May 22, 2018

The Garden is Planted

Spring was late this year, and my raised bed garden out back is late this year too. Better late than never though. Hopefully we'll still have a good season. While prepping the beds (weeding, turning the soil, raking, etc.) I found a bunch of alyssum seedlings from all the white alyssum I planted last year in the herb bed. I ended up transplanting them to other spots in the yard that could use some low ground cover - always love free flowers!

Things not done yet... weeding the garden paths and the fence area around it. Please ignore all the weeds, one thing at a time.


The tomatoes were started indoors from seed. There are sweet millions, yellow pear, plum, big boy, bloody butcher, green zebra and zapotec. I started them later than usual so they are still on the small side, but I think they should really start to take off now that they are in the garden. As always I've added marigolds from the nursery here to this bed to ward off pests.

Herbs, carrots, etc. 

The oregano and thyme are the same plants I've had for years, they are transplanted from last year's bed since every year I do crop rotation. I've added in rosemary and basil from the nursery. In my original plan I was going to do a few radishes, but I changed my mind at the last minute and put in a small row of rainbow swiss chard seeds instead. Then there's a full row of carrots from seed. On the pole tower (yes I used leftover rainbow yarn this year for the win) there's malabar "vine" spinach on one side and green beans on the other, both from seed.


On the black trellis in back I have cucumber seeds planted. On the new teal obelisk I was going to do just spaghetti squash, but when I realized how big it was in real life, I realized I had room for more than just squash. So on the other side I added in pumpkins just for fun - we have the leftover seeds from the pumpkin experiment a few years ago and I thought it would be fun to do again. Lastly I planted musk melon seeds on a small green wire trellis.


In the flower garden it's a mix of zinnia seeds, a heirloom flower seed mix and wildflower seed mix. Half the bed will be zinnias since those always do so well, then the other half will be a fun surprise. Originally I was going to also put a few dahlias in here, but I ended up using them all up in the yard filling in gaps of the garden beds as the new plants and split plants grow to their full size.

Everything Else
Elsewhere the strawberries are blooming happily in their new little bed next to the garage. They are much happier away from the crowded peony bed.

The blueberry bushes are COVERED in blooms this year. I'm hoping for a good harvest.

The rhubarb survived the transplant to a sunnier spot, but it's small. I'll need a couple of years to get it back to size. The raspberries and blackberry bushes all seem to be coming back nicely, though it's too early for them to bloom. The fig trees are juuuust starting to come back - spring was so late this year I'm not sure we'll get figs before an October frost.

May 18, 2018

Lattice! Shade! Cushions! Color! Flowers!

Project "make the backyard an enjoyable relaxing place to be" is shaping up. We left off a couple weeks ago with a long to-do list, the flower pots half planted and a few new things for the deck (new umbrella, new seat cushions, new rail planters, hanging baskets).

Since then we've been tearing through the to-do list. Mulch was ordered and delivered, I've started spreading it but have a long way to go. I built two obelisks for the garden. We bought lattice/trellis pieces from Home Depot and cut them to a manageable size for the pergola shade project. Staining them was a huge pain (so many sides and edges), but we had gorgeous weather last week and I dove in. I'm so glad to have them done - it provides lovely shade. You can see it up above the pergola in the second photo.

The cushions for the patio chairs that were on order arrived. We also finally got outdoor curtains. Before we were using old indoor ones and I would hang them when we were using them, then take them down and wash them when we weren't. But finally we have aqua curtains to provide much needed morning shade on hot days and can just leave them out.

My dad gifted me with a honeysuckle vine for my obelisk. I'm so excited about it! It's hard to see in the pictures but it will grow about 8 feet tall and this particular variety has sweet smelling blooms all summer that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The sweet pea vines were having trouble growing up the obelisk but will provide nice ground cover.

Plus our yard - all the work we did last fall is already showing up and paying off. The additional daffodil bulbs, the tulips are just gorgeous pops of color. The spring plants are coming up and starting to fill in and bringing in green. The trees are blooming and it's just SO pretty back here. The grass is green, the weather has been beautiful and there's no place I'd rather be.

I finished planting the flower pots and we have extra ones this year. Two new ones where the porch meets the driveway, the hanging baskets, the deck pots and two large ones by the gate. I love having all this extra color.

