Posts filed under ‘Garden’

gardening and more yard work

I know that the title of this post has you on the edge of your seats. Much excitement here to start off the work week right. Yes.

Anyways, while I was busy posting about every wedding I’ve ever been to, and you were busy snoozing on your computer because it was terribly boring, nothing much happened.

And now I am going to tell you about it.

First, our garden. It’s growing. See? Here is a shot of the garden from last weekend:

And here is one from today:

Notice how the pumpkins are ready to take over our entire property. Crazy pumpkins. Yes, you were right, should NOT have planted them in our 4-square-foot garden. I still maintain that I am shocked anything grew, and if you’ve witnessed my track record with house plants, you would know why.

In addition to giganto pumpkin plants, it looks like we’ve got some promising tomatoes and peppers growing. Which is exciting, because I’ve got a million leaves of lettuce (picked out of the garden, of course) and could definitely use something to put on them.

Second, we did some more yard work last weekend, and finished up one of the planting beds near the new brick patio that we built. This was actually quite entertaining, as part of our gardening experience included visiting coworker and friend, Dan, and his awesome wife, Cheryl. Really, we went over to their house to help pull some perennials out of their perennial garden so that we could plant them in our own. (We have to be frugal with our plant spending since we blew the budget on the brick pavers). We ended up staying and hanging out on their deck for the afternoon, drinking iced tea with mint and beer, just relaxing. It was excellent… their house overlooks a lake, and the back yard was designed for privacy, and also to attract all sorts of wildlife. We saw a bunch of birds and whatnot while just chillin’ on the deck. Very nice and peaceful.

So that was last Saturday. We then spent much of Sunday finishing up the brickwork on the planting beds and then planting said beds. But I think it looks much better now, even if the plants look like they’re dying in the photos.

This is what it looked like last time I shared pictures:

And now:  (much better, no?)

And here is a view of the back yