Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Yard Vol 3 Issue 1

My father-in-law came over last week to fix the sprinkler back flow preventer. Our sprinklers didn't entirely get shut off last fall (ahem) and so the pipe to the back flow preventer burst in the middle of the winter. The fix was only $90, and thank goodness the actually back flow valve didn't burst - it costs $280 to replace!!

After spending 4 hours fixing that, my father-in-law offered to come back with his boys (my husband's little brothers) to dig the weeds out of all the flower beds. Since they were coming to help, I figured I would get some things to put back in the beds, so they wouldn't just be empty.

I bought 14 shrubs, 1 tree, and about 6 flats of annuals. And I used basically all of them! I have used 21 bags of wood chips (the red kind - hubby's favorite!) to cover the beds so far, and I will probably use about 6 more on the last flower bed.

My irises in this bed are white and purple and make a gorgeous combination! The white ones are from my neighbor's garden last year, and the purple ones are from my mom's garden in Arkansas. The shrub and the tree and the annuals are part of massive shopping trip to Glover Nursery.

Here is the front bed, completed.

A shot from the road.

My irises up close.

A zinnia.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Yard–Vol 2 Issue 1

I should have been taking pictures all year, but I guess I got distracted. Or lazy. Or discouraged because the yard has just been really awful…

We’re coming up on two years, and I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job, compared to where things were last year.



The Front Yard

Current Condition: We planted Rose of Sharon in the circle planters in the sidewalk last summer. They are full of blossoms, and just beautiful! Last fall I put down weed barrier fabric in them and piled IMG_2129rocks on top (the rocks we removed from that awful pond). I’d say it’s been doing a sufficient job of keeping the weeds out of those beds, although I was having to pull a few every now and then. I added some more rocks this week, so hopefully that will cut down even more on the need to weed those things. The flower beds still look mostly like weed infested boxes, although the corner bed by the fence in the front is my berry garden! I have two raspberry bushes, two blueberry bushes (which didn’t produce at all this year!) and about 15 strawberry plants.


above: strawberry plants – with little yummy strawberries!


Left: a blueberry; Right: raspberry bushes


Left: Spring Deutzia; Right: Rhododendron


The hibiscus I transplanted from the backyard last fall didn’t make it, but my Sprint Deutizia really took off and is promising to be a nice focal point in that bed. I also added a purple rhododendron, as well as a forsythia. The rhododendron is blocking the sprinkler head from watering the corner where the forsythia is, so we’ll have to raise that up. I also have a bunch of irises in that bed, and in early spring I had tulips and daffodils and hyacinth, but I dug everything up because I wasn’t completely satisfied with the layout of my bulbs. I’ll be redesigning in a few months and I can’t wait.


The bulbs and rhizomes in the small bed under the tree didn’t do very well because they didn’t get a lot of water. We’re thinking about adding some drip irrigation or a bubbler or something to that bed to help those plants get some water. That will go along with the sprinkler overhaul next spring.


I have a nice clump of irises in the middle of the U-shaped bed by the driveway, and a few random snap dragons came up over there, as well as a lot of ground covering that I have been trying to keep at bay. It’s actually been nice because it keeps the other weeds at bay, but we’ll eventually get rid of that and just lay woodchips in all the beds.


Only one of my azaleas made it after last summer, but seemed to be pretty healthy this year. Unfortunately that’s the only thing in that flower bed, which makes weeding a headache. Farther to the west of the house I planted a dwarf snowflake which had a few pretty little white blossoms. I can’t wait for it to get a little bigger. I also put in a photinia, but it didn’t get water in the corner and so it dried out.



The lawn, while mostly thick, is still having problems with weeds. They are everywhere. We did get some seed coming up in the bare spot in front of the tree, but now we have two dead spots in the grass where we think the sprinklers aren’t reaching. It’s been a pretty hot summer, so we’re pretty sure that has something to do with it.

Goals for Next Year: First and foremost is the sprinkler system in the front (and hopefully in the back, although I don’t think the back needs nearly as much help).IMG_2144 We’ll be adding bush sprinklers/drip irrigation to some of the flower beds.

