Today’s art project is practical in nature. Reusable in the future. Cost less than $2 per person.
Do you know what it is?
Here is a hint:
Another hint: they can be used tomorrow.
Regular turning of your compost pile is one of those garden jobs that often is forgotten. Turning your pile over does several things:
If you are in a cooler climate, or just a down right cold area, you may have to wait till a warmer day. This is especially true if your pile is under snow or otherwise unable to be worked.
This post contains affiliate links.
Who ever is in charge of promotions this week must have known this is not the week for me to be going to stores with kids. It seems that it is the week for shopping for kitchen items, scheduling grocery pickup, purchasing shoes, and stocking up on kids clothes while saving from the comfort of my living room. (or dining room table or bed while waiting for little heads to go to sleep)
When I saw that Schoola was having a sale of 75% off, I knew I had to share. It is too good of a deal to keep to myself.
Schoola has been a sanity and budget saver in the past, delivering quality preowned clothes to our door. The clothes were even very neatly folded inside a bag, inside a box. I am not sure who they hire to help package but they are welcome at my house on laundry day anytime they please.
And as always, FREE SHIPPING on orders of $25 or more on the first 10 items.
Valid 6/26-6/27 only. Limit one promotion code may be used per order. Not valid on previous purchases. Discounts and credits do not apply toward shipping or promotional minimums. Discounts are applied to the post-credit order value. New-with-tags items are not eligible for purchase with discounts or credits.
This post contains affiliate links.
Earlier this year I was looking at rain barrels to add to the garden. I was not sure what else I wanted to add to the garden, but I knew my main garden planning goal is to set up a good framework for the future. Rain barrels fit into this overarching criteria, we needed them to help balance out the moisture of the soils.
The first rain barrel was added a few months back. The puddle surrounding the back patio after each rainfall disappeared. It worked so well I began to consider where I wanted to place my next one.
Before I got to that stage, though, I added a raised bed to the yard as well as a fig tree. Our first fruit tree!
While adding rain barrels never left my thoughts, it was not the immediate thing I was working on. Summer is not really our wet season, so I knew I could focus elsewhere for a while before we really needed them. What I needed to be focusing on was adding a planting bed along the back fence. The plan is to add more trees and other plants to it come fall/late winter.
The soil here is not exactly nutrient rich…unless you count clay and more clay as a nutrient. If I want to give the new plants a leg up on growing, I need to begin amending the soil with compost, mulches, and other detritus. Not only will this give them the nutrients they need but help hold in the moisture.
In order to begin amending the soil I need create an edge barrier to do so. Taking a page from the new flower bed, I decided to use concrete blocks along the back and edging stones along the front. This will serve a few purposes:
This will be done in stages. First, I am going to block in the areas I want to put the trees. I will add cardboard and other items inside these blocks, beginning at the most important parts of the planned bed. Second, I will begin to expand this areas until they connect, adding cardboard (weed barrier) and other compost items as I go along. I am hoping in this way not to overwhelm myself with the project, nor have a lot of out-of-pocket at one time.
Knowing the trees I want to plant, as well as the area I have to work with (there is a shallow drainage ditch between our fence and our backyard neighbors), I am planning to make the bed rather narrow. At 2′-3′ wide I think there will be enough room for the trees, all of which have a mature crown diameter of about 10′.
So far I have purchased enough concrete blocks to mark where I want to plant three of the trees. There were purchased from a home improvement store with a $25 gift card I earned on Swagbucks. By earning a gift card earned each month I will have all the materials I need in a few months time with minimal out of pocket. If I am able to take advantage of deals or discounts, it will happen even quicker.
All throughout June you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, or PayPal cash.
When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here’s how:
2. Earn 300 SB total before July 1st, 2018. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus for it!
I have also been adding to the compost bin and gathering used coffee grounds from local coffee shops. This is a bit harder to do here than in Small Town as they do not save them automatically here. I have to call, ask, and stop in that day or soon thereafter. My best source so far as been the coffee shop inside the local grocery store. Who knew so many people got their morning coffee from there?!
With some other, larger, more expensive things we are looking to accomplish this year, I am glad to have a way to save some money on gardening.
What are some of your favorite ways to spend money on gardening?
