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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Done.

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.”

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“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.

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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Good talk people. Good talk.

The August Garden…

In June, I was just happy things had survived the winter.

In July, I was excited to see the butterflies enjoying the garden.

What happened to August?  I’ve got no idea where the month of August went. It is just gone. Weird. The best times always fly by don’t they? This summer has flown by. It has been a great garden year – in my opinion. We’ve had a bit of rain and things have flourished. With all that rain and extra plant growth, I decided some new muck boots were in order. I realize that I don’t really have any official muck in my urban landscape, but these little colorful things are the best. My new boots have added a little fun to my garden maintenance duties…

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Despite living nowhere near the mountains or any semblance of an open or nature type space, a hummingbird made it’s way to my garden!  And – I just happened to be outside – in my new muck boots – with my camera – at the perfect time! I occasionally hear the hummingbirds but very rarely get a glimpse of them. So, I was pretty excited to see this little guy…

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The Rose Garden is thriving. This is the view from our dining room window. Yes, I am now referring to this area as my “Rose Garden”. These finicky plants weren’t supposed to survive after the garden reorganization last fall.  I don’t love roses, so I wasn’t too broken up by the thought of losing them. Though, now, they are survivors. It looks like the roses are here to stay. You’ve got to love the tough survivors…

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My August garden is usually dried up, dying, and generally lacking much interest. I am constantly trying to add late summer color to our landscape.  I think I may have gotten a good start this year in the side garden. There is a pretty sprinkling of color with coneflowers, black eyed susans, coreopsis, sage, and the previously mentioned roses…

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The ornamental grasses that border our baseball side yard have taken off. Last year some of these plantings were only a few blades of grass at less than 12 inches high. I love ornamental grass.

DSCN5064The regular grass is also a crazy, beautiful green for this time of year. I don’t remember a year when the grass has been this kind of bright emerald green. It looks a little like Wizard of Oz around here – minus the flying monkeys – and floral muck boots instead of ruby slippers.

We’ve also got some Dr. Suess going on in the August garden.  The hens and chicks have sprouted some sort of odd flower tower that is kind of cool…

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You know I can’t talk about any kind of gardening without mentioning my favorite green roof sedum ground cover. These are clippings from trimming back my south side garden. I threw the clippings down on the north side to see if it would take. It did.

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As just mentioned, I am always trying to improve the garden color and interest in August. In the past, I haven’t had a ton of success with just plants. Our front yard is a good example of my point. I have added “more color for the front yard” to my action plan for 2015…

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This year I decided to spuce the place up with a few colorful decorative elements…

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I also added a little bit of the traditional back into the side yard. A mini birth bath for any birds who would like to frolick in some clean water.  I haven’t had any takers yet…

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The front bed that got rebuilt and replanted in the spring has filled out a bit. Here is the before – just as a quick reminder where we started a few short months ago…

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Here is the after – filled in and fluffy…

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It still has great color with the annual impatiens.

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The columbines bloomed again which was a nice surprise that I didn’t expect…

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The dogwood – the big green shrubby thing at the corner of the front bed that was planted for winter interest – has done so well that Tad thought it was a weed last week…

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The edible plantings were also quite successful in the month of August – delicious grape tomatoes, tasty lemon cucumbers, and strawberries, again.

The grapes are getting ripe. Thank goodness because Tad’s sister has been asking if the grapes are ready to pick since June. She loves the really sour, tart flavor of these tempting clusters.

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Then, there is my favorite – even though it does signal the beginning of fall…

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Green chiles.  There is nothing better than the smell of roasting chiles all over town – and in my own kitchen.

Happy Labor Day.

The July Garden…

I’ve got a daily visitor to my July garden.

He is carefree, bright, happy, and yellow.

He dives.

He darts.

He zigzags.

He is our neighborhood butterfly. He seems to follow the same path every day at about the same time each day.  I look forward to his visit. He floats by our south side windows in front of my work area, then heads up and over the roof, and down by the west windows of our sunroom.  He repeats this routine for an hour every day.  He seems so happy as he drifts side to side enjoying his daily flyby. This butterfly sighting is a moment of beauty and calm in my day. In fact, I have rearranged my work day to accommodate this butterfly’s daily flight by my windows.  I wish I had a better photo to show you but this little guy is elusive…

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As far as plants go, I am forever trying to get all season interest and color. My July garden still needs work. With that said, I’ve got a few spring plants still trying to hang on.  I appreciate their perseverance.

The very last wild geranium bloom…

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Long lasting bright pink coral bells…

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This growing season, so far, I have harvested radishes, a few carrots, and a bunch of leafy greens.  Most of my lettuces have now bolted, but some heirloom arugula is still going strong and is still edible…

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Another batch of strawberries is ready for harvest.

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Other edibles around the homestead are showing good potential – lemon cucumbers, mini eggplants, peppers, chilis, raspberries, rhubarb…

Grapes. Lots of grapes.

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The first ripening tomatoes of the season.

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A few blooms of color are sprinkled around the garden. This is the part that I am forever working on – getting some midsummer color in the garden. It isn’t as easy as it sounds…

Yellows.

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Reds.

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Oranges – including an orange ladybug (you have to look closely – even I missed it when I was snapping the photo).

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And, purple, my favorite.

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The one area where I think I have nailed the midsummer interest and color thing this year is our shady patio…

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My mom turned me on to coleus for shady areas.  She had the most amazing mixed arrangement of coleus last year. I just had to give it a try this year. I think I did pretty well…

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Speaking of shade – our aspen trees are providing a good amount of shade to our mountain inspired front yard. I’ve spent the last two years trying to nurse our aspen trees back to health. Last year, they looked really, really bad. In fact, all the neighbors kept commenting that it looked like it was their last stand.  I did tons of research. I called numerous tree companies looking for a cure for my little aspens. I asked around at a couple of our local nurseries. I ended up doing everything that was suggested – more water, fertilizer, and insect control. I even spent a fair number of mornings out in the front yard spraying off aphids with a sharp stream of water from the hose.  I think my efforts paid off. The aspen trees look really healthy this year.  The neighbors even noticed and asked what I did. I don’t know exactly what did it, but I will keep up the routine since it seems to be working…

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