Friday, March 27, 2009

A Happy Find

I went to Fred Meyer last night in search of bamboo and was happy to find a pre-built bamboo teepee for less than it would have cost to buy 9 bamboo poles! This was truly a very happy find. We have space to plant around 13 of the poles, so, if sunlight is adequate, we should end up with a very lush pole bean teepee for the children to play in.



I love how the teepee is "closed" right now - that will give the plants time to establish before the children start to go inside. We'll place pavers on the floor of the teepee and plant thyme in between the pavers so the inside of the teepee will smell wonderful when the children do begin to play in it. After the plants are established, we'll cut a door into the teepee and the children will have their own little secret garden hideaway.

BTW... when the children saw it last night they were laughing and running around it and dancing. They are so excited about it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Progress

I've had a few people ask me where I have been. I seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Well... my seeming disappearance does have something to do with earth. Couple that with the fact that I've been very sick for a week and a half with some bug I just can't get over, it's all I can do just to keep up with the task I'm working on outside.

Here's the "after" picture. This is where the side yard stands today. My 4-year-old daughter and I spent most of yesterday screening rocks out of the dirt and filling the holes where the tree and rhododendron once stood. She had fun, and was a big help. Her concern for every worm's safety was absolutely adorable!



While part of this task is because I am on a time crunch to get the children's garden beds in, but the most important reason I'm working so hard on this even while I'm as sick as I am is because of this nasty foundation crack (below). My husband thinks he should bring a professional in to look at and possibly repair the foundation cracks (there's a 2nd crack in the back of the house by our back bedroom).

This crack has expedited my work on this. It is why I will not stop until the trees are out and the drainage systems are in. Since those are tasks I know how to do, I'm OK with doing them. My husband doesn't hire anyone to help for anything whatsoever. I am not going to mess this up and end up with him changing his mind about bringing in a pro to deal with the cracks. I will get all the trees out, dig the roots out, get the ground excavated and the water flowing away from the house if that is what he wants to have done before he brings a pro in.



Back in time a couple of days... the tree shown below is gone. Whew! Thank goodness. This is how far I had the tree dug out when my husband got home from work on Sunday afternoon. All of the soil had been unearthed up to the huge taproots at the bottom. I just couldn't get below the taproots. I was so happy when my husband volunteered to take the tree down the rest of the way.




Here he is swinging an axe at the taproots. He got the tree out, chopped it in half and got rid of it. Let me tell you - that trunk was heavy!



While he was busy with digging the tree out, I got busy digging one of the trenches for drainage. I thought this might be long enough, but I guess not. He wants the trench to be very long and go through the front yard. We don't have sewer, so we don't have to pipe the water back into a sewer system. We just need to make sure the downspout drainage system is long enough and angled correctly to allow for adequate drainage. So, my next task is to cut out the sod (preserving it if possible) and continue digging a long trench. Then we'll partially fill it with gravel, attach a long corrugated drain pipe with a drain sleeve on it, top it with gravel and then put all the dirt and sod back. I have a lot of digging to do!



What comes next?

- Completion of the gutter drainage system
- Cutting down and digging out 1 more tree (barely visible on the left side of the picture above)
- Correcting the slope of the side yard
- Digging and building a 2nd French drain along the side yard in hopes to correct the side yard drainage problem (which is one reason we need to take out another tree)
- Install a gutter on the tool shed and connect it to the new side yard French drain. We're considering having it connected to a rain barrel as well.
- Installation of the children's garden beds (four 4'x4' square beds)

So, if my good friends are wondering where on earth I am... you would be right to assume that I'm bonding with God's good earth.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Photos of the Day

Seemingly happy seedlings - although leggy because I don't have a proper lighting set-up:



Larger seedlings thriving in their 4" soil blocks. They are wrapped in plastic because I used regular potting soil to make the soil blocks and not soil block mix. Seems to work OK. Time will tell.