A small space in your yard, either between buildings or along a border, can become a source of complaining if it requires maintenance yet does not seem to offer any benefit. Such a space exists between our yard and our neighbor’s. For the both of us this space is a dead-end, leading only to the backyard fence but no gate. Neither of us have a door exiting the house at this point, nor a walk way. While it holds utilities for the both of us, it is mainly a strip of usually forgotten grass which needs to be mowed.
When considering the garden as a whole this past winter, I realized I would rather transition this area into a large flower bed to attract butterflies and bees. I also knew that it would be a big undertaking if I did it all at once. Instead, I plan to take it on in stages, increasing it over time and as I have spare flower seeds to plant.
On our side it is about 7 feet wide, on a slight slope, gets partial light, and contains some utility ROWs (right-of-ways). It is protected from rain by our house on one side and their house on the other, again about 7 feet further. However, the bottom of the slight slope drains the backyard and a downspout from the corner of our house. The result is a vast difference in moisture from the edge next to our house and the edge next to the neighbor’s yard.
These challenges actually created opportunities. Flowers which grow in dry areas would do well next to the house, while those who can handle moisture or non-regular wetness would do very well further away. I now was able to plant a larger variety of flowers by noticing the micro-environments happening in this area.
The progress of this bed did not happen over a weekend, but slowly over the past few months. This has allowed it to grow organically rather than planned out to the detail.
Internal conversations as of late have tended along this line:
At first, I let this dictate as to whether I should start garden projects outside. However, after a few back-and-forth’s I realized that if I waited till it was “perfect” I would miss the window. Right now, something is better than nothing.
I grabbed some old packing boxes, box of shredded paper, shovel, kids’ wagon (filled with unfinished compost from compost tumbler), and headed outside. Layering the items I began a lasagna garden. While it is smaller than I would like, I remember that smaller can be better. This is especially true when trying to do multiple things at once. Right now, something is better than nothing.
With a garden bed already begun, I realized I needed something for edging if I was to help keep out grass and hold the bedding in place. A quick rough measurement of the area allowed me to pick up some bricks from the local home improvement store. Jack was less than thrilled with this trip, though I think it had to do more with shopping in the rain than it did with the act of shopping itself. Personally, I figured we would dry off and there could be worse things to do than shopping for garden supplies in the rain.
The total for the edging quickly added up, so I adjusted my expectations to have a shorter bed than I desired.
Once home I placed the bricks around the bed. They reached 75% of the way around, but it was good enough for now. The side which was not covered was against the house and a bit of the fence.
I found some more paper to shred and emptied the compost tumbler, again, to find more material to put on top of the cardboard. We had received a shipment of cold items in the mail, the insulation of which was shredded cotton (jeans?). This was added to the materials and has worked well at keeping the grass out.
After everything was dumped in the bed I covered it with a partial bag of peat moss I had in the garage. While it is a light material it will mix well with the future organic material.
As seeds were bought or found I added them to the bed.
I am starting to see several of these sprout, though I was not expecting much out of them as I planted them on my time schedule, rather than at their optimum time.
A watering dish was also created and installed in the bed. One thing I have learned since installing this is that the water evaporates out of it at a quicker rate than I thought it would. If we experience a few sunny days in a row I need to add water to it myself. This is due to its shallow nature which appeals to butterflies and other insects.
What you can not tell well from the picture is the slope on which this bed is situated. The far right block, along the front edge, and the far left top block are almost equal in height.
We have a wonderful pair of Eastern Bluebirds nesting in a birdhouse George painted. This house was positioned on top of a post along our fence this past fall. The location is such that we can see it from our kitchen table. As the months progressed we began to see a pair of blue birds flying in and out often. Upon closer inspection they were identified as Eastern Bluebirds.
While we have speculated about some little ones, we haven’t been able to actually look into the birdhouse…till today.
I was in our upstairs when I realized how hard the wind outside was blowing. The small trees were thrashing at windows, though thankfully our porch furniture was staying put. I went to another room to check on the backyard. Furniture wise everything was fine. The birdhouse however was not so lucky.
Instead of risking the loss of the whole bird house, I decided to put on my shoes and deal with a bit of precipitation. Once I got closer to the birdhouse I realized it was going to be an easier fix than I thought. The sides and roof had come off, like the lid of a box, while the base was still screwed in to the support. A good surprise was the chirping I heard coming from the nest inside.
