Take the East Border in my back garden. After a night spent with the matter running through my head, I decided there's no use in my amending just the 3'-8" width I now had, when it really needs to be wider to amount to anything.
So I decided to peel up the grass and take it out 18" further, to line up with a brick joint in this funny pointless little path with its funny 9" x 4-1/2" bricks that I've got running perpendicular to my backyard walkway.
And I figured I'd do the whole strip from one end of the yard to the other, not just the twelve feet or so I'd finished clearing the rocks off yesterday.
They say you should just take the grass and leave the topsoil. Couple-three years ago, I widened that border a good foot or so, and I nearly gave myself varicose veins, not to mention nerve paralysis, stomping on the spade to heave out these great deep divots. A local gardener told me I shouldn't be going that deep. So yesterday evening, I looked at sod cutting devices online. Delightful, labor-saving tools that'd give you a mere 2" thick layer you could roll right up.
Nice, but occasionally it's prudent for me to remember I'm poor and use the tools I have.
Like my cordless mower with the edger attachment. Maybe I could cut the long edge with that. And then lift up the margins just enough with my spading fork.
Would it lift?
Gracious, no. That'd be too easy.
No idea why not-- after all, the sod I removed last January for the front yard crape myrtle bed lifted and rolled satisfactorily!
But maybe the backyard grass is different from what's growing in front. And it's spring now, and the roots are vigorous and tenacious.
So I proceeded to follow the devices and desires of my own heart. I did what I ought not to have done: I plunged in with my spading fork and removed the grass in chunks nine or ten inches square and four to six inches deep.
Yeah, there went all the top soil-- all but what I could shake or pound or fork off. But what could I do? I wanted to get the sod off (...) and I did what I needed to do to do it!
And then, I'm calling what I hope to end up with an herbaceous border. With a few shrubs, fruiting or not, dotted in. But they say you shouldn't plant perennials anywhere near a tree and its root system. And my sugar maple is at most--what?-- fifteen feet away? If that? And roots in where I'm digging? Oy vey! Have we ever got roots!
But I'm going to plant this border anyway. What am I supposed to do? Give up and put back all the landscape rock? Deep-six the tree and its shade and force myself to turn on the air conditioning? I've managed to get through four summers without it, largely thanks to that tree!
I can spare it a little fertilizer, if it'll spare me a few root ends.
Anyway, the border is now widened to 5'-6". Sometime in the future I'll take another eight inches or so of grass for a brick edge, but I think I'll rent a trencher to do that. Want make it deep enough to dump in some concrete and give myself a sporting chance of keeping the tree roots out.
Next thing, tomorrow, I have to amend the soil. They say you should do that in the fall and let it settle over the winter. Or at the very least, give it a week or two.
But how am I supposed to do that? I've got to get those blackberry bushes planted right away!
They say God looks after drunks and fools. I hope amateur gardeners fit in there somewhere, too.