Soil Blocking

I have been using Jiffy Peat Pellets to start my plants. The cost of peat pellets adds up quickly. Walmart has 25 peat pellets for about $4. I recently stocked up on peat pellets, but when I run out, I will be in search of the 2" soil block maker. The cost for this sweet tool is around $32.00 and it can be used over and over.

Our weather hasn't been cooperating and I have been getting nervous that my large plant starts were not going to survive in the peat pellets much longer. I continued my quest for knowledge of how to deal with this problem. I wanted to minimize transplant shock as much as possible since I have lost plants in the past after transplanting them. I found a solution to my problem HERE with pictures posted by a guy known as SoCalDan. Go take a look... check out his homemade 4" soil blocker that was made using legos.

This guy had a brilliant idea - and let me tell you, it works! The cost of the 4" soil block maker is around $129.00. The cost of this home-made 4" version doesn't have much of a dollar amount associated with it. It cost about the price of a new sponge (I used the green scrubby part from a new sponge) and a few minutes of listening to my 7-year-old son exclaiming that his legos don't belong in the dirt (which is normally the case).

Here is a picture of my homemade 4" soil block system based on Dan's idea:



Transplanting a seedling:



Covering the seedling with soil:



Check out the directions to using the "real" soil block system. This PDF also give you the list of ingredients you need to make soil blocks that will hold together well. I used dampened potting to make my 4" soil blocks because that was all I had on hand at the time. It worked, but I don't know how well or how long they will hold together. You can read more about using regular potting soil with soil block makers HERE.

Thumbs Up!

Thumbs up to First Lady Michelle Obama! She's building a kitchen garden and having the children help plant and harvest. Now that's being a down-to-earth First Lady!

Monday, March 16, 2009

One Step at a Time

My oldest son is home sick with a high fever. My youngest son is at preschool and my daughter, who doesn't go to preschool this year, was more than happy to take advantage of her big brother's sick-on-the couch cartoon watching time. So, while they were watching TV, I snuck out to work on the children's garden.

It was drizzling - but the temperature was close to 40° F so I was happy to be in the fresh, clean air. With all the inclement weather, I spent some time weeding and cleaning up tree debris. I love how easy it is to pop the weeds out of the ground when the earth is soaked. Then I tackled moving dirt and laying out the 2nd set of side boards for the raised garden bed. I need the short board laying to the left cut in half to make the end caps. The boards are not level - I'll tackle that after the end caps are cut. We still need to buy 5 more boards so we can get the raised bed the height we want it to be.



I cleared out the rose bed and am trying to decide if I want to extend it into the yard a bit so I can plant the three sisters garden (corn, beans, squash) in the bed. I moved some cottage stone into the bed, because if it is growing vegetables, I would like the bed to be raised. Saying "good-bye" to the last of the roses is no longer a sad thing for me. In our rainy weather, black spot is a nightmare to control, and, quite honestly, I'm done trying to deal with it.



After clearing out the rose bed, I had a hosta I didn't want to get rid of, so I planted it in this pot. I don't know how well it will do in a planter, but right now, I just don't know where I would want to put it. It will be a learning experience for the kids and I to see if it will grow in a container. Maybe the slugs will leave it alone if it's up high (wishful thinking).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Temporary Fixes and More Progress

Morning snow, followed by late morning rain, then wind, then sun, a bit of hail and now more rain. Mother nature has many moods today.

I have been tracking all the conditions of the side yard where the children's garden will be. This has included the way the sun falls, how the wind flows through and even where water accumulates. This particular side of the yard has a known drainage problem, and this morning I went out to check on it.

Today's storm hasn't been very bad, just strange, and yet flooding is still an issue. We DON'T want the water seeping into the vent beneath house any more. We had a pretty bad flood into the vent earlier this year, and we don't want that to happen again. When I realized the water was about to go in the vent, I went out to tackle the problem.



In this area the water accumulates in a large pool. I realized I should deal with this, too.



Water is seeping underneath the tool shed, and I knew I definitely should deal with that right away.



