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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first clean-up of spring

Last week we had some of the first warm days of the season and I couldn’t resist getting out to clean up some of the leaf mulch on the perennial gardens.

There were a number of tulips sprouting through leaves in the Red Maple Garden. I also chopped off the stupid unkillable yucca and noticed that the cuttings of Purple Wintercreeper I put in here the year before last are finally getting nicely established. This garden is a haven for weeds, so I’d really like the wintercreeper to take over and fill in so that the weeds can’t get enough sun to survive.

red maple garden

I also cleared out leaves from the Driveway-Side Garden. There was SO MUCH leaf mulch here! I think the wind must have helped more leaves to stick in this area because the mulch was far thicker than I would have thought. I think next year I am going to invest in a pressure washer.

driveway side garden

I moved a buttload of stuff into the really skinny part of this (the part at the bottom of the photo above) last year, but most of it was random bulbs that I couldn’t exactly identify, so I’m not sure what-all is in here now. I’m guessing grape hyacinth and that sort of thing.

Further up toward the garage, there’s lots of good stuff getting ready to grow. Sedum of some kind, for one:

sedum sprouting

I’m not sure if this is the Munstead Red that I got on clearance at Lowe’s a few years ago, or some unidentified sedum that a freecycler gave me. One of my goals for this year is to make better notes about what’s growing where so I can better identify things.

I didn’t snap a larger picture view of the Tiny Driveway Fence Garden, but something is coming up in it! This is a seriously tiny space – hardly large enough to count as a garden, but it’s dirt! So I’m claiming it. Weeds want to grow there, so therefore I can take it over and make something pretty grow there instead. There is fence on either side of the gate to the backyard, and I’ve planted random things here to see what succeeds. It gets an odd amount of sun (and not even from one end of the fence to the other) so it’s kind of a crapshoot. Whatever this is coming up, it’s pretty-looking so far.

sprouting

I think that these are the daffodils (‘Quail’) that I planted last year – I haven’t grown daffodils myself before, but my mom used to have them, and I think these look daffodil-ish. ?

sprouting

As you can see in that photo, I didn’t clean up ALL the leaves, just most of them. I’ve also started to make a real effort to pick out all the stupid tiny pebbles from the Driveway-Side Garden. At some point someone must have had it filled in with river rock and then did an exceedingly poor job of removing it. They keep emerging from the soil (which is actually fairly decent, pebbles aside)! For now I’m gathering them in old plant containers and maybe will find a use for them, or a new home, at least.

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seed starting

So I’ve been working on my seed-starting setup, and I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to get for equipment.

I can’t ever just buy anything – I am compelled to research each product and get the best price possible (not necessarily the cheapest item, but the best price for the best product) so it always takes me a little time before I’ve decided what I want.

I’ve been using information provided by some of my favorite garden bloggers to see what goes into a good setup. The most informative post I’ve seen so far is at You Grow Girl. I’ve also found a ton of information in the SeedChat archives and on Twitter.

First item: 18″x48″x72″ shelving unit. The best deal I’ve found is this one, which I can even pick up at my local store and not have to wait for.

Perfect Home Commercial Grade Decorative Wire 6-Shelf Chrome finish Shelving Storage Unit

Shelf: $100

Next we need lights. I’m planning for three shelves of plants and it looks like it’s best to use two lights per shelf, so that’s six lights. I could get some ubercheap ones for about half the price, but those only take T12 bulbs and T8 bulbs are better in a lot of ways (more efficient, better output), so I think it’s worth it to shell out extra bucks for these. I’ll end up saving money in energy and bulbs in the long run.

Lights: $20 x 6 = $120

Lithonia Lighting All Weather 4 Ft. 2 Light T8 Fluorescent Unit Shop light

The reviews say that the included hardware includes chains and hooks, so that should be set.

Then I’ll need the bulbs for those fixtures. The fixtures I picked use T8 bulbs which are pretty common and, for regular fluorescent, aren’t pricey. According to the bloggers, you can get away with regular bulbs for tiny seedlings, but then you need better bulbs when the seedlings get a little bigger. These sunshine bulbs are about the same price as regular bulbs, though, so I’m going to go with those to start with. I’ve seen a number of garden discussions online in which people say they’ve had good luck with those bulbs.

