Sep 19, 2014

Goodbye Summer

Monday marks the true first true day of Fall this year. This weekend is our last hoorah for summer and I'm sad and excited about it all at the same time. The weather has been a bit chilly lately but mentally we've still been in summer mode (helps to have a kid that's in daycare all year round instead of school). As you know from my lists, I'm looking forward to pumpkins and apple picking, the beautiful colors... and we LOVE Halloween. But it's hard to say goodbye to long evenings, summer produce, the warm weather, the garden, the water and beaches. I'm looking forward to pulling out my fall decor, but I'm sad to put the summer stuff away. Every season has its own magic (even winter, despite all I dislike about it), though sometimes it's hard to let go!

In the meantime I think we'll take Oliver out for one last summery, old fashioned soft serve ice cream cone while we ponder Halloween costumes.

Sep 18, 2014

Fall To-Do List

It's really starting to feel like Fall around here. The weather is cool, the leaves are starting to change (is it just me or is this happening earlier than usual around here?). It's really time to figure out what we need to get done and what we want to get done before winter.

  1. Planting the mailbox garden. This is the top priority once the street is finished. I've been waiting to do this all summer and Fall is really the best time to transplant things, so I want to do this as soon as possible!
  2. Finish cleaning out the garage. It doesn't have to be perfect but we need more usable space and more storage room in there to hold all our stuff for winter. If we clean it out enough we might even be able to use it as a work space in the winter...
  3. Kitchen shelving. Remember phase 2 of the kitchen shelving project with the radiator cover? We still want to do it. It's really hard to cut boards in the snow, so it would be really nice to get this done before it's snowing.
  4. Fall yard cleanup. All the usual stuff - pull up dead plants, clean up the beds, turn the compost pile in the back. Pull up the garden, cover it with black plastic. Dig up the delicate bulbs and store them for winter. Put everything in the yard away for winter before it snows.
  5. The Attic. We never did get around to adding railing or lighting up there, last Fall nor in the Spring. I'd really like to try to finish this off if we can squeeze it in before it gets too cold.

Sep 17, 2014

Fall Fun List: Year 2

Last Year we created our Fall Fun list to make sure we enjoyed the Fall season with Oliver. It inspired our Summer Fun List from August (and we accomplished all the fun stuff at least!) and it's definitely inspired a similar list for this year. Here's what we'd like to do over the next few weeks between now and Halloween:

  1. Decorate for Halloween (in early October)
  2. Make pumpkin spice coffee and bake something with pumpkin
  3. Go apple picking and take Oliver to see all the farm animals
  4. Make homemade apple sauce and an apple tart
  5. Go pumpkin picking and take Oliver through a corn maze
  6. Take a Fall Foliage walk/stroller friendly “hike”
  7. Carve a jack-o-lantern for Halloween
  8. Take Oliver trick-or-treating!

Sep 16, 2014

Our House as Pop Art

I had my sister's birthday project on my mind recently, the one where I made her pop art images of our vacation last year and our childhood home. It dawned on me that I should whip up a pop art version of our house for fun. Now I just can't decide on the sky color - aqua blue, yellow or green for the little yellow house? Or maybe a series of all 3 in a frame?

Sep 15, 2014

Globe String Lights

I don't have much of a post today. Just a thought leftover from a recent weekend night. One of those cool dry nights where mosquitoes get blown away in the breeze and you can see the stars even in our part of NJ. You sit outside with good friends and baby monitors and you could stay outside forever. And when the evening was truly called to an end, I re-noticed how beautiful our pergola looks with the globe string lights illuminating everything. They are just so enchanting to me. 

Globe string lights make everything even more awesome. 

Sep 12, 2014

Post Walk...

Georgia in her harness, relaxing in the backyard after her walk while Oliver gets his crazies out.

The grass is cooler in the back where it's wet, so she likes to lay back here.

Happy Friday

Georgia just wants to wish you a Happy Friday. She loves weekends as much as the rest of us.

