soil and toil

This weekend we took out one of the planters in the back yard.

planting bed in back yard

It had a number of issues, including a hosta that was WAY too big for it and the fact that it didn’t get enough sun and was always sort of mildewy on the pavers (gross!). So we decided that it was time for it to move along. I transplanted the hosta to a shady spot on the other side of the fence and also transplanted the Speedwell that was in here to the other backyard planter which gets more sun. I did not transplant any of the maple seedlings or weed tree starts that were hanging out.

Corner bed removed, grass seeded

K seeded this area once we were done clearing it out. We really don’t necessarily want MORE grass, but in the back yard it makes sense as the dogs run around back here. I need to buy more clover seed to mix in back here.

Some soil in the raised bed

Some of the soil from the planter we took out went into my raised bed along with 10 bags of soil I purchased. I need to get a bit more, but hadn’t wanted to over-buy and wasn’t sure how much we’d get out of that planter.

Some soil in the raised bed

It doesn’t need a ton more, but I’d like to bring the soil level up to within an inch or so of the edge, so a bit more is needed. Getting there!


none shall pass (if by one you mean Coraline)

Because we now have a gate to the back yard!

We have a gate

For some reason the previous owners put up a privacy fence but never finished it with a gate. Who knows why!

Anyway, we’ve been living with a make-do bit of snow fence on loan from Susan, and now it feels like such a luxury to have a gate that you can open and close!

The company we hired did a very nice job, I think, the same one that installed the continuous seamless guttering on our house, fabricating something to match the existing fence. We’ll have to wait to stain it (from reading online it looks like we should probably wait until spring – any expert opinions on this topic are welcome!), but the former owners actually left us the can of stain from the rest of the fence, so we know what we need to match as best as we can. We will likely re-stain the rest of it at the same time, I think, since it needs it. I need to do more research on it this winter.

We have a gate

In the meantime, though, I’m very pleased! We are hoping to adopt another BT sometime soon so Coraline has a playmate, and having this gate in place means we’re ready to go when we find one who would be a good fit.



I have used the fence-side area in the back yard for growing veggies the last few years, but I decided this year that it’s too much to keep up with, so I’m turning it into a perennial bed.

formerly veg garden, now perennials

I transplanted some extra daylilies from the other side of the yard, and sowed some seeds for other flowering perennials this weekend. I didn’t do an excellent job with the daylilies – some of them are REALLY deeply rooted and it was super hot so I didn’t dig all the bulb thingies out. If they don’t survive, so be it – I have a billion of them. I’m also letting the potatoes grow here – every year I don’t get them all up so they resprout, and they can easily blend in with the perennials for now. Once everything is grown in more, I’ll get rid of the snow fence. But for now I need it to keep the pupperinos out of the area while things get established.

bird bath

This is my totally awesome ten dollar bird bath! It’s plastic but looks better than you’d think for such a cheapie. Hopefully it will attract birds!


new veg garden fence, phase one

Holy crap, where has April gone? I feel like the past month has zoomed by. My to-do lists are all overflowing and I feel like I have so much to do even though I’m super busy all the time. Blogging has fallen by the wayside. Hopefully I can make it a priority again, since I miss it. I just don’t have enough hours to do all the things I want to do.

Speaking of hours, I spent almost all of them today out in the veg garden. First I weeded the horrendously overgrown raised beds, in anticipation of emptying them of soil and re-arranging them (you can see a tarp with a bunch of soil on it on the left side of the veg garden). That took awhile since they were so full of weeds. This mild winter didn’t do the usual killing off, and March’s crazy warm temps gave the weeds a real boost.

You may remember that I was making plans to finally replace the ugly snow fence with a real long-term more attractive fence. Today I sweet-talked my awesome husband into helping me install it. We’re still only partway through this process, so pretend the ugly snow fence is all gone already.

new veg garden fence, phase one

Note: poor Cone Of Shame Dog! He has a scratched cornea so he is coned until tomorrow at the earliest.

