Neglected Rocky Nightmare Transformation

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We recently moved to North Central Idaho, and I have absolutely no idea how potatoes or any other root crops are ever grown here! Around our home, we have about 6 to 8 inches of topsoil. Under that is a 3- to 4-inch layer of hardpan clay. Honestly, at first, I thought it was leftover concrete from building the house. When I was finally able to break through and get a few chunks out, I found that it was red, and I could break it. Beneath the clay are rocks. Ranging from egg-sized to fist-sized, and sometimes even larger, the basalt rocks are something to be reckoned with.

No one has worked the garden area in over 20 years. The front “lawn” is mostly just mowed weeds with a border garden of white rock over heavy-duty landscape fabric, and a few flamingo statues.

The backyard also consists of weeds, growing in between 2-to 3-inch flat rocks that have been placed there in a single layer. I discovered that under the flat rocks is a layer of soil about 3 inches deep and then black plastic. All of this in rock-hard soil.

I have my work cut out for me. I don’t want a lawn. Period. Full-stop. A lawn wastes water and has to be maintained.  I’m going to transform this area from mowed weeds to an oasis of bushes and herbal ground covers. This is such an onerous task that I can’t do it all at once. I hope to share some insight with all of you as I struggle to transform this nightmare.

I started with three blueberry bushes that I bought from Costco. It took a full day to dig a hole big enough for each plant. This is how I discovered what the soil was like. I can normally dig several in one day.  These are good-sized plants, so for each one I dug a hole that was about 2 feet wide at the top and about 2 feet deep. There are ponderosa pine and red fir trees all around, so several inches of fallen pine needles went in the bottom of the hole. Once the blueberry bush was put in the hole, I back-filled with a mixture of dirt and pine needles, topping it off with 2 inches of pine needles and pine cones.  Next, I planted a few plants that I brought with me: lemon grass, lion’s tail, Mexican verbena, and peppermint.

I started to lay out a path using a garden hose. Once I had the basic path outlined, I filled it in with cardboard boxes. The cardboard should smother the grass, making it easier to remove the grass later.

It doesn’t look like much yet, but one step at a time.