A sitting wall – and a garden border redo…

A redo of our front yard border has been on the To Do List for quite some time. In fact, it was on my mental shortlist for this year.

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Spring turned into summer before I even realized it.

Summer flew by.

The total eclipse came and went.

I complained in August that I hadn’t gotten anything done this year.

Fall arrived and I decided that I needed to just do something.

So, I built a big dinosaur egg!

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Ha – I wished. It is totally cool, isn’t it? We saw the big egg at our Botanic Gardens as we were touring a couple of Saturdays ago – while looking for an answer to our front border redo.

As I have mentioned before, I love a particular border at the Botanic Gardens made from block stones.

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I considered this border for my raised garden bed last year. Sadly, it didn’t work out for that project. I had my mind set that I would definitely use it for the front yard border. It was perfect. It was like a mini version of a stone courtyard wall. I love courtyard walls. I love stone. A mini version seemed good because our yard is pretty small and has a lot going on.

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Then, I started second guessing my decision – because there is a lot going on out there. Would another random element look just as disjointed as the current brick situation? Would the stone blocks be just too much – stepping over the line from “interesting” to “junky”?

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Eventually, I decided the block thing was, in fact, just a bit too much. I was sad. I love, love, love those stone blocks…

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I had to move on. I sort of moved on. My next thought was a smaller, just barely above grade version of the block stone border.

Yep. A shorter, smaller version of the stone block border was it.

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Tad wasn’t sold on the idea of smaller stone block border. He wanted to look at all the options one more time.  So, we did.

Here are all the additional options we considered.

A poured concrete curb. I voted no – too urban.

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A flat poured concrete border. Again, I voted no – not interesting enough.

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We both still liked the idea of a “sitting” wall as the border itself – or as part of the border.

Tad kept pushing for concrete. I liked this formed concrete couch. It is a piece of functional art. I seriously considered a smaller version of this. Ultimately, it got eliminated because I didn’t want to hire anyone for this front border project.

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This type of textured concrete wall always comes up as an option when we talk about outdoor projects. We both love board formed concrete and want to use it in a project. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the project where board formed concrete would make it’s appearance.

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Stacked stone sitting wall? I liked it, but too “formal” for our project?

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The concrete base with a stone cap was cool, but felt a bit too modern and blocky for the mountain retreat thing I continue to strive for.

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We, then, stumbled upon the winner!

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River rock that matches our existing flower bed material! A cut stone cap that matches some stepping stones already in the yard! A “mountain, state park” kind of feel! I liked it! Tad liked it!

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This inspiration was found at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. The place is cool – quiet, small, pretty, and free to visit. It feels like a private park…

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Back to our garden in progress.

We now have our own sitting wall out front!

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We built it ourselves – despite Tad initially suggesting that I call up someone to come build it.

We dug down a foot or so – carefully avoiding the sprinkler system,

Dug down one...

threw down some mortar,

Mortar base for structure...

placed a few cinder blocks for the structure,

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gathered some river rocks for the facing,

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applied the river rocks with some more mortar,

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did some shopping for the bench top,

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decided we needed a time capsule,

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installed the cut stone top,

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filled in some finish mortar between the stones,

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decided the one end needed to be built out a bit more,

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and stepped back to view our handiwork – the bench and the bird!

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A view from the porch…

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One step closer to feeling like our own private park…

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We talked about doing the whole border as a sitting wall, but I still wanted to see the moss boulders from the front yard. We also talked about doing a step down to a shorter border for the rest of the border like this wall.

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In the end, Tad decided that a flat border would be easier to mow and trim.

Keeping with the elements already in the yard, I opted to replace the brick with a buff stone.

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It still needs to be set level in a mortar base, but I can already tell that it was the right choice!

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Brick before…

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Beautiful buff stone after…

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Yep! I am hoping for a finish date by the New Year. So, check back 12/31-ish…

Our garden is in a contest & I would like to not lose…

I entered our side yard garden in a contest. I didn’t really think it would get chosen.

It ended up making the finals – and is now up for vote.

My main goal is to not lose. The pressure is on. I am currently #4 – with only slightly more votes than the edible garden at AT&T baseball park.

I realize that my edible garden may not technically be seen by some as “the best” given it’s very small size and the non-traditional mixing of flowers and edibles.

