Archive for the ‘yard’ tag
… summer, that is. Hi there, summer is gone, it’s fall, and where did the last three months go anyway?
Work has been very busy. Stuff at home has been very busy. It feels like I haven’t really sat back and relaxed enough to appreciate the summer.
House and garden
The two big trees in our front yard really were hit hard by last year’s drought, so in June John decided to take down all of the dead branches in order to give them as good a chance at recovering as we could give them. “All of the dead branches” turned out to be a lot of branches indeed… both trees lost a significant portion of their canopies, and I am still getting used to the fact that the front yard is much less shaded then it used to be.
The garden did great…is still doing great. The tomatoes are almost done at this point, but I am not going to complain too much, given that we have been pulling 10-15 pounds of tomatoes a week out of the garden since mid-July. The green peppers, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, and eggplants are still going strong, however. We will probably be getting peppers and eggplants for at least another month. The only thing that we really botched with this year’s garden was the plant spacing. It is really difficult to move around in the garden, as the plants have all grown all over each other.
For John’s birthday weekend (this year was the big 42) we went to Cedar Point for a couple of days. We had been talking idly about wanting to go to Cedar Point for a while, and decided that it was finally time to stop talking about going and actually go.
I can remember staying at the Breakers when my family went to Cedar Point for a vacation when I was little, and John and I stayed there when we went this summer. Being right in the park, it was really convenient, and the early admission for hotel guests was also nice.
Going when we did – right after the 4th of July holiday weekend – was a good call, because the park was not quite as crowded as it might otherwise have been. I think that the longest that we ever waited in a line was maybe 45 minutes, the first time that we went on the Millennium Force. Most of the time we were in line less than 10 minutes. It was great. It was also a touch rainy in the evenings… a couple of quick bursts of rain here and there, but not enough to get us to go back to the hotel. However, the rollercoasters (and a couple of other rides) don’t run when it is raining… they stop wile it is raining and once it stops, they run a test through to make sure that the tracks and brakes are safe, and then resume. So the bursts of rain were great for clearing out the crowds and eliminating the lines in the evenings.
We went on every ride at the park. (Seriously, we had a checklist.) Many of the rides, especially the rollercoasters, we went on multiple times. Okay, we went on all of the rides except the kiddy rides and that one ride that is basically just pretend driving a model-T car around a fixed track.
It was an awesome vacation. Something we should have done a long time ago. Now we need to go to King’s Island (down near Cincinnati) for comparison. And more rollercoasters.
It has been almost seven months since Merlin died, and almost five months since we adopted Vena.
You can tell when Vena is really enjoying being petted, because her eyes roll back a little bit, her nose starts to run, and she starts to drool. It is simultaneously adorable and kind of disgusting. She doesn’t purr very loudly, not like Merlin (Merlin’s purr was like an idling diesel engine) but she loves attention.
She is getting slowly cuddlier, and if I am lounging on the couch reading or watching TV she doesn’t need much encouragement to jump up into my lap. It does take her a little while to calm down and get settled once she is there, though. And god help you if you try to hold a book with one hand and pet her with the other. She doesn’t appreciate the divided attention, and has been known to bite at the book (or tablet or phone) in order to ensure that all attention is on her. Once she is settled, though, she doesn’t mind if you read while she naps on your lap.
She is still a bit wary and shy around John, and won’t stay on my lap if he enters the room of joins me on the couch. It will just take time.
Last weekend was the first in about three weeks where we did not have grey, dreary rain all weekend, so it was a whirlwind of outdoor projects.
(Seriously, the weekdays – when we are stuck in the office staring out the window at the lovely weather – have been gorgeous, and the weekends – when we are supposed to be enjoying our lives – have been miserable. No fair.)
The vegetable garden is now planted. If all goes well (and we hope that it does) we will have more vegetables than we can eat in a month or so.
- 24 tomato plants:
- 4 Black Prince
- 4 Lemon Boy
- 4 Phoenix (heat resistant variety – which will be useful if this summer is as hot as the last one was)
- 4 Sweet 100s cherry tomatoes
- 4 Roma (for sauce mostly)
- 4 Mr Stripey
- 3 eggplants (2 purple and 1 white)
- 3 sweet green peppers
- 3 mucho nacho jalapeno peppers
- 3 ancho chili peppers (started from seeds, and honestly not looking like they will survive)
- 2 greek oregano
- 3 sage
- 3 basil
- rosemary (left over from last year and still doing quite well)
- 3 bush beans (started from seeds, 2 are doing well, and one looks like it is slowly dying)
- 4 zucchini (3 in pots on the deck, and 1 at the corner of the house)
- 6 sugar snap peas (planted next to the deck and provided with a string trellis so that they have something to climb)
We ended up with fewer eggplants and more zucchini than we intended because I grabbed a flat marked “eggplant” at the Meijer’s Garden Store without actually checking that all of the plants on it were in fact eggplants. Oops. But at least we like zucchini.
