Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A Bit of Progress

Over the intermediate days of Pesach I have been working diligently in the yard, dodging rain here and there.

This is the right-hand side of the house. Nearest to the camera are six blackberry bushes, 3 of each variety, alternating one then the other. Further toward the back are six blueberry bushes, again 3 of each variety, alternating. I got the bushes at Lowes, primarily to keep the expense down. The two trees are two varieties of pears (it also takes two to pollinate), also from Lowes. Pear trees are quite versatile in that they can be trimmed and even trained to trellises and still produce. We will keep them close to the house, so as not to annoy the neighbors. The peonies were there when we moved in. I weeded them a bit and gave them some mulch.

In the front, in place of some of the planting beds I had originally proposed for near the house, I have planted a peach tree from Lowes. It is self-pollinating. We need to cut one of the retaining wall blocks, which I hope to do on a drier day, lol. I am hoping that this tree will provide shade for the large picture window in the summer as well. That side of the house is nearly due west and in the summer the sun glares in the windows and makes it quite hot in the house. As we are trying to avoid over-using the A/C, all three of the baby trees in front I just planted, and their friend the redbud who was already there, will greatly improve the energy efficiency of the house even if they don't bear a lot of fruit.

The strawberries arrived from Territorial Seed Company, and we planted them as planned. By this time, also, the peas that my son Will and I had started in the indoor plats were getting a couple of inches tall, so it was time to buy some materials for raised beds.

This is the first one. It is made of cedar siding and pine 1x2s for the corners. There is also a strip of 1x2 reinforcing the center of the cedar slats on the inside of the box. We measured about 15" out from the neighbor's fence, to be sure we had enough room to weed whack, for the time being. Later, I will remove the sod from the areas between the boxes and put down landscape fabric and either mulch or gravel - I'm not sure yet which will be better.

Along with the peas, the box contains radish seeds, which we planted directly into the ground and have not yet sprouted. Those are in the space between the sets of peas for shelling that are nearest to the fence. Between the middle and the closest sets of peas (the closer set being snap peas for stir-fry) are celery cuttings from the kitchen. We took the bottom few inches of organic celery we bought at the store and put them in water in a windowsill to begin rooting, and they seem to be doing nicely. I also tried doing scallions the same way, but they didn't look healthy and didn't last long. The next time I buy organic scallions I will put them directly into the garden and see if that works.

And last, but not least, when I ordered the strawberries, on a whim I ordered a cherry tree as well. It was on my list of things to ponder, and it was on sale. Surrounding it are some spring bulbs that we dug up from the back part of the lot, in order to save them from whatever coming scorched earth policy is going to be utilized there to get rid of that viney sh*t. I may even resort to spraying something awful, and just plan not to have a tilled area this year. The more I look at that area, the more dismayed I am that digging up that stuff completely is doable.

Next up: Rain Barrels!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Then there's the back yard.

Just so you see what we had to work with, I wanted to post these pics:

What you are seeing here is a side porch off our detached garage. It faces west. The previous owners had that clematis growing on that rickety trellis, and had some nondescript flowers growing along the edge of the porch. As you can see, we are putting in a raised bed planter, where I intend to put strawberries. I also intend to replace the frazzled trellis with a new one.

This is looking toward the back of the house. On your right is the garage side porch. The two white protrusions in the yard are sheathing that we made from PVC pipe last fall. They are set into the ground about 18" below grade. When the weather is cooperative, we have laundry line poles that we will bring out and slide into the sheathing. Being able to dry laundry outside is something that I very much wanted to be able to do, since it was forbidden by the HOA where we used to live.

Along the fenceline is where I intend to put more raised beds. They will start out as cedar boxes, and eventually be replaced with more retaining wall blocks as they wear out. The original plan calls for four beds, 4' wide and 10' long.

Turning around to face the back property line, the fence ends at the edge of the neighbor's garage. I plan to take the length from the back property toward the house a bit in front of the flowering tree, go to a width of about 15 feet, and fence that space in for a few chickens. I doubt that will happen this year, probably next spring at the earliest. I am not sure if we will buy a pre-fab coup or build one, but it will rest against the neighbor's garage. I also intend to put up guttering and a rain barrel to supply the chickies with water to drink and maybe a little wading pool. The neighbor has been very friendly so far, but we'll see how that goes when the time comes.

On the left side of the back of the property will be a regular unraised garden area, along with the compost piles. As you can see, one sad little pile has been started already, which we will enclose as soon as all the retaining wall blocks are off the pallets. Making a garden space will entail removing the two flowering dogwood trees in the back portion of the lot, and possibly those two trees along the very back fenceline, depending on what they are. There used to be a very overgrown row of bushes there, which had been partially consumed by vines. We removed those last fall. You will notice the ground in the back area is not grass, but rather is covered by some apparently very invasive plants we call simply "that viney sh*t" because the roots run very deep and it is extremely difficult to remove. Even burning the back yard wouldn't help, we are told. And just breaking up the roots is ineffective - the stuff can spawn from tiny root pieces. We will literally have to dig it all up and remove it by hand. This makes me unsure whether any regular gardening will in fact occur this year, as this will be a huge project.

And finally, the driveway side of the house, which is a north/northeast facing bit where the back door is located.

This area is notable for one reason - the driveway is, at this point in its life, pitched slightly toward the house. This is bad, because it directs water toward the basement window, and during heavy rains, into the basement. I have therefore decided to remove two sections of the driveway. I have an estimate for this already, but we can't do it until the blocks are out of the way, obviously. This will, besides solving the water issue, enable me to plant a couple of trees - probably apple trees. The goals here are to 1) get apples, and 2) shade part of the upstairs, which gets very hot and has poor ventilation. We can then either use stepping stones to cross the divide from the back door to the gate, or perhaps install some sort of pervious paving (around the trees) that would allow water to seep into the ground naturally.

So that is the back yard. Next up: getting some plants in the ground.