May 21, 2015

Back Garden Cleaned Up

In addition to mulching over the weekend, we also finished cleaning up the back garden. The pebble paths have been weeded, the weeds around the fence cut down/pulled up, new deer netting fencing put up. It was more work than we had anticipated (so many weeds!), but it feels so good to be done.

With the raised beds planted, the seeds starting to sprout and the garden cleaned up, we're feeling really good about the garden! Bring on Memorial Day weekend, we are ready for Summer!

May 20, 2015

Mulching In Progress

So much mulching, so little time. The good news (for us) is that the front is done. The mailbox garden (which is bigger than you think it is!), the front beds, the tree... all done.

Mulch makes everything look so crisp and clean.

Around the tree it's important not to "volcano" the mulch, a common practice of landscapers and homeowners. 3 inches of mulch in a big circle around the base is very good for the trees... but you have to keep the mulch 3-6" away from the base of the tree. Putting thick mulch around the trunk allows pests and nasty things to get in and hurt the tree.

I also want to show off our columbines. For $2.50 each last year on special from Home Depot, they were tiny and pretty but I didn't have any expectations. This year they are just spectacular, exploding with blooms - I had no idea columbines could look like this!

Back to the mulching, in the back I didn't get very far this weekend. It was hot and we had a lot of fun family plans and things to do. I got the bed done between the driveway and patio with the trellis and vines. It looks much better than the weedy mess it was before.

May 19, 2015

Mailbox Garden in the Spring

When I planted the mailbox garden in the fall, it was so late I was worried the plants wouldn't have time to develop their roots. Everything sort of wilted and died back, like plants do in the fall. I couldn't tell if the transplants worked or not. This spring though, everything came back - it's quite lovely!

The butterfly bush, the two anemones, the hosta, the echinachea, and the two autumn sedums all came back. The anenomes  and the hosta were broken off of existing plants from other parts of the garden. The butterfly bush was a gift, the echinachea and autumn sedums were purchased for the garden but I had to temporarily plant them elsewhere in the yard to keep them alive.

This is what it looked like in the Fall - questionable at best:

And now again in the Spring:

A few weeks ago I planted the orange butterfly weed in here too, though it's tiny and new. Everything is small right now, so the plants look like they are spaced far apart, but by Summer this will look fuller and in a few years it will be very full. In the meantime to add some color I planted a couple pansies (for the spring) and a couple of dahlia bulbs (for summer).

The bed is freshly mulched too - mulch makes such a difference in making everything look nice.

May 15, 2015

Yard Plans & Minor Updates

Back in February I posted our yard plans for this year. There were no major plans included, just a visual aid to what changes I was thinking of making to the gardens.

So far most of this is done. The sweet pea seeds are planted in the way back, the dahlias are planted by the fence, the asparagus and butterfly weed were planted back in April when they arrived. I've even added a few additional flower seeds in some of  the beds. I'm almost done with the flower pots.

Still on the list - we'll widen the back garden bed by the blueberries when we mulch back there. We're  actually holding off on the astilbe because we actually have to get some work done on our porch first and we're not sure how it will effect the surrounding plants. We have dry rot in the posts that go up to the roof so we need to get them replaced, and we also need to replace our stair treads. We definitely want to get a contractor for the posts (and replace the wood with composite), and anything on top of that we still have to price out (because if we have to we can do the treads ourselves).

In 2015, this spring we have a couple more new things in the yard as well... Oliver's new playhouse and his birthday swing set that will soon be going up. I also added in our newer furniture and the new(ish) curb.

The swing set will be going up in a couple of weeks, I'll share more about it then. We put a lot of thought into the set we picked out and I'm so excited about it!

May 14, 2015

What's Next Outside

Now that the garden is planted, the = dahlia bulbs are planted and my flower seeds are planted, it's time to move on to cosmetic yard work. Like the garden fence:

In the back garden we need to remove the snow-damaged deer netting and trim all those weeds around the low chicken wire fencing. We'll put fresh deer netting up to keep out the critters. We also need to repair the fencing and netting on the gate... and also fix the fence posts a bit too since they are sagging over time. I also need to spend some serious time weeding the pebble garden paths with a hand rake (it's an excellent arm workout...).

