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.


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


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…


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!


Here is a close up of the successful berry section…


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


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…


The sunflowers in the alley are now going strong…


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



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.


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,


some are hanging out with the hostas,


others are mixed into the rose garden,


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


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.


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.


And – they look pretty cool in my spring garden.


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

Containing the Chaos…

The chaos I am referring to is my edible garden…

Before cover crop

When creating our small edible garden, I got a little ahead of myself. I had some dirt delivered before I had the actual raised bed built. As a result, I just piled up the dirt and start planting. Plus, I had seen a pile of dirt as a raised bed on a garden tour. It was charming. It seemed like an acceptable way to grow a few veggies.


I tried to convince myself that the pile of dirt looked and felt “farmy” – rather than messy.

Crop cover

I don’t love messy, but I was willing to let it go since it was producing arugula, radishes, cucumbers, and the occasional carrot.

Budding cucumber

Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was messy and I didn’t like it. I had even tried a Spiral Style Garden in an effort to at least make it seem less messy and more interesting.

Spiral Garden attempt

It didn’t work out as I had hoped. It was still just a pile of un-contained dirt even though it was shaped like a spiral. It was difficult to organize, water, and mulch on a slope. In fact, I have scratched through the whole spiral garden thing on my To Do List – as a “not doable deal.” Anyway, I also decided that I could plant more in a flat raised bed.

In summary, I decided that structure, neatness, and organization was in order.

I had some practice with organizing my South Side Garden a year or two ago. In comparison, it seemed like pulling together the North Side Garden would be significantly easier.  I just needed to contain and plant. How difficult could that be, you say. Well, I think I probably made it a lot more complicated than it needed to be. Typical.

I wanted something different – something special. I got caught up wanting something that wasn’t feasible. I couldn’t let it go.  I wanted it to work out. In my mind I could make it work out.  I was delusional.  I have no idea why I got so hung up on what I considered the perfect method of containment.  In retrospect, the amount of time I spent in the middle of the night thinking about this was crazy – and maybe, a little obsessive. I wanted stone blocks. I wanted this in my yard.


Totally cool, right? We had seen this at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The stone blocks were a natural feature that beautifully bordered the Art Glass Chihuly exhibit. I wanted this look in my yard. I had my heart set on stone blocks. I measured my space and shopped around. I was convinced stone blocks would be both lovely and functional.


Then, reality hit.  I would have a beautiful border around a really long and skinny garden. The blocks would take up nearly 2/3 of the space because they were so wide. My garden is only  33 inches wide, which would leave only 9-13 inches of planting space. I mulled it over. It was doable, but weird. The purpose of containing the garden was to optimize my planting space. The stone blocks would minimize my planting space. I had to let the stone block idea go for my edible garden. I had to file it away for another place and time. Finally, I moved on.

I thought about other ideas – concrete, rocks, wood. Concrete and rocks created the same problem as the stone blocks – too much containment material and not enough grow space. I wasn’t excited about wood. It isn’t all that interesting visually. It doesn’t last long. Everybody does it. The advantage of wood is that it does optimize the small space. Being that 2016 is supposed to be the year of just getting stuff done, a decision needed to be made and the project needed to be implemented. No more thinking about this in the middle of the night. Wood won out.

I did some quick internet research on raised beds made from wood (like less than 5 minutes worth of research) and decided that redwood was the wood of choice for me. I wrangled Tad into helping. Off we went to the lumber yard. We quickly found the redwood section, picked through the pile looking for the straightest and non warped pieces, paid, loaded up the car, drove home, unloaded the car, cut the wood, screwed it together, and installed it around the dirt pile.  It would have been a lot easier to do this before we piled up a bunch of dirt in the area – but, you know, we tend to not do things the easy way around here.

