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.

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