A picture and a bit of elbow grease later, the nest was documented for George, the birds have a safe place again, and all is right with the world. Well, at least if you are an Eastern Bluebird in my backyard.
As for the wind, it is still blowing and probably will continue to do so for quite some time. Not much I can do about that. Glad I added the coffee grounds from our grocery store’s coffee shop to the garden beds before it began blowing in earnest.
Among other activities keeping me busy this spring is a new addition to our garden. This is not something I had planned on adding, though always wanted. I had a “if we get this it needs to meet these criteria” list, mainly to explain to the kids why we didn’t have this and wouldn’t for a long while.
This list worked well for the past 6 years. I thought it was fairly fool proof.
About a week ago I decided to put aside my wishes, to stay home and garden, to be the “fun” mom. I loaded up the kids, water, skateboards, helmets, book, and a hat. (It was hot after all.) Against verbal arguments of one who wanted to stay home and play on the computer, we headed to a local skate park for a free event. We were going to have fun whether they wanted to or not, me knowing that in the end they would have fun.
It almost went like that.
See, as the kids were skating I wandered over to the dogs brought to the event by a local animal shelter in hopes of finding homes. We usually visit them as it is good for the kids to be around different dogs and for the dogs to be around different people. However this time…this time I met one which actually MET my very specific criteria on the “if we get this it needs to meet these criteria” list: old, calm, laid back, not nervous around kids, doesn’t bark much, walks on a leash well, doesn’t scare the kids. The adjectives in bold were the major key ones on the list which usually disqualified every single dog we had met before.
Not only did I find a dog who meet the criteria, but he exceeded them. Turns out he is trained, rides well in a car, loves to be petted, is as social as George (has yet to meet a stranger), and even didn’t intimidate Jack, who isn’t as much of a dog lover as George. When I walked over to the group of dogs, I had written him off right away due to size. However, he very nonchalantly moseyed over to me, sat down, and waited to be petted. He didn’t even need to smell my hand first, just waited like I should know what was expected. So I did. As other people and dogs went by, he might have given them a glance, but sat perfectly content (and quiet) being petted.
I talked with the workers for a bit, explaining what I was looking for in a dog and why. We talked a bit about this particular dog. Then I asked them not to say anything to the kids when they came over.
George gave the dog of wide berth while he went to a shorter dog. However, after one of the workers suggest he walk the larger dog while she walked the smaller one that was the end of that. Within feet George had renamed him and fallen in love. To my surprise, so did Jack. He didn’t flinch when the dog came right up to him, he didn’t shy away from his head, instead giving him lot of pets and pats and loving. Jack has never been this calm around a dog, let alone a dog this large. It didn’t take too long for both of the boys to begin asking if we could adopt him.
The only two draw back – he is big and has long hair. For all his other qualities I can overlook those two. He even keeps me company while I try various DIY projects. I can even hammer and drill without disturbing his naps.
Soooo, we came home with two hot, tired, excited boys and one dog of trial run at our house. That trial has since ended and he has become a permanent fixture in our garden.
As I have found out this week, he also LOVES to chase rabbits. Excellent! I had been wondering how to keep them out of the garden.
In case you were wondering, I did NOT bring a dog home without asking my husband first. I am smarter than that after all these years.
There is a lot of “new” happening over here this growing season – new zone, new yard, new routines, new plant selections, new places to shop…you get the idea. Among all the newness there are still some constants which help it all flow smoother.
One of the things I have learn while gardening in various ways over the years is that raised beds are my friends. I do not need a tiller to break up the soil each year, weeds are greatly reduced, and I can grow more in a small space than I could traditionally.
From past experience I knew that an 8 foot by 4 foot bed would be a great place to start. Large enough to plant several things, but not too big to become overwhelming. Having paid attention to the sunlight over the past year, I knew where in the yard would get full sun through all seasons, and which areas were in full or partial shade from late fall through late spring. As none of our neighbors have backyard trees to create shade, that was not something I had to contend with.
A few other factors to take into account when deciding on placement were: location to a watering source, distance from fire ring, discharge from rain gutters, and allowing room for the kids to play. I did not want to be carrying heavy buckets of water across the yard all summer or trying to wrangle several lengths of garden hose. I also needed it to be far enough away from our fire ring to not interfere if we happen to be outside after dark. The rain gutters discharge a lot of water during a rain event, even a small one. If the garden was too close the soil would be eroded away.
