Category Archives: Infrastructure

The Grand Spring Garden To-Do List

I spent all winter fantasizing about all of the awesome projects I was going to tackle this year and now that Spring is around the corner I am finding myself feeling lazy and uninspired. That’s so not cool! Perhaps it’s the nasty, cold, rainy, weather I don’t want to work in, but I really need to get my mindset back into gardening. I told myself that I needed to channel the amazing work ethic of Peal Fryar. Have you heard of him? You need to watch the documentary about this amazing man. His genius will blow you away! the spirit of hard work and inspiration, let’s take a look at what’s in store for the year. We’ll start with current state of the vegetable garden:

Oddly enough, now that the vegetable garden is done, per se, I don’t feel like I have to worry about it too much. I am planning to install drip lines in the next month or two which will help immensely with watering later in the summer. But all of the hard work of building the beds pretty much done. I’d like to build some strawberry towers and a potting bench. But other than that (ha!) I just need to do some weeding and start some seeds!

Moving over to the herb garden:

I would like to move this elderberry out from its current location under the cherry tree, into an area where it will get more sun. This was a classic mistake of planting something in the wrong spot. It hasn’t done that badly in it’s current spot, but since the cherry tree is ever expanding, it will just continue to sink deeper into shade. I’ve done a fair bit of Googling about transplanting elderberries, and am confident that if I do it right, it will survive. (Finger’s crossed!)

Next on the list is the creation of the herb garden. This will consist of four raised beds, roughly 4′ x 6′ with surrounded by a path made from this concrete mold. Plants will need to get sown and started in the next few months so I need to at least get the beds built and in location, I am thinking that I can do the path building in spurts. I’d like to make a simple branch pergola that will go in the center of the beds, almost like a little courtyard. Which leads me to this mess here:

The biggest and grandest project of them all: The Outdoor Kitchen with Pergola and Cob Oven. There is also a flower cutting garden attached to this area, but the first thing I need to do is get that pile of branches chipped and out of the way. And since we’re talking about chipping…

I’m going to have my arborist limb the bottom branches of this cedar tree to allow more light and open up this space a bit more.

Boy…that seems like a lot doesn’t it? I’m going to start this weekend with buying the lumber for the herb garden beds, digging the hole in the new location for the elderberry, and if I’m able, finish transplanting it. AND…I really, really, really need to start some seeds already!

It’s a new gardening year!

Happy New Year!! Are you making garden resolutions?

I have GRAND plans, people. GRAND PLANS.

I am going to create and herb garden and a flower cutting garden and build an outdoor kitchen WITH A COB OVEN!!! Woo!

Screw the chicken coop – I want pizza!

I have received my favorite garden seed catalogs in the mail and have gone through and marked what I want to buy in order to start planning all of the gardens.

I also have a ton of projects I want to try this year, like hypertufa and a pergola and coldframes. In fact, I think 2013 might be gearing up to be the Year of Concrete. I bought a concrete pathway mold to make paths all over the yard, I am thinking of making concrete countertops for the kitchen area AND there’s the hypertufa of course. Did I say “Woo?” WOO!!

Oh. And a pond. I want a pond.

So. I realize this is a lot to tackle, but for some reason I have this feeling I can do it. Denial? Most likely. I’ve been blabbing about it to enough people that I’ll look like I lame-o if I don’t get it done. I gotta save face.

And then there’s you. My internet friends. I can’t let you down now, can I?


I’m trying to psych myself up to go out and work on the arbor I started last weekend:

I’m using the branches that fell during the storm back in January. The problem is that it’s cloudy today and I am feeling more like drinking a mocha and ploughing through the stack of magazines I haven’t had time to read. I also need to plant my strawberries, but for that I need more soil and my resident shoveler is busy doing homework. It basically boils down to either one of these tasks is going to result in sore-backness which I am just not into today.

Changing subjects altogether…does anyone know what this plant is?

It’s currently being all gorgeous over in my shade garden and I’d like to at least know it’s name. Anyone? Bueller?

Raspberries! And Other Things!

Raspberries! Not in an X shape like I planned, but in rows. It was sort of a last minute decision and now I am kind of wishing I would have done the X, but what’s done is done and I am not redoing it! I think this will be easier to maintain and in the long run will give me more space for other things. I still need to put a strawberry bed between the raspberries…which hopefully I will get to next weekend.

Cute little last-minute-purchase bulb onions went in. In the bed on the right  (bed four) I sowed carrots and lettuce and transplanted even more onions. Onions, onions everywhere. I’ve blathered on about using burlap to help germinate carrots before, so I won’t go too much into that. I used last year’s burlap and cut it into strips, which I place over the carrot seeds and watered really well. Some of the cold season greens like minutina and mache also got sown as well.

It was a glorious sun filled weekend and my back is paying for it!

