Order of Operations - Spring Beds, Transplants, Locations and Mulch

Yesterday, I shared a post talking about the concept of creating curvilinear flower beds in landscape design and how one of my initial backyard projects is to move towards a final shape with our beds.  That requires us to carve up a bunch of the current lawn and creating new beds that jut out into the grass.  But, before I can even begin to think about how to make those swoop'ing, curved beds, there is some thinking that I have to do in in order to get both ready for the days of sod removal AND what has to happen AFTER the creation of the new beds to get them ready and dressed for the season.  

To arrange my thinking - and to pressure test on what I want to do - I thought I'd create an individual (for me) order of operations document that details the steps in the order I need to take in order to make this all work.  So, let's go.

1.  Remove our Automower wire.  Around the entire perimeter of our backyard, we have a low-voltage green wire buried about 3" or so from the edge.  I also have a 'return' wire that runs straight down the middle of the yard.  I can leave MUCH of that one in, but will still have to dig up and wind up the other five hundred plus feet of the wire.  And, then, once the new beds are created, I'll have to (of course) lay it back down with new black stakes.

2.  Move everything (non-plants) that is currently in the wrong spot.  That means, dismantling the temporary fire pit and the pile of Ash logs that I need to process.  It also means moving the bird feeder, the picnic table and the bird bath and storing them (for now) in the far back of the property so the beds can be laid out.

3.  Extend the beds This is the sexy part of the whole project and the step where we get to define the new edges of our beds that will (I hope) take their final form - using a curvilinear design.  I've tried to create curved beds and they, umm, are brutal.  Also, this is going to be A LOT of sod removal, so I'm going to hire this step out.  This will create a whole bunch of bare dirt - and ultimately MUD.  So, the timing of this step is important.  I don't want to have these new beds naked for too terribly long, but I also know that I have to get it done soon before the landscape crews get booked up.

4.  Clean up and prune.  I did the Fall cleanup myself.  And that means that if you look around the backyard right now, there are leaves laying around.  Branches laying everywhere.  Tall grasses that I left up for Winter interest that need to be cut down.  Shoots from hosta flowers still standing up.  And Hydrangeas that need pruning.  Once these new beds are shaped (in step 2), it will be time to do a full cleanup.  That means, cleaning around plants and foundations, clipping everything down, picking up all the branches and get all the debris picked up.

5.  Identify everything, mark keepers and make some hard decisions.  That means that having a sense for the where and what of some items that aren't up yet (ferns, hostas, etc) and understanding what is there, but just in the wrong spot.  But, there are also some things that are just mistakes and dead stuff.  Gold Cone Junipers are just in the wrong spot.  And they're not looking great.  Similarly, one of the small Canadian Hemlock trees on the north side is not in the right spot.  I think I have to make the hard call to try to dig it up and move it.  It will certainly suffer some transplant stress, but it will also then be in the right spot for long-term growth.  Same with the Dwarf Alberta Spruce.  It is in decline and it is time to make a decision.

6.  Transplant and fill some of the new beds.  Things like the Fanal Astilbes that I planted last year.  They're just too close together and too close to the hydrangeas behind them.  With the new bed edges, I'll move things like these out further to fill in some of these new beds. Same with some of the Summer Beauty Ornamental Alliums.   I also have to dig up some of the smaller Oakleaf hydrangeas from last year that I planted too close together.  I'll dig up and pot up the two nursery stock junipers that I've stored in the ground for the past few seasons and wire them up for bonsai.

7.  Plant the new stuff.  I already have the bare root bags that Nat brought home from Costco - including a couple of hosta cultivars and some astilbes.  I know there will be MORE bought this season.  I also know that I want to add a couple of trees to the backyard like this columnar Bald Cypress.  I'd like to get those either planted - or at least - site'd so I can mound up the mulch to prepare for those plantings.  

8.  Dig in the edges of the new beds.  I think that when I hire out the work for step 3 (above), the edges will be set.  But, all the work I intend to do from step 4-->7 will certainly cause some of those edges to be trampled.  I'll take the time to dig in the fresh edges again to make the beds look good.  That's when I can put the boundary wire back down again.

9.  Weed and feed. Normally this means sprinkling Preen all around the beds to try to supress the weeds.  But, I also think that I should be amending the beds with some food - perhaps that means biosolids this year - ahead of the mulch application.   

10.  Mulch.  Hardwood fines.  Laid on top of the beds from last year.  But also, for the first time, running all the way around the backyard and in the new beds.  Last year, I had 12 yards.  This year, I think I will be needing more than 15.  

Once I get #8 done (edging the beds), I can lay the Automower wire back down and begin to have the mower tend to the backyard.  

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