At the far reaches of The Acre there’s a small dry valley shaded by live oaks. Years ago, when our kids were young, they’d play in a treehouse and swing from a tire swing in one of the biggest oaks. In the winter they’d play in the seasonal creek that flowed through the valley, and summer they’d set up a tent and camp with their friends. Once the kids got a little older, it became a pen for three goats we inherited from a neighbor who moved into the city.
The kids and the goats are now long gone, and with the day-to-day in other places closer to the house, we kind of forgot about this part of our backyard. So, with the exception of an old wood pallet that once protected a small pine from the goats’ bark gnawing, and a few pieces of wood that once edged the path to the swing and treehouse, the valley has returned to its natural state.
I happened to be down there the other day trying to figure out what the chickens were all up to (just chicken stuff it turned out), when a breeze rustled through the trees overhead and I noticed for the first time in years how peaceful, pretty and park-like this little valley is. And it’s right here in my own backyard.
As I’m working from home again for the first time in over a decade, I’ve resolved to take on a few projects this year that are more ambitious than any I’ve done in quite a while (more on that later). One will be create a native garden in this valley.
The valley is covered by a live oak canopy
It’s a bit of a challenge as live oaks are hostile to most things that grow under them and the valley is almost entirely shaded by them. Also, there’s no water down there except in winter, and it’s too far and too rugged to extend plumbing, so I’ll be toting it down there by hand until the plants are well-enough established to make it on their own.
And then there’s the chickens who love nothing more than to scratch and peck both plants and fresh soil.
Anyhoo, today is day one. I’ll be updating progress and reporting what I learn (both successes and failures) as I go along. I hope you’ll follow along.
Oh, and if you have any experience or ideas on creating native gardens under oaks, please share them with me either in the comments below or on social media. I can always use the help.
Here’s a quick video of what the valley looks like right now: