We bought our house in Sept 2013 and have been ripping out the half-dead jungle that was the previous landscaping. Now, we have a blank slate and I have no idea what to do to make it look nice. We are in Zone 6/7 and 453 meters above sea Level. We get an average of 45 inches of rainfall a year with the heaviest rains in June, July and August. Our average temperatures are in the 60's and 70's in summer with some days in the 80's and 90's but not many. In winter, the average is between 30 and 50 degrees with it occassionally dropping in the Teens and 20's, but not that often. Winter months are gloomy and gray.
The south east Corner of our property is my dilema for now. The space is fairly large and I recently built a hugelbed with some of the spare Wood from trees we cut down. My husband dug a trench roughly 20" deep and 3.5 feet wide, so that it wouldn't be too tall upon completion. It stands 3-ish feet above ground now. The Trouble area is directly in front of the hugelbed towards the street. My husband would be happy with a hedge and grass. I want a permaculture type landscape with a nice blend of flowers, trees, shrubs and Food producing plants. I would like to plant 2 fruit trees along the sidewalk, but up on the slope a bit. On the southern slope towards the neighbor, I am leaning towards planting some Grapes and putting riverrocks below to absorb heat during the day.
As far as design goes, I really don't know what to do. Since we have 4 seasons, I want to be sure that not all plants are dormant in the winter so that we still have some Color (at least green).
The soil has a clay like consistency to it, so mulch is mandatory to Keep it moist when we have dry weeks. I would for the garden to ultimately not require watering, but for the occasional dry periods, we are installing a rainwater tank at some Point.
I can re-shape the ground as necessary when our landscape person comes to rip out the remaining 4 tree trunks in the back and move some large rocks for us. We are in Switzerland and most People don't know what permaculture is. Because of that, I want to be sure that whatever I end up doing Looks great and is appealing so that maybe it will prompt others in the area to follow suit.
Grass is your enemy. Unless you have a large area dedicated to grasses WELL SEPARATED from other areas, grass will make it very difficult to keep a 'neat' look. I did a TON of work in the last year, but one thing I didn't do was make sure I had eradicated the grass in areas near beds and now it is difficult to separate one from the other. I coach my kids soccer teams and am currently working a lot and without much time to work around the yard it's losing some of the shape it had earlier this year.
If you want trees, get them in the ground ASAP and then build from there.
Here's a pic where I eradicated grass:
And pics where I didn't eradicate grass:
It doesn't look bad, but it's not nearly as 'polished' as the side with no grass. It's also been way easier to maintain the side with no grass.
Charles, your garden Looks great. I know what you mean about grass. Our Yard was actually so completely overgrown that there was pretty much only moss where there should have been grass. Once I come up with a plan, we are going to dig up the ground with a tiller of some sort. Everything got really compacted from the tractors and Dumper. I hate to do it, but it is like concrete right now unless it is muddy from the rain. I plan on putting at least 6 inches of mulch down. Our Problem here would be a few wild species that Keep coming back no matter what. Raspberries grow wild here too. I dug up 10 plants from one of our hillsides to save them and then noticed that there must me 40 more poking up here and there around the property. All of the gardeners around here insist you must use poison to kill everything. Not Happening. I will deal with it.
It's been my experience that if your yard isn't too big it's not that difficult to keep most unruly plants at bay with a couple leisurely trips out per week. Grass kills me, and it's there's some other groundcover-y things that are tough for me to strike up the gumption to get rid of, but most are pretty easy to remove, especially once the mulch is in place.
My place is quite small, however. It could be much more of a challenge if you have acreage.
Something I'm leaning toward for my place is a low fence with some vining things to keep the low level shenanigans a little hidden while all the tall stuff that I'm trying to grow shoots out the top like a triumphant monument to life. It's still a work in progress.
Agree with the previous advice: decide on your tallest desired trees first. Define any paths you need, make sure when you plant trees you are putting summer shade only where you want it. Between those two decision sets, most of your design gets laid out. While you are figuring it out,
Hedges aren't bad, necessarily, and they do offer some privacy. If that's what your husband finds appealing, there are fun things to use to accommodate that in a permaculture way.
