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!


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 . . .

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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I am hot and heavy into Gaia’s Garden right now and there was one section I thought deserved further reflection.  The author, Toby Hemenway, outlines an “ecological design process” involving the following steps:

  1. Observation
  2. Visioning
  3. Planning
  4. Development
  5. Implementation.

I am totally in observation and maybe in visioning, and that’s good.  When I set my goal earlier this summer on 43 Things to “Make our yard a place we love to be while not bite off more than I can chew,” I knew that I needed to take this summer not to get too eager but rather to figure out the eccentricities of the yard, particularly the light situation.  I knew this wasn’t the summer to be putting in shrubs or trees, etc., or spending tons of money on perennials (plus I’m cheap 😉 ).  We knew we wanted a fence and so that is going in soon!  Once that’s done we can do a lot more visioning, or dreaming.

The other morning during a hard rain I got a chance (finally!) to go outside and observe how the water flowed on our property.  It was interesting to note what was going on.  Rain puddled in areas I didn’t know it would, and that gives me some ideas for making mini rain gardens or mulch basins or something to store that in the soil rather than having it run off.  Particularly along the edge of the boulevard, the rain gushed along that grass and ran off.  If we kind of sank that edge down and made a mini swale and berm type system, or even some raingardens (I once read a raingarden shouldn’t be located in a boulevard, but have also heard it’s fine, so not sure – but we are going to a class on raingardens in a few weeks!).

I am also visioning (dreaming) a lot about next year’s garden, particularly the edible portions.  Berries on the back of the garage, shrubs (hopefully also with berries for the birdies) along our new fence, using our vertical space better and also our sunny front yard for something other than grass, how to best (and legally) use the boulevard, since we’re on a corner lot and it comprises a lot of our surface area, what kind of soil amendments would be the best to do this year to make some of this a possibility for next year.  Lots to think about!

I will tag my entries according to these phases of the ecological design process to help myself organize these thoughts.