Well, we are off for a spring break trip to Miami on Monday.  Seems the temp will be the same here as in Miami.  Doh.

When we come home, we are going to start some seeds (esp. tomato) under our grow lights in the basement.  I also did some winter sowing, so I am hoping those sprout for us eventually, too . . .

I am also hatching a plan for how to get some of the aged manure from my parents’ house an hour away from here down to my place.  I would like to top-dress our new beds with this, but maybe I should just buy compost by the yard.  It is more expensive than free, but also we shouldn’t plant in the manure, right?

And then there’s the lawn.

Oh bah.  I am getting all confused.

At the AWESOME price of $45 each!!!!!  Recycling Minnesota is offering a price of $65 and then the Capitol Watershed District is giving another $20 per barrel of after that.  There are other deals for Ramsey/Washington County residents, too, so make sure you look at the Recycling Association of Minnesota‘s webpage if you are interested.

I got one to go under each downspout.  We will see if it is overkill, but at this price, I knew I would kick myself if we didn’t max out the deal now.  DH is none too keen on modifying the downspouts, but at least we have a month to get that done.  I can ruminate on how to do it efficiently because I know we’ll have to attach the long spouts again for fall/winter/early spring (freezy times).  If it’s too much work or something only he can do since I’m Ms. Shorty, then that wouldn’t be good!

So many exciting things are happening!!

  1. The tulips are poking up!
  2. The snow is gone!
  3. My brain is going crazy with gardening stuff to do!

I plan to build some stuff this week:

  1. A window-box type holder for the back porch railing
  2. Trellises for the alley garden
  3. Maybe work on converting some planters to self-waterers

Also need to further plan my beds!  Also need to figure out how to get the manure from my parents’ down to my house!

I have a call in to the Capitol Region Watershed District about their rain barrel grants.  I am hoping we can install several since they match what you pay dollar for dollar.

My thoughts are also turning to hardscaping – flagstone paths and edging in the front yard.

My wildest dreams are trying to figure out how to espalier a fruit tree on the front of the garage.

Some bummers, too:

  1. The bunnies chewed off the climbing roses so we only have one cane of old wood now.
  2. The hydrangea planted last fall is not showing any signs that it plans to come back, though I may not be looking for the right signs.
  3. No crocus or daffodil action yet.  I am, however, encouraged by the tulips.

Today’s item of research has been organic lawn care.  Should I aerate or not?  Should I apply fertilizer (Ringers was recommended) or just compost?  Bah!!  Although in the process I did find a nifty new permaculture forum that seems pretty active and welcoming.

Overall, though, a Yippeeeeeeeeee!

Winter Sowing

I prepped the containers last night and today planted the seeds, taped them shut, and put them out. However, I had to move them within a few hours because DH said they looked like garbage in the front yard (and they pretty much did, since they are reused containers 🙂 ) so they are living in the back yard now 🙂

Sowed scarlet runner beans, Minnesota midget melons, hollyhocks, lavender, and black eyed susans. As I acquire more containers, I will sow more kinds of seeds and put them out. We shall see!

Winter Sown Containers

The Winter Sown Containers Outside

Grow Lettuce Indoors

We bought grow lights from Menards and I mounted them on a board and hung them from some ceiling boards in the basement so we can use a shelf and it can be out of the way. Right now the flat is upstairs so they seeds can sprout in the warm, but once they germinate it will move back down under the lights. So not only have I located and planted lettuce seeds, but I got to play with the power drill! 🙂 Will keep updating.  Hopefully honey will like the lettuce 🙂

Our Lettuce Growing Station

Our Lettuce Growing Station

Ah, it’s January.  It’s cold, though warm this weekend, and we have a three-feet-deep snowpack.  Everything looks a little desolate.  But I’ve been dreaming, and have lots of projects to do to get ready for this growing season!