Winter interest plants first: what are others using? There are some plants that hang onto their fruits all winter, like pyracantha. Evergreens give good nesting spots for birds. Bayberry comes to mind as well, but you'll have to look around at what's available to you. If it really only goes to 30, you might be able to do something with rosemary.
Food shrubs good for a hedge: currants, gooseberries, roses for hips, sea berries. Note all these plants have thorns. And elderberry!
Other shrubby things: I like forsythia, one of the first things to bloom. Quince and plum can maintain easier as shrubs. Honeysuckle is wonderful for its scent.
Then pick some things for fall color. The currants are good for this. We just put in some lemonade sumac for the berries, to feed birds and for fall color.
Do you need to put a cover crop down ASAP to hold back erosion while you work on this, since your big rains are about to start?
Most houses around here don't have a landscaped front Yard that is impressive. It's pretty boring. You see lots of hedges, misc plantings, and grass. One neighbor at our old house had a really nice hillside with large Stones and a great variety of flowers and plants. I attached a Picture of it below.
We pretty much missed the boat on planting this spring. It arrived really early. I have 2 mature currant bushes, One red and the other black, in pots on our terrace. They are growing their berries, so I will wait until the fall to plant them. I also found a couple of Young fruit trees of an unknown as yet fruit in the far Corner of our property that I will transplant. They aren't even 3 feet apart and I want to put a large nut tree or maple tree in that Corner to give us shade in the summer at some point. There is also a White lilac in the same Corner that I will move to a more suitable Location. I think the neighbors below us planted them to hide the overgrown slope.
Even with all of our rain, errosion isn't much of a problem. Good thing since most of our Yard is a giant mess right now and until our neighbors to the west of us build our retaining wall, we can't have the future grass area finished.
I would love to plant a mix of fruiting plants as a hedge like blueberries and currants, but at the same time, worry that the Dogs will pee all over them and that isn't really the added flavor I am going for. I never thought of using plums or quince in hedge Format. I have considered espalier fruit trees around the Perimeter, but haven't come up with a decent plan just yet. I find myself leaning towards hillside landscapes you would find in my native Southern California rather than the wet, green area I live in.
Ann, I think the only thing I have decided on is where I want the trees to go. I will put 2 fruit trees in front of the hugelbed. One near the driveway and the other closer to the neighbors end of the space. Behind the hugelbed, I will plant a larger nut tree (or a cherry tree) which will have a twin on the North side of our driveway. I will be able to prune the nut tree to Keep the branches higher and allow sunshine onto the garden area. I also have the pathways more or less figured. Where exactly to Access from the driveway is negotiable. I have some very large rocks that came from a ruined Pond that I can incorporage into the landscape as well and absorb heat in the cooler months.
We just had a Major rain storm over the Weekend, so I got busy and did some weeding. The garden guy doesn't have time until the mid to end of August to come out, so in the meantime, I will be doing what I can. We finally decided to use the really large rocks near our front door and place them along the sidewalk for a Separation/divider. There are a lot of Dogs being walked on our street and several times in the last month, I have seen People let their Dogs off of the leash (illegal here) so they could go up into my Yard to 'take care of business'. That did it. We are building a wall. Because of the lack of landscape, the weeds have gone crazy and not the nice Kind of weeds, but the thorny, stickery Kind. I spent several hours last night and most of today ripping out anything and everything. I also put down another layer of mulch and then some Wood Chips along the hugelbed on one side. I lined the are with rocks so I know what is done and what isn't. The hugelbed Looks great with the covercrop of flowers in Bloom. The amount and diversity of polinators all day Long is amazing. I might get a few trees in in the fall, otherwise we will wait until early spring. For now, I am transplanting rose bushes and whatever else I want to salvage from the rest of our Yard to near the hugelbed until I can find them permanent homes when I finally get going.
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