May 222017
 

 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

continued from Part 1

No yard is perfect.  Overcoming the challenges can either be viewed in a positive light or as a overwhelming chore.  I am choosing to go the first route, viewing this as a time to grow and use my creative juices to find solutions and help the garden grow.

The first step I took was to address one of the biggest visual and immediate problems.  For me, this meant mowing the grass to help get the weeds under control and to get myself moving.  The Laws of Motion can also apply to our motivation when doing things in life.

An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by another force.  -Newton’s First Law of Motion

The other force takes the look of our self-doubt, the feeling of being overwhelmed, freezing up by indecision, and so forth.  By doing something, anything, we have begun the motion to reach our goal.

#2 Form A Plan

While this step would ideally come first, something it is best to get moving and do something. 

Have you ever spent time making an awesome, color coordinated, shiny plan, only to then feel so exhausted by it you go take a nap? You never get around to actually doing the plan you spent so much time making?

Or how about researching, and researching, and researching to find the perfect whatever-it-is?  In the end you are so frozen by indecisiveness you give up.

So, we put into motion our goal with a first step which was obtainable and quick.  It was not perfect.  It was not necessarily researched or planned out.  What it was is quick and simple.  The other steps can come later.

We are now in motion.

The first time I mowed, it was nothing fancy or full of thought as to the pattern. I mowed and everything was shorter. It no longer looked like an unloved home. The end.

The second time, I put a bit more thought into it, mowing the other direction.  Not only would this help catch any missed places from the first time, but it would also help the grass keep from being blown onto the exact same spots in the yard each time.  By going a different way, I could also view the yard from a different angle and begin to gain a sense of how the yard worked.

I am not sure there is any great wisdom behind changing direction. I did find various dips and bumps the second time which did not stand out the first.  As for timing, I am thinking mowing parallel with  my house saves a few seconds, as all the major obstacles would be along a particular pass or two, rather than at the end of every row.

While mowing I began to form a plan to address various issues. I also contemplated how to use challenges to our advantage. It was all theoretical, nothing was actually put into action.   The end.

The third time I mowed, I tried to make a concerted effort to actually look closely at the plants making up the yard as I passed them.  Grass is not the only plant growing, and the others may give me an insight into what is going on below ground.
initial front bed planting

During these first three times, though, I was doing something to help the yard.  Others might think I was purely being lazy, but it was an active choice, one I knew would eventually help the lawn.  I left the clippings on the ground.  

Instead of bagging up the grass clippings or composting them, I let the mower blow them straight back onto the ground.  By putting back the organic matter I had just removed, the grass clippings will break down over time, returning nutrients to the soil.

They will also (hopefully) help keep weed seeds from reaching the soil and taking hold as quickly.

Once summer comes in full force, having a layer of organic matter on top of the soil will also help in shading the ground, helping keep moisture loss lower than it might otherwise.

This seemingly little step may not sound like much.  However, over time it will begin to add up.  Any organic material I can add to the lawn will only help improve the soil, and thereby the plants and animals living there.

Another step I plan to take for the next mowing is to raise my mower as high as it will go.  Not only will this allow the grass to have larger leaves by which to absorb energy from the sun, but it will also help continue to shade out any other smaller plants (i.e. weeds) which decide to try to grow.

 

May 172017
 

how to tackle the challenges of a less than perfect garden collage

Each garden is unique in its challenges and abilities.  That is part of the fun, and frustration, of gardening.

Add in to this the fact that each gardener is different – desiring different things from their garden, using it differently, and having different abilities and time with which to dedicate their skills.  This is where we often find ourselves growing or letting go.

With our new yard, I was looking forward to a younger yard, one where perhaps the need to water and increase soil nutrients would be the biggest worries.

I was wrong.

While the previous owner took great care of the inside of the house, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the outdoors were not where a lot of time was spent.  If there was time spent there, it was not on landscaping or improving soil quality.

The first time  I mowed was about 3 weeks after it should have been done.  It actually needed mowed the week I had surgery, the week after we had just taken a family vacation … it was not happening.  I had assumed I would be up for the task after a week or so of recovery.

Wrong again.

In order to mow the new yard, I had to load our non-selfpropelled lawn mower into the back of my car and drive it over there.  Then I had to unload it and push it around the yard.

“Take it easy and let others do things for you,” said the doc.  In other words, no lifting or pushing.  I assumed with it being the beginning of the season, I could get away with a few weeks off.

