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Garden Update: Spring/Summer To Do List

11 Feb


The minute our Christmas tree is down in early January (usually late January most years, ahem) my mind turns to our yard and garden. Lately, my obsession is winter gardens, but that’s a post for another day. Garden planning is a pull that has existed for as long as I can remember, long before we bought this house and my imagination finally had the room to run wild. I just love to dream up what could be as far as making a space beautiful, both indoors and out.

That said, summer bodies are made in winter — or something like that. For now, I’m trying to set aside my stack of books and seed catalogs and focus instead on the nitty gritty of planning out our landscape overhaul starting with an update of what we have left to accomplish, what we will abandon, and what we’ll need to add to from our spring/summer 2017 garden to do list.

1. Stump and tree removal in the backyard

This was partially addressed last spring when we had the massive, gnarly stump just off our patio ground. Since grass wouldn’t grow over the shallow-rooted area, the area surrounding our table and chairs was a perpetual mud pit.

2. Deal with the chipmunks

I struggle with this one because I know the damage they can do to the foundation of a house and I’m nearly certain ours have burrowed up against the entire perimeter of our house and garage. Many recommended something called a “death bucket” which is apparently the most humane way to kill chipmunks, but I’m holding out for a better solution, like catch and release. I’ll share more information once I find something.

3. Remove two shrubs under kitchen window

Done! Brian tackled this one in early spring last year and it really opened up the whole patio area. I just wish we’d done it sooner.

4. Level the backyard

We’re really dragging our feet on this one but it’s probably my number one priority since the uneveness all over drives me bonkers. It just feels like SUCH a massive undertaking since we’ll have to totally reseed the lawn which isn’t something I relish after weathering a winter indoors. It might be something we just learn to live without because I can’t see a good time to tackle it.

5. Redo and build-out the patio

Hopefully this spring we’ll finally make some progress on this. I have a much better idea of what we need thanks to an entire summer/fall and now winter to ponder our wants and needs and one of the greatest shockers is that I now want to KEEP the flagstone. I’ve always been interested in recycling and reusing, but as I’ve studied landscape design and sustainability, it’s become clear that the best designs make use of existing raw materials, so I want to follow suit. Plus, I always liked the color that the flagstone provided, so I’d like to see what can be done to perk it up a bit.

6 Build-up berms along the back perimeter

This might be yet another we adapt or abandon. I loved the idea once upon a time, but the fact is, berms will probably damage the fence so it may be best to just let this one go and start to visualize something new.

7. Seed the lawn

See #4. If we grade, then we’ll seed then. Although, I guess it can’t hurt to see over the bare spots? Something to look into.


8. Start our vegetable garden

Check! It wasn’t at ALL where I’d thought it would be and I was so uncomfortably pregnant by the time planting time came around in the early spring that it didn’t feel like a full effort to get it off the ground ever really happened, but we did technically start it and the tomato output along made it worthwhile. We also managed to establish a patch of 25 raspberry bushes that actually produced berries, much to E’s delight.

I do need to rethink how we approach it though because we don’t have the full sun required to grow what I’d hoped we could, so I may need to look into alternative spots to throw some plants — front yard gardening anyone?

9. Plant privacy trees and shrubs on back perimeter

No progress here. I did purchase one arborvitae but the list of trees we would like to add is long and expensive, starting with: pear trees, a blue spruce and finally, I’m absolutely drooling over specimen trees. I really, really want a Japanese maple to stare at adoringly as I sip my morning coffee this summer.

10. Install side yard arbor and gate; plant clematis and roses

This is a great example of a To Do that I’m glad we never got to. With young kids, I don’t think more fence opening makes sense, now that I’ve had more time to live in our home, particularly one to a very busy main road. Sure, a rose-covered arbor would be charming and lovely and it would be so nice to have a cut-through to the front yard from the side, but nothing is worth the risk of endangering our children.

11. Purchase lounge chair seating

This one is very high on my list for this spring/summer. I’ve wanted to find really great quality steamer chairs for years. I love Adirondack chairs as much as the rest of the population, but after I sat in a steamer chair on the Vineyard with Brian about 6 years ago, on my first trip there actually, just before our wedding, I was basically spoiled for life. Picture an adirondack lounge chair. I’ve kept my eye out for them online and even on Craigslist, but I think it’s the kind of thing I may need to “know a guy” for because  everything I’ve found online so far looks too cheap to be the quality I’m looking for. I’m holding out for a truly sturdy teak chair. The search continues.

12. Find the perfect hammock

This should be a priority since lounging in the afternoon shade with a lemonade and a book sounds like absolute heaven to me, but the fact is, we don’t have a spot to hang one yet! I’d hoped to have planted some trees this past fall, but we didn’t end up doing it so this one may be on hold indefinitely, much as it saddens me.