So I spent a good portion of the morning digging. Since I haven't yet called the gas company, I figured the safest place to dig was along the fence line.



I dug a long trench all the way alone the fence line. But, I needed somewhere for the water to flow to. Since the rhododendron needed to come out, I decided to dig it out and have the water flow to the hole where the rhododendron was.



It seemed to work great. The water now flows away from the house and shed, fills the hole and absorbs into the ground.



After it was finished, I decided that was enough for the day. The winds had picked up, and I was wet and cold. When I went to the door, Bob took one look at me and said "You're dirty!" I busted up laughing.

Now... you know, I may not have a thing for shoes, but I must say, I do LOVE my Hunter boots. Last summer Bob told me to get them because he knew I'd use them. I had a difficult time spending $80 on rubber boots - today, I am SO glad I did. I wear them all the time when I'm out and about in the yard. They were a good investment. Even with all the muck, mud and water, my feet stayed warm and dry.



Next project... digging out this tree. I think I need to call the gas company to get the gas lines marked first, though. After that, I think a French drain may be in order. I have installed one before so I know how to do it. I just don't want to accidentally take out a gas line in the process.

Progress

On Friday afternoon the weather was beautiful, so I took advantage of it. I finished building the raised bed for the children's pole bean teepee. I mixed a bag of steer manure in with topsoil. I still need to add some compost to it. I took this picture this morning (Sunday). Yep, it snowed again. Thankfully, it turned to rain and washed away.



Friday evening, after the pole bean raised bed was complete, I tackled the rhododendron and tree that needed to come down. Bob helped me cut the larger branches down (sparing the neighbor's fence). It took me until late in the evening to haul the branches across the street so I could toss them over the cliff. That night I was so sore, I could hardly move.



The Sunflowers Kid Stuff continue growing in the garden window. I wonder how big they'll be before it warms up enough to transplant them. What is with this weather this year? We don't normally get snow like we've had this year.



The Lamb's Ear have been growing outside for the past few years. I transplanted them into this pot - it seems that they are hardy enough to deal with the many snows of the season.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Almost Spring?

This is NOT what we wanted to see over the weekend. I took this picture on Sunday. It snowed Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It was crazy! I can't wait for this long winter to be over so we can get back to the garden.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Plans

Plans have changed. The Pole Bean Tee Pee will now be in the backyard so the children can play in it whenever they wish. The children are not allowed in the front yard unless I am right there with them. We will plant the Tee Pee where the compost bin used to be. On Monday, I moved the compost bin and put it behind the children's shed. It's nice to no longer have to look at the compost bin. It's not the most attractive thing on earth. I’m hoping the late evening shade from the children’s shed won’t affect the growth of the Pole Beans. We’ll see. It’s all a learning experience!

In front, where the tree and rhododendron that we are removing are, we'll plant a butterfly garden. I'm still working on the design for it.

I'll post pictures that I took on Monday as soon as I get them downloaded.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Building a New Garden

I worked in the children's garden until it was raining too hard and was feeling chilled. My 4-year-old daughter was out helping me. She picked up weeds and put them in her little bucket.



I shot this photo just before going inside. The brick raised bed was last year's children's garden. It will be removed and the new wooden raised bed will be about 16' long by 4' wide. There will be a walkway around the entire raised bed. This should help the children and I be able to reach the garden plants much easier.



I already started removing limbs off of this large tree that will be coming down. Taking the tree down will give the children's garden a lot more sunlight. The rhododendron will be removed, as well. It doesn't look very healthy. There is another tree to the left of the rhododendron and it casts a lot of shade on it. Part of me is sad to see these two plants go, but I'm excited about what we'll be placing in the space instead.

It's exciting to watch some of the seeds sprout in their little Jiffy pots. All six of our Kid Stuff Sunflower seeds have sprouted, five of our Marigolds have sprouted, two Gaillardia and one Moonwalker Sunflower have sprouted.



We're looking forward to see the changes that occur this week!
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