Next up:
  • The under-deck area next to the patio - cut and stain the lattice pieces to wall off the under-deck area next to the patio and make it feel more like an outdoor room. (You can see it unstained and uncut in the patio photos at the top of the post)
  • Mulching, mulching and more mulching
  • Plant the raised bed garden (this weekend... late spring means late planting)
  • Weed the raised bed garden stone paths
  • Do the painting/maintenance on the front porch

May 3, 2018

Rustic Garden Obelisks

I made two garden obelisks over the weekend in our backyard while the kids played in the backyard with neighborhood friends and the rule was to stay away from Mama's miter saw. We had beautiful weather and it was such a pleasure to be outside.

Each obelisk required 4 - 8ft 2x2's, 3 - 8 ft 1x2's, a 4" square piece of 2x4 and screws.

The first one I wanted to be tall and more narrow, as it sits sandwiched between the blackberry bush and the forsythia in a small bed. I cut the tops and bottoms of the 2x2's at a 10 degree angle to make the legs form the pyramid shape. I attached the pieces to the top square and then put on the horizontal braces. For the side braces I just eye-balled it - 4 - 18" pieces, 4 - 15" pieces, 4 - 12" pieces, 4 - 9" pieces and 4 - 6" pieces and screwed them in where they fit. 

It's very sturdy with all the cross-braces. The theme of all our improvements this year is AQUA since it's my favorite color and looks good with the gray patio stone, the yellow siding and dark brown wood. So of course I painted this one aqua. With the spray paint I was able to give it a glaze that still shows the wood grain - I didn't want it to look like plastic. Later on I want to put a bird house on top of this one - I think it would look nice. 

The second obelisk I wanted it to be shorter and wider, for the back raised bed garden. I cut the 2x2's at a 15 degree angle and cut off about 18" of height. For the cross braces I did 4 instead of 5 sets, but they were wider - 4 - 24" pieces, 4 - 18" pieces, 4 - 12" pieces and 4 - 6" pieces.

I was going to stain this one brown or paint it white, but after spray painting the other one I just loved how it came out. I loved how bits of the wood still shown through but it still popped with a bright color. And spray painting is so darn easy. I had 1.5 cans of teal leftover from painting the play house so I ended up going teal.

I do love the bright pop of color in the garden. Now I kind of want to paint my tomato cages teal too. 

May 1, 2018

Meet Morgan

This is Morgan.

She's 14 weeks old, a hound-spaniel (and possibly pointer) mutt mix and a very good girl. She will be bigger than Georgia, but hopefully not too big (she's 11 lbs now and the best vet guesstimate based on parent sizes is 35-45 lbs, but long and leggy). She's fantastic with the boys, 90% housebroken and sleeps through the night. Morgan loves sunbathing, playing with her toys, running around the yard and eating. Hounds can smell food a million miles away - our floors have never been so crumb-free.

We didn't plan on getting another dog so soon. Especially not a little puppy. Too much work. And we've been so overwhelmed this winter - a puppy to care for was the LAST thing we needed. But sometimes things are just meant to be.

It all started about six weeks ago I found a dog on petfinder that looked perfect on paper (not Morgan). This dog was small, raised with kids in a foster home and loved them, good with other dogs, super cute, housebroken. Her foster family lived two blocks away and said she was wonderful. The rescue did a foster-to-adopt situation where we could have her for 1-7 days to decide if she was the right fit. It lasted two hours. Looking back now it's a funny story, like going on a ridiculously bad date. She ran away within the first 30 seconds of coming off the leash in our house - pushed open the front door and bolted - running full speed all the way back to her foster family. I swear she thought we were kidnappers. We brought her back and she was miserable, pacing and looking for an escape. It escalated to her nipping Oliver for gently petting her so I called the rescue, and while on the phone with them she nipped Matthew unprovoked. And when her foster mom came to pick her up from our house I went to scoop her up to hand her off and she nipped ME, thinking I was getting in between her and her real mom. While the kids were disappointed that the dog didn't work out, we were all relieved to have this particular dog gone. She was not a good fit. But I believe everything happens for a reason and this instance opened the door to adopting another dog... Morgan.