Garden Update: Late March

I was on vacation this past week and spent the rainy part of it eating my way through Portland. I returned, and lo! – the sun decided to grace us with its presence. It was perfect weather for filling the rest of the beds AND I got potatoes planted!

I also did a little fern remodeling over in the shade garden to prep for the Gnome Home Renovation. There was a huge fern obscuring the entrance that had to be moved:

I’m gathering ideas via Pinterest for sprucing up the place here, here and here…and it was on Pinterest that I stumbled upon the artist Sally J Smith. She makes the most AMAZING fairy homes, and I think most of the pins are her creations. I bought her 2012 calendar for inspiration and this weekend I hope to start collecting building materials in the form of twigs, stones and moss.  Rain, rain and more rain is forecasted for the next 10 or so days, so I’ll spend the time dreaming of Gnome Homes and sunshine. This rain thing is getting old.

Raised beds

The beds are built! The soil has been delivered! My back is killing me! The weather was CRAP this week so I only had enough time to fill just one bed with soil. It’s amazing how the idea of filling these beds seemed to be a lot easier in my mind that it was in real life. Funny how that happens.

Seed Starting – Setting It Up

What I am about to show is a perfect example of how you do NOT have to be all fancy with this gardening stuff. I have my seed starting stations set up in two spare closets upstairs. This will be year three of using these closets for my starts and they have worked just perfectly. Here’s a run-down of parts and supplies, which I think all of the materials cost me less than $30 bucks at Home Depot:

  • Florescent shop light – mine are 48″
  • Cool spectrum light bulbs – do not get Daylight! Cool. Get cool. You are cool. It’s so cool you’re starting seeds.
  • 6′ lengths of chain for hanging light – have Dudes or Dudettes cut it for you
  • “S” hooks to help with the hanging – Here’s a pro-tip: make sure you double check that the “S” hook you buy will actually FIT through the link of your chain.
  • Garden trays, old pans…anything that will catch excess water. Gayla uses a boot mat which is totally on my list of things to look for. I use old jelly roll pans that are too large to fit in my 1970′s dinky oven and they work great.
  • Extension chord depending on your set up
  • Automatic timer. These aren’t super necessary, but you’ll wish you had them ’cause you’ll forget to turn the light on, I promise. Plus, you can use them when you go on vacation to trick the robbers into thinking you’re home when they see your lights come on at exactly 8 p.m. every day.
  • Prong converter – I don’t know why but the plugs on the timers are two prong where as most everything else that is important in the world is a three prong.
  • Fan – just in case it get’s hot in the closet and you need to circulate some air
  • Heat mat – this is totally optional, but if you are serious I would recommend getting one. I bought one last year and I love it. More importantly, the heat loving plants like tomatoes and peppers and eggplants love it.

So…let me break this down for you:

I have a plastic file box, a cardboard box that has stuff-I-need-to-get-rid-of-type things in it, and another cardboard box stuffed with old down pillows acting as my foundation. On top of the boxes I have a couple of pieces of leftover MDF acting as my shelves, and of course, the light.

See? Fancy.

I pretty much have the same thing going in the other closet, which also has my heat mat. I plan to use this closet primarily for tomatoes and peppers. In both closets I have my shop lights hanging from the rod in the closet. I took the 6 foot lengths of chain and wrapped one end around the rod and secured it to itself with an S hook.

Attach your light – which may involve a little fiddling to get even – and you are pretty much up and running. I also needed extension chords to reach the electrical outlets, a prong converter, and then the timer.

As your seedlings get taller, you can raise the light to accommodate their growth. If you raise the light, you might need to raise other starts you have going up to the light so they don’t get leggy and weak. In the past I’ve used cigar boxes, the Twilight series in hardcover and chunks of scrap wood in this capacity.

Each closet also has a spray bottle I can use to mist soil, sharpies, masking tape, wood plant markers, a small watering pitcher and a jug of fish emulsion.

I have the timers set to come on at 6 a.m. and then shut off around 10 p.m. I can also open or close the doors to retain heat or allow airflow.

Next year I think I might fancy it up a bit and think about hooking up a rig like Gayla from You Grow Girl, because I’m going to lose these closets to (gasp!) actual clothing.

I took a seed starting class at a local Master Gardening center a few years ago, and the guy teaching the class was so lasie-faire about the whole thing that it actually made me think that I could do it myself, which I did. I think the hardest part was the anxiety about actually going to Home Depot and wandering around picking up the parts. How do I get the chain cut? Will they have the light I need? What is a cool bulb? Luckily I had a gentleman help me that was totally familiar with what I was trying to do and got me all sorted.

So, there you have it! We’ll check in on the closets over the next few months just to see how things are going. I’ve got to get cracking and get some onions going! I am behind schedule!

