July 04, 2015
No Mow Zone Redux
Two weekends ago, I added on to the no-mow zone. I worked my way up the hill since the idea was to extend the existing flower garden all the way to the fence. The crab apple and Hydrangea trees, which reside in that garden, needed to be pruned hard, which I did once I got to the branches that were in my way..
Project from start to finish
A week ago Friday I got some plants installed
Still plenty of planting to do, but feel like I'm making progress. And yes, just this project has cut down on the time it takes to mow by 10-15 minutes. I know that seems to be a lot, but I don't have to deal with the tree roots or boggy ground, or getting along the rocks that delineated the edge of the original flower garden.
Oh, and I relocated some of the moss that I pulled up. It may or may not survive (it is in a drier place), but that is a place that not much else grows anyway so I really don't care one way or another. It is a spot just above the no-mow zone, so I wasn't carting it clear across the property to where I have been dumping the rest of the excess dirt/grass.
June 14, 2015
No Mow Zone
The side yard next to the next door swamp stays pretty wet at all times of year. It is a bear to mow, but I have to keep it clear as there is poison ivy just on the other side of the fence. It is also pretty shady, except for a couple hours in late afternoon.
I have decided that will be a no-mow zone. In other words, shrubs and perennials need to be installed and any bare spots mulched to help keep the poison ivy from encroaching. I am taking the no-mow zone from the existing shade garden (where the crabapple is) to the fence. The first order of business was to remove the sod that consisted of a mix of grass, catmint and moss. This is the strip that I dug out last Sunday.
The first row I planted was (l-R) Bleeding heart, hydrangea, coral bells and another hydrangea. The lilies next to the fence were already there from the previous owners.
The second row is tall phlox, peony, primrose, dwarf goats beard and Japanese iris. Note the big root between the coral bells and the pink hydrangea.
Yesterday, I started another row and ran into a massive amount of roots - most from a stump. So, I spent 3 hours pulling up sod and digging out roots. I need to get all the larger roots out; if I ever try to pop the stump, the roots will have to be removed anyway. Better now than having to tear up plants I'm putting in now.
I did get turtleheads (front left of top picture) and a couple more primrose planted, but I'm still working on getting the roots out from the rest of the section I uncovered yesterday. This will definitely be a long process.
Now that I have a cart to move dirt, I can really hurt myself make some progress on yard work. I was taking so much time transferring buckets of dirt (it doesn't take long to get 50 pounds of dirt, especially when it is moist), that even simple jobs looked like I was getting nowhere.
The first job using the cart was to dig out the big rock that was against stump #3. I was not only digging the rock out, but also lowering that part of the soil level in general as it overtopped the stone retaining wall. At the same time, I had to be careful of the Japanese Knotweed so I could bag that, and all the roots I could find to take to the dump. I had saved empty mulch bags and filed 4 of those with the weed and roods, with any dirt I thought was contaminated (fill is a misnomer - I put in 30-40 pounds of dirt/weed/roots).
With the rock finally uncovered, I could see that it wasn't going anywhere without more muscle than I have - or at least the help of machinery.
Needing to cover that area with plastic (to keep any missed weed roots from growing back), I had to do something with the rock as it topped the retaining wall by quite a bit. No problem, I dug a huge hole next to the retaining wall (storing the dirt in the cart), and spent about 30 minutes with a pry bar and several pieces of wood getting it to slide into the hole (was hoping I could roll it - but that wasn't happening).
So the big rock now buttresses the retaining wall and the level of the dirt along the retaining wall has been lowered.
June 07, 2015
Putting it Together
After removing stump #3, and starting to define the flower garden in front of the house - and moving dirt slowly by carrying/dragging buckets of dirt to the side yard last week - I decided there had to be a better way.
Actually, I had been thinking about getting a wheel barrow previously, but the price for two-wheeled barrows is really quite high (even on CL), and a single wheel barrow would be tough to move and navigate in my uphill and extremely bumpy yard. But knowing the amount of dirt I would have to remove, sealed the deal - I had to look in earnest.
Somehow I stumbled upon the notion of a dumping yard cart, I believe it was an ad from a BBS, and the research began. I looked at the reviews of the featured item and did not believe it would serve my purpose. However, I did some research and found what I believed would be the best value for my money at TSC. Happily there is TSC a couple of miles down the road from work, and I went to check it out at lunch time.