Then there's this...

3 cubic yards of mulch we had delivered that needs to be spread across all the different beds. It's going to be a lot of work to get through all of this, but I think we'll need it all. As we've added more garden beds and widened existing ones, we've been stretching our mulch supply these past couple of years. Fudging the layer thickness is really starting to show - we've had a lot of mulch erosion everywhere and now the weeds are trying to take over. It was time for a bulk delivery... honestly I'm curious to see how far this will go... will I even have enough?

May 13, 2015

The Garden is Planted!

Mother Nature delayed our garden planting. Two weeks ago it was so cold we had to wear our winter coats and the lows dipped into the 20s. I didn't want to plant the garden until that was totally behind us, so it wasn't until this week that we finished planting. Mid-May feels really late, but spring was really late this year!

Our schedules have been ridiculously busy lately, so we had to do the work in pieces. Normally I like to spend a day getting it all done at once, but it wasn't in the cards this year. On the first day, we pulled the plastic off and turned all the dirt in the beds and raked it so everything was soft and loose and mixed in some compost. I transplanted the herbs that had overwintered from one bed to the next. Mike found the hoses in the garage and we buried those in the beds, then put the plastic back on top. Each garden bed was planted one at a time as we had a chance to do it... I'm so relieved it's finally done.

Back in February I wrote out the garden plan and we've stuck to it. Every year we rotate  the four beds around to help remediate the soil and naturally prevent pests. This is the first year everything will be back in the original bed since we started the garden - I can't believe we've been doing this for so many years now!

In Bed 1 we have the vines. Cucumbers on the big trellis, melons on the smaller trellis, squash and zucchini in between. A couple years ago we had problems with squash vine borers, so last year I skipped the squash and zucchini hoping to break the cycle. We'll see how they do this year. The cucumbers, zucchini and squash are from seeds, the melons I started from seeds with the tomatoes to give them a head start (an experiment).

In Bed 2 are the flowers. This year I bought new dahlia bulbs and put 6 of them in here, along with seeds for lots of zinnias, a few snapdragons and one sunflower (because last year the giant sunflower was really fun). It doesn't look like much now, but the flower cutting bed is always gorgeous once it gets going.

In Bed 3  we have the beans, peas, herbs, lettuce and carrots bed. Earlier in April I planted peas and lettuce, the peas on half of the trellis and the lettuce on the far end. Winter was so late this year, the pea vines and lettuces are still tiny - with the wacky weather I'm not sure how well they will do since we've already had a week of summer temperatures. On the other side of the bean pole, I planted green bean seeds. The thyme and oregano were transplanted from bed 2 and the basil is from the nursery. I also did a row of carrots between the herbs and the lettuce.

In Bed 4 there are the tomatoes. I planted 12 from seed back in March with 8 marigolds (which prevent aphids). There's a chadwick cherry, 2 yellow pears, an italian paste, a marinzano roma, bloody butcher, zapotec, green zebra, arkansas traveler, purple cherokee, brandywine and a big boy.

In the pots we have the lemon and lime trees as usual, which sit on the deck. Then on the patio are the peppers, though this year we simplified and cut back on these. Instead of trying to do a lot of peppers I decided we should do just our favorite - a jalapeƱo, purchased from the nursery. If I have any time I'd like to do a couple of flower pots instead this year on the patio for some bright color.

Last but not least, all of the dahlia bulbs from last year were planted along the fence between the fence and the driveway by the blackberry bush (see the yard layout here with our 2015 plans), plus a couple others in a few extra bare spots around the garden beds. It's not pretty right now, since everything is underground, but I think it will be lovely in a month.

May 8, 2015

Spring Morning

It’s been a crazy spring. I keep hoping I can go back to a regular posting schedule, but I think my sporadic posting will continue to be the new normal for a while. My regular day job has expanded (in a good way), but I have a lot more responsibilities that make my days a lot more exhausting and intense. Plus now I have to travel for business (something I've avoided since Oliver was born!). I've also taken on a new freelance project that's going to take up a lot of my time over the next few weeks, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. When you combine that with household chores, errands, family time with Oliver, time with our extended family and friends... it doesn't leave a lot of room for big household projects. I love working on our house and I love this blog, you just have to bear with me while I get through all the life-related craziness.