Sep 11, 2014

End of the Summer Yard Roundup

This has been a good year for the yard, like it's been a good year for the garden. Many of the plants we put in over the past few years have reached their mature size - if anything things have become a little overcrowded. I like to think of it as "full" and "lush." Like our blackberry/raspberry/sweet pea (and uninvited wisteria from the neighbor's yard I have to get rid of) bramble. It's a little wild, a little messy, but it's so full of vines and flowers it's also rather charming. You have to ignore the bottom of the bed where it's a little shaggy because we had to pull all that back and out for the driveway sealing.

On the other side of the forsythia bush (to the right of the photo above) we have lilies and mint that have also gotten a little wild, though mint is really hard to tame. I didn't plant it but I do love fresh mint, so we keep it around. The blossoms also smell really nice when you walk by. The grapevine came over from my neighbor's yard (like the wisteria) on the other side of the fence - I should probably pull it up before it goes crazy.

Over by the deck the crepe myrtle tree looks beautiful. It completely recovered from the winter and has been blooming since early July non-stop. I love the hot pink blossoms. The quince next to it (that was spectacular in the spring) is even bigger and I'm hoping for another great show in a few months. I still can't believe both the quince and crepe myrtle were little twigs barely hanging onto life a few short years ago. The autumn joy sedum and butterfly kisses echinacea are there temporarily, they will end up in the mailbox garden soon. Between the quince and what these will grow to at full size, there isn't enough room in this small bed for them

I trimmed the knock-out rose bush very heavily last year, so we didn't get as many blooms on it this year while it recovered. The strawberry plants and peonies have been happy all summer.

To the left of the strawberries and peonies I definitely over-planted this small space not realizing how big these two peonies would get at full size. Last year they were  big, but not this big! They also are suffering from a little powdery mildew and look past their peak, but I think they're okay. Between the irises, the perennial snapdragon, the hellaboris, the autumn joy sedum and the two mini-dahlias, there's barely any breathing room over here. Luckily the hellaboris likes shade in the summer and will be the first to bloom in the spring, long before the peonies wake up, so it can stay. The mini dahlia bulbs have to be dug up after the first frost and I'll put them somewhere else next year. The sedum will probably also get moved. I think once those plants are moved I can also keep the snapdragon over here.

Moving down the line you can start to see why I think the garden needs to be rearranged. It's just a patch of one plant, then another, thrown together in a time when I just wanted greenery along the fence. The giant bleeding heart is yellow but still hanging on, which is very surprising since it usually dies back completely in the heat of July and I'm left with a bare patch of dirt (but this was an unusually cool year). The gladiolas were beautiful when they bloomed in August but are now past their peak. The anemone next to it has become so huge I'm going to break it up and plant some of it in the front mailbox garden - it's become hard to mow around it.

The hostas came up by themselves when we stopped mowing the garden beds here just to "see" what these plants were (like the quince). We quickly realized we have full-sized hostas trying to come back through the grass. They are back to full size this year and huge now, I had to widen the beds significantly over here in the spring and they take up the whole space.

Next to the hostas are gladiolas, delphiniums, and a hydrangea that won't bloom because it's now in full shade from the red bud tree. Then more glads then the astilbe. Even in the shade things are very lush, even if they aren't blooming (I need to trim that tree back).

There's astilbe and lilies, blueberries and the fig tree to round off this side.

The bushes we planted a few years ago are getting very tall now. They are doing a great job of hiding the chain link fence with a wall of green and providing some great privacy. They will grow to about 8 feet and some of them are 6 feet now, others about 4 feet. 

So that's our yard at the end of the Summer. We've had some good growth this year and a lot of plants are now full sized which is really nice. Of course some things are past their peak in these pictures, but I actually think that's a good thing - we've tried to enrich our backyard's landscaping with 3 seasons of color. It starts with the crocus (and soon the hellaboris) in March and goes all the way through to October with the plants that bloom until Fall like the anenome, echinacea and dahlias. It's really nice to always have something in bloom for the extended season and I really like perennials since they come back year after year.

Sep 10, 2014

River Birch Update

Remember those river birches we planted out back? It's been a little over a year now and I'm happy to say that the survivors are doing very well.

