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!

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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

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I just got done devouring this lovely little book, which I happened upon simply because I wanted a better understanding of what lasagna gardening is and her other, more popular book already had many holds on it at the library.  Turns out this one is perfect for us!  Since we are novices, this book is great because she gives a ton of practical tips and doesn’t get bogged down in technical or philosophical stuff.  She has nice little lists of “Pat’s Picks” for annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruits and berries – all with space-challenged gardeners in mind.  She actually explains how to espalier (or train on a flat wall) a fruit tree.  And since it’s published by Rodale, it’s all organic techniques, especially important to me because we are on a corner lot with two storm drains going to the Mississippi.  I will be buying this book – now my to-purchase list is growing quite long!

Cover of Fresh Foods from Small Spaces

Cover of Fresh Foods from Small Spaces

For a novice like myself, this is a great book. It reinforced a lot of what I’d read elsewhere, inspired me to take on a sheet mulching project, and gave me tons and tons of good ideas about what kinds of edibles can be grown in low light. I plan to purchase it just for its recognition of and emphasis on the fact that foods can be grown in partial shade, which is most of our lot. His ideas about varieties for shade are awesome. I find this is a great follow-up book to The Urban Homestead – it’s got similar kinds of information but fewer illustrations. Admittedly, I only skimmed the chapters on fermentation, sprouting, and mushrooms. My interest mostly lies in the gardening-in-the-dirt types of activities right now.

The Urban Homestead

The Urban Homestead

This spring I got this book on my then-fiance’s recommendation, who spotted it in the Piragis catalog. I loved it! I skipped some sections, like livestock and foraging, and focused on the gardening section. I learned so much and it validated things I was planning to do but was unsure about, like having pulled up our landscape fabric and wanting to mix veggies in with the flowers. So many good ideas.

What this book really had going for it, as far as a novice like me is concerned, is the simple how-tos, complete with diagrams and step-by-step descriptions. It gets into the why just enough for understanding to start to take root, but not overwhelm.

I plan to buy this one – and that’s saying a lot for me!!  There have been several instances when I’ve wanted to consult it and it is at the library.