Since we have planted in this patch for several years now, and since at the end of the growing season we just turn the dead plants into the soil and cover the whole thing with burlap for the winder, we have a lot of what we call “volunteers”… things that we did not plant this year, but nonetheless plan on nurturing. We have no less than 5 volunteer tomatoes, which will hopefully survive long enough to bear fruit so that we can see what variety they are. We also have several volunteer basil and sage plants.
The blackberry and raspberry vines along the side of the house are spreading faster than ever. I hope that this year I will be able to at least make one pie, or at least a small tart, with the berries. My primary competition for which will be all of the neighborhood birds.
We even (mostly) finished the work on the front bed around the new Japanese Cherry. The soil has been turned over several times (and many, many roots from the crabapple have been discovered and removed), topsoil has been added, daisy seeds of several varieties have been scattered around the tree, and other new plants have been added. Most of those new plants are hostas, as we have been planting, transplanting, and replanting a lot of hostas this spring. Hostas are just amazingly hardy and versatile. Their only drawback is that they die back to the root ball and regrow completely every year, so there will always be that span of time over winter and into early spring where the flowerbeds are completely barren and empty.
We also planted three rosebushes at the corner of the house. We have fewer deer wandering through our yard here then my parents do up in Cleveland, so they may survive, and even (hopefully) thrive.
Despite the fact that nothing (other than the pea plants) have visibly grown since we planted them, there are already flowers on a couple of the tomato plants and one of the green peppers, and buds on all of the roses.
First, the good news. The flowering Japanese cherry tree that we planted in the front of the house to replace the crab apple tree is finally budding and putting out leaves and flowers. Hooray! For the longest time after we planted it, it just sat there, looking like a dead stick and stubbornly doing nothing, even as all of the other trees in the neighborhood grew leaves and flowered. It is a slow starter, but at leave it is still alive.
If only the vegetable seedlings that we intended to use in the garden this year were doing so well.
We had the brilliant idea several months ago that we should start seeds and then use those for planting the vegetable garden. We would save money (as buying the seedlings from Home Depot or Lowes is not cheap) and we would be assured of being able to get exactly what kind of vegetables we wanted. So we ordered a bunch of seeds, John built a super-cool germination area (that looks remarkably like a chemical hood) in the basement, and we put the seed in the little starter trays and waited.
We didn’t have to wait too long. They started out so well. After a little while it became pretty obvious that there wasn’t enough room in the starter trays for them, and that they would need to be re-potted in order to give them more room.
Easter weekend, it was nicer and warm and sunny, so we decided to re-pot everything on the back deck, and also plant some of the little seedlings right away and see how they would do.
They didn’t do so well. Everything that we re-potted and planted died. And almost everything that we re-potted and took back inside died also. The only exceptions were two ancho chili seedlings and three zucchini seedlings. I guess that the re-potting was just too much of a shock to their root systems.
Lesson learned. We may try starting seeds again next year, but we will start them out in the large biodegradable pots instead of in the too-small plastic trays.
This year we will once again be going to Home Depot for seedlings. We will probably try re-planting the garden in another week or two.
Not that I should really complain. It has been sunny and in the 70s the past couple of days, and in the 50s-60s before that. I have been coming home from work and changing into shorts. John and I broke out the bikes and went for a couple of rides around the neighborhood. We opened the windows. Last night we even talked briefly about turning on the A/C because it was so warm and stuffy upstairs.
(In Ohio. In March. Where in a normal year we would still have grey, slushy snow and temperatures in the 30s-40s.)
Perhaps this is the upside to global warming?
We have started to do some of the traditional springtime work of cleaning out the flowerbeds.
The ivy which I planted back when we bought the house in an attempt to get some ground cover started in the area around the crabapple tree has to go. It has just been too aggressive in spreading and taking over other parts of the flowerbeds, the lawn, the end of the porch, and may even have been partially responsible for the decline of the tree’s health. We pulled out a lot of it by the roots.
