Put down two inches of compost and rototill it in to a depth of six inches. How can you screw that up? Plenty, it appears. The landscaper I hired to rototill in my compost doesn’t know the difference between a soil amendment and a mulch. A soil amendment is material (such as compost) that you work into the soil. A mulch is material you place on the soil to reduce weeds, moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture.
The landscaper rototilled some areas too much, pulverizing the soil, and didn’t rototill other areas at all. Then he simply spread compost on top of everything.
I was off working on other projects. It’s clear that I should have been watching the worker’s every move. I would have rototilled the area myself, except that a heavy-duty rototiller weighs more than I do.
So I spent the next two and a half days repairing the damage. I tilled the untilled areas, using my shovel, and worked the compost into the soil myself. I didn’t want to run the risk of having the landscaper pulverize more areas of soil, so I didn’t call him about coming back. Pulverized soil dries like cement after it gets wet.
Once I finished hand tilling the soil, I began grading it so that water would drain from the top of the landscape onto the lawn or into defined lower areas. I used a three-foot-wide landscape or grading rake to do this.
Normally, I would have installed edging next to separate the turf area from the shrub and perennial beds. But this was late September, so my top priority was getting the plants into the ground quickly so they could recover from transplant shock and put on root growth before the ground froze. As a result, I began installing plants and mulching around them as I went.
Once all the plants were installed, I used a mattock to mark the line for my edging. I like to play with the line as I go to make the curves more interesting.
With the line marked, I dug a trench along it and inserted steel rolled-top edging, anchoring it with anchor pins every two and half feet or so.
Then I dug a two-inch-deep mulch trough along the edge of the sidewalk and on the inside edge of the edging so that mulch will have a place to accumulate during rainstorms instead of flowing onto the sidewalk.
Finally, I mulched the entire landscape with shredded Washington red cedar mulch, a vast improvement over the rock mulch I had before.
I chose mostly bullet-proof plants because of my heavy clay soil and the extreme weather conditions in Fort Collins. In my next post, I’ll share my plant selections with you.