Also, we’ll be pulling out the curbing back in the north west corner by the fence and laying seed there. It just doesn’t get much sun, and I already have 5 other flower beds, I really don’t think I’ll miss that one. And since all that is growing in it right now is weeds, it will be a nice change.

We’d also like to get all the beds covered in mulch to help with weed control. The weeds just get seriously out of control. And I think I might be over watering. We’ll play with the watering next spring, too.

As for the lawn in the front, we’ll be focusing on weed control and even coverage with the sprinklers, as well as some more over seeding. But we’ve really got to get those weeds under control!




The Back Yard

Current Condition: We haven’t made a whole lot of progress on the backyard this year. Our attention has been really focused on the front yard.

Goals for next year: our main goal will be deck repair. You can’t see all the damage in these pictures, but the deck needs some serious repairs, and will need to be treated and stained. We probably won’t have funds for that until next year, so I am hoping it doesn’t get too much more damage this winter. Last winter was mild, thank goodness, so damage was minimal. And the dogs are mostly off the deck (Doc is an inside dog now, yay!) so they aren’t increasing the wear and tear nearly as much.

Another goal is renewing the lawn, either by seeding or laying sod. We still have some okay grass growing back there, but I think the sprinkler system needs some overhaul. Also, we are going to work on removing the rocks under the deck and adding sod under there as well. There are already sprinklers installed, so we’re pretty sure that grass (a very shade-hardy variety) will grow under there. Under the deck probably gets a good 3-4 hours of sunshine a day in the summer.

The corners where we removed curbing earlier this year need to have weed removal and hopefully sod will be laid there, too.

We still need to fix the rain gutters and add a rain barrel. And we’re going to put in a sandbox under the deck (just below the window). Since the kids already play in the dirt we figured we’ll give them some actual sand so they won’t be so dirty. My dream will to be to have this backyard green and dirt free. There’s just so much dirt back there!




The Vegetable Garden

Current condition: Yes, it looks like a big weed patch… the sprinklers that we installed were sprinkling a little too far, and watered the dirt – which means weeds grew in the dirt just in front of the vegetable garden. The cages I bought for the tomatoes weren’t big enough, and now the tomato plants are laying in a big tangled mess. They are producing tomatoes, though!

We’re also getting zuchini – lots of zuchini – green bell peppers, chili peppers, and jalapeƱos. We also harvested a bunch of basil (before the weeds took over – I used weed barrier fabric, but it wasn’t very high quality, and a big wind storm tore up the fabric. Lame).

I have also harvested a few pickling cucumbers which I pickled using a fridge pickle recipe. I didn’t use enough vinegar, but they were still yummy.

None of my beans or peas really made it, but I used old seeds from last year (and maybe a few years ago?) so I think that was the main reason they didn’t make it.

I think the soil quality was a lot better this year, which contributed to the ginormous plants.

I also put the garden on it’s own sprinkler “zone” by putting a splitter at the faucet with a timer and running some PEX pipe under the yard over to the garden, and then hooked the sprinklers into the PEX pipe. It worked like a charm! And now the sprinklers for the lawn (well, it’s dirt right now) will be able to run separate from the sprinklers in the veggie garden.

Goals for next year: bigger/stronger tomato cages, less watering, more spacing between the tomato plants, better quality weed barrier fabric, and sprinklers that don’t over water onto the dirt.

After the first frost we’ll tear everything down and throw manure all over it for the winter.



I’m actually a lot more pleased with our progress on the yard than I was when I first started writing this post. I guess I forgot what the yard looked like back in November. I’d say this is a pretty big improvement.

I’ll try to take weekly pictures of the yard, but maybe I’ll just do monthly photos. We’ll see how it goes.

Taking pictures of the yard to document our progress sure makes me feel better!

Sprinkle Sprinkle

We are planning on doing some intensive landscape repair next spring, and part of that repair is going to be renovating our existing sprinkler/irrigation system. Because I don’t know much about our existing system, I am reading up on irrigation systems at Irrigation


It’s a lot of new information, and because I don’t know what I’m doing, and I don’t know if I will remember all of this later, I’ve decided to take pictures and post the information here so I can have it all in one place when I pick everything up again later this year, or in the spring.