We also made use of a weed-burner, which is a nifty tool that John picked up some time ago. Basically this is a flamethrower. That you can use in your garden. (Can you believe that you can just walk into a Home Depot and buy one of these things?) It is… a whole lot of fun to use, but since it is an area effect item, you do have to be careful that you don’t torch things that you want to keep… like “good” plants, the porch, the deck, the garden shed, and drainpipes. We managed to confine our fiery destruction to unwanted weeds and ground-cover and the aforementioned ivy.
This weekend we have yet more yard work planned, if the weather continues to cooperate.
Initially John wanted to either plant a new tree to replace the crabapple we pulled out last fall or edge the front flowerbeds. I argued for doing both, since one is a very simple job (plopping a tree into an already existent hole and then dumping in a couple of bags of topsoil to fill it) while the other is somewhat more involved (digging a trench to define the border between lawn and flowerbed and then placing bricks in said trench and re-filling the gaps with dirt to hold everything in place)
I also would like to think about filling in some of the gaps on the front flowerbed that we created last week by pulling/burning out the ivy.
We will see how much we actually get done. The forecast calls for continued warm weather and intermittent thunderstorms.
There is (was, now) a crab-apple tree on the left side of the porch as you stand in the street and face the house. It isn’t there anymore.
For the past couple of years it has been looking increasingly wan and sickly. There are other crab-apple trees in the neighborhood, all of them approximately the same age as ours, and they all looked pretty sickly as well. So John and I concluded that the tree was probably starting to near the end of its natural life, and that we ought to deal with it before it turned from a small annoyance (sick tree) to a big problem (dead tree overhanging our porch).
Apparently if you are going to remove a tree, it is best to do so in the late summer/early fall.
Before we left for vacation, John “ringed” the tree (took an ax and cut a circle around the trunk near the base) to start to kill it and make it easier to deal with later.
A couple of days after we got back, he took a shovel and the ax and severed all of the roots that he could find.
Then last weekend we rented a chainsaw and a big truck from Home Depot, cut all of the branches off, yanked the stump out of the ground (which was a huge undertaking), piled the remains in the truck bed (it took three trips) and hauled it all off to the dump.
They weigh you coming and going when you take stuff to the dump here, so that they know how much to charge you. According to the receipts, we deposited over 1700 pounds worth of crab-apple tree in the brush and yard waste section of the dump.
That’s a lot of tree. That’s not even counting the roots which we were not able to get out of the ground.
Come spring, we will probably plant a dogwood tree in the newly empty space, and then re-do the surrounding flower beds.
It has been raining a lot here lately. On one hand, that is a good thing, because it means that we have had to turn on the weeper hose to water the vegetable garden exactly once since we planted everything. And on the other hand, it is annoying because lots of rain has caused high humidity, which in turn has caused us to turn on the a/c a lot earlier and a lot more frequently then I normally like to.
The garden is doing great. All of the tomato plants have green tomatoes. (Rather disappointingly, the early girl tomatoes didn’t flower and start to fruit any earlier then the rest of them.) The bell peppers all have several one-quarter to half-ripe peppers. The zucchini and eggplants are flowering. The banana peppers have some just-about-ripe looking peppers. We have already started to use the fresh herbs. The cats love the fresh catnip. And two fresh jalapeno peppers have made their way into a stir fry.
The berry bushes on the other hand look kind of sickly. And today while I was weeding I spotted just one half-ripe raspberry. Maybe they just need a year or so to grow bigger and they will produce well next year? Or maybe they will just all die before next year? Or maybe it just isn’t even close to berry season yet and I should stop wondering. Who knows. Only time will tell.
If you were to watch me working in the gardens in the summer, you will observe that for someone who professes to hate weeding and to prefer “the wild look” (for the flowerbeds at least) that I seem to actually do a lot of weeding. Well, I do do a lot of weeding, and I do generally dislike it, and tend to not do it as much as possible. However, there are some things that I will always pull out of the ground:
- those things that look kind of like dandelions but have spiky leaves
- crab grass
- inappropriate grass, which is lawn grass that is not in the lawn
- this kind of fast-growing, low slung yard-creeper stuff that will take over if you let it
- clover (or some kind of clover-like thing)
- anything in the herb/vegetable garden that is not an herb or a vegetable
Usually I just throw the weeds on the middle of the lawn, where they will be chopped up by the lawn mower.