  1. Make self-watering containers.  I plan to convert all of our existing pots into self-watering containers.  Not exactly sure how to accomplish this yet, but working on it.  I believe it will involve scavenging flat plastic, ice cream buckets, and maybe a trip to Ax Man.
  2. Make a window box for the back railing. I would like to make a cool wooden box to hang from the back railing in which to plant lettuce in a bunny-proof location.  We even have a plastic window box that can live inside the boxes.  I’m thinking if my parents have some rough-looking lumber that would be cool.  They have a crapload of every kind of lumber 😉
  3. Winter sow! I am going to winter sow perennials and veggies.  Wish me luck.  We are in the accumulation-of-containers stage right now.
  4. Grow some lettuce indoors.  We are going to buy some grow lights tomorrow at Menards.  I thought it wouldn’t be worth it to get lights at the prices I saw online, but now I see you can just get a regular old cheapo shop fixture and buy a tube grow light; it doesn’t have to be a mucho bucko arrangement.  Plus if there are things I shouldn’t be winter sowing, I can start them inside later.  Would like to try to save some money buying baby plants.
  5. Contact Capitol Watershed District.  I want to put in for a grant for rain barrels, but when I inquired last summer, it sounded like someone from the Conservation District comes out to basically tell you what to propose in your grant.  They make grants year round.  Now seems like a good time 🙂
  6. Source some twigs. I would love to make some rustic looking supports but not sure where to obtain the thickish twigs to do so.  Hmmmm . . .

Wow, I see that it’s been over a month since I last posted.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy, busy, busy in the gardens.

First of all, the alley.  Oh, how it has changed.  We have covered the entire 31′ x 7′ strip with cardboard to smother the grass and added layers of leaves and organic waste matter from my SIL’s floral business, which is conveniently located two houses away.  It’s a win-win because she has avoided surcharges on her garbage bill and I don’t have to haul the stuff in or pay for it.  Some patches of this still need more organic material, but we have plenty of leaves so it shouldn’t be an issue.  Then on top we have placed burlap sacks with the hope that they will assist in preserving the moisture needed for the organic materials to break down.  While they will help keep the moisture in, they will also LET more moisture in, something black plastic wouldn’t have been able to do (we also considered this).

My hangup with the alley is:  once all this beautiful material has decomposed and we are establishing perennials in it, will it get washed away?  Do we need to do some kind of edging or ground cover to keep it in place?  This is cheifly a concern down by the driveway.  Ideas?

The sheet-mulched alley

The sheet-mulched alley. Sheet-mulched because it has layers, or sheets, of organic material under the fabric, not because they happen to be bedsheets! 🙂


We have done a similar project in the front yard, but only with leaves, and I don’t think enough leaves.  We plan to have a flagstone path installed in the path-y looking opening next year.

New beds in the front yard that will get full sun.

These new beds will get full sun for edibles and ornamentals.

I am currently researching if we should mulch some of our leaves and allow them to remain on the lawn.  The unclear point is how many you can actually leave on and benefit rather than damage the lawn.  I guess what I have to remember is that the backyard grass is pretty darn junky anyway, with a number of dead patches – and I mean, bare soil dead – so if I kill off a little grass, it won’t be a big deal.  But clearly the preferred result would be healthier, greener grass.  Our backyard is the epitome of the term “green concrete.”  There is really nothing to that dirt.  It’s packed and pathetic.  Hopefully adding the leaf material would attract some beneficial organisms to the soil which would aerate, decompose the thatch, and make the grass grow even greener.  But I don’t hold my breath that one batch of chopped up leaves will have that all happening next spring.  Will keep researching.  At any rate it is raining and we are going out of town for the weekend so we have a few days to develop the game plan.

Also still thinking about and learning what to do with the boulevard.  Found a nice information sheet at the Union Park Council Website that has given me some food for thought design-wise.  I think we’d have to remove some soil if we were going to create richer soil lasagna-style in the leftover space.  And of course then you have to put it somewhere . . . so will continue to think about this over the winter.

We got a new shrub!  It is the first element for the alley renovation.  Hopefully it will grow nice and big and be a screen for the garbage can.  It is a Little Lamb hydrangea.

I should have taken a close-up, but wanted to give the feeling of the alley overall and its progress.  Shrub is up by the garbage can.

I should have taken a close-up, but wanted to give the feeling of the alley overall and its progress. Shrub is up by the garbage can.