Wrong again.

By the time I was able to get to the lawn, here is what the backyard looked like:

new yard initial

Not exactly a monoculture of grass.  I was thankful it had not reached what I dub the “hay-mowing stage”, where all the grass is a lush 3 feet tall and you may as well buy a goat.

The weeds were/are still abundant and growing at a wonderful rate.  The soil you can see will easily tell you that topsoil is sorely missing.  Certain parts of the yard are getting too much water, while other sections are not getting enough sun. Other parts are doing great in regards to sun and water, but also have some serious weeds (beyond the standard crabgrass, dandelions, etc.)

So much for being an easy, challenge-free yard to begin our gardening adventure at the new house.

wet shaded yard initial

How are we going to tackle these challenge and turn them into something which will be productive and an asset?  While I do not have all the answers right at this moment, I do know one thing – small steps add up to big changes.

With that in mind I have decided to do those small steps, focusing on places where I can initially make the biggest impact or where the issue is something which can be handled quickly.  These small, high impact steps will help keep me moving forward.

#1 Choose a place to start, something which will make the biggest impact

First up – regular mowing, blowing the grass clippings back on the yard, as well as beginning a late spring garden.

By starting here I can remove one of the largest visual challenges.  It may not be the toughest thing to fix, but it will help me start feeling like the end is not impossible.

Also, by mowing, I am keeping this aspect from becoming a larger issue as the weeks pass.

Looking at planting calendars from my state’s colleges, I noticed it was not too late to start some of the vegetables we like.  What I did not have time for was to build a raised bed.

While out shopping one day, I noticed stacks of potting soil next to the cash registers.  I picked up a bag (and later another one), took it home and planted seeds. (more details to come).  This is probably the smallest garden I have had in over a decade.  Not really an issues, as I am not looking to provide all of our vegetables for the year.  My goal was to have a few fresh things now without causing too much work.

In a few months I will look into creating a late summer/fall garden.

to be continued …

May 132017
 

concrete flower container with pic borderContests. Giveaways. Sweepstakes.  No matter what you call them, these little gems can be fun to enter.  It is even better when you win and open your mailbox to find something besides bills.

However, in order to win, you must know about them and enter them.  While I can help a little bit with the first step, the second one is up to you!

Here are some giveaways from around the web. A few things these giveaways have in common:

  1. A garden theme
  2. They are open at some point in this month, though closing dates vary

I try to also have these common themes, though that is not always the case:

  1. They are not on major commercial sites
  2. The majority do not have thousands of entries (so the chance of winning it higher for you)

I hope you find something that peaks your interest.

IMG_20140706_125450329

SEWCIAL BEE SAMPLER

“Julie at The Intrepid Thread is offering a $20 gift certificate to spend however you’d like at her shop!” Enter now through Monday, May 15th!

 Cottage Garden Collection Fat Quarter Bundle

With a review like this, how can you not want to find a craft in order to use these prints? – “The Cottage Garden Fat Quarter Bundle will give you those cozy feelings with prints of woodland animals, ladybugs, strawberries, and other whimsical details.”  Ends May 21, 2017 at 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time.  Note: there are a lot of ads to skip or click “No” on to get to the confirmation page.  You will get there though without having to say yes to any of the offers.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses Giveaway

“Enter to win a Proven Winners Rose Garden package featuring the At Last Rose, Oso Easy Double Red Rose and Oso Petit Pink Rose and Dave Thompson’s Organic Healthy Grow fertilizer to get your plants off to a great start!” Ends May 21. 2017 at 11:59pm CT. Open to legal U.S. residents of IL, IN, IA, MI or WI who are 18 years or older.

Sharpen your seed skills with Botanical Interests & $50 gift card giveaway!

“…you can buy your seed anywhere from the local garden center to the grocery store or even in bulk at a farmer’s market. But it’s quality over quantity today as we sift through seed. That’s why we are over the moon excited to have partnered with Botanical Interests and for your chance to win a $50 gift card from them to choose your own seed.”  Ends May 31, 2017

Nifty Homestead Giveaway – May 2017

“Spring is officially here and with summer right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about tomatoes. We love tomatoes so much that we wanted to do something a little special this year and make sure that you’re all set for the fruitful season ahead!” – Ends May 31, 2017

 

If you know of others, please leave a comment below. I will check it out and add it, if appropriate.

May 082017
 

strawberry plants may 6 2014

After reading up on some farming/gardening news from around the world, I was beginning to feel, well, depressed about the state of things currently taking place.  Hence why I often avoid the news.

This article, however, left such an uplifting, positive feeling; I want to get up and get to work in the yard, changing what is currently there into something which will actually be useful (beyond looking pretty).

Farms like Ms. Bates’s, in addition to more traditional farmland, have been around for quite some time. Thomas Whitlow, an associate professor of horticulture who specializes in urban plants at Cornell University, Ms. Bates’s alma mater, said that in the 1940s some 40 percent of fresh market produce in New York was grown in victory gardens. – A Staten Island Urban Farmer

May 012017
 

child running into fountain

Did you know, if I do not post for 4 days, the number of readers on this blog goes down?  Surprising, right?!

Okay, not so much.

With an award winning post title like the one above, I am sure the numbers will go up today … okay, probably not. 😉

Seems I am 0 for 2 today on the blog!

Speaking of the blog, I have either been very much here or very much not as of late.  To say this past month has not gone as I planned it would be an understatement. I apologize for the inconvenience of not knowing.  It really is an area I am trying to work on.

rose bush thorns

After taking our lllloooooooonnnnngggg trip last week to the home school conference, my body decided the experience was too much stress.  It then reacted accordingly for this whole past week.  When I had finally thought I was past being stressed from all the changes and the surgery, I reverted back to being exhausted and nauseous for several hours each day.

It was not as bad as it was previously, but enough to be annoying and greatly slow down my days. I had to be mindful of what I chose to do each day – one big thing and two smaller things.  Everything else on the list happened if I had the energy.

If I tried to do more, I paid for it the next day – best to stick with what worked and move at a turtle’s pace.  Hence, no posts toward the end of the week; they did not make the list. 😉

I think I have mentioned before what I do to help lower my stress levels when my body reacts this way.  In case you did not see it, and ever face something similar, here are a few of the steps I take to combat the feelings before they lead to larger issues (been there, done that; it isn’t fun):

  1. Eat breakfast twice – first one is smaller, focusing on getting something in me, preferably a protein, and immediately upon waking.
  2. Get outside. Nature calms you, even if intermixed with car sounds.  If no birds are around, download and play nature sounds, though the real thing is better.
  3. Drink green tea.
  4. Go for a walk. Even if it is only in circles around your deck. (Useless fact – 115 laps around my deck equals a mile…Make sure to switch direction every so often.)
  5. Get sunshine on you. Vitamin D can help you feel better.
  6. Don’t worry about the smaller stuff. Your kid wants to take his lunch box and cold pack to school so his water bottle at snack time is cold? Say, Yes, and move on.
  7. Listen to the Bible audio version style, since you are up at 4:30 a.m. anyway. (Amazon has mp3 versions you can play on an app or your computer. Some are free if you have a Prime account.)
  8. Read a book, unless it makes you dizzy, then go back to #7.
  9. Go to bed early.  My body has been waking up at 4:30 a.m., no matter the time I go to bed.  However, being tired makes me feel even worse the next day …. so, 8:30 p.m. bedtime it is.
  10. If you do happen to wake up at say 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. or any other o-dark-thirty time and your stomach won’t stop turning so you can sleep … drink a cup of water.  Maybe even take an antacid chew-able.  Water can do a lot to help our bodies heal themselves.
  11. Distract yourself.  After a few days of whining internally, I found that getting out of the house and talking about something completely different really helped.  Don’t push it too much, but start focusing on other completely unrelated items for a time.

My husband thinks I am too complicated, having these ‘rules’ in place.  He prefers to spend several hours at the gym.  Normally I would agree.  However, that is not always possible and I needed to find things to help while still being at home, schooling, parenting, and trying to keep the house running.

What he did do to help was take a kid or two out for activities, even when I did not feel like going.  “Walking around in 88 degree weather while looking at art? You go right ahead; I will stay home and play a board game.”

He also gave me grace when I did not have the energy to do the dishes at the end of the day.  Our dishwasher is broken and I had been doing them by hand.  Not a big deal, but when you feel like you might fall asleep in the middle of washing a cup … the dishes can wait till the next day.

spring flower collage

Today, I am feeling better.  I woke up at 4:30 a.m. (again), drank some water, went back to sleep till 6.  Woke up feeling not-nauseous, ate breakfast, got everyone ready for their day, then went to an IEP meeting.  I seem to have gone to one each month since the beginning of the year.  The joys of moving states and school districts.