Image 4-26-16 at 8.21 PM

It was going smoothly until Tad stepped on one side and it bowed out a bit. So, in an effort to get it back to square/straight we cut some stakes that were installed on the outside of the raised bed. Tad got this idea from Roger on this “This Old House”. Apparently, Tad had also done some research on raised beds when he heard that he was going to be involved in this project. Tad was prepared. Tad was ready for every possible scenario. Thank you Tad (and Roger). The stake idea was very helpful.


I also used this opportunity to create a separate area for a blueberry experiment at one end of the raised bed. We just used a piece of wood as a divider.



The chaos has now been contained and another project has been completed in 2016.

I didn’t think anyone else would really notice. I was wrong.

I wouldn’t really call it controversial, but the cleaned up, raised bed project has elicited a few interesting comments. None of which have been about wood vs. stone block for containment  – and proof that I, obviously, worry about the wrong stuff…

“What is it?” My answer: “It is a raised garden bed – contained by a wooden border.”

“What is it for?”  My answer : “I am going to grow stuff in it.”


“Really? My answer: “Yes, really.”

“Why?” My answer: “Hmm, good question!  I don’t know!  It just seems like a good idea to help get me outside in the summer.”

“That seems weird.”  Me: No response – just silence as we stand there looking at the raised bed.


“Did you get that as a pre-packaged kit?” My answer: “No, we just went to Lowe’s, bought some wood, cut it and screwed it together.”


“Wow, that seems ambitious.” My response: “You think so?  I don’t know, it only took about 2 hours total time to get it done.  It doesn’t seem all that ambitious, but thanks.”

“Hmm, you people are interesting with all your projects.” My response: “Well, we like to keep the neighbors on their toes – wondering what is going on next over here.”

“I like the stepping stone thing. You guys seem to like stepping stones.”  My response: “Yep, we do like stepping stones. Stepping stones seem kind of fun. These have fossil imprints on them.”

“That doesn’t seem very environmentally friendly – taking fossils out of their natural habitat and all.”  My response: “I know. I didn’t really notice it until I got them home. I will try to take good care of them though.”


“Is that a rose bush in there?” My answer: “No, it’s a blueberry bush.”

“What’s with the divider?” My answer: “So, I can plant a blueberry bush there?”

“You don’t want your blueberry bush mixing with your other stuff?” My answer: “No, not really.”

“It doesn’t really look like a blueberry bush. Are you sure it is a blueberry bush?” My answer : “Well, no, I am not 100% sure it is a blueberry bush, but the people at the nursery said it was, so…”

“Do you believe everything you are told?” My answer: “No, but – you know – it’s just a blueberry bush…”

“I am not sure a blueberry bush is the best idea – you know it needs a lot of water and acidic soil, right?” My answer: “That’s what I’ve heard, but – you know – I don’t really believe everything I’m told.”


“I like strawberries. Are you going to grow strawberries?” My answer: “That’s a good idea – I don’t know – maybe. I like strawberries too.  I already grow them in my South Side Garden. I could expand the Strawberry Field to the North Side Garden as well. Yes. Yes, I am going to grow a few strawberries in the raised bed. Thanks for the suggestion.”


“What else do you have growing in there?” My answer: “I just planted some arugula.”

“Why would you try to grow arugula?”  My answer: “Why wouldn’t I try to grow arugula? It apparently grows in the wild so that seems like a good thing for me – low maintanence – I like low maintanence.”

“You know you can probably buy arugula at the store, right?”  My answer: “Yep – I know I can buy arugula at the store – and I have often bought it at the store when I’m not growing it.”

“Do you really like arugula?”  My answer: “Yes, I love arugula. I had an arugula salad last night for dinner.”


“Are you a farmer?” My answer: “Well, no. I’m just a neighbor trying to get some arugula, radishes, and a few carrots to grow in my yard.”

“Radishes?” My answer: “Yep. Come by in a few weeks and I’ll give you some arugula and a radish or two.”

“I will be curious to see if you can really pull off that blueberry bush thing.” My response: “Me too. I probably won’t be handing out any blueberries though. I will keep them all to myself because I really like blueberries.”


Good talk people. Good talk.