After settling on where to place the garden bed and carrying the materials to that spot I actually had to move the location over a foot or two. Why? The yard had a slight slope around the edges to it to aide in storm-water run off. What is normally a good thing (good drainage) becomes a not so ideal situation when you are trying to build a level raised bed. Moving the bed over meant it would be level, thereby saving me the effort of having to dig it down on one side or raise it up on the other.
My previous garden beds were made out of wood planks screwed together to create squares or rectangles. While this method was more economical it meant more time in constructing the beds, as well as painting or staining the boards to ensure a longer life. It also made it a lot more difficult to extend the beds as my gardening adventures grew.
I liked the look of raised beds made of decorative stones, but the budget would not permit it at this time. I also felt like that beds were more permanent in nature. At this time I was not ready to commit to a location long term.
Concrete blocks were more economical than decorative border stones, flexible enough to change or move if desired, did not require constructing a frame, and allowed me the option to plant in the open spots of the blocks. While I did not prefer the look of the blocks, the other factors won out.
In two days time I had a bed created in my back yard. A few days later it was planted and seems to be doing well. After two years of not having a vegetable garden, it is nice to be able to look forward to produce from one’s own backyard.
Something to keep in mind when planning on using concrete blocks is their weight. Not only the weight of the finished product, but also the weight in your transportation of choice. I was able to fit 27 blocks in my car without overloading it. 20 of the blocks were for the raised bed, one block high. 7 of the blocks were being used in a flower bed located in a different part of the yard.
At the time of picking up the blocks I also grabbed a bag of peat moss, two bags of top soil, and a bag of perlite (meant to get vermiculite but didn’t want to make an extra trip to exchange bags). A 50 lb bag of manure, 4 more bags of top soil, and 2 large bags of compost were added to it later. As I replant and fertilize more dirt will be added. I will also need to pick up a few bags to finish filling in the open holes of the blocks around the border.
Once home I gathered up cardboard boxes which had been accumulating in our garage. These I laid out in a rough rectangle shape. Where possible I created multiple layers of cardboard, which will kill the grass underneath before breaking down in the soil.
After the first corner was located where I wanted it, I began the place the blocks in a line, measuring from the privacy fence to double check its alignment. Due to the size of the blocks the planting area was not exactly 8 feet by 4 feet, but it is really close. Add in the extra planting squares and I am happy with the result.
After the blocks were squared up as much as possible, the bags of peat moss, soil, and compost were added and mixed in place. This may not be the “correct” way to do it, but without a wheel barrel it was an acceptable alternative. It also created less work than mixing the ingredients on a tarp before adding to the bed.
The soil was watered, allowing me to check for levelness of the new soils and to help the contents settle before planting.
The bed is now ready to be planted!
These past few weeks have been full of various activities around the house and adventures away from home. Here are a few snapshots of what has been going on. Much to my surprise and delight, my amaryllis is blooming. This lovely flower was a gift from a friend. However, it was one which I could not set out to bloom the first year I had it, so it was placed in a cool, dark basement. Then we moved, and it had to winter another year being stored in a cool, dark place. Tip: this is not a recommended gardening technique.
As I was unpacking and organizing the house this past fall I decided to put it out by the front door in hopes that the location would encourage it to begin growing. Within a few weeks of placing it outside and watering it, I noticed green beginning to appear. Both bulbs put on a hardy set of leaves for a few months. After a time the leaves began to yellow and die away. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised by the lack of flowers. With a lack of a place to store it, I left it outside though not a lot of watering was taking place. (Apparently I did something right without knowing it.)
One morning, I noticed green appearing once again! Regular watering began immediately. This time an additional shoot appeared after a few weeks – it was a flower stem!
Our front porch has now been graced with this beauty for the past week or so. It brings a smile to my face every time I see it.
This beauty (in the eye of the beholder) was on the neighbor’s curb. While it is not the perfect pallet for what I have planned, there were a few factors which made it perfect in my eye. Most importantly the fact that it was two houses away and free.
It is now a work in progress, hopefully to be completed by the end of this week as I already have plants to put in it.
With a warming of weather I realized it was getting close to being late for putting in a garden. I was not wanting the look of concrete blocks, however the benefits – mobility, long life, no having to cut and drill, outweighed the negatives – not exactly the look I was heading towards.
