Reclamation, Part 1

The pervasive theme for the summer in our Comfortably Domestic household is one of Reclamation.  We plan to re-claim the following:

  1. The yard.
  2. The bedrooms.
  3. The closets.
  4. The bathrooms.
  5. The yard.
  6. And on a personal note, I plan to reclaim my waistline.  Food blogging has made all of my jeans too tight!

More about #2 & #4 later. For now, let us focus on the yard.  As you might recall, we’ve been having a little difficulty getting anything to grow on our shaded, sandy property.

Our house sits on an acre of land that is about 60% densely wooded.  The trees are so beautiful! We love the private, Up-North-y feel that they lend to our yard. Ferns, moss, and other native ground covers do very well in the forested areas of our lot.

This photo was taken from the the mid-point of our back hill.  It’s wild. It’s untamed. We like it that way. Lots and lots of greenery. We have no plans to change this part of the yard, with the exception of maybe erecting a zip-line.

The boys spend many hours up on that hill exploring, building forts, and hunting for wildlife. We call this part of the yard the Deer Super-Highway, because they walk the ridge several times each day. The deer graze on the abundant ground cover on their way to the nearby woods. We’re OK with that–it’s the natural order of things in the untamed areas.

However, being that the remaining 40% of our yard is not wooded, the deer are not welcome to munch away on any plants near the house. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t get the memo about that boundary, because on the off chance that I can get anything to grow in the sandy soil, the deer nibble it down to the ground. The nerve of them! 😉

Here is the view upward from the deck. That little hill looks pretty unassuming, right? Well, that little hill is the bain of my existence, and primary focus for the Annual Yard Reclamation Project. Nothing grows on this hill except for “volunteer” tree seedlings, and the stray wild orchid. I like the wild orchids because they’re pretty, so they can stay. But the all of the saplings? I would rip them all out in a heartbeat, if I didn’t need their root structure to feebly attempt to retain the sand.

This is the downward view from the mid-point of our yard.  It may not look all that steep, but I am actually about 2 stories above the deck on lower part of the yard. For this girl with a fear of heights, the edge of the lower hill is very steep!  Due to the steep incline, rainwater washes sandy soil into the lower raised garden bed, and onto the ground.  I estimate that we end up with 4-6 inches of sand run-off on the raised garden bed each season.  The run-off has prevented anything that I have planted from getting an adequate amount of water necessary to survive.

I plan to plant the most invasive ground cover that I can find, and hope that it meanders down this hill. I’ve tried planting beautiful plants that I love: lavender, mint, other invasive herbs. No luck. Clearly, Mother Nature is not very flexible, so indigenous plants are the way to go. I’m SO over being picky about what it is, and I’ve moved onto a point of desperation; all I care about is that the ground-cover exists.  A few of my neighbors have hills that are every bit as steep, with lush ground-cover–it can be done!

This year, we’re going to take a tip from our neighbors and try English ivy, myrtle, and crown vetch.  If that doesn’t work, whatever the department of transportation plants on the side of the freeways would be fine, so long as I don’t have to stare at the barren brownness that is that hill any longer.  Wild dune grass? Fine. Whatever. Just grow and be green. I will try anything for many more seasons before admitting defeat and forking over the well over $12,000 we were quoted to excavate, build a retaining wall, and back-fill the spot.  I’d rather see the dirt outside my window than a fortress-like wall, any day.

As for the rest of the barren slopes in our yard, I’m going to try still more perennials with the hope that something I plant likes it here.  Thankfully, my sweet friend Deb has been splitting her lush perennials and donating them to The Cause.  I planted Round 1 from Deb’s yard 2 weeks ago, and so far they have managed to stay alive. Hooray for little victories!

In the interest of instant gratification, I found these cute terra cotta pots with the bases painted with a bunch of cheery colors.  Naturally, I snapped up as many of them as I could find, and filled them with brightly colored impatiens.  Because I need more colors in my life than just green and brown.

The reclamation process of the sandy hill will likely take awhile. So, I’ll continue to be patient, and keep you posted on the progress…

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  1. says

    I feel your plight, and wish you well on your battle. We have sandy soil here too, and I hate it! The only thing that grows on it is moss (only because we have so many trees and lately I feel like we live in a rainforest). Can’t wait to hear what grows for you… maybe it will work for us!

  2. says

    Yep! I get it! Different challenges, but same results here, too. We have given up trying to coax things to live. If it doesn’t like it here, there is NO way it is going to live. The conditions are just too extreme. I will follow your project with great interest. You can’t hear me, but I’m cheering you on!! Go Kirsten! Go Kirsten!! :)

  3. says

    My parents have a wooded area as the view off their deck (hills of Missouri). I love the peaceful feel of it. They did put in a retaining wall where their yard in the back is on a hill. You’re right — they’re very expensive, but they can be made to look very attractive with brick or stone work. Hope you find something that works for you — good luck!

    • says

      Thanks, Cheryl! They really can do beautiful things with retaining walls now, so they don’t feel so fortress-like, but I think that I’ll just continue living in denial that such a thing is really necessary. :)

  4. says

    This looks much like my parents’ yard. I don’t know if their soil is sandy or wahtever, but I do know they’ve had amazing luck growing hosta in an otherwise very inhospitable land.

  5. says

    Honestly, I think your yard looks wonderful. I love the natural look, and I’d love to have that much land with trees to provide privacy. Plus, I think yards that are too manicured look, well, constipated. I do hear you about wanting some ground cover to exist, regardless of what it is. I have the same feeling about a couple of bald spots on my lawn, although I’m not really sure why. And yours is on an incline, so I can understand the additional issues you have there. Keep us posted on what you try and how it works!

    • says

      I agree with you on the overly manicured lawns. That style really doesn’t fit with our lifestyle or our property. Thank goodness! I really like the wild areas, but for some reason I feel compelled to make an effort with the rest.


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