Jun 042016

2016 Garden Update

Several changes have taken place around the garden and yard this week.  Most were due to a domino effect.

For starters, I can now pull into my own side of a garage, a first in almost a decade.  It gets even better.  I can pull into my own side of a garage using a garage door opener AND without having to drive through mud.  Yes, folks, the driveway width now matches up with the garage we have.

This little update was supposed to happen a few weeks ago.  However, the guy doing it had to delay things a few days while the underground utilities were marked.  Then it came to be planting time.  Where I am, nothing much takes precedent over planting  time if you are a farmer, a family member of a farmer, a friend of a farmer who can drive equipment, or any in any way associated with the farming community.  So we waited.

A call on Tuesday morning changed all that.  By supper time I was able to pull into my garage without having to drive through the ever present mud puddle.  I also no longer needed to use the fairly redneck style of a ramp setup I had in place to get my car over the several inches difference between the ground level and the garage floor.  Oh the issues you run into when updating old parts of a house.

While planning the extension of the driveway, I asked if he would be willing to leave the dirt on site.  Turns out that little question fill a need we both had – I needed just a bit more dirt in low places along the garage and he needed somewhere for the dirt to go.  By keeping it onsite the job also was a bit cheaper and was faster to complete.

With the dirt spread and rain in the forecast, the next morning I knew what my focus would be – spreading grass seed.  This satisfied something my husband has been wanting me to address – the weeds in the yard along the side of the garage.  This is the place where a very deep trench was dug to put in the foundation for the garage part of the house.  With a deep trench comes a lot of dirt to move.  This had been piled along the edge of the trench, thereby killing any grass that had been there.  Over the past few months, the weeds have taken over.

driveway dirt collage

Having the dirt from the driveway spread out in this area meant that I did not need to spend time loosening up the dirt and filling in depressions.  Rain meant that I did not need to spend time every day watering the seed.  So, while it is not the best time of the year to plant grass seed, it was the time I had available unless I wanted to wait several months and let weeds take over.

With grass seed spread, I moved on to getting ride of several buckets of wood chips sitting by the shed.  These were added to the shade garden at the front of the house.

After dumping the buckets I decided to take “a few minutes” to address some issues in this bed – mulch needing spread out, weeds and tree sprouts removed, sticks picked up and stepping stone laid back out.  Amazing how “a few minutes” to finish a gardening task never takes just those few minutes.

With the driveway installed, I no longer worried about leaving the spray painted marks from the utilities.  However, when I went to mow the grass, I found out that my weed eater no longer seems to be working.  Flashbacks of The Great Replacement washed over me.  After a breath or two I calmed down and moved on.  Hand pulling weeds in the worst areas would not be the end of the world.  Also, our edger will take care of the ones along the curb.  A new weed-eater will be in our near future.  These are the things of life that I never envisioned being a part of being an adult.  Sort of like property taxes and insurance.

Time was saved not using the weed-eater, so I spent it instead spraying the weeds that have popped up in the driveway.  I used to pull these by hand, not liking to use chemicals for every little problem I come across.  I may still do so, but wanted to see if I could save time right now by using a spray and perhaps save time later by them not coming back as quickly.

This is a point where my husband and I disagree.  He is all for spraying.  I want to see if I can find other solutions.  It may have to do with our backgrounds, or with various studying/reading I have done over the years, or maybe the difference in how we view our time.  Either way, we have finally come to an unspoken agreement – as long as I do not complain about it, ask him to do it, or leave it so it starts looking really bad, he does not care one way or the other.  Some areas I have succeeded in, others (like the violets in the yard) I have failed at.  I guess we are not all perfect. 😉

blackberry bushes bloom

In other parts of the garden, the onion sets planted last week have sprouted, little tomatoes are beginning to appear and the blackberries are blooming.  The radish seeds have begun sprouting.

My strawberries also have slugs.  Once the rain stops I will try putting a trap out for them.  I did not think they were too bad till I saw The Big Guy.  He was so fat and slimy, he would have covered the finger nail on my pinky finger.  That was the point where I resolved to do something about it, these were not just one or two little guys doing the damage.

strawberry grub collage

I also went gung-ho on trimming up a fairy rose bushes that are in the middle of a side yard.  They have really needed trimming, not exactly a job I jump for joy at though due to all the thorns.  Last month I did a poor job of beginning the trimming, in hope that new side canes would form where I wanted them before I cut off more of the canes where I did not want them.  In the end it only looked bad.  So, I jumped in … well, not literally. Remember, thorns.

rose bush thorns

I did a more aggressive trim this week, also removing a lot of virginia creeper and hackberry sprouts that had been hiding among the canes.  Once it was all cleaned out it looked much better.  Emptier, but better.  A few days later I noticed the roses blooming, so apparently my trim job did not shock it too much. We will see if I think the same thing come the end of summer.




