Monthly Archives: May 2016

In Case You were Tired of Gardens…

I still don’t have much to update you on that you haven’t heard before. Last weekend we were up in PA celebrating Nik’s younger brother’s graduation from Penn Tech, so this weekend we got back to the grind. We had lofty goals of getting close to finishing our side yard garden that finally got approved, and we did make a lot of progress but it is definitely not done.

We did, however, finally get our plants into the first garden (backyard) and finished installing our accessible fencing using velcro strips (they’re the black strips along the bottom and middle post) so we can get in and out to harvest veggies.

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We put in one of my mom’s huge tomatoes, then 3 of our smaller tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 2 eggplants, 1 pepper, and 1 spaghetti squash.

Then we got started on the side yard, with the same plan in mind. We began by sharpening stakes and getting those corner posts hammered into the ground:

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And we got a new pickaxe that made digging the trenches for the side boards to settle down into a million times easier. The soil on the side of the house also seemed to be less awful to dig through, as compared to the backyard.

By the end of the day on Sunday we had 3 sides of the garden complete:

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The front will be a little tricky, since our plan is to make this a U shape with a door, if you remember our original plans:

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If the weather behaves this week, we might be able to finish the rest of the surround boards by the end of the week, then get some soil and plants in here by next weekend. Our plants are growing like crazy, so these little veggies starting to ripen are our motivation to get this done:

We also obtained some shade-loving plants from Nik’s parents (hostas, heuchera, bleeding hearts), and some more sun-loving lily-of-the-valley, sedum, more echinecia I think, and lots of shasta daisies, so we’ve been poking around the yard figuring out where to add these new plants. We have some plans for a backyard flower garden…so we’ll see how much energy we have for that idea.

I really want to get started on our kitchen cabinets, so perhaps that’ll happen during the upcoming 3 day weekend. Nik has his heart set on a green for our kitchen walls (although I did veto ‘fickle pickle’ or any other colors with the word ‘pickle’ in them as a possible color choice), so we taped up some cards to see how we felt about them. What do you think?

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Hallway Painting & More Garden News

This past weekend Nik was away looking dapper at the Kentucky Derby at a bachelor party…

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so I was left on my own at home with a long list of things to do. We just bought a couple gallons of paint (light gray-beige) for the hallway when Ace was having a buy one get one free sale on paint. This is a challenging project we’ve been avoiding because our stairwell has a 2-story tall wall on one side and we weren’t quite sure how to reach all the way up there or cut in right next to the ceiling. I got started on Saturday by cutting in around the doorways upstairs (apparently there are SIX doors which took forever!), and then decided that was enough paint for one day.

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I moved outside to tackle the next job of the weekend, which was finishing lining the wood on our garden with the garden liner fabric, further churning the clay and leveling it out, and adding the soil and composted manure we bought. This seemed to be going well, and I was walking all over the garden, in and out, and I got all the liner stapled in…and then the productivity gods decided I was making too much progress and sent THIS to make an appearance:

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So that was the end of me working on the garden for the weekend. That thing was at least a good 2″. Ugh. I slowed him down with some spray and then he got the shovel which was gory and gross, and my neighbor may have seen me dancing around the yard afterwards trying to get the heebie jeebies out of me.

So on Sunday, I stayed safely inside for the morning and early afternoon and did another coat with the paint brush to cut in all those doorways and then I got a coat of paint rolled on all the walls. I was able to use the extender pole to reach over the second floor banister to get to the 2 story wall, and I then taped a paint brush to the pole and painstakingly cut in where that wall met the ceiling. It took forever…but I think it came out pretty well. Once Nik came home, we were noticing the big wall looks a little patchy, and we have about 3/4 gallon left so we might roll on another coat, which shouldn’t take too long. The old walls were that plain, boring, contractor’s paint, and as I was painting I noticed how dirty they were – scuffs and marks everywhere. It looks so much nicer with a crisp coat of fresh paint.

Once Nik returned, we had some free time Tuesday evening so I encouraged him to go work on the spider infested garden. He was able to finish churning the clay and mixed in the garden soil.IMG_2617

After he had stomped around the garden a sufficient amount and I was convinced there were no lurking monsters, I cautiously approached and helped him mount the deer netting. We used the staple gun to attach it to the base boards and each of the poles.

