Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall planting

We finally turned our attention today to the unfinished part of our new house: the yard. We chose not to plant things when we first moved in because it was during the hot summer, and the plants would have died unless we spent a lot of time watering them (which wastes water and money). Instead, we waited until now, when fall is here, the weather has cooled and we're getting more natural rain.

Our goal is to avoid planting lawn in the front yard, and only plant things that a) edible (vegetables and fruit) or b) native to Oregon, meaning they will grow easily in this climate with little maintenance or added water. We bought a huge number of Oregon natives from Minto Island Growers, a really awesome local organic food farm that also sells native plants.

Our landscaper, Coleman, from Cascade Landscape Management helped us decide what plants to pick and then helped us place them around the yard. Then we did the manual labor of planting them all. What you'll see in these photos is a mix of Oregon grape, sword ferns, coastal strawberry, dogwood, red flowering currant, snowberry, and a few vine maple trees. Right now, they look skimpy, but once they grow and fill in, we'll have a yard that mimics the woodland you see around Oregon. That's the hope, anyway.

We plan to get a few more vine maple trees and ferns for the front yard. We also have a spot set aside for a small vegetable garden, which we will surround with a few blueberry and huckleberry bushes.

In the backyard, we planted lawn for the dog and for our eventual family to play on. We chose a low-maintenance alternative lawn called Rough & Ready from a Portland company, Hobbs & Hopkins. It's a mix of dwarf grass and clover that's supposed to require little mowing or water. The seeds have already sprouted, which looks really cool.

Here's Stuart watering some of the Oregon grape plants we placed in the backyard. In the corner, you can see our black composter -- we started composting for the first time a few months ago. We really don't know what we're doing, but we're giving it a shot (with advice and help from friends and manuals). It's nice to have a place to reuse all our food waste.

Our back patio is made from chunks of concrete that we had to tear up in the front when we poured a new sidewalk. We're trying to grow some low mint and creeping thyme plants in the cracks between the concrete pieces.

I never shared a finished photo of our driveway in the front. As you may remember, we went with parking strips instead of a full driveway, which helps make the area more permeable and decreases the amount of water runoff. We poured some nice river rock between the strips.

Finally, we took another big step toward greener living this past week: we sold our second car. Here's where it used to sit:

Since we both work close to home, we typically bike or walk to work (unless the weather is super rainy). We also live near downtown, where we spend most of our free time. We found that we were rarely using our second car, so we decided to sell it. It'll be nice to not have to pay for the extra insurance, but I also like that it's a step toward making ourselves less reliant on automobiles and gas. We can always get another car later if we feel we need one when we have kids, but for now, this works well for us!


  1. Congrats on the car-lite decision! Hopefully, Salem will gain more robust car-sharing, transit, and even facilities for cargo bikes, so that you won't actually need to re-own that second car!

  2. Did you see any salal at Minto Island Growers? It's one of my favorite natives.

  3. Minto Island Growers didn't have any salal, but we are getting some through Cascade Landscaping. Our landscaper also recommended it. Thanks for the tip!