First off, there is a pressure regulator on the pipe leading to our sprinkler valves and the hose bib on the front of the house.


Exhibit A

This is what I affectionately call the “Sprinkler Closet” – it’s a tall, skinny door in the wall in our basement with a little valve for the outdoor water, the regulator, and the automatic sprinkler box (pretty sure that wire in the picture is the ground wire for the box).


For backflow prevention, we have a “Pressure Vacuum Breaker Type Backflow Preventer”. Jess seems to suggest that we should have a “Reduced Pressure Type Backflow Preventer”, but I’m hoping that we can just keep the one we have.


Exhibit B

Yes, the top of the backflow preventer is broken off… I accidentally did that when I was looking for the shut off valve for the sprinklers… whoops. Turned out the valve cover was hidden under mountains and mountains of weeds and quakies in one of the flower beds… Remember what our yard looked like when we moved in?


I still have a lot more information to gather – good thing we’re not planning anything until the spring!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Cheer

I completely forgot to bloom my poinsettia this year - whoops. Probably for the best since it had a rough time (I wasn't very kind to it...)

But because I needed some color for Christmas I tried my hand at growing an Amaryllis from the bulb. I think I may have to get some more of these! It was super easy to grow (plant, water, open blinds) and I think some other colors would be fun, too. I have never been really good at indoor plants but I am determined to have more where this came from!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Yard – Vol 1 Issue 2

I know you’ve been itching to see what the yard actually looks like now. I should have taken pictures all summer, but the yard wasn’t actually that great, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t – but it would have been fun to see how much it has improved.

Well, here it is – the yard after one year of residency in a previously vacated home (our house had been vacant and untended for almost a year before we bought it).



The Front Yard (I will try to do more detailed pictures next time)

Current condition: you can see the beds are weed-free (mostly), there is a hibiscus tree in the far left bed, as well as a Spring Deutzia which is hard to see against the black fence, but will really pop next spring with its white flowers. There are crocuses, tulips, irises, gardenia, asiatic lilies, and daffodils in all the beds (except the bed in the far back corner). The lawn is greening up in most places, the sprinkler system is functional, and the tree in the middle of the yard (a Tulip Tree) has been pruned and, as far as we can tell, is pretty healthy. The circle beds on the sidewalk that used to hold those dying evergreen trees now have white Rose of Sharon bushes. There are also three azaela bushes under the big bay window in the front. Two seemed to have a hard time after I planted them, but I think they weren’t getting enough water because a sprinkler head had broken.

Goals for next year: In the spring we will overseed the lawn, fertilize all the trees and shrubs, and plant some berry bushes (blueberry, raspberry, and strawberries). We also plan on planting some rose bushes close to the house. There is a stump that needs to be removed from the flower bed near the driveway, and we would like to replace it with a tree. We also want to put some more shrubbery in all of the beds – plants that will provide some volume and color even in the winter (it looks dead – but I promise there are lots of bulbs that will be coming up!). I will also be planting some calla lilies in the spring. I will also start pruning the Rose of Sharon in the circular beds to form trees. I’m hoping I can get them to grow a main branch instead of looking bush-like. My mother said it was possible, now I just have to figure out how to do it. And I read today that young plants need winter protection, so now I have to figure out what to use to cover my little baby Sharons.




The Back Yard

Due to the layout of our back yard, it’s hard to get the whole thing in one or two shots. I did my best with a panorama shot (above) and then I have a few more shots of the rest of the yard.

