This is a diagram of my backyard.

There are two entrances to my backyard: the top left corner (the patio, which is also the roof of the cold cellar), and the top right, which is a recessed stairway to the back door of the basement. That’s also where the downspout is, which by design would then drain at the landing of those stairs. Instead, a little circle denotes my backyard rain barrel. The faint diagonal line across the stair landing represents where my clothesline begins. We’ll start on the patio at 11 o’clock and go counterclockwise through the plan. I’ll describe more than back-of-the-envelope depicts. SPIN, in case you don’t recall from just over a week ago, means Small Plot INtensive.

On the left side of the patio you see a box with plant-like spikey things. This is my tool shed, on which I built a herb garden roof a few years ago. It has chives, tarragon, and oregano. I have to stand on a chair to cut them, but that’s OK – it’s a garden 6 feet in the air, where presently there is none. (The foot-thick wall between me and my neighbour’s patio can’t have plants on top of it because the squirrels kick up the dirt.) There’s also a café table for two that I didn’t draw in. Barbecuing takes place to the right – on the diagonally shaded deck at ground level, next to the stairs, where I put the gas canister yesterday.

Below the patio on the drawing – three and a half feet, in actuality – is a plot where I will string pole beans up to the patio railing. I may plant beets there, and I will plant peas, Swiss chard, spinach, rocket and red endive, and cavolo, which is a geometric form of green cauliflower. I will be very impressed to succeed at all that (there is some doubt!).

Below that, you have my raised deck, under which a skunk may soon return to live. Skunks make great neighbours. That deck is where there’s a limited amount of space for an outdoor table for four, represented smaller than it actually is. I also have an Adirondack chair sitting there, which will be bounded on both sides (and not behind) by two box planters. Those will be for beets, mint, carrots, and bush beans.

To the right of the deck’s box planters and trellis wall is a square that represents my lively composter. It has a beautiful, productive clematis vine behind it that spills purple flowers over the garden wall. To its right, we have a bunch of peonies, a few small rose bushes, some more rambling rose bushes and a volunteer  lilac tree over in the corner. I’ve planted some garlic bulbs there, and I’ll plant dill for weed/seed (pickling dill, still pretty growing next to the roses). I’ve also planted some milkweed there, as I have around the tree in my front yard. Who knows, it may invite some butterflies. If my hawthorn and high-bush cranberry seeds actually sprout, then I will plant them here, next to the corner of the fence.

Above this garden is the bright canopy of a honey locust tree – not enough shade to kill a garden, just enough to make it a home for birds. A small honey locust volunteered on the right side of the peonies (the flowers next to “garlic” on the map) a few years ago. I’m letting it grow to replace its parent, as one day, its parent will die.

Then there are my cedars to the right of the pond. One towers up 5 meters – the tree-like squiggle on the drawing. It attracts house sparrows, grackles, starlings, cardinals, robins, the occasional house finch, and warblers who come to drink and bathe in my burbling lily pond. Amongst the cedars is a rambling Cabot rose that I never cut; it blooms into late November and peeks over the neighbour’s fence.

Next to the diagonal-filled deck, amongst the daylilies, I may plant some hot pepper bushes. In the small rectangle with “water squiggles,” between the deck and the back stairs, is where I will have my lettuce garden, as you can read. I have six different assortments, so it’ll be a colourful little checkerboard of successive plantings. Lettuce usually does best by replanting, though some will take having their outer leaves harvested while growing taller, eventually bolting and going to seed.

I’ll build the box planters for the deck on the weekend. I’m waiting to find out when the Ville gives away its compost in May, because I will need far more of it than my own little composter can provide for the beds. My immediate next step with this garden is to take two soil samples from the lettuce bed and the pole bean/Swiss chard patches to send away for analysis. Then I need to dig in the compost to plant the seeds and seedlings. This needs to happen this week.

Every single week, I feel guilty for not writing enough, and not spending enough time looking for project management work. As soon as I get out in the garden, that feeling dissipates, I’m happy, and a sense of accomplishment entails.


Also published on Medium.