The Garden Plan

Here it is! The Grand Plan for the new garden.  Making this decision this has been a lot harder that one might think. I’m usually more of a “stick this here and see if it lives” type of gardener, but I felt it was really important to have a plan for this new garden. It was important to me that the garden be really beautiful, not just functional. Here’s what I want:

  • Vegetables. Of course.
  • Herbs.
  • Berries – lots and lots of berries
  • Flowers and border plants to keep the pollinators happy.

I toyed around with the idea of putting in some fruit trees but decided against it. Instead I’ll try some dwarf varieties I can grow in pots. After much thought and careful consideration I’ve come up with this layout:

This is mostly to scale.

1. The border along the fence. This will have my pollinators and things like  sunflowers, amaranth, borage, poppies, herbs, rhubarb, crocosmia, and dahlias. I can trellis things like hops on the fence and attach hanging baskets filled with little currant tomatoes and hummingbird feeders to the posts. I also want to make one of those succulent kissing balls.

2. Back in this area I am going to try to grow some lingonberries. From what I gather they are low growing, almost like a ground cover, which will also leave room for something else mid-sized down the road. The jerusalem artichokes will go in the back corner, after seeing how large they can get on You Grow Girl, I think it will be a good spot for them.

3. Raspberries –  X marks the spot. I am going to do rows of ever bearing raspberries in a cross fashion. I saw a layout for this in my favorite garden book The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord and it’s a lot more interesting than rows.

4. Strawberries – two beds of ever bearing strawberries in the negative space that the raspberries leave.

5. Fig tree in a wine barrel half.

6. The vegetables, some flowers and herbs.

7. The Bean Tunnel. Again, inspired by one I saw in The New Kitchen Garden. Here’s a similar version I pinned to my Garden board on Pinterest.

So that’s the broad plan. What do you think? I think I see many a sore back in my future.

Next up –  I’ll go into specifics about what is in each vegetable bed – which I have spent a lot of time contemplating. I am so excited!

Sun Tracking

One of the most important components a new veggie garden is going to be the amount of sunlight the area receives over the course of a day. Eight hours  of full sun is optimum, which I am fairly certain my plot receives, but in order to make sure, I needed to track it.

Over the course of two days this past summer, I set a timer and took a picture of the garden area every hour from seven in the morning to six o’clock at night.  This gave me a pretty good idea of how much sun I receive, if I get shade from surrounding trees, at what time and for how long. I am happy to see that I get at least 8 hours of sun with just a pocket of shade from a pine tree around noon to 1p.m.

These were taken with me standing on the east end of the yard looking west toward the street.

I am pretty lucky I get so much sun because I am surrounded by gigantic cedars and pines. In fact, in order to maximizes my sun exposure even more, I am going to have that big cedar tree in the front limbed up a bit to let in even more light.

If you track your sun exposure and find that you have morning sun and afternoon shade in a certain spot, this might be a good location for those veggies that do well with less than eight hours of full sun. I am thinking lettuce in particular, as it’s a vegetable that tends to wilt under that hot afternoon heat.

So now that’s taken care of I need to start thinking about how I am going to turn all of this grass you see into a garden. One thing I have yet to mention to you is my soil. It’s a doozy.

There is about two feet of river rock under this grass—I’m talking rocks the size of your head—so there is no way I can till. I am going to have to bring in soil and build raised beds.

So! I need to start the solarizing process to kill the grass so that I can lay down mulch and start building my beds! My goal is to have the beds built and ready for planting on March 1st – not that far away – I’d better get busy!

The beginning

I am going to tackle it in small bits, a little at a time, and I am going to take the time to do a lot of planning before I break out the shovels. My usually modus operandi is to dig first and ask questions later. So let’s look at what we’ve got to work with, shall we?

Well here it is. The 25 x 90 foot parcel of lawn that is the future home of the garden. This plot is on the south end of our property, bordering Buddhist Temple (the building in the background). This plot has sat barren for the past six years while we saved up the cash to get it surveyed and then to build a fence.

And here is it! We tackled  the fence this past summer and I really  love  how it turned out. I plan on using the posts to trellis hops, and other vining plants, as well as hanging baskets and hummingbird feeders.

Prepping the site:
I have started solarizing (more on that later), collecting cardboard, and letting my straw bales decompose over the winter in preparation for the creating pathways. This spring, hopefully around late February/early March I will start building my raised beds and get the soil delivered, as well has getting the cedar trees limbed to let in more sunlight.

So now comes the fun part. Deciding that to grow and where to grow it. I have a lot of space to work with and I also need to think about watering and how exactly I am going to handle that.  It’s time to break out the graph paper and rulers (or Photoshop) and get to planning! There’s so much to do! But that’s not all…now that the garden is moving I have to figure out what to do in it’s old location:

I am leaning towards building a Pergola for the picnic table, and a cob oven for pizzas. Outdoor kitchen! However it turns out, I see a lot of sore backs in my future.