Current condition: As you can see, we have some work to do in the back. There are dirt patches on the side yard (show in the large panorama above) from where we removed curbing this summer. We have a dog and children, so a backyard’s purpose for us is for little children and animals to run around and frolic – I don’t want to have to worry about them trampling my flowers. So flowers are in the front, play-yard is in the back. We originally laid rocks from the removal of the pond under the deck, and then we discovered there are sprinklers under the deck… But under the deck is mostly dirt and the dog’s “poo” area – we trained him to do his business in a specific spot so he doesn’t ruin our lawn. In the smaller picture on the left, you can see where the pond once existed, it’s now a big dirt area, and a vegetable garden (which did pretty well this summer, in spite of being planted horribly late in the season). There is also a little grass over there, where we laid a few pieces of sod we got from a neighbor. The back “corridor” as we call it has some issues from a missing rain gutter, so there is a bit of a ditch, and the entire yard is really patchy and uneven.

Goals for next year: Overseed the entire backyard, and seed (or sod) all bare patches (including under the deck, which will require some serious rock removal. Ouch). We will also be routinely dumping compost all over the yard in the holes to help level out the yard and improve the quality of the soil. I also want to do some potted plants on the big red deck you can see the stilts of in the pictures. In the top big picture in the lower left hand corner, under the deck stairs we will hopefully be adding a rain barrel to catch all the rain runoff from our roof. The area by the pond will be leveled, top soil added, and sod laid. We will probably lay sod under the deck, since it is extreme shade (because our house is south facing, the area under the deck actually gets quite a bit of sunlight – at least 4-5 hours every day during the growing months).



The Vegetable Garden

Current condition: Right now the vegetable garden is more of a compost pile, since it isn’t the growing season. I also didn’t really plant any fall veggies. There are three sprinklers that are on our automatic sprinkler system and give our garden water during the growing season. Unfortunately they are on the same zone as the dirt patch, so the dirt patch got a lot of water this summer.

Goals for next year: plan and harvest more plants. I want to put compost from the dump all over the top of the garden for the winter to help keep in the moisture and improve the soil quality. I also want to get more manure from our neighbors (see that roof on the other side of our fence? A stable in which five horses live!) to add to the compost for the winter. We also want to get the vegetable garden sprinklers on their own zone so we’re not watering the rest of the yard every morning when we water the vegetables. I am going to document the growth and harvest of our plants on this blog next year, as well.


So there it is, our improved and updated yard. I plan on taking pictures each week of our yard. It shouldn’t change much during the winter (other than sometimes be snowy, sometimes not) but I figure if I can get into the habit in the winter, then it will be really easy to do in the Spring/summer when it really matter. And I would love to be able to watch my garden grow through pictures.

And if I think of anything else I want to do to the garden, I can list those things on the blog!

The Yard – Volume 1 Issue 1

I took picture today to post for this “first edition” – and then I remembered what our house looked like when we moved it.


Notice the dead grass, the random weeds and bushes (about 6’ tall) and below, the pond. Yes. A pond. A dilapidated, half-filled-in pond. Taking up almost the entire back yard.


Here’s some more of the front yard:

DSCN4070 DSCN4071

Again, notice the dead grass, and all the little quakies coming up everywhere – in the grass, in the flower beds, ev-er-y-where. They were pains in the rear to clean out, and we were still working on them this summer. (this picture was taken in October shortly after we first moved in)


So we pulled things up, we chopped things down, we dug things out, we watered, fertilized, and did the best we could (like I said, we moved in the house in October, so there wasn’t really any growing season left). But after some hard work, here’s what it looked like:



As you can see in the picture above, we got some grass to start growing (turns out the sprinkler system on the front part of the lawn wasn’t working – which is why the grass only started growing in the back).

In the backyard, we dug out and filled in the pond. It took a lot of work, and a really grateful neighbor (I say she was grateful because she did most of the work in return for all the pond equipment and those flagstones). We were happy just to get rid of that pond! She also eventually took the two evergreens back there (earlier in the spring/summer) and I moved the big hibiscus tree that was back there (probably a bit too late in the year, but oh well).

In the second edition, which I am going to post tonight as well, you’ll see all the work we’ve done!


I finally found out what those blasted red/orange flowers were!

Remember these:


Well, it turns out they are crocosmia. Which variety, I’m not sure. But finally I know what they are! I can’t describe how much relief I get from having finally solved this puzzle…

I am thinking about putting a few of these in the garden, just for nostalgia’s sake.