Fast forward a few weeks and our next door neighbor was fostering an entire litter of puppies on top of their three dogs. The puppies were all cute, but one in particular stood out. She was so sweet with our kids, loved to snuggle, had a really good personality. Her little white boots and white tipped tail were adorable. The kids LOVED her. Mike fell in love next. Morgan kept coming over for "play dates" with our kids and every time she was here, I fell for her a little more. I tried to fight it, I kept telling myself we didn't want a puppy. Puppies are a lot of work. They don't sleep. They need to be housebroken and we just put down a new rug. They chew everything. They need to be trained. But then when we realized that Morgan was going to an adoption event in a week... and I realized I couldn't let her go. We couldn't let her go. She was totally wrong for us on paper, but her personality was wonderful. She IS wonderful.

Living next door to the foster family has its perks. Our application with the rescue was approved lightning fast with fewer hoops to jump through. Before we knew it, we were signing the paperwork. I got goosebumps when we realized that her birth date was the day Georgia passed away. We've decided to keep her name - Morgan - because it's pretty, I like people names for dogs, it suits her and she already knows it and comes when we say it.

Morgan is officially ours, we've had her for over a week and it's been amazing. Yes she's a lot of work, but she's totally worth it. For a puppy, she is very calm and a very good girl. And every day she gets better and better as she gets the hang of the rules at our house. She's very smart, sweet and loving. We are head over heels for her.

Apr 24, 2018

It's spring!

SPRING! We are finally having some spring weather and it's glorious. It felt so good to be outside and the world is coming alive again. Flowers are budding and blooming, the grass is turning green and it feels so good to be outside.  Over the weekend we cleaned up the winter leaves, worked on the lawn, cut up all the broken branches in the yard from the storm and cleaned up all of the damaged plants the best we could. (The red bud tree will survive, the hollyhock will be fine, but my rose bush was decimated.)

I'm so excited for all the flowers to come up with the new beds and see how the new garden plan starts bringing in more texture and color. The early spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils are up, but everything else is just starting to emerge. In a few weeks I think I'll get a good picture for what survived and where the gaps are. I have butterfly weed and blanket flower seedlings started (from seeds I purchased a couple months ago) and dahlia bulbs to plant.

I also started planting flowers in the flower pots. I went to the nursery for pansies on Saturday but quickly realized it's almost MAY (wait what? Wasn't there snow flurries a week ago?) and decided to take advantage of the early summer flowers they had out instead. I still need more, but I didn't want to overdo it in case there's a frost warning and I have to bring everything inside. I also have some new pots this year that I can't wait to fill.


The backyard's focus this spring (and this year) is really all about enjoying the backyard. Polishing up all the hard work we did last fall with the garden beds (we need mulch! edging! an obelisk!), planting the flower pots for more color and getting the patio and deck to a place where we can really relax and enjoy it (shade! cushions!). 

Our backyard to-do list:
  • Order mulch for delivery (with all the new beds we need like 4 cubic yards)
  • Edge the garden beds and spread all that mulch
  • Build 2 obelisks - one for the yard on the left side and one for raised bed garden
  • Buy and plant flowers in pots on porch, patio, deck (half done)
  • Cover pergola in trellis
  • Do side of deck with trellis piece to enclose it
  • Plant the raised bed garden (mid May)
I also really want to tackle:
  • Fix up outside of garage (it's getting really bad)
  • Reorganize the inside of the garage (AGAIN. Sigh)

New things we have for the backyard:
  • New aqua umbrella for the deck 
  • Seat cushions for the 2 deck chairs in aqua
  • New rail planters for the deck for more color (a gift)
  • Hanging baskets (I forgot I bought these and just found them)
  • Chair cushions ordered for the wood patio chairs in aqua

Front Yard 

Out front we just need to do a little sprucing. Mulch and shrub trimming. The front porch needs some maintenance (trim paint, floor oil) and we've decided to add a small simple bench this summer that I think I can make it out of scrap wood to fit the custom size we would need. The little kid chair is great for kids, but it would be nice if there was a spot for anyone to use.

Porch and front yard to-do list:
  • Paint porch railing 
  • Oil porch floor
  • Mulch the front beds
  • Add a flower pot to bottom of stairs for more color
  • Build a simple custom bench for porch with scrap wood
  • Plant flowers in the porch flower pot and rail boxes (done!)

So that's where we are. Lots of little things to do to keep the front yard nice and then bring the backyard to a new level.