The cart I was looking at touted a handling capacity of 600 pounds as well as the ability to convert the handle from a hand pull to a towing hitch (not usefull for me presently, but could be handy in the long term). However, they also showed a 1,000# cart on the website. When I got to the store, I was in for a surprise - a 1500# capacity that was on clearance for the same price as the next size down.
After checking out the feel of the bed, to see how sturdy it seemed, I had the largest one loaded into my car. That night I began assembling it in the basement (it was raining, had been raining since Sunday, and wasn't supposed to quit until Thursday morning). I got a box of parts (no surprise) and an instruction manual.
The instruction manual and container of hardware were pleasant surprises. Despite being made in China, apparently the writer of the manual not only had a great command of the English language, the writer also did a great job of indicating the hows of assembling. Additionally, the assembly illustrations were clear (except one), there was a chart of hardware shown in ACTUAL size; one complaint that I usually have is if the hardware is mixed up, I can't tell what bolt is a specific size until I sort everything and compare to the other sizes. The hardware was in a package that kept everything separate and labeled both on the front and back of the package. Someone really thought this out for users that are not a natural born tinkerer!
The manual said I should be able to put it together in 20 minutes. The reviews, although positive, warned of more like 1-2 hours. I put it together in 1 hour and 10 minutes, so felt good that I at least was amongst the average.
I put the cart to good use yesterday and am very happy with it.
May 30, 2015
Last weekend I decided to do something where I had pulled out the smallest stump (stump #4). I lengthened the existing flower garden to where the planter was (the planter that I placed phlox and dianthus in), and moved the planter a little towards the road.
There is a bleeding heart to the right of the lupine that I had planted when I dug up the stump, then three primrose, then the planter is dug into the ground a bit. Of course I stripped off the sod (moss, and weeds), placed landscape fabric around the plants and under the planter, then put rocks around the planter for a more tied-in effect. Plus, the rocks make a straight edge for the mower - although I think I managed to stack them in such a way they don't look like they make a straight edge - nice visual trickery.
Vegies are In!
Memorial Day weekend is usually the time that I plant the vegetable garden. However, this year, Memorial day came early, so I was unsure I would be able to plant. Saturday morning was cold - in the 30's and it didn't warm up much during the day. The seedlings spent the time inside, as they had been much of that previous week. However, Sunday was supposed to be gorgeous, and the weather guessers said it was supposed to be quite warm for the next week; with lows in the 50's and 60's.
So, I planted. Not as big a garden as I used to have, but several tomatoes and peppers went into the new raised bed. I also planted basil in between the vegies.
In the refurbished raised bed, or more accurately, into the front half of it, went 4 zukes and a pepper in the middle.
Then, Sunday night, a former neighbor emailed and asked if I wanted some phlox as she needed to thin out her garden. I said "Yes," and we arranged for me to go over on Monday to get plants. Her husband dug up plants, and there were way more than just phlox. I placed them in pots, then placed the pots into the 3rd raised bed and the 2nd half of the refurbished bed.
There was a spirea shrub (on left in large white planter), a couple of different hostas, hardy begonia, tall phlox and creeping phlox. The two tall phlox in the front to the very right were some I had gotten on sale last fall and overwintered in the bed.
And, there were Japanese iris (I have plenty of wet spots they will enjoy) and more creeping phlox.
I will be busy for a while!
I Must Have Eaten My Wheaties
Actually I ate a banana, some chicken and ice cream. This evening I managed to get stump #3 out. No chain saw just brute strength.
Now I can really dig in and get my front flower garden defined. The main project is for tomorrow, assuming that we don't get a pouring rain.
May 24, 2015
Yard work is becoming more of the norm, with my mowing for the fist time this season last Tuesday after work. One of my projects this summer is to take out the several stumps that were in the yard when I moved in. Last weekend, I managed to remove a couple, and get a third stump dug down quite a bit.
The first two stumps were next to the stairs leading to the front door. They were most likely cedar and had been planted too close to the stairs, so had to be cut down as they encroached. The first stump took quite a while to dig out.
The second stump must have gotten scared and gave little resistance - it took perhaps a total of 30 minutes of digging and prying - the stump actually gave me a nice place to lever against itself.
The third stump is next to the driveway. I don't know what it is, but it was certainly a larger hardwood that was evidently planted too close to the house. To add to the difficulty, I have to be very careful with the dirt because Japanese Knotweed is growing right next to it (that is the green stuff next to the stump - I cut off the 2 ft canes, after applying shrub killer a couple of days previously). JK is a very invasive plant that needs lots of sun to grow, but when it grows, it grows so fast you can almost literally see it (up to 6"/day). Evidently it got enough shade from the Cedar that I cut down last year, that it didn't start growing until last summer. This year, without the cedar to shade it, it took right off.