Usually I weed just once a week (or so) for about an hour at a time, so I guess that I can’t complain about it too much.
Forget-me-nots are my favorite flower.
When I was working out what I wanted to do for my wedding bouquet and boutonnieres last year, I didn’t much care what other flowers were in it as long as I had forget-me-nots and the other flowers I picked looked good with them. I didn’t think that it would be easy finding forget-me-nots at a florist (afterall, they are hardly a common bouquet flower) so I made sure that I had some in my garden that I could pick and use.
We spent most of the morning and early afternoon planting the garden, now that we are safely past the frost point.
Since the garden last year did so well, we slightly more then doubled its size for this year.
So, what did we plant?
- Raspberries – 3 bushes
- Blackberries – 2 bushes
- Eggplants – 4 plants
- Green peppers – 4 plants
- Banana peppers – 2 plants
- Jalapeno peppers – 2 plants
- Zucchini – 2 plants
- Tomatoes – we got all heirloom varieties this year
- “Mr. Stripey” (orange and yellow striped) – 2 plants
- “Black Prince” (black/purple) – 2 plants
- “Lemon Boy” (bright yellow) – 2 plants
- “Pink Brandywine” (fuchsia?) – 2 plants
- “Early Girl” (early to ripen) – 1 plant
- “Homestead” (pretty stock, red tomatoes) – 7 plants
- Rosemary – 4 plants
- Basil – 4 plants
- Sage – 4 plants
- Catnip – 1 plant
Yes, that is 16 tomato plants. We love tomatoes, we love salsa and marinara sauce, and we plan on trying our hand(s) at canning come late summer.
The berry bushes are all along the back of the house. The tomatoes are in two rows along the long end of the garden. The herbs are all in the quadrant closest to the patio door. The zucchini are off in one corner, since I know from my parents’ gardens when I was growing up that they can grow pretty wild and crazy, and I want to be able to easily segregate them from the other plants.
The catnip is for Merlin and Percival. And I might try brewing some tea out of it at some point as well.
I can’t wait for everything to start growing and blooming and ripening.
I am looking forward to my favorite summer lunch… just-picked tomatoes, sliced thick, with some fresh basil, some fresh mozzarella, a sprinkle of salt, a dash of black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Perfection.
Also, a day spent grubbing around in the sun and dirt, and having a vegetable and herb garden to show for all of that work at the end of it = a very good day indeed.
There is a bush right next to the front door that is some kind of lilac. It smells wonderful, but is only in bloom for about a week in early spring. Right now is at the very end of its flowering cycle. I wish that I could find a perfume that smelled like this bush.
My hands smell like bananas because they are covered in new-skin, and they are covered in new-skin because I was out doing yard work this morning.
Today is the first day of spring. It is also my Dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad.)
The weather was warm enough and it wasn’t raining like it was all last weekend, so I was finally able to get out and clean out the flower beds. The cleaning, by the way, is pretty minimal. I pull out all of the dead stalks from last year (from the hostas, the daisies, and the lilies) and clean up the front walk and porch steps, but I leave most of the rest of last fall’s leaves where they are. I also gave all of the decorative grasses haircuts. It can be pretty satisfying and a lot of fun to go in with a pair of hedge clippers and whack, whack, whack away until a stand of grasses that was taller then I am is down to a couple of inches of stubble.
My yard style is more “English country garden” then anything else. Pretty wild and disorganized and lots of plants and other ground cover. The flowerbeds get pretty minimal interference from me. I water them when things get too dry, and every couple of weeks I go through and pull out crabgrass, dandelions, and other obvious weeds, but other then that… eh, not so much. As a result they are a lot rougher looking then most of the rest on the street. Of course, most of my neighbors are also retired or semi-retired and have moved to doing full-time yard maintenance in the spring, summer, and fall, and as a result have yards and gardens that are very very orderly and pruned to within an inch of their lives. Especially the across-the-street neighbors, who have mostly mulch and the occasional well shaped shrub in their flowerbeds.
Anyway, the decorative grasses are why my hands and arms look like they are covered in paper cuts, and why I have new-skin covering some of the larger (including a rather impressive one on my right palm) gashes on my hands. Those dead grass stalks are like razors.
I filled five yard waste bags with all of those cut-away grasses and dead stalks, which are now stacked in the garage and awaiting trash day. Unfortunately, they may end up waiting a while, since I seem to recall, now that I think of it, that the garbage men won’t pick up yard waste until after April 1.