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I think we’ll buy some long strips of velcro to put on the two front panels at the bottom and going up that middle pole (they’re just tied with twine now), and that way we can access the full length of the garden while hopefully keeping out critters on the bottom. I also picked up a couple more bags of dirt to add since it’s a little low, but it’s almost time to plant!

Within minutes of pretty much completing this backyard garden, I went inside and checked my email. And guess what?? The garden we have wanted to put in our side yard for months since the sun there is much better FINALLY got approved by the HOA. We put this application in way back in February, and it’s gotten denied over and over again and we finally built this backyard garden assuming they’d never agree to let us do the side yard garden, and literally as we were putting the final touches on it, the side garden was approved. The irony kills me…but we’re still very happy because we know all our plants won’t fit in this first garden anyway. But building this second garden will now take up at least another weekend, pushing our kitchen reno back which we still haven’t started…it really never ends!

A Garden, At Last

The board canceled their meeting where we’d finally have a chance to appeal our rejected side-yard garden in person and postponed it until mid June, so the office suggested sending the board a written appeal in the meantime. We still haven’t heard back from the board regarding this (2 weeks ago at this point), which I feel is pretty rude of them to not even follow up when they canceled our appeal on us. I’m pretty fed up with them at this point, so we decided to just go ahead and build a smaller garden in the least shady area in the backyard since we technically got some sort of approval for this location.

The tomato plants given to us by my parents are getting huge (almost 3′ tall!) so we’re not sure those and everything else we have will fit in this garden, which is only 3.5’x7.5′.

We have those 3 tomatoes, 6 more tomatoes I grew from seed, then 4 eggplants, 6 peppers, 2 cucumbers, 4 spaghetti squash (that just sprouted this weekend, as if we need more!), 1 cabbage, and some herbs (mint and rosemary).

We decided to build the garden near the deck, so we can add some trellises that will connect with the deck so our cucumbers can vine there. We also built the garden vertically up the hill, which was probably a little more work and will require more soil to fill the higher raised bed at the bottom of the garden, but doing it this way we felt would give the plants the most sun with how it falls on our back yard.

First, we went to Lowe’s for a lumber run:

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Here’s Nik staking it out:

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We decided to do the 4 corner posts as 2×2″ posts, which would support the thin netting we bought (if I don’t call it fencing, maybe the HOA can’t complain about it). Nik used the jigsaw to make an angled spike which made it easier to sledge hammer these into the ground about 1 foot:

We checked the levelness approximately 1,000 times for good measure. I guess we’re smart enough to know that if it’s not level at this point, it’ll never come together. IMG_0819

After about 2 hours of work we had 6 stakes in the ground in a near-perfect rectangle.

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The next step was to figure out how to attach the 6″ boards, which became a little tricky with the slope. We figure out that we’d have about 6″ of board above ground at the high end, which equated out to about 3 6″ boards above ground at the low end. We also trenched out the dirt so we could set some boards under the ground, to help hold the soil in the bed, and also to (hopefully) deter any digging critters.

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While trenching the edges, we uncovered a HUGE boulder under the soil. We’ll have to find somewhere to put this prize.

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We worked our way around each side of the garden like this, and you can see how we did a stair pattern up the side to deal with the slope.

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A couple more hours later, and the frame was complete!

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We used decking screws to just bolt each board to the corner pieces, and it feels very secure. We also chose to use pressure treated boards – a few years back these weren’t considered safe to use in a garden because they treated them with arsenic, but after some research we’ve found that they don’t use the same dangerous chemicals anymore and they’re considered pretty safe for vegetable gardens. The other option was cedar boards, but a quick comparison of price revealed that cedar was 6x more expensive than these boards…so pressure treated it was. The boards ended up costing us about $36 (we bought 9 6″ x 1.25″ x 8′ boards) and the 6 2″ x 2″ x 8′ posts were about $24. So about $60, not too bad.

Here’s some more pictures (you can click on them to make them bigger). You’ll also notice the boulder sitting nearby:

The inside is still a work in progress. We got some garden liner fabric from friends to protect dirt from coming out the cracks.

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Nik also started tilling the clay so we can mix in some good garden soil with it. We brought home 6 2-cubic foot bags of soil and 2 50-pound bags of black kow manure to fill it with, which ended up being pretty pricey (about $55) and we probably need a few more bags still, but we didn’t want Nik’s car to break down hauling more than that. We also got some tall stakes for the tomatoes, and we still need to fashion some sort of trellis for the cucumbers.

I think we’ll wrap this up this week and get our plants in the ground soon!