Bulbs: $7 x 6 = $42

To keep those lights going for the appropriate amount of time each day, a timer is handy. There are a ton of them available in-store at Lowe’s and Home Depot but the online information is incomplete (will it accept a 3-prong plug? is it rated for heavy duty use? etc.) so I’ll look at the store and see what I find. Should be able to do that for $20 or less. I already have a spare power strip to use for the lights.

Timer: $20

Next up: heat mats. I may or may not end up buying heat mats. I’m not convinced that I absolutely need them, and they’re not cheap (unless anyone out there has any you want to sell me at a discount!). For the moment I’m not planning to buy any, but we’ll see.

For vessels, I’m going to make my own from newspaper. I like the idea that the newspaper pots can just be transplanted right into the garden and then decompose on their own. I still have a bunch of old library newspapers left from when we smothered the front lawn, woot. I’ll buy some ingredients to make some starting medium – the compost pile is too frozen to use right now (next year I’ll plan ahead). I’ll also need some trays to hold those newspaper pots to make watering easy.

So we have:
Shelf:                       $100
Lights: $20 x 6 =  $120
Bulbs:  $7 x 6 =      $42
Timer:                      $20

TOTAL:                  $282 plus trays, medium, and incidentals

$300 seems like a pretty decent price to make this kind of seed-starting setup. I know that I’ll use it for years, so the equipment will pay for itself eventually. I can’t get seedlings of the sort that I want (organic, non-GMO, heirloom varieties) locally and this way I’ll have a head start from where I’ve been in years past with direct-sowing in the garden. The kits that include this type of equipment that I’ve seen online are at least as expensive, aren’t necessarily as energy-efficient, and have various other factors I don’t like that you can’t change because it comes as a bundle. So, here’s to DIY!

Of course, if any of you gardeners have done this before and have advice, please chime in! I’m off to hunt for in-person coupons for Home Depot and Lowe’s before I make any purchases.

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update of late

We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately, and the temperatures have been not as hot as usual. Things are growing, though, and I expect it’ll get hotter now that August is almost here.

I planted marigold seeds along the fence-side bed in the spring, and they are really coming into bloom now.

fence-side bed

You can see that I alternated different types – I didn’t realize that some of them would be gigantic! The sections that don’t have blooms at calf-level have marigold plants that are easily three feet tall or taller. They’re starting to bloom, too, though they are behind the others by a week or more (by my guess).

marigold

I planted some mixed seeds in the very small, sort of awkward bed by the driveway, and lo and behold, there are both cosmos and sunflowers blooming there.

sunflowers and cosmos

sunflower

cosmos

I also have a few varieties of sunflowers in the back yard, but they aren’t blooming yet:

fence-side bed

They are surrounded by this mint, which, as it will, is huge and spreads a little more each year. I’ll probably have to cut it back next year, but for this year, it’s filled in a weird bed that I don’t know what else to do with, so I’m going with it.

In the back garden, the mason bee house has gained a few more residents:

mason bee house

The left-hand column is mostly filled with actual mason bees (as far as I know, though I didn’t see them all go in to know for sure), but the others seem to be stuffed with straw – perhaps birds are the culprits?

The tomatoes are growing, though not ripe yet:

black krim tomato

fox cherry tomato

and the squash are still going:

buttercup squash

baby pam squash

I think that largest squash might be ready pretty soon.

I also got some more really good deals at Lowe’s. They keep marking things down – hooray! I added ten Royal Candles Speedwell plants to the front yard:

front yard

Also in the front yard, my Black Knight Butterfly Bush is blooming, tiny as it may be:

black knight butterfly bush

Back to the bargains, I also got some Giles Van Hess Speedwell:

Giles Van Hess Speedwell

and some Munstead Red Stonecrop:

Munstead Red Stonecrop

That will apparently flower in red, and the foliage turns reddish, too. I’ll look forward to seeing what it looks like.

Finally, because I can’t resist, an obligatory adorable dog photo (Brodie sleeping):

Brodie all snugged up

More photos on Flickr.

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