Sunday, December 29, 2013

Installing New Planting Beds

I thought I'd do a quick post on some of the other gardening projects I've been working on during the past couple of months.  In November, I cleaned up the flower bed in front of our house.  This involved mainly digging a new trench outlining the bed and importing some fresh soil.  In this bed, I planted three types of peonies - one with white blooms (Duchess de Nemours), one with deep red blooms (Paul M. Wild) and an unknown pink variety I'd bought at a steep discount.  Peonies are one of my favorite flowers and in my opinion deserve a prominent place in any garden.  This spot in front of our home, however, tends to be on the shady side so I'm not entirely convinced they will fair well here.  I'll see how they grow next summer and will move them to a sunnier spot in our backyard if necessary.

In addition to the front bed, I installed this side bed that now runs all the way to the back of our home.  To the left of the side window shown here, I've since planted a peach colored climbing rose and two English roses (one white and one red) that smell absolutely heavenly.  This is my first time growing roses so I have lots of learning to do this winter.  The remainder of this space will be planted with perennial flowers until I can decided on more permanent plants and shrubs. 
In the back of our home, I began work on another planting bed that sits opposite to the one I'd previously installed on the other side of this fence. This particular bed practically runs all the way from the back of our home to the side entrance of our barn.  For this space, I'm envisioning a 'cottage garden' type of planting bed with a mix of flowering shrubs, fruiting vines, herbs, vegetables and perennial flowers. 

Here's another view of this bed from a different angle.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to have another shipment of soil delivered before our first snow storm arrived, so in all likelihood, this project will have to remain on hold for the time being. 

It will be at least a few years before these beds are fully planted.  Along the way, I'm sure there will plenty of changes made to the overall design and look of them.  Who know how it will all turn out.  But then again, I think this is precisely what makes gardening so rewarding and in many ways, so much fun.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Starting a Job You Can't Finish

When we bought our new home, there was a low-lying deck that ran along one side of our farmhouse.  It was in desperate need of fresh paint but otherwise was in good condition.  Unfortunately for us, it really didn't suite the space it occupied on our property.  Nor did it mesh well with the rustic charm of our 19th century farmhouse.  On top of this, the previous owners had closed off the entryway that had led directly onto the deck when they enlarged and remodeled our kitchen.  As a result, in order to get to it, you had go out the backdoor and walk around to this side of the house.  It didn't take us long to realize that the deck would eventually have to go, although a project like this remained relatively low on my list of home and gardening projects to take on in the near future. 

What used to be our deck.
Another view of our old deck.
Fast forward to this past October, my husband woke up one Saturday morning, took one look at the deck and decided that it would be a good day to tear it down.  Being the ever supportive spouse, I gave him a skeptical look and asked if he was sure.  He said yes and confidently stated that it would probably only take him about an hour to get the job done.  I grinned and wished him well as I had my own chores to do.

Removing the deck really opened up this space.
Four grueling hours later, the deck was finally gone.  In the end, it took two husbands (mine and our axe wielding neighbor Bryan) and agreat deal of sweat to demolish the darn thing.  Apparently this deck was built to withstand not only the test of time, but also two grown men with large crowbars.  

When the dust finally settled, we were left with a lot of debris and a blank canvas of sorts.  I have to admit that I was glad to see the deck gone.  On the other hand, it didn't take me very long to ask the question - So now what?  In retrospect, it would have been nice if we had a plan already in place for this space or at least a basic idea of what we wanted.  Instead, I've now accepted the fact that this area will most likely remain a "work in progress" for at least the next few years.

Note to self - It's never a good idea to dig a big hole, throw a bunch of rocks in, fill it with cement, and then cap it all off with a 40lb concrete block. There has be a better way to create footings for a deck that only sits a foot above the ground.  Unfortunately for us, we were left with twelve of these beauties, several of which remain unmoved for the ages. 

A basic planting bed now sits along this side of the house.
Since the deck was removed, I did find the time to create a basic planting bed that runs along this side of the house.  Eventually, I think I'd like to install a very wide and natural looking flagstone walkway, laden with creeping thyme, evergreen shrubs and flowering perennials, which would then lead to a large rose arbor that opens up to the backyard.  Until then, there will be plenty of dirt and mud here to knock about. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

First Snow Fall and Last Gardening Chores

The first snow fall of 2013 - Scituate, Massachusetts
This morning, we awoke to find snow on the ground - the first of the season.  It as fairly slushy and didn't really amount to much, but still, it signaled the start of another New England winter.  Time to finish up the last of fall's gardening chores, put away the tools and start planning for next year's garden.

I always look forward to receiving the first mail order seed catalog for 2014.  This year, it just so happens to be the one from Seed Savers Exchange.  All in all, the contents of these catalogs don't change very much from one year to the next.  Still, I enjoy flipping through them from cover to cover since you never know what you might miss if you don't.  Usually I'll find myself lusting over a vegetable or two I've overlooked in past - like this one

Our home composting operation behind our barn
Speaking of gardening chores, this past weekend I found myself working on something I've put off for quite some time now - namely our home composting operation.  The tumbling composter I'd purchased when we first moved into our new home is filled presently to well beyond capacity.  In fact, during the past week, I've had to force feed it our daily kitchen scraps.  Not a pleasant task I might add.  However, this did provide me with enough motivation to build a simple wooden compost bin that will accommodate most of our future gardening and vegetable waste. 

Speaking of waste, one of the first things we learned soon after we moved into our new place was that there was no town-operated trash pickup service in Scituate.  Instead, residents who did not arrange for trash pickup through a private waste management company had to dispose of their waste at the town's transfer station using only trash bags issued and sold by the town.  Like most other residents, we've elected to do the latter and I have to say, I couldn't be happier.  In fact, I definitely believe that it would positively impact our environment if more towns adopted this system for managing waste.

For one thing, since we personally pay for each bag of trash we dispose of (as opposed to a general tax that's easily overlooked), it incentivizes home composting and recycling, which you can drop off for free.  This daily reminder has made us much more mindful of our family's waste production, so much so that we've now reduced our non-recyclable waste output to about one extra-large garbage bag every two weeks.  Based on our past habits, this amount would be much greater if we had home trash pickup service.

A simple compost bin made from recycled wooden pallets
For my compost bin, I simply screwed together three wooden pallets and ran a piece of 2"x4" across the top to further stabilize the sides.   I couldn't get a hold of any free pallets in our area, but did find a local feed store that sold them for 5 dollars a piece.  At that price, I still consider it a bargain.  The only thing I need to do now is to find a permeable cover to place on top of the heap and maybe install a door in front.  So far, I've added some grass clippings, leaves and soil to get things started; but going forward, it will hold mostly our vegetable and gardening waste.   And chances are, I'll eventually have to install a second bin to meet our composting needs.  Lucky for me, there are gigantic piles of leaf mold and decomposed grass clippings directly behind our property - more than enough to meet my compost needs.  Anything we generate here will be an added bonus. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Urban Farming and Detroit

Here is a interesting video produced by CNN and Anthony Bourdain about Detroit, including its evolving urban agricultural scene.  Now that the 'world's largest urban farm' has been approved for development, it seems like the green revolution is picking up steam in a city once considered the epicenter of the automobile industry. It will be interesting to see how this environmental/social/economic experiment will shape Detroit in the years to come.