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.

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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.

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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?

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transition

So I’ve decided that I cannot keep up with the amount of vegetable garden I have had in the past. I have one area that has been veggies which I’m going to change into a perennial bed. Here it is right now. There are potatoes growing behind the snow fencing – I need to dig them up, in fact. (Sorry about Coraline peeing in this one – didn’t notice that until after.)

fence-side garden

It has held a variety of different veg over the past few years, including corn, peas, potatoes, and other things:

fence-side garden

fence side bed: potatoes and corn

Here we are back to the current time. It just feels like too much space for me to keep up with veggies, and I like the idea of having this bed mirror the other side of the yard, which is already a perennial garden.

fence-side garden

Other side:

garage-side garden in the back yard

We also want to finally do something about the lumpy grassy area of the back yard – running around with the dogs, I’m always afraid that someone is going to trip and twist an ankle. If we had someone come in to rip up the current grass (which is a mishmash of types of grass, including crabgrass), level it out, and lay new, we could also have them create a real stone border around the perimeter of the garden beds. Pardon my crappy attempt at showing you what I mean:

backyard edited

What I’m thinking is this: we could have them create a stone border that goes around all the garden beds and is consistent – AND is tall enough that it’s at least a little bit of a barrier to the dogs so that we could get rid of the ugly snow fence.

Our evil neighbors are moving out, and their unruly dogs have been the main reason we needed the snow fence in the first place (they were constantly trying to get under the fence and drove Brodie crazy). Brodie is also older now and less apt to be jumping all around, and we’re doing a pretty decent job training Coraline to stay where we want her.

This would mean that we’d lose the freecycled stone border that is currently around the garage-side garden, but I’m okay with that. It has been good, but I would definitely like to have something that is installed a bit less haphazardly and that is taller and sturdier.

I don’t want it to be TOO tall, though, because it needs to be in proportion to our modest one-story ranch house and garage. It also needs to complement the brick of the house and garage. So here are a few ideas I found online:

garden fence ideas

I’m not sure yet what I think would look best. What do you think? Seen any other cool ideas online?

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weekend update

So I finally decided that I’ve had enough of the neighbors walking on the seedlings in our front garden (nee yard) and put up a temporary fence to keep the garden safe.

temporary fence installed

It stretches all the way along this side of the yard, so hopefully it will be effective. We could theoretically fence off the other edges, too, but I’m not convinced that’s necessary. As you can see, I also planted three new bushes there – blueberry, black raspberry, and red raspberry. I usually like to get edible plants from heirloom seed or from the farmers market (or other reputable organic sources), but I gave in and got these from Lowe’s – the farmers market had nothing to offer and the seeds I’d planted here got trampled to death. I’m guessing that I’ll need to protect these from the birds once they start fruiting. Anyone have suggestions of effective ways of doing that?

In other front garden news, a number of the other plants I put in are doing pretty well! The dark lord geranium is looking good:

dark lord geranium

I also noticed that something is sprouting up through the mulch on the side of the house – I think it might be grapes. Can anyone confirm or deny?

something growing up through the mulch - grapes?

In the back gardens, the daylilies and asiatic lilies are budding and getting ready to bloom.

asiatic lily

daylily

asiatic lily

The lilies beside the garage are really, really tall! Some of them are approaching the point of being taller than I am!

garage-side garden

The golden sweet snow peas are still blossoming, with a gorgeous purple color:

golden sweet snow pea blossom

There are also scads of pea pods! I’ve been eating them right off the vine while I wander through the veg garden. They are so sweet and the texture is divine!

golden sweet snow peas

So the other day, after I finished hosing off the aphids that were hanging out on the potato plant blossoms, I noticed what I thought was an odd-looking ladybug. It wasn’t a ladybug, it was a colorado potato beetle. Yipes! I picked it off and killed it, and found, picked, and destroyed the leaf under which it had laid eggs. I searched but didn’t find any others, but then a day later, I found these!

unknown insect: Colorado Potato Beetle larvae?

They’re larval colorado potato beetles, and they were chomping the hell out of the potato leaves, as you can see above. Ugh! I think I’ve gotten rid of all of them now, so hopefully we’re done with that. I did order some ladybugs and praying mantis eggs which should arrive soon. I fully expect them to fly away, but hopefully a few will hang out and make a home in my garden (and a meal of any other pests). We already have some good pest-eaters in the garden, one of whom made an appearance this week:

toad in the toad house

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Auf Wiedersehen, weed tree!

Behind the garage, there’s a bit of space that has been mostly taken up by this really ugly weed tree. It shaded the area, hung over the garage, and made it impossible to access a majority of the space back there.

compost bin behind the garage

We had pruned the lower branches but it was definitely growing back in full form. The photo above is older (I show it because it illustrates the bushy lower branches that grow in every summer), but here’s what it looked like a little over a month ago:

behind the garage

Today I got motivated, dragged K out with me, and we took that motherfucker out!

behind the garage

Nice stump, eh?

weed tree stump

Another day soon, when this has dried out a bit and we have more energy, we’ll take the Sawsall to it again and get it down even closer to the ground. I’m also planning to spray it with pruning seal, so it can’t continue to grow.

Here’s a view of the entire area, including the existing compost bins. We’ll also take out those branches and chop them up sometime soon. I just didn’t have the energy after doing all the other work today.

behind the garage

I need to come up with a plan for how to use this area now that it’s more accessible. I’m toying with the idea of making new compost bins farther in (perhaps using these? A bit pricey but cool) and then extending the existing veg garden into this area, but I’d also like to do something to hide this ugly fence. Oh, and to keep people from hopping over the fence, which they seem to like to do (on the far end – they go through on the other side of the garage). We hung a No Trespassing sign on the fence today after clearing out the brush, but I’m wondering if there are any quick-growing plants that would climb up the fence and be thorny/otherwise discouraging to potential fence-hoppers. The other factor is that there’s a manhole cover at the far end (that dirty, smudgy looking area), which obviously can’t be covered up or made completely inaccessible. Anyone have any ideas? What would you do it if it were your area?

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