The fence goes from the side of the garage to the other side of the yard, and the panel that juts out is the gate, which swings in to provide access to the veg garden. K helped me lay out all the panels, dig out the grass in a channel so we could make sure the fence is level, and install everything.

new veg garden fence, phase one

This fence will be a perfect place for me to grow sun-loving climbers! It is also going to be much better at deterring jumping dogs than the former ugly fence, which they could leap over without even thinking. And it’s much more attractive and sturdy. Side bonus: I will never again trip on the snow fence and almost fall while carrying the kitchen compost container out to the compost pile behind the garage.

new veg garden fence, phase one

As you can see, the final panel (on the far right in the photo below) is at a slight angle. Our yard doesn’t happen to be exactly evenly divisible by the width of these fence panels. Big deal! I have no issue with that panel being at an angle. Eventually the expanse along the side PVC fence will be a perennial garden (come on, weather, and stop frosting/freezing at night! I’ve got ants in the pants to transplant things) so the angled panel will hardly be noticeable. I still need to smother the grass on the inside of the expanded part of the veg garden, and cut back the grass on the yard side so I can plant climbers and some kind of border so that K doesn’t have to mow right up to the fence and the grass doesn’t creep back in. And, obviously, remove the last few posts and snow fence in the veg garden. After I get the perennial garden along the side fence established, that snow fence will also be able to go.

new veg garden fence, phase one

We’re still going back and forth about having the grass in the back yard redone. The yard is lumpy (installing this fence was a lesson in just how lumpy it is – some parts of the fence are even with the level of the ground, and others are way below it) and a hodge podge of a ton of different kinds of grass, crabgrass, and clover. Ideally I’d like to have it all be white dutch clover, since it doesn’t burn when dogs pee on it and is good for pollinators. I’m not sure we can find a commercial place that will do that for us, though, and I’m really not convinced that I’m up for pulling up the sod, leveling the yard, and seeding myself, though. We’ll see.


don’t fence me in

Okay, do. So, for awhile we’ve had this ugly snow fence protecting the veg garden areas from dog access. It’s ugly, and it’s not 100% effective (the dogs are good enough at jumping that they can clear it without much effort – we rely mostly on their training), and I want it to be gone. So I’ve been looking into other, taller, less unattractive options. Lowe’s has a pretty decent-looking option that isn’t horribly expensive and seems to have gotten pretty good reviews overall. The user reviews even give helpful instructions for hacking it so that you can have a gate without having to buy an actual gate. I like that the fence is pretty non-intrusive – it won’t draw the eye like the snow fence does. I also think that if I wanted to, I could grow some climbers on the fence, or put shrubbery in front of it, or whatever.

One note: in order to fit the future apartment-blocking shrubbery back there, I need to move the raised beds, and that requires taking over at least a little bit more of the grassy part of the back yard.

Option 1:
backyard fence option 1

Option 1 has us getting rid of the snow fence, adding a border in front of the side bed, and creating a (very short) top hat-shaped enclosure with the new fence. My goal with this design is to mostly center the protruding part, but since it won’t be feasible to do it exactly centered, leave more room on the garage side since that’s where the access door is.

PROS to this design: it’s somewhat balanced and pleasing to the eye
CONS to this design: it might be more annoying to mow around?

Option 2:
backyard fence option 2

Option 2 has us getting rid of the snow fence, adding a border in front of the side bed, and creating a nearly-straight-with-one-jog line of the new fence. My goal with this design is to allow the additional room I need in the garden area for the raised beds, but still leave access to the garage access door unimpeded.

PROS to this design: it gives slightly more room to the garden area (though I’m not sure it’s needed)
CONS to this design: it might be less annoying to mow around?

