Suzanne and her family love to garden, but were very dissatisfied with the "look" of their back yard. During the late fall and throughout the winter, I consulted with various family members to better understand their skills, interests, needs and desires. Suzanne and I developed a design and plan to move forward.
We met for our first of 2 "mentoring" days set for early spring. During that 6 hour day, Suzanne and I laid out new beds. I taught her 2 ways to create; the first was stripping away the sod leaving the soil beneath that was ready to be amended (fertilized). The second was to use a "sheet mulching" technique, borrowed from the Permaculturalists (a system of permanent agriculture), of covering the sod with an impermeable layer and adding a layer of compost for the growing medium.
By the end of our second day together, we had laid out all of the new beds and had gotten a load of compost delivered to gate of her in-town back yard. She felt confident using the tools and techniques we had practiced together to continue creating the beds that would be planted in the late summer.
Her "homework" was to complete the beds before I returned about 6 weeks later. Further "homework" included researching the shrubs and perennials to move, divide or add.
When I returned, Suzanne and her husband had, indeed created all of the new beds and they were ready to plant with only minimal adjustments.
The project continued with our moving some shrubs from old beds to new ones, adding others, and dividing and moving perennials of all descriptions. We took quite some time discovering the different root balls of plants which deeply affect the ways in which it is advisable to move them.
By the end of these 2 mid-summer days, we had explored drip irrigation systems deciding which was best for this situation and got the whole family involved in beginning to lay them out. We added an arbor a neighbor was discarding. But the piece-de-resistance was creating a flagstone walking path leading to a bench newly relocated in a quite reading nook under a mature shade tree in the back corner.
The "homework" from these sessions was the joy of locating and planting the rest of the shrubs and perennials!
My final working trip to this household was to work with mulches and make last minute changes both in the beds themselves and in the placement of plants. A few things needed to be moved, but very few. This family had really enjoyed working together to create their new back yard.