add more structural elements to the border with tall, evergreen shrubs and tall grasses. It’s been such a fun project and I’m looking forward to watching things grow.