Before and After: Moving Soil, Making Paths

 As far as progress at the garden is concerned, we estimate we're about two months behind schedule due to the weather, so naturally a dry weekend means project-work begins in earnest. So, what better way to ring in spring than with the schlepping of the soil, the moving of the gravel? Therefore, I give you the first official BEFORE and AFTER of 2017.

Flowers! I start with this lovely image just because I feel like it. I've been so starved for flowers and foliage that this seems like the most exotic, wonderful thing in the world. About a month late, but who's counting?

Okay, this BEFORE and AFTER begins last October when this shot was taken. The two paths seen here converge on a grassy/weedy area on their merry way to my garden shed. The plan was to dig out most of this sod/weed mix and extend the pathways. The area between the two paths as well as the area on the right will be extended beds planted with the same grasses currently in those beds.

Pictured here is one of the two paths on the right and the garden shed in the distance. These grasses (the small ones) are Carex comans 'Frosty Curls' or some variation. The large grasses are Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret'. This photo is from early last summer.

In this shot, taken last weekend, you can see where Facilities Manager went over the paths with a mechanical sod-cutter by the faint lines in the soil. Like always, the hens are around to help.

Speaking of sod-cutters -- this loud, obnoxious machine is a challenge. Here Facilities Manager readies another area to be redesigned with some kind of path to be built another day. FM thought that since he had this thing rented for two hours, he might as well cut as much sod as he could. What a dastardly job. Thank you, Facilities Manager. In the weeks to come, we will remove all of this soil to a very good depth and add a kind of French drain. This area is on the north side of the house and is a bog in winter. We will then add a ton of gravel and some kind of path with stones or pavers. But back to the new paths.

Here's another sort of BEFORE photo. FM laid out gravel this winter to prevent a muddier mess than we already had on our hands walking to and from the chicken coop and the shed. Here, the paths have been gone over with the sod-cutter. Such a mess.

Here is the general area for the new paths with freshly cut sod and mud. You can just make out the cut marks from the sod-cutter.

Here, the "cut" sod is scooped up and mounded in piles intended for our new grassy garden bed extensions. FM is back to normal after returning the sod-cutter to the rental shop. FM is not a fan of the sod-cutter but he understands its necessity. He'd rather have a chocolate malt, though, so he says.

It's a nasty business. Besides the first few inches being sliced by the dastardly machine, we also dug down beyond that level to make the paths a minimum of 6" deep. FM is gonna be sore in the morning!

Progress. See how the soil is being piled up to extend the grass bed, forming a triangle?

On the left under the wind-whirly gig is the other triangle grass-bed extension.

Now there's some real digging going on. The dirt triangles continue to grow in size. FM must be taking a nap somewhere.

This is after the first layer of gravel has been laid down. The mound will be broken up and smoothed out more when it dries out and then black plastic will cover it to solarize it to prevent weed seeds from germinating or contaminating it further. In a couple of months I will plant it up with more carex starts.

FM also made these shallow paths on our route to and from the chicken house and compost bins. Very useful, thank you again, FM. While these paths are not as deep as the primary paths, they will serve as more solid (and perhaps mud-free) foot-paths in the future.

Here the other triangle is pictured. It is now covered in black plastic and will be planted with more Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point' from Xera Plants as well as a couple more Muhlenbergia rigens or deer grass to continue with the theme. I wanted these areas to be extended versions of the original plantings and uncomplicated.

Okay, one more time: BEFORE

AFTER. FM plans on hauling more gravel until it's a depth of 6", and we'll compact it after that. The deeper it is, the less chance of weeds coming up from below and the easier they are to pull if they germinated from above. The soil in the triangle mound will be smoothed out so the awkward break will be eliminated.

Ah, now that is some pathway work!

A final parting shot of the fist phase of my vegetable seed starts taking a vacation from the garage for a couple of sunny hours. At least they are progressing! This was my first attempt at growing veggie seeds indoors and is not as difficult as I had originally thought if you have the room and some lights.

It feels fine to have been outside for two days in a row. We need about two weeks of dry weather to really catch up on our garden plans and finish the paths as well as other projects. For example, once the soil has dried out, we'll remove stumps and till the land intended for the veggie garden and orchard and plant these little seedlings in the ground. Until then, I'll have to keep up-potting my little veggie starts and get another raised bed to hold the fruit trees. This is getting silly, the weather. At least we had four days at average temperatures instead of the 10 - 20 degrees below normal it's been. While the rest of the country is experiencing an early spring, we have yet to really get going. That's ok though, because in the big picture I know it will eventually come. It's forcing me to do other tasks, mostly indoor tasks. Plan more gardening adventures, mostly.

So there you have it, our first before and after for the year, although the after is not quite complete until the plants are installed at a later date. What kinds of projects are you up to? Reworking the pond, perhaps adding a pergola or a fence? Maybe removing lawn for a pollinator garden? Do share, we'd all love to know! That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Until next time, thank you for reading and happy gardening!


  1. Wonderful! FM deserves some sort of medal, I think. So much work.... : )

    1. Oh, he does, Stephen. For sure. At the very least a chocolate malt.

  2. You're gardening on a scale I can only imagine - and envy! I hope warmer temperatures and drier conditions settle in soon.

    1. Thank you for the kind wishes, Kris. We all wish for better weather. I hope your spring is lovely, though - maybe a little greener with all the rain you've had!

  3. Just looking at those pictures makes me tired and my back ache in sympathy. But it looks good! I love seeing weedy "lawn" disappear to be replaced by more garden areas.

    1. Oh, thank you Evan. It's hard labor, moving wet soil. Thank GAWD we now have a bathtub (installed a couple of weeks ago) to soak our weary bones. Oh yes, less weedy lawn and more garden plants, please ;)

  4. Anonymous7:15 AM PDT

    Wow, Tamara, you and your FM made tremendous progress in such a short time. You both deserve a medal!

    1. Aaaw..maybe not a medal but at least a hot bath!

  5. Before and after shots are faves...almost better than a medal, but maybe only as good as the chocolate malt, soak in new tub and nap.

    1. Mmmm malt, bath tub, nap. Sounds divine.


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