Apr 162016


One of the trees in our front yard was surrounded with beautifully blooming tulips last week, similar to the ones pictured above.

Their beauty brightened my day, adding a much needed bright spot as I left to take George and Drake to school.  What a display of color! “I’m so glad I saved the bulbs when we reduced the size of our front flower bed a few years ago. It was time consuming work, but sooo worth it.” ….

By the afternoon my thoughts had turned to, “Rabbit stew anyone?”


May 262015

this week in the garden october 2 2014The garden is starting to come along.  My green bean plants are coming up, as are the cucumbers, radishes, and zucchini.  The spinach, okra and sweet peas have not appeared and I am thinking they may need to be replanted.  Several of my herbs have also not appeared.  With rain expected several days this week, I plan to try a second around of plantings.

The grass I seeded most recently is coming up great.  I am attributing this to having spread more seeds than I might normally combined with the rain that followed.  I am hoping to do the same again this week with some other bare spots.  Rain is so much better for plants than the water from the spigot.

This year has also been a reminder as to how dry the past years really have been.  We have had actual Spring rains.  It is amazing what this done for  your plants and garden.  Not only have we had Spring rains, it has kept raining.  The past several years found us drowning in water, only to have it not rain again for 3+ months.  That makes it hard to grow a good crop, unless you are willing to irrigate and pay the higher water bill.

I have been posting more on Facebook. If it ever seems quiet on here, check there for any updates or shared articles.  It is quicker, and easier, to post there if I only have a few minutes or am on my phone.

blackberry bush

The picture at the top is from last Fall, not right now.  While the trellis for the tomatoes is up, there are no tomatoes that tall yet.  I also have the tiki torches up to drape bird netting on soon.  The blackberry plants are blooming, so I really hope berries will follow soon.    The above picture is from one of my two starter plants last year.  Now, they have filled in the space nicely and are looking fabulous.  There is still a noticeable difference between the size of the plants on one end of the bed (where there is just a bit more shade) compared to the other (where there is almost no shade).  Sometimes it really is a matter of moving a plant just a few feet one direction for it to explode in size.

strawberry plants may 6 2014

The strawberry plants have green fruit on them, so I need to get that netting installed in the next few days.  First, though, I have to finish fencing around the bed.  I am about 4 feet shy of it being finished.  I used old fencing to block the gap, hoping it would at least keep our the rabbits.  I was late removing the winter covering from the plants because I had no fencing up.  This meant the plants got a later start growing and several did not make it.  Seems my problem of too many plants last fall was solved without me having to choose who stays and who goes.  Once production declines, I am going to start the bed on a rotation, removing the old plants from a forth of it and allowing the runners fill that area in with new plants.

shade hosta forest garden


I spent Monday afternoon in the area I plan to put in a shade garden.  The choice was to go outside or stay in the house and do something.  The family decided for me, as my husband needed to do some homework and the kids were rambunctious.  Outside it was.  I was not sure how far along in the process I would get, but chose to just start.  First came the edging.  I had planned to have it curve, making it look more natural.  However, I did not want to take out places where grass was actually growing well, and there were a few trees in the way if I went the other direction.  After digging the trench for the edging, I decided I did not like how it tied into the existing edging.  So I dug a new trench.  It is straighter than I liked, but over all it looks better.

By the evening half of the weed barrier was installed, it was covered with leftover straw I had here at home, and a row of hostas was planted.  The hostas I planted were actually 5 I had bought from the produce auction.  When I began planting I noticed that I could divide what I had, thereby making 10 plants instead of 5.  They  may be a bit on the smaller side now, but by this time next year they should fill out beautifully.


The expected rainstorm came through today, though it did not produce as much rainfall as I thought.  It was still enough to give the grass seed its first watering and a drink to the garden plants.  I am headed out to continue working on the shade garden.  Not sure if I will get it finished today, but I am hoping to make great progress on it.



May 062015

nature center tree bird pond

What a week this has been!  The gardening bug finally hit me full force and I know that this summer will look different than last, which seems to happen every year. 🙂

The extra time taken to get going with the garden has not been a waste, though.  I have used to time to think through a few various parts of the garden that have not been working for us.

  • Our front yard where grass will not grow.
  • The bed under the kitchen window that has full southern exposure to the sun (it gets hot!).
  • The bed off the deck that contains a stumps from old lilac bushes and living ever green bushes, but where I want the dwarf peach tree to go.
  • How exactly I am going to fence in the vegetables beds.
  • Filling in holes or low spits in the yard.
  • Getting grass to grow where I killed it last year.  🙁
  • What are we doing with the part if the yard near the remodel where the ground was dug up or had dirt piled on it?

These were just a few of the items I have mentally been working through.

nature center bird identification display

As time went on, I was feeling like no answers were coming. It was frustrating and I was feeling like a failure as a gardener.  “How can I have a website about gardening, when I seem to fail at everything?!”

Finally, I took a deep breath and decided to start with ONE thing.  Just one thing, not everything all at once like I had been trying to do.

In the hour it took me to mow the grass earlier this week I came up with several solutions.  Now there is a plan. The garden and yard did not look so hopeless.

  • While I do not have the time and mental energy to spread a truck load of wood chips over weed barrier right now, to start the shade garden in the front yard, I do have straw.  Lots of it actually that has no home and was becoming a problem.  Like with the shade garden idea (if grass won’t grow, plant something that will), I had to step back and look at the problem differently.  The purpose of wood chips is to have sonething that will break down, thereby fertilizing the plants and trees.  For now, though I just needed something to hold the weed barrier in place.  “Straw will do that,” I thought as I mowed that part if the yard. Two problems solved as I hope to get the garden in by the later part if next week.
  • I have low spots in the yard. Our contractor has extra dirt left over. Problem solved.
  • Grass seed can be spread one spit at a time.  There is no rule saying you gave to do it all at once.
  • One night this past weekend, I did some yard work after the kids were in bed.  I decided to remove the ever green bushes and plant the peach tree.  A job that I though would take hours, took 30 minutes.  I also found out that the stump is not sprouting as much as it did last year. I think I’ll plant some vegetables in the extra spaces this year.
  • As for fencing the raised beds, I found a new roll of fencing at a garage sale and picked up some new stakes this morning.  This evening or tomorrow I plan to start on the largest bed so I can get some seeds in place.
  • While considering the fencing of the strawberry beds, I realized a temporary solution to keep rabbits out would be to place old fencing directly on top of the plants.  Not a perfect or beautiful solution, but it does the job.  That is also something I did this past weekend (and one of the sources of the extra straw).

Sometimes, a hour spent mowing the yard can be more productive than two or three hours in front of the computer.

nature center relax collage

Here is another example, though not quit gardening related.  I have been feeling like there is so much to do at home, and I am exhausted at night, that I did not have time to type up this post.  Today I brought Jack to a local nature center for a program geared towards home school kids.  I was not sure the set up, so did not plan to leave him Aline. Turns out he was just fine and I would have been in the way. With no book and no errands to run near here, what could I do?  “Silly Girl, write the post!” 🙂

Here I sit, watching the bird feeders, the man-made waterfall, listening to birds sing and kids have fun, while getting to write.  No dishes to do or floors to sweep or hammers and saws to listen to.  We almost didn’t come, due to attitude issues. So glad I persevered. I think this is something both he and I needed. Jack, time away from the house and Mom’s ever presence. Me, time around nature and away from the house to think and just be.

Mar 182015

groups of various colored tulips(This post contains Swagbucks affiliate links.)

The snow has melted in my part of the country.  The ground is beginning to thaw out and we have entered The Mud Stage.  You know, the one where the sun lures you outside with promises of gardening and warmth.  You then become trapped by either sticky mud or surrounded by a moat of brown, watery, goop that may or may not have a bottom to it.

With the work on our house still happening (I am assured the end IS in sight), our yard is beyond its normal muddiness.  So much so that once I took up the area rugs last month, I have yet to put them back down.  I can look across my wooden floors and see brown footprints everywhere.  I have resigned myself to dirty floors for just a bit longer.

What I have not resigned myself to, though, is being kept inside by The Mud.  The last straw was catching a glimpse of tulips appearing in my flower beds.  Out came my well-loved jeans and I found a bed to ‘work’ in while George and Jack ‘built’ something in a different pile of dirt.  As I worked, my brain started to thaw also and plans for the shade garden in our front yard began to take shape.  All the details that have been scattered here and there in my thinking this winter began to come together.

With the list of materials growing longer, I stopped myself with the question, “How can I save money on this project?  I can’t save on everything, so how can I make it so less of it comes out of the bank account?”  One of the answers, Swagbucks!

hostas around tree in spring

Hosta plants beginning to appear.  This area has since had (free) mulch added.

Whether you are planning to put in a garden, take a trip, eat out or do some shopping Swagbucks can save you money.  Swagbucks is a rewards site where you get points called “Swag Bucks” for things like searching, watching videos and discovering deals. The you redeem those points for gift cards to places like Amazon, PayPal and Starbucks.

columbine 1

 Columbine in a former bed.  I wish some had been saved as I really liked the look of the delicate flower.

Here’s a plan for using Swagbucksto earn $25 in gift cards each month.  It’s easy, and if you keep at it, you’ll have at least $75 by June to spend on gardening or other summer fun without having to dip into your wallet or spend a ton of your precious time!

