Draw a line in the sand

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Those are cloth tape measures sketching the proposed bed. Pretty clear lines! 

It's what our mentors said to do:

Don't fuss too much with all that drawing on paper. People can imagine better if you use a garden hose to outline new beds.

One day, standing together on the roof of a house and considering lines drawn in the bare soil of the yard, we discovered we had a childhood pastime in common. We both loved to draw lines in the snow.

Big lines.

Janet would shovel the new snow of the back yard to sketch the floor plan of a house, or simply create meandering paths. Steven outlined snow forts. Both of us would then go into the house to look out the upstairs windows, admire the pattern and plan the next step.TapeLine9599cs.jpg

We still do it, and love it. Especially since the process so often fits into the normal day's work when we're most in tune with practical change and making things simpler. (Many people have enjoyed the process with us at Garden by Janet & Steven sessions. There are many of those on our calendar now, including three very special opportunities.) 

No hose, just tape, scratch or food coloring



  With due respect to our Mentors, we
  don't like the garden hose as a
  drafting tool. Even in fine weather,
  hoses and gardeners are at odds. At
  design time in winter and early spring
  a cold hose is even more uncooperative.

We use bright rope or cloth measuring tape (above, right). Or, when the drawing board's clear we do even less. Then we scrape with a shovel (photos below) or use a spray bottle filled with water and food coloring (above, left) to mark the snow.

Try it!

If the snow -- or even a disaster such as described below -- creates a clean slate for you, why not play like a kid with some design ideas? No matter how wild you get, it's simple to erase and start over.

Spring's around the corner and it'll bring garden fever. It's good to have a plan to channel that energy.

 Picture it: You have a simple, established landscape.


Suddenly one day the center of the yard has to be ripped out.
Sadly, septic field replacement is rarely optional, when its time comes.

You grit your teeth and wait for the machinery to be gone.

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What's left is pretty bare... with an invisible hindrance: A tank there where those white pipes converge. A tank
that is close enough to the surface to make the soil dry, hot and not great for lawn growing. A tank with a big clean-out port that must remain accessible.

So you drag your shovel around to draw lines
that will make the tank area a no-lawn space. That enlarges that front bed, which pleases you. That bed always bugged you for being undersized and grave like, as if soil had just been dumped there one day and
never quite settled.


You place a big flat stone over the septic tank access, so you can tip it out of the way like a manhole cover when necessary.

You spend $100 on four shrubs and 15 perennial groundcovers in small pots, each one chosen for ability to grow well in sun and shallow, dry soil: Rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis 'Blue Rug'); perennial carnations (Dianthus gratianopolitanus); Angelina sedum (S. rupestre); threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata).

You mulch it.

(You also seed in a drought tolerant lawn and focus on enriching and aerating because the septic system contractors used fill sand and packed it down to parking lot airlessness. Eventually it will be green and soft out there.)


Your outline has become a low care groundcover bed.


Just like the line you scratched in the sand, it's also in better proportion than what was there, and easier to mow around.

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