I gave up on stump 3 until I can get ahold of a chainsaw to cut the two roots on the downhill side, and Monday evening I started on the 4th stump that was between a flower garden and the planter that I placed the (now dead) Peace Rose in last summer. Even though it turned out to be the smallest of the stumps (it is the one on the right in the picture below), this one was challenging as there were lots of rocks that had to be removed.
I still have 3 stumps to go, but those may not come out this year. I have the two cedar stumps from the trees along the driveway I had removed last year. Those two were great at blocking my snow blowing and throwing the snow back into the driveway. There is also a very large stump between the willow and maple in the side yard. It is not only large, it is located in an area that is always wet as it is near the swamp next door.
I placed a couple of lupines in part of the hole left by stump #4.
I have plans to fill the rest of that hole with some moisture loving plants - let the landscaping begin.
Flowers of Spring
The spring has not been abundant with flowers. With two hard winters in a row, and a late spring, that is not to be unexpected.. But, there were a few bright spots that made me smile;
Although I got a lot of greenery, only one lone daffodil flowered (and none of the hyacinths along the tree line bloomed)
The crabapple was gorgeous this year. Last year it was pretty, but it was even better this year. Unfortunately the blooms only lasted a week, so enjoyment was short lived.
The forsythia was treated harshly this year. Between the heavy Thanksgiving snow that bowed a lot of the branches so badly they snapped off (and what was encroaching in the driveway I pruned off hard), and my spring pruning so that I could get under it to mow, I'm surprised it gave me the benefit of any flowers at all.
The trees in back have leafed out enough that it is tough to tell I have neighbors back there.
Looks like the Peace Rose that I planted last year didn't make it thru the winter. I would have been surprised if it had. However, I got another rose at Agway a couple of weeks ago and it has been both beautiful and sinfully scentful.
And, I have been lugging seedlings and tender annuals in and out during frost dangers
One of those times, I'm pretty sure I brought in a hitchhiker :)
Soon, I will be able to plant the vegetable garden and I am getting the itch to do some landscaping - yep, spring is definitely here.
May 16, 2015
Making the Bed(s)
When I moved into this house, there were two raised beds that I used for limited vegetable gardening last summer. One bed was in decent shape, the other waws really falling apart. The beds were about 8 feet apart and I hate mowing (actually, I dislike having a lot of grassy area), so I covered the section between the two beds with landscape cloth. I had a vague plan to put in a 3rd raised bed at the time, and this year I decided was as good a time as any. The existing raised beds are on conceret cinder blocks, with wooden structures on top and I decided to carry the theme forward.
Instead of wood, I found raised bed kits online that are made of composite material and are easy to put together - no tools needed. The bonus was they are cheaper than buying the wood and hardware necessary (at least the sale I stumbled onto made it that way). The end of April I set up the lower cinder block structure then the first weekend in May I added the composite material and used excess dirt from the other two beds to fill it.
I filled that bed fairly full of dirt, including filling the cinder block holes since I left the landscape fabric in place. However, there is still plenty of room to add mulch/compost/manure in future years.
I also tore apart one of the old beds that was in really horrible shape - the wood was twisting away from the corner brackets and was very rotted (of course no pictures of that). I also wanted to move it about a foot closer to the new bed, from where the cinder blocks were. I dug out the cinder blocks and spent quite some time getting all the rocks, dirt and weeds out of the holes before setting up the new base.
Since I was relocating it, I also had to dig out more than a foot from the outside (you will see why in future pictures)
Finally I got the composite structure placed on it. Since this bed is not on landscape fabric, I did not refill the dirt quite as high as I did for the new bed. I didn't realize the new cinder blocks were slightly shorter than the old cinder blocks, so one edge is quite wide on the outside - oh well, I'll put in some thyme or something there.
The one remaining old bed will not be touched this year. It is still in decent shape even though the cinder blocks have been shoved out from beneath the wood. These pictures show why I actually ended up moving more than a foot of dirt for the restructured bed - the cinder blocks were pushed way out from the actual bed itself.
I do enjoy these flowers around the old bed too (flower pictures taken this morning). Not sure what they are, but they bloomed most of the summer last year so it looks nice.