Again, I am just trying to not lose at this point. So, I am asking for your vote. Plus, the website is kind of cool to peruse if you like garden stuff.

https://www.gardenista.com/submission/2017/our-house-project-tiny-urban-garden/

Oh – and if you have 30 seconds per day, you can vote every day until August 4th…

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Ok. Now, with that out of the way, here is the real 2017 garden story.

This year’s yard and garden has been a bit of a challenge. A very cold spring, followed by an early hot spell, then a multi day freeze, next a hailstorm with golf ball sized hail, a neighbor’s ash tree that dropped millions of seeds in our yard, very late germination of vegetable seeds, and finally the cold season vegetables going from seedlings to bolted overnight. Sigh…

You might notice (if you voted) that the contest entry pictures look pretty lush. In fact, that garden looks darn amazing! So amazing that you might actually think it could be the best one?!

You also might be thinking “Wow! Why are you whining? Your garden looks pretty decent, especially since you submitted those entry pictures in June! Who knew that gardens in Colorado could look that great in June!”

Here is the truth. It’s a spoiler :(

The pictures I submitted are from previous years – because a garden, in Colorado, in June – especially this June – is just barely getting started. My garden this June was just a bunch of empty troughs, hail damaged perennials, and what I thought was a dead grape vine. It was sad.

Fast forward a good 4-6 weeks…

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Things sort of recovered. Things did finally sprout in the troughs. By things, I mean tomatoes. The tomato plants have gone completely crazy. Unfortunately, there are only about a total of 9 tomatoes on those huge plants.

The front raised bed, is what I would call a partial success this summer. The middle stuff never quite recovered (lots of bare dirt in there). The carrots (there at the bottom) look great, though I haven’t actually harvested any yet. The strawberries and blueberries (there at the top) have thrived!

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Here is a close up of the successful berry section…

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The flower part of the garden has been beautiful this July…

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The grapevine (the tree looking thing in upper left corner) did not die! It did eventually leaf out again, after been frozen this spring – and there are even a few grape clusters…

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The sunflowers in the alley are now going strong…

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They haven’t flowered yet, but there is still time – and hope…

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So.

As you can see, I am still trying to contribute to the gardening world despite the adversity of Mother Nature here in Colorado.

Thank you for helping me not lose the garden contest.

The prize is a book – or something – at this point, I can’t even remember.

Scaring Squirrels…

This year’s garden experiment is about trying to scare some squirrels away from my strawberries.

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The squirrels think I plant strawberries just for them.  To date, that has been true. I believe I have had only about a dozen strawberries ever from my own garden. The squirrels sit on the fence to monitor the ripeness of the strawberry field from above. The second a strawberry is ripe, they swoop in and steal it.

Obviously, the best way to keep the squirrels away would be to net the plants. We have a neighbor down the street that has her strawberries contained in a raised bed that she successfully nets each year.  The problem is that my strawberry plants are mixed in with all my other plants.

Some are with the sedum,

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some are hanging out with the hostas,

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others are mixed into the rose garden,

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and, most recently, I have planted some amongst the blueberries.

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Netting doesn’t seem a realistic option in my urban garden.

You may have noticed that the strawberries in the above pictures aren’t of the edible variety.  Why would I have decorative strawberries in my garden, you ask? Or, maybe, you aren’t asking that at all.  Maybe, you are just saying to yourself “Oh my gosh, can we just get to the scaring squirrels part.”

Yes, let’s get to the scaring squirrels part.

First, though, I want to point out that I have successfully scared away other forms of wildlife. Once. My fake wasp’s nest doesn’t kill the wasps – it just scares them away from my outdoor living space.

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So, I am definitely open to trying to scare other pests.

I had read somewhere that painted rocks fool squirrels into thinking you are growing really bad strawberries. They move on and they don’t come back. As a result, you enjoy a sizable strawberry crop that you don’t have to fight the squirrels for.

I will admit, I find it hard to believe that squirrels don’t have more sense than to realize the difference between fake strawberries and real ones.  Hmm.

At the very least, it was fun to paint a few rocks.

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And – they look pretty cool in my spring garden.

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Stay tuned for the answer to “Are squirrels smarter than painted rocks?”