After seeing a friend’s beds built with these even my husband mentioned I should try it. Guess he was not bothered by the look. So I took the plunge and bought them one day. I knew that if I only took the first step, the rest would fall into place quickly. I already have the cardboard, from moving boxes, and experience of having done this before in Small Town.
The construction of this has progressed enough for plants to be added in today or tomorrow. I will share more on it later.
While picking up blocks for the larger raised bed, I decided to adjust a design detail on the new smaller side bed. The blocks along the fence had been more of the decorative type. The problem with this was two-fold – they were too short and they were more expensive. Why have nice looking blocks there when no one would see them? Not only are the concrete blocks taller, but I can also plant inside the previously open squares.
I also added a painted pot from one of the kids. The likelihood of a toad finding it to make a toad house is fairly small, but you never know.
Another aspect of gardening I have been researching is the addition of fruit plants and/or plants to create a living screen along our back fence. After asking opinions of other local gardeners, browsing online garden supply stores, and reading up on our state’s extension website I thought I had it narrowed down to my final choices.
A trip to a local nursery with Jack one day showed me that I was not happy with the final choices. Even more so, I did not want to pay a few hundred dollars for something I was not completely sold on. Back to the drawing board I went.
One thing was for sure, I wanted a fig tree. The other fruit trees are more prone to issues due to the humidity of our location. Figs, however, do better and will give us about two crops a year. I also hope to start new plants off this one using cuttings. The gift that keeps on giving, I hope.
On the saving money front, I chose a store where I do not regularly shop and worked on finding ways to save there. It took a lot more time than I thought, but I am getting the hang of it. Something I came to realize, though, was that my attitude was not in the right place while learning. Instead of being in a place of thanks giving for the time and resources to learn, I began to have an attitude of lack.
I began to feel as if I failed if I did not get this deal or that. To nip this lie in the bud, I stopped paying attention to the deals at this store for a couple weeks. When a big sale came up I was able to take advantage to save a lot of money by stocking up on some essentials for our home, not worring about the other deals I missed. When I had to thought of, “Maybe I should go check out the other store near us, they may have other inventory”, I gave myself a talking to and found a better use of my time to bless my family.
January tends to be the hard month school wise. After the holidays it is hard to get the motivation back to get work done. While January was unusual, it was March which really did us in. For whatever reason, we just could not find our groove again. April found us taking advantage of more out-of-home activities as we are getting to know particular local families who also are active in several of the groups we frequent. A few other groups have also appeared on our radar…we really are blessed with the opportunities, ones we were wishing for in Small Town but could not find. We are all appreciating the opportunities to make new friends. Now the challenge is to find a balance between “learning” and “socializing”. Good thing several of the groups fill both needs.
As for decluttering, there are still a few boxes of items to unpack from our move. While I am not in a rush to unpack them without knowing where the items will go, I have been going through other things to clear out items we no longer need, want, or which are in a condition to warrant being thrown away. I was able to pass along several bags of clothes to other families of boys, as well as contribute to the yard sale of a local youth group.
The common thread to these things is: routine. Having a routine for school makes it more likely to get started. Having a routine to plan weekly meals makes it more likely to not rush at dinner time. Having a routine for picking up the house makes it more likely I am not spending all my time picking up, but can actually focus on cleaning, fixing, or clearing out.
After trying a few different things I have found a few thing which have stuck. Using those as framework for the rest of the system we are slowly expanding. For me that currently looks something like this:
There is a lot going on over here, a lot of new or different things. However, I am beginning to feel a better balance about things…all in time for summer break to be looming on the horizon, of course.
My overall goal for the garden this year is to work on getting big things established, to keep the longer distant time-wise goals in mind. With an idea of where I want to end up, each step of the way is in that direction, even if it seems like I am skipping here and there around the place.
How has the spring been finding you? What is one of your goals for the year and what have you done to work toward achieving it?
This post contains affiliate links.
All throughout April you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, or PayPal cash.
When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here’s how:
2. Earn 300 SB total before May 1st, 2018. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus for it!
3. That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned enough since the beginning of the year to purchase a rain barrel, a compost tumbler, a used copy of a long-awaited book, and more. This past month has been a bit quieter due to having my focus elsewhere. That is one of the things I like about Swagbucks, the earning opportunities are flexible; there is no set schedule or method which you must use.