So, what would you do?


the other side of the bed

The west side of the backyard has been a vegetable garden the last several years, but in trying to be more realistic in how much veg gardening I can actually keep up with, I’m going to turn it into a perennial garden this year. This is it:

fence-side garden

I have a few goals in mind for this bed, along with questions, natch:

  1. Eventually I want to be rid of this snow fence, so I’d like for this planting area to be raised up at least a little so there can be some kind of discernible border between the bed and the yard. (Ideally this border might continue all the way around the back of the grassy area.)
  2. Ideally whatever this bed ends up looking like will be a design that discourages the dogs from wanting to be in it. I don’t want them peeing on the plants or being right by the fence (even though the evils have moved out, it’s possible that whoever eventually moves in will have dogs that attract the interest of ours).
  3. I’d like to grow some more herbs. I know from experience (as seen in the photo above) that things like mint will take over if you plant them directly in the ground, they’ll creep and spread all over (thanks again, evils!). I’m wondering if I can intersperse some containers with herbs in them amongst perennials planted directly in the ground. Will the herbs cooperate and stay where they’re put? How will the neighboring perennials feel about being planted next to a container?

For reference, the opposite side of the yard has a bed with perennial lilies and such:

lilies in the garage-side garden

So, what would you do if this were your yard?



One of the auto settings on my new camera is for situations in which the subject will be moving quickly. It can shoot a bunch of photos right in a row – perfect for Coraline!

Coraline running

At this point I’m just blinding shooting with this setting – just taking a buttload of photos and seeing what turns out. So far, the results are at least amusing if nothing spectacular.

Coraline running

I like the way that Brodie and Coraline are in quite similar positions in this one:

Brodie and Coraline running

Hahaha! Who knew Brodie’s back legs went like that?

Brodie and Coraline running

Coraline running

In this last one, I like to think that Coraline is creeping around on tip-toe on her back legs.

Coraline running



So I invested in a new camera recently: a DSLR! It’s a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS, and it was featured on Woot! so I was able to get quite a good deal. Hooray!

I’m still learning how to use it – just beginning to learn how, really. We’ve had such a warm winter thus far, I was able to take some photos out in the garden without even getting cold.

back garden

I clearly didn’t ever finish cleaning up in the gardens this fall – there are still weeds out there, but at least some of them are interesting to look at.

back garden

It’s been ridiculous how little snow we’ve had, and how many warm days. The grass, crabby and uneven as it is, would usually be protected somewhat in winter. Instead, we are constantly tracking in pieces of dead grass and there are lots of little muddy spots throughout the back yard. I haven’t decided yet what action we’ll take in the spring. We’ve contemplated having it re-sodded, but I am so loathe to spend such a lot of money on something as lame as grass.

back garden

The Coreopsis looks pretty even when it’s dead!

back garden

The purple wintercreeper is really looking nice on the ugly back fence. Hopefully by next year it’ll be all filled in, but at least what’s there is purple and lovely.

back garden



I’m just not sure what to do with this dogwood. For the record, it’s a European Variegated Dogwood ‘Elegantissima’ and as you can see, it’s out of control.

out of control dogwood

I cut it back last year, and it got HUGE this year. It’s blocking the access door to the garage and Coraline has decided that getting underneath all the lower leaves is fun. Brodie also likes to pee on those leaves – gross!

dogwood closeup

So  anyway, I’m looking for advice! Should I cut it back again? Should I move it to somewhere that it would have more room to grow (not sure if I have such a large spot)? Is there something else I could do to help it thrive?



So, remember how overgrown the back garden was a few months ago? Here’s a reminder:

horribly overgrown garden - needs mega weeding

Well, I realized shortly after this photo was taken that something was missing (besides all the weeds I pulled). Can you tell what it is?

back yard

Here’s a hint:

overgrown edited

Yes, I am actually sad that the weed trees on the other side of our back fence were cut down (we don’t actually own the fence – it runs all along the back of the subdivision). It’s not the trees themselves, of course, it’s the privacy that they afforded us. I’ve been working for a few years to get the fence covered with Purple Wintercreeper, which has really taken off this year and is doing a lovely job of hiding the ugly fence. But now I’d like to grow something TALL that will give us back that feeling of privacy and coziness. There’s not a ton of room between the fence and the raised beds, of course – anyone have suggestions for what we could put back there that will grow tall but not wide?