Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The New Potager - Preparing the Space

The first order of business was to remove the existing shrubs, a million and a half daylilies, about 975 square feet of grass, and an entire bluestone patio. Whew. I'm exhausted just thinking about those long hours of labor. Luckily, the hubby was able to use some vacation days to knock most of this out, along with a couple of lingering inside projects. 

We considered renting a sod cutter for the grass removal, but found that it came up really easily with a square-edged shovel. Getting those daylilies out was much more difficult. Each job was made a little easier due to things still being a bit dormant. 

Here's a pic of the patio-from-hell turned instant sandbox once we removed the bluestone pavers on top. The patio was such a mess, with pavers that had sunk, creating a very uneven and hazardous surface. Once we moved the (extremely heavy) pavers, we found out why. Whoever built the patio laid the pavers atop 8 inches of sand, not compacted gravel, which would have stabilized the pavers better. However, all of that sand worked to our advantage, because we spread it over the area where we had removed the grass for the garden. It will form a base for the decomposed granite we plan to use between the cedar raised beds. Disposing of all of that material would have been difficult and expensive, so we were happy to reuse it. 

We were also pleased to find some treasure back in the corner of the lot. 

We unearthed a set of clay bricks that are in perfect condition, and will be using them to create curved beds. All of the straight lines of the raised beds can get a little boring, so I try to include some curves in my potager designs, even if it means a lumber is not an option. A change of materials adds some interest, and these clay bricks keep us wondering what the original owner used them for. 

We removed the sand from inside these beds to allow for the free movement of earthworms. 

Joe is building 12" tall cedar raised beds with 1x4s on top for a finished look. He is using two stacked 1x6s for the sides and 2x2s at the corners. 

A white picket fence will surround the garden, with a gate at either end and an arbor at the gate that can be seen from the front of the house. We planned to build the fence ourselves, but we are running out of time before planting season, so we're leaving that to the professionals. 

All that's left is to finish the decorative tops to all of the beds, spread the granite, fill the beds, and plant! If our sore muscles can handle it. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

The New Potager - Design Complete

I've completed the design of the new potager, and my husband is hard at work building the beds.

We are installing a 4 foot picket fence around the garden to keep the deer out. Nearly everyone I talk to about the fence thinks 4 feet is too short, but there are a few different factors that went into my decision to keep it short. I don't want to block my views of the forest with a tall fence, and a tall fence would look plain tacky so close to the house. From what I've read, deer don't like to jump into contained areas, and with all of the raised beds inside, they will not have a clear landing area. I just don't think they will attempt it. Also, the deer have stayed away from areas close to the house recently. Whether it's because the snow finally melted and they have access to food in the forest, or because we now have a dog, I'm not sure. 

In the next post, I'll share our progress. Until then, we have been enjoying the spring ephemerals that have been popping up in our yard and the forest. We didn't live here last spring, so each new plant that emerges is a nice surprise. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Break Birding

Posts are coming few and far between. Despite the cold weather, folks have their eye on summer and my landscape design clients are picking up. The GardenWorks Project is in full volunteer recruitment and planning mode for spring garden builds. Life has been full and good, even more so with the addition of our new family member, Ivy.

We adopted her from Casey's Safe Haven in Elburn, IL, and could not be happier. We weren't interested in a puppy, and so many adult dogs need homes. Ivy is a few months over one-year-old, and is said to be a beagle/shepherd mix. And no, her name has nothing to do with Wrigley Field; I couldn't care less about baseball, and hubby is a diehard Sox fan.

It's Spring Break here in our school district, and the kids and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather yesterday to give a few gifts to the birds. First, we used a mesh bag that previously held onions to fill with yarn and hang in our Viburnum. It's our hope that birds will take the yarn to use in their nests.

Then, we spread peanut butter on toilet paper rolls, and rolled them in birdseed to make a few birdfeeders.

The black-capped chickadees found them right away and had a bit of a party.

And today, it's cold again. But the daffodils and daylilies are pushing through, and things are coming back to life. We are making plans for the new vegetable garden, and can't wait to build it. Life is full, and good.