I plan to grab lunch out, once this post is finished, before going to carpet stores to get some samples.

The goal is to be in the new house in June.  New carpet is really the only thing we wanted to have done before we move in.  With no furniture currently in the house, this is the perfect time to do so.

While it needed to be done, there were other Big Items on my to-do list (spring break, surgery, updating insurances, grocery shopping…getting better) which needed to be done first.  Now that those are over, and I was able to get a person out to measure, we are now moving on to actually choosing something.

I have slowly been taking items over and unpacking them, though nothing large at this point.

Last week I did grab a bag of potting mix to start some seeds/transplants in this upcoming week.  While I may have missed several vegetable planting times, there are others that are still able to be started.  I waited till after the storms went through and cooler weather was forecast for a few days.  Hoping it works out.

I did consult the growing calendars for my state and realized my best bet is a late summer/fall garden.  Not a bad idea at this point as the yard has NO current garden or beds.  If I had nothing else happening,  I could focus on building them, but for now, I do what I can with what we have*.

Something I have been doing is watching YouTube videos concerning gardening.  One that stuck out to me last night was called “Why We Are Not Doing BACK TO EDEN Gardening”.  The premise was the same as I came to for any sort of permanent garden right now – I would rather some something growing than have it exactly how I ideally would like to have it but not grow anything this year.  In other words, something is better than nothing.

*In case that sounds too much like giving up before starting, I wanted to clarify – I have plans, new things to try for our different zone, different yard, and different challenges.  The something I am going to have is the first step in trying to overcome one two of the biggest challenges, very poor soil and lack of time to focus solely on gardening.  This is one method others have used with success, so I am starting there while researching more solutions.

Apr 222017
 

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe For The Earth giveaway ends tonight!  Have you entered yet?

From their Facebook page:

“THREE weekly winners will be drawn (April 8/16/22), each to receive a hardcover copy of the groundbreaking picture book, COMPOST STEW: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth….Open to US/Canada only. Ends April 22, 2017 at 9 pm (PDT).”

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Apr 082017
 

concrete flower container with pic border

Contests. Giveaways. Sweepstakes.  No matter what you call them, these little gems can be fun to enter.  It is even better when you win and open your mailbox to find something besides bills.

However, in order to win, you must know about them and enter them.  While I can help a little bit with the first step, the second one is up to you!

Here are some giveaways from around the web. A few things these giveaways have in common:

  1. A garden theme
  2. They are open at some point in this month, though closing dates vary

I try to also have these common themes, though that is not always the case:

  1. They are not on major commercial sites
  2. The majority do not have thousands of entries (so the chance of winning it higher for you)

I hope you find something that peaks your interest.

To keep it all on the up-and-up, I wanted to let you know a few giveaways give me extra entries if you also enter.

IMG_20140706_125450329

Tidying up with Gardener’s Hollow Leg & giveaway!

Raise Your Garden has a very practical and useful giveaway.  I can think if so many uses. It doesn’t hurt that I can relate to grass being an unintended victim of gardening activities. (It drives my husband crazy!) So, perhaps this can double as relationship counseling.

Ends April 9, 2017

Rebel Gardens Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Giveaway

“Enter for a chance to win 5 different sets of seeds, set of garden tools and t-shirt. Seeds include: 8 varieties of non GMO tomatoes; 10 varieties of herbs including basil, oregano, cilantro; 8 varities of salad greens including kale, spinach, arugula; Other veggies including cucumber, radish, squash, onion, pepper”

Ends April 16, 2017

EarthBox® Complete Ready-to-Grow Kit

“Three (3) Grand-Prize Winners will be announced on Earth Day (April 22, 2017) and each will receive a FREE EarthBox® Complete Ready-To-Grow Kit (Valued at $99)!”

Ends April 21, 2017

Horticulture’s Spring Garden Giveaway

“Enter as often as you like from April 5 – April 30, 2017. Prize drawing will take place May 1, 2017.” Prize: 1001-B Precision Garden Seeder, $100 Gift Certificate to Bluestone Perennials, and a 1-year subscription to Horticulture magazine

Ends April 30, 2017

Botanic Garden Getaway

American Meadows and High Country Gardens are celebrating their love of plants by giving away a life-changing trip for two to one of our nation’s Botanic Gardens.”  There are weekly $50 Gift Certificate prizes, as well as the grand prize – AN ALL-EXPENSE PAID TRIP FOR 2 TO THE BOTANIC GARDEN OF YOUR CHOICE!