They are still too young to soak up water, but I'm so glad that they have survived. We had a brutal winter that was hard on all our trees and plants, they didn't look very good in the spring. The good summer weather though (the same weather than gave us a stellar garden season) really brought them back. We have at least one surviving tree in each hole. We're so relieved - we have real little trees now!

Sep 9, 2014

Starting the Mailbox Garden (sort of)

Our street construction is in full swing. They've dug up 4 feet of our driveway, about 12 inches of our grass and a whole lot of street. We didn't want to start the mailbox garden until after the construction was done, but the butterfly bush I got in July couldn't wait any longer.

Since the mailbox plan was to put the bush directly behind the mailbox for height and we knew they wouldn't go in that far during the construction (based on all the spray paint marks), we decided to plant the butterfly bush early. We'll do the rest of the garden when the construction complete. I dug a hole that was much wider than the pot (more than double, but double is a good rule) and the same depth. For now, the butterfly bush looks pretty happy. 

Sep 8, 2014

September Garden Update

September is always the beginning of the end in the garden. While some of the cooler weather plants will make it through to October (chard, lettuce, beans, herbs, zinnias), it's the end of the road for so many of the heat lovers (tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, etc.). That said, I am really surprised by how good the garden looks for this time of year. Usually it's half dead by mid-August and even worse by mid-September, but thanks to some usually dry (our summers are normally very humid) and mild weather we've had a really great year in the garden.

The bottom half of the tomato plants did suffer from some nasty blight, the tops are still green, flowering and growing tomatoes. The plants have been so prolific this year. Last year at this time everything was so dead I pulled them up early (last year was a really lousy year), so this is a nice change!

I said it during previous months and I'll say it again, this has been a stellar year for cucumbers. I've never had so many, we're drowning in them. We eat them nonstop and give them away to family, friends and neighbors and we still can barely keep up. I can't believe how healthy the vines still are - they are just starting to brown which usually happens to me in July! The melon vines are also doing well - I have 2 little watermelons growing that I'm hopeful will ripen any day now. The musk melons are blooming now - way too late to produce melons! I think next year I'm going to try pre-starting those indoors as an experiment to see if we can actually get melons. Also the random carrots I put in here are also looking good - we'll pull those up in a few more weeks.

The flowers have been a mix. The zinnias have been doing amazingly, we have huge bouquets all the time in our house. The sunflowers grew taller than our garage, we could see them from the house over the garage roof. It was so cool! The dahlias did okay, but I don't think they got enough sun or something, because they didn't grow very large or produce a lot of flowers. The snapdragons barely took at all and the two that came up look half dead.

The green beans have been growing and producing, though I don't love this strain of pole bean as much as the one we've grown previous years. I bought a new packet of seeds and these beans are much stringier and don't have the same flavor. Next winter I have to find more of the old ones. I finally pulled up the lettuce that went to seed and I reseeded the lettuce area - it's starting to sprout too! The swiss chard is doing beautifully and we constantly have way more than we could ever eat because it's growing so fast (luckily it's pretty too). The oregano and thyme are doing well but our basil completely died last month so I pulled it up. Last year was a great year for basil and a bad year for everything else. This year is a great year for everything else and a bad year for basil.

Fruit Trees & Bushes
The last of the blackberries were just picked! We had a really long season because of the cooler weather. At first they were so sour but these last berries are actually palatable which is nice. The brown turkey fig tree (the one I thought was dead) is now covered in little green figs which I'm hoping to enjoy if the birds don't get them first. The lemon and lime trees have a few ripe fruits as well, though these will have to be moved in very soon as the nights get cooler.

The bell peppers have ripened into several beautiful orange peppers and a few more small green ones - I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we might get a couple more before a frost in October. The jalapeƱo pepper plants have produced a ton - if I don't use them I freeze them for later.

Overall the garden looks more like August than September because it's doing so well, but it's also been a strange year. We've really enjoyed it though - the unusually great weather and the usually great garden. Before I know it the weather will be cooling down and we'll be wrapping things up.