Swagbucks discounts your first $25 gift card of the month to 2,200 SB. That’s like getting $25 for $3 less!  Here are a few things you can do that will add up to 2,200 SB each month:

1) Knock out the quick stuff – all of these activities can be found on the left-hand-side of the homepage (1-2 mins a day):

  • Answer the Daily Poll everyday – also available on the SB mobile app, so you can earn your daily SB wherever you are: 30 SB
  • Do the NOSO everyday – Browse through No Obligation Special Offers for 2 SB everyday: 60 SB
  • Get your daily SwagButton SB – our popular browser add-on gives you the ability to earn SB from anywhere on the web. It also alerts you to Swag Codes AND you get 1 SB each day just for having it installed and active: 30 SB (Bonus: if you don’t have it yet, you get a one-time bonus of 50 SB for downloading the SwagButton!)
  • Do the Daily Crave – discover new content and websites to earn 1 SB everyday: 30 SB

2) Search online to earn SB everyday (no extra time needed!):

  • Use the Swagbucks Search engine – People who use Swagbucks search to find what they want online can earn 10 SB per day! Plus, members who make Swagbucks the default search engine on their browser typically earn even more: 300 SB

3) Earn BIG SB payouts (5 min – 20+ min depending on survey opportunities available):

  • Take the Daily Survey every weekday – SB amounts vary from survey to survey, but it’s very possible to earn about 35 SB per weekday: 700 SB
  • SBTV app on Android (all countries) & iOS (US only) – earn a maximum of 36 SB per day on this app: 1,080 SB

I plan to follow these steps and use my gift cards to either purchase or offset the cost of landscape fabric, borders, and some bedding plants.  Combining this with (hopefully) free mulch, existing plants and stepping stones should result in a very cost effective shade garden.  I will be happy to see plants growing and my husband will be happy not to see bare dirt again this year.  🙂

Whether you’re catching the latest blockbuster, enjoying a weekend road trip, purchasing cloth training pants, grabbing some extra garden supplies or stocking up for your next outdoor BBQ, Swagbucks can help. It doesn’t end there, though. Keep going and you can save for the holidays, back to school, or just a rainy day. If you’re already on Swagbucks, share your own tips for earning Swag Bucks and saving up for summer in the comments!

Bird Netting Purchased with Swagbucks
Jan 312015

bird scared away from feeders waiting to return

The weather is still … well, it is down right cold outside still some days. We are not out of the snow season yet, so months of cold are still in my future.

With all that is happening around here, the desire to start seeds and plan the garden is pretty great. It is my Happy Place. I love having my hands in dirt, watching seeds sprout, and imagining all the potential of the upcoming garden.

As planting a garden is months off, I do not have a feeling of urgency.  However, without some pre-planning I have often found myself doing things weeks after they are supposed to have happened.  The joy of gardening is harder to find when things feel rushed.

In an effort to tackle a few larger projects this summer, I have begun to look for aides or suggestions to begin the planning process.  Without a plan I find that I waste time thinking about what needs done instead of doing it.  Not such a great thing when the weather is perfect for the job and you have kids wanting to ‘help’.  After tackling the front flower bed a few seasons ago, I feel more confident in my abilities.

That project was one I spent too many nights in bed thinking through.  I spent so much time, that I had almost talked myself out of doing something for fear of not doing it ‘right’.  In the end, I decided one day to take the plunge and just start.  Once I got moving the first day, it was easier to tell myself this was possible and  create a plan for the following days.  Not exactly the best order in which to do things, but it worked with that project.  I always find that when I begin to psych myself out about something, sometimes just doing something on the project will get me out of the fear of doing anything.

One of the larger projects I hope to accomplish this Spring/Summer is to transform part of our front yard into a shade garden.  The grass does not grow well there due to the shade and it receiving only morning sun, and only for a few hours at that.  After walking through a beautiful shade garden at a local park, I was encouraged to try something similar in our yard.

While searching Crafty’s website one day, I came across a free mini-class – Transform Your Garden Design with Rebecca Sweet.  Looking into it a bit more, I realized this would be a great help in tackling this large project.  It would not only help me go step by step through what needs to be done, but also help me visualize what should go where.

The format of this class is such that I can pause the videos and come back to them later if needed.  I can also rewind a section to listen a second time to something that was said.  It doesn’t matter if my ‘gardening time’ is at 10 p.m. or 10 a.m. the lessons area available any time.

With the weather forecast now calling for snow, mud abounding in the yard from the house work begin done, and Spring still a few months away, this is a great time to take 15 – 20 minutes at a time to do something to make my outside gardening time more productive later.

Not only am I being proactive and productive for the upcoming gardening season, but I am also finding myself being motivated to finish several indoor project now, so that I can go outside later and work on those projects without feeling guilty about the inside.  A win-win situation for me.

This post contains affiliate links.