Ends April 30, 2017

LiveTrends Designs Giveaway

“…honestly, I think regardless of your age if you’re into plants it almost doesn’t matter the type. You like them all…..right?! Lately, I find myself getting more and more into succulents and air plants.”   Prize: One 7-piece collection set from LiveTrends Design.

Ends April 30, 2017

If you know of others, please leave a comment below. I will check it out and add it, if appropriate.

Mar 262017
 

concrete flower container with pic border

Here are some giveaways from around the web. A few things these giveaways have in common:

  1. A garden theme
  2. They are not on major commercial sites
  3. The majority do not have thousands of entries (so the chance of winning it higher for you)

I hope you find something that peaks your interest.

If you know of others, please leave a comment below. I will check it out and add it, if appropriate.

 

My Busy Green Garden – curteosy of Picture Book Builders. She also includes an interview with the author, which is an insight you do not normally find with books you read.

Tidying up with Gardener’s Hollow Leg & giveaway! – Raise Your Garden has a very practical and useful giveaway.  I can think if so many uses. It doesn’t hurt that I can relate to grass being an unintended victim of gardening activities. (It drives my husband crazy!) So, perhaps this can double as relationship counseling. Ends April 9, 2017

Mar 182017
 

Plow & Hearth

Confession time: I did not buy new cushions for our porch swing for … 8 years!

And to make it even worse … they were the cushions which we inherited with the house and swing! Gross, I know!! Trust me, they were ready for retirement.

Not only did they not provide any form of softness, but they were faded and harbored who knows what kind of allergens.  It was finally at the point where I was afraid to even wash them.  Yeah, they were bad.

It was not until we were gifted a new swing that I began my search for new cushions.  The difference was like night and day!  Not only were the colors vivid, but the cushions actually, well, cushioned.

Never again will I wait so long.  I have learned the wisdom of routinely changing out cushions, especially if they are so worn you are afraid to wash them.

Right now, Plow&Hearth is offering $10 off orders over $85.  Whether you are looking for new cushions, a side table, outdoor planters or an arbor, not only can you save yourself a trip to the store, but also enough money to fill that new planter with your favorite plant from the local nursery or your greenhouse.

This post contains affiliate links.

Mar 162017
 

life is a series of experiences henry ford quote

This week finds us out of the house quite a bit.  So, I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at some posts from the past.

One thing that stuck out to me was the difference in weather between years, even though all these posts are from March.

Another theme I noticed is that I often posted about food.  That may have to do with the first things that stood out to me – the weather.

Soon it had been over three weeks and I had not even begun looking for a new stove or coming to a decision as to repair it.

Living Without An Oven – This phase was actually easier than I thought, though it did take some thinking.  We were also blessed, several months in, with a $1 toaster oven find at a local garage sale.  That toaster oven even moved with us, as I came to find it useful for different situations.

Once the warm weather comes, I would rather be focusing on outside rather than stuck inside doing these things.

30 Days, 21 Projects – It is amazing how all the little things around the house can be put off numerous times.  Suddenly, no matter where you turn there is something glaring at you that needs to be done.  Having a plan of attack, and a deadline, helps you realized the list is not never-ending.  It also gives you a sense of being in control rather than being controlled by your stuff.

I didn’t plant all the tomato seeds I had, but I got 75 of them started.

Weekly Goals – March 18, 2012 – Not only is it interesting to look back and see what was happening at this time in years past, but you may also be reminded of things you used to do and can do again.  While I will not be starting seeds indoors this spring, I hope to do it again in the future.  I also learned that I did not need 75 tomato seedlings.  Live and learn.

At first $4.30 didn’t seem like a lot to Mr. Arends, but by the end of the 6-weeks time frame, he had learned several lessons.

Comparing The Numbers – Before making statements about what can or can not be done, it is a good idea to take a look at the reality of your situation.

Last week he spent over 6 hours across several days working with cardboard and duct tape.

This Week in School, practical life skills – the above quote would be called a STEM activity in public school.  At home, it was called free time.  This post highlighted a season where Jack really did not respond well to sitting to learn.  While we were following Charlotte Mason’s methods, I had not fully implemented them, nor researched them.  So some items, like short lessons, were in play, there were other things I was learning on my own.  I am still not fully doing what she recommends, but we are getting closer.