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The Back Garden Project: The Best Laid Plans

This is the fourth post in The Back Garden Project, one GOOD community member's effort to turn a neglected corner of the city into a thriving garden.

So I've completed and drafted this pretty extensive little land survey of the plot I'm trying to turn into a garden. The image above shows the dimensions of the plot and a few existing features: a cement patio against the building, the metal tracks, two wooden poles that hold some overhead wires, and a rectangular, brick-and-mortar structure in the center of the garden that I believe, from talking to my landlady, was probably once a home-made barbeque (though any actual grill is M.I.A.). Just south of that is evidence of a smaller patio laid in stone, which I've already begun clearing and re-laying using the existing pieces and other stone scraps from around the garden.

I've also been tracking the sun's movements across the garden for the past few days, which has enabled me to construct two maps, which are pretty nifty if I do say so myself. I've separated them into morning and afternoon because (short of making something animated that I have neither the time nor skill to create) I couldn't think of a good way to effectively show the whole day's sunlight in a single image.

The different colors in the afternoon map are intended to show where the shade comes back in on the west side of the garden as the sun gets lower in the sky. (There's also some morning shade around the barbeque/obelisk thing too, but I didn't bother mapping it.) Anyway, this demonstrates again that, at least as of mid-April, it's only about the back half of the garden that gets any sun during the day, and really only the back-central quarter of it that gets more than four hours. So we'll have to see. I've already begun plotting exactly what should go where to best make use of the space and light but, as always, suggestions are very welcome.

One of my biggest quandaries is whether that weird top corner, which is totally filled with trash, should remain as such. It gets decent afternoon sun, but at the moment the scale of the trash pile there is daunting. In the meantime, I've planted a nice northeastern evergreen (Thuja occidentalis) in a position to begin a sort of barrier. Gargiullo's Guide to Native Plants of the New York City Region suggests it "should tolerate concrete debris," so I went for it. A number of native berry bushes, such as dewberry and serviceberry, are also apparently quite shade- and debris-tolerant, but at a first look seem hard to find and expensive. Anybody have any leads?

In the meantime, here's a picture of the garden in full spring glory. This was taken at about 4:30 pm, incidentally, if you want to cross-reference with my sun diagram:

I'll be posting again soon. Next time: a real landscape design plan and lots of pictures of native plants going into the soil.

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