13. Find a swing set for Emilia

Done! After an exhaustive search, I think I found the set that will blow our daughter’s mind and it was shockingly affordable. We went with a Sportspower Mountain View metal swing set. Beyond its amazing price, the features that sold me were the flying saucer and a trampoline. Sometimes a bargain price raises a red flag, but after pouring over hundreds of rave reviews, I was persuaded to take a chance. I know the cedar swing sets look really beautiful in a backyard and I was incredibly tempted, but I think the most important aspect of a swing set is the variety of ride-on/play features and I’m just not convinced those playhouse towers on most of the wood sets really get used enough to justify having them. In addition to the saucer and trampoline I mentioned, our  also has two swings and a glider — that means it can accommodate up to eight children at a time. Now, the big project is going to be preparing the space for play set installation. This involves jackhammering up a cement slab once used for a fireplace, leveling the most irregular slope of our yard, and finding an alternate way to source/DIY woodchips or playground safety fiber. You know, something two parents can do on their own some weekend.


14. Install front window boxes

Done! Although we only managed to install, but not fill our window boxes until the second week of August last year, we were able to enjoy them in both fall AND winter and now they’re installed on all windows on the front of the house and we have one on the yard-facing window of the garage. For fall, I transplanted some of the ivy we have growing in our yard and then filled in with mini mums. For winter, I smooshed chicken wire into the boxes, then filled in with various evergreens, including some of the cut branches from our (and our neighbors’) Christmas trees. Smooshed is a recognized gardening term right? I filled in with some faux red berry branches for some interest.

All in all, not a terrible progress update on reflection. I’d thought we hadn’t gotten to much but considering that I was pregnant for the first half of the year and then caring for a newborn for much of the rest, we got a lot down. I’m just going to keep reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and to take baby steps. A garden should develop over time and with all the careful planning and consideration we’re putting into planning out the design, accounting for our goals as far as usage and function, I think we’re in really good shape to tackle even more of our priority to dos this spring and summer. Stay tuned. 🙂

Currently Digging

14 Sep

potting bench4

My love affair with potting benches started in early spring when I saw a beautifully styled potting bench repurposed in a Pottery Barn catalog (see above). Before I knew it, I was fantasizing about all the cute ways I could style mine with drink dispensers and cute handmade or vintage signs for parties out in our garden.

potting bench

The thing is, the “potting bench” in current use in my garden is a good sized picnic table absolutely covered in dirt, empty plastic pots, and flats of various seedlings I’m in the middle of starting. There is nothing cute or styled about any of it – it’s a functional workspace and I’d be hard presses to keep it as neat as a lot of these inspiration photos.

potting bench2

In studying these pictures and thinking more about the whole concept of a designated spot for “potting” things, I’ve come to a few conclusions —

1st – A working potting bench needs to be functional and hold everything I need to pot up plants in the garden. This could mean there are a variety of pots, containers of various potting soils and soil amendments like peat, sand, or potting soil as well as gloves and various tools for the task.

2nd – Know that it’s not a greenhouse. Part of the problem with my current set-up is the fact that I let my stuff stay there. My lettuce seedlings are hanging out in the exact same spot they started in this past spring and taking up precious real estate I could be using.

3rd – Although a potting bench is a place to muck around in the dirt, a little inspiration never hurt anyone so it’s nice to seek out cute little garden signs, pretty gardening gloves, and attractive containers


potting bench 3

Garden Update: September 2017

6 Sep

IMG_0341Now that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, it seems like a good time to do a quick check-in on the Garden To Do List. Also, my list has grown so before I update it for the fall, I thought I’d give a status update where things ended up and why. Here’s where we started in the fall and what we got done:

Our 2017 Spring/Summer Garden Priority List

Stump and tree removal in the backyard
Deal with the chipmunks
Remove two shrubs under kitchen window
– Level the backyard
– Redo and build-out the patio
– Build-up berms along the back perimeter
– Seed the lawn
Start our vegetable garden
– Plant privacy trees and shrubs on back perimeter
– Install side yard arbor and gate; plant clematis and roses
– Purchase lounge chair seating
– Find the perfect hammock
– Find a swing set for Emilia
Install front window boxes

Now, to be totally honest, a few of the above are multi-step items that may be only partially done, but I feel like we got a lot accomplished in hindsight, so I’m going to count them. The fact is, there is one lingering chipmunk, we have quite a few more trees and stumps to deal with and our veggie garden has a ways to go, namely, we need to secure it from the bunnies and the day pigeons (who ate all our bush beans) which means some sort of fencing next year.

For the moment, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that we were able to get the garden in at all since I was in my third trimester at the start of the planting season. It was also a terrible year for gardening because we had SO much rain in June.

There are a few things I didn’t put on my priority list earlier this spring like planting asparagus and purchasing fruit trees to get started, but as I’ve settled into this house and gotten to know a bit more about our property and its potential, I’ve realized we might not have the best conditions for a lot of the things I’d hoped to eventually put in, like a pear tree, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hidden potential to be unlocked!

Stay tuned…