Just harvested the last of the worthwhile basil.  I kind of knew that if you pinched of basil it would still keep growing, but I was scared so I didn’t do as much pinching as I should have.  Now I see that if I’d really pinched often I’d have ended up with a few really robust plants rather than a bunch of puny twiggy plants.  So next year I will do that . . . fewer plants, more pinching.

Updated my dreams/to-do list.  Yippee.

We got so much done! So much! Yippeeeeeee!

Remember the alley? I shoveled the rock into three piles, pulled the weeds up, pulled the plastic edging up, removed some plastic. Next: lay pavers to have a pad for the garbage can and to access the behind-the-garage space. Then: slope land appropriately. Following that: sheet mulch the heck out of the whole strip. Here’s hopin’ for some black gold!

Alley before

Alley before

Alley now, although this picture doesn't do the work justice!

Alley now, although this picture doesn't do the work justice!

We also finished painting/staining birdhouses and putting them up.  Supa cute.  FINALLY!  This project has been hanging over me (hahaha) for well over six weeks.

Hard to spot them, but there are three birdhouses - one in the foreground tree, one in the background tree, and one on the garage.

Hard to spot them, but there are three birdhouses - one in the foreground tree, one in the background tree, and one on the garage.

Also marked the plants so I’ll know where they are in the spring, stockpiled green materials from SIL’s floral business (two doors away) for the above-mentioned sheet mulching, AND kept the kitchen clean throughout all of this.  If that doesn’t seem to fit, it does, because we still had to eat.

Yum!  Green garbage will feed the soil goodies!

Yum! Green garbage will feed the soil goodies!

Ah.  Labored all of Labor Day, but am all set for the first day of all kids tomorrow.

How could I forget one of the most important things?!  DH hung this cool old window for a decoration . . .

Window decoration.  Still has the glass.  Tres cool.

Window decoration. Still has the glass. Tres cool.

I am researching a shrub to plant in the alley that would screen the garbage can.  Last year we had someone report us to the city for having a sink sit out next to the garbage can.  We worked backwards and figured they would have had to call it in after one day. So anyway, a screen has been the back of my mind for a while.  I think if we hadn’t been on a corner lot, that wouldn’t have happened.

So I went through the book Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota for ideas (shrub chapter).  Then, I made a list of all the native shrubs that will tolerate dry conditions and part shade.  Berries or some kind of wildlife benefit is a plus, as well as a proper size.  More than 10 feet tall sounds a little big for where it’s at.  6-8 is better.

That list produced:

  • Common elder
  • Bladdernut
  • Snowberry
  • Highbush Cranberry
  • Nannyberry
  • Canada Yew
  • Wild Grape (a vine, yes, but would screen effectively if we build a support)

Then I went online to see where I might actually be able to buy some of these.  I found this KICK-ASS plant finder at Halla Nursery out of Chanhassen.  That one turned up a few new ideas and made me think twice about some of the ones on the initial list, like Canada Yew (says it’s high maintenance).  Then what’s nice is that they have their little description with a lot better layout than the book – i.e. they use little symbols!  I love little symbols!  But, I do take a nursery’s advice kind of with a grain of salt.  I mean, I am not saying they are liars, but if I read in a book that a certain plant will do well only in shade and then I read from a nursery (whose goal is to sell stuff) that it will do well in all kinds of light, I am skeptical.

Now I have narrowed/morphed the list to (in no order)

  • Isanti Dogwood (Woo!  Isanti!  What are the chances?)
  • Highbush Cranberry (would need to pick the right cultivar)
  • Snowberry
  • Bush Honeysuckle
  • Summersweet (tolerates environmental salt – good on an alley when everyone’s sidewalk salt will wash past in spring)

Still need to investigate where to buy or if they would be good to use:

  • Nannyberry
  • Bladdernut
  • Common elder

There are a lot of areas I’d like to plant up next spring, which would mean lots of sheet mulching this fall.  The gap between the fence and the retaining wall, the boulevard, a sunny mixed vegetable-flower bed up on the top of the wall in the front yard, the alley . . . . and now is the time to be sheet mulching these areas.  But what if spring comes and it’s too much?  What if I don’t want to or don’t get around to doing it all?  Then what?  But it’s such an opportunity to have the leaf mulch break down over the winter and improve our crappy soil . . . however, if I don’t end up doing a lot with those spaces in the spring and all I did was kill the grass, DH will be pissed.

In priority order, the spaces would be:

  1. Alley
  2. Upper yard bed
  3. Gap bed between fence and wall
  4. Boulevard

In fact, the boulevard could wait.  I am not as pumped about it and it feels like overkill.  On the upper yard, I could manage the quantity of work by first starting out with a portion of the yard and seeing how it goes.  Like a 4×8 area rather than the entire section.  I really do want to sheet mulch that area, though, because I feel like if I just plant plants in among the existing grass then that grass will just turn itself into an unwanted later on.  It’s better to dispense with it and let it build soil quality as it decomposes and then mulch, I think.

Alley, oh alley.  DH did’t want the plastic and rock to come up because of drainage issues.  However, the rock is full of weeds and so it is clear that something has to happen back there, and he acknowledges that.  But what if my idea of how to do it (sheet mulch and mulch thick with wood chips, use containers for some plants and plant the rest away from the garage) doesn’t deal with the drainage issues or even makes them worse?  Our garage was kind of a swamp and I think it was things like gutters and fans that improved the situation rather than the plastic and rock, although maybe that made a difference at the time of installation.

So basically, DH has kind of turned over the yard to me, and I don’t want to screw it up for him!  Eekers.

Where the areas in question sit on our lot

Where the areas in question sit on our lot

The tomatoes are ripening, thank God!  It’s only been three weeks since they formed!

The site of our future mini raingarden

The site of our future mini raingarden

I have been thinking raingarden.  My last post was about ideas for where to put one.  Well, today I got a call in to Gopher State One Call to mark the utilities in the little triangle at the corner of our lot.  We are going to try a mini one there.  That way I can learn about how to do the infiltration test, etc. and do the whole thing on a mini scale before proposing a big fat huge grant project to the watershed district.  It will be a trial.

The space between the fence and the retaining wall will become a perennial garden

The space between the fence and the retaining wall will become a perennial garden

We got our fence!!!!  Yipppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Now we get to think of what to plant in the annoying section between the retaining wall and the fence.  We knew we wanted the fence higher up on the yard because of the dog’s unpredictability.  We didn’t want some small hand to become lunch.  But now it creates a planting opportunity.  At first I thought shrubs, now am thinking perennial garden because of staining issues.  That way when we need to stain the fence we can get at it in the spring before things start to grow or even tramp it down in the fall when all is done.  With shrubs, we won’t be able to get in there.  But I do want to incorporate some shrubs somewhere, especially berries for birdies to munch on and maybe for us to munch.

We just went to a rain garden workshop sponsored by Friends of the Mississippi River. I am overwhelmed, but we have some ideas, plus we found out about some good grant opportunities through the Capital River Watershed District. We think we will try out the little triangle formed at the corner of our sidewalks (we are a corner lot) and then maybe a long, skinny one in the boulevard to capture water that runs off a little down the sidewalk. I’m thinking maybe we can develop a grant proposal that includes both rain gardens and rain barrels since I’m not sure we can place rain gardens up on the top of the retaining wall.

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