In the meantime, just enjoy Georgia enjoying a spring morning.

May 7, 2015

May in Bloom

Progress in the garden and outside might be slow, but mother nature forges onwards anyways. Spring was a little late this year, but now it seems to be making up for lost time. The trees are blooming, the leaves are just starting to come out, and the garden is coming back to life.

The strawberries are starting to bloom in the strawberry patch - I can't wait for the fruit in June.

The rhubarb that disappeared after being eaten by the rabbits came back. I thought they had gotten the roots as well, but its coming back - I am relieved!

The birds must have dropped a few raspberry seeds elsewhere in the yard last summer, because this spring a couple of new little raspberry bushes popped up. I was going to just pull them up, but then it occurred to me that  I could attempt to transplant them by the raspberry patch - it was a hard winter and not all the bushes came back that I was hoping for. Several days later and the plants are still alive so I'm hoping they took root.

The hellaboris has two blooms on it. I love how the older bloom is fading to purple and lime green.

The dianthus that miraculously survived overwintering in the garage had its first bloom.

There are so many wildflowers as well - little white pinks ones in the grass and a huge swath of violets between the driveway and the fence. They are so beautiful I forget they are weeds.

We have grape hyacinths everywhere, probably almost a hundred of them now. We seem to get more and more every year.

My fothergilla bush by the garage is blooming - the flowers look like bottle brushes.

The dogwood flowers are white with pink tips - so lovely.

The most lovely thing of all in our yard though right now is the red bud tree. It's big and covered in pinky purple blossoms that are so bright they practically glow neon. It's gorgeous, spectacular - pictures just don't do it justice. I've never seen one as beautiful as this before - it's just amazing.

This week I'm prepping the garden beds and hardening off the tomatoes in anticipation of planting the garden this weekend. I also just ordered 3 cubic yards of mulch to be delivered next week - we have a ton of mulching to do!

May 5, 2015

The Playhouse Repainted!

Remember last week when I shared Oliver's new (to us) playhouse? It needed a fresh coat of paint and a good scrub, but other than that it was in great shape.

Over the weekend we went to work on it - we were too excited for Oliver to wait! I thought it would take one nap time, about 2-3 hours total, to scrub and spray the whole thing. So of course it actually took about 7 hours over 2 days in 3 different sessions to get the whole thing done because I always underestimate this stuff. It wasn't bad, but I just didn't accurately account for all the required drying time - the drying time after washing it and drying time between paint coats on all the different sides.

I should have taken more pictures of the process, but I became overly focused on just getting the work done. We took the play house apart and I scrubbed every single inch of it with warm soapy water and a big scrub brush. Some parts with extra crevices and mildew buildup needed a second scrub. The roof and cabinet doors cleaned up so well, I decided not to paint them. 

Spray painting was the easy part. I picked out 3 colors - a light aqua/seafoam for the main walls (that were pink), turquoise for the cream accent wall that opens up, and yellow for accents - the door, chairs and flower pots. I was a little lazy and decided to paint the table and kitchen set the same colors as the walls instead of taking it apart, but I liked the idea of simplifying the interior. 

Laying down each side was the most effective way to get all the different angles and the best coverage. I tried painting the walls while they were standing up, but I missed too many spots. I used contractor bags underneath to protect the grass - they are a nice large size, they don't stick to the wet playhouse paint and will eventually end up in the trash anyway. Each playhouse side needed two coats of paint - I used 6 cans of of the light aqua/seafoam for the 3 main walls, 2 cans of turquoise for the accent wall and 1 can of yellow for the accents. If we had painted the roof I think we would have needed another 2 can, maybe 3.

Once everything was dry and had 24 hours to cure, we put the play house back together. 

It was a happy accident that the accent wall turquoise matches our adult-sized turquoise adirondack chairs perfectly. It's so nice when things like that happen. 

I love the way the finished playhouse looks. It looks new again! We are so excited to have it and Oliver absolutely loves playing in it.