Transformation Complete: From Dirt Mountain to Autumn Garden

December 2, 2010 § 18 Comments

“The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
–John Updike, November, A Child’s Calendar

It’s cold and damp outside. The maple that we’ve recently planted is losing her scarlet leaves just as Updike poeticizes, a garnet skeleton against a steel sky. The dirt is dark and thickly clumped together from the afternoon rain.

And yet, also as Updike expresses, it’s beautiful. Curvy paths and soft bushes, golden and green, offset the dusky, geometric edges of the two newly-installed vegetable beds. Carpet roses, bougainvillea, and hydrangeas glow hot-pink in the waning light. Strawberry plants and mustard greens wave in a syncopated rhythm in the wind. Shallots are sending up their first electric green shoots from the black earth. Blueberry bushes are forming the very beginnings of rust-red flower buds.

Yes! Our backyard is finally finished: It’s been transformed from…

A weedy jungle


A mountain of dirt and trenches

finally, to…

A real garden complete with veggie beds...

...and flowers and a patio from which we can...

...enjoy the beautiful Bay view from our backyard*

I’m delighted that our backyard is no longer a muddy mess, that I can get back to gardening, and that we now have more space to plant edibles. I’ve been browsing seed catalogs and dreaming of what I’ll plant when the rains stop and that we’ll harvest next spring, summer, and fall (Romanesco broccoli, leeks, Swiss chard, kale, collards, Bull’s Blood beets…yum).

However, I have to admit that I’m not as motivated to be in the garden during this rainy season (which is making the 50 degree weather feel damp to the bone) as I was on sunny spring and summer days. But I managed to plant some fruits and veggies on dry November days that we hope to enjoy when it warms up next year. And I have to say, while the clean, new layout of our backyard, the flowers’ pops of color, and the varied textures of our plantings offer loveliness in autumn, there’s nothing quite so beautiful to me as seeing plants thrive that we’ll soon eat.

More on that and our winter garden plan next week. Happy Friday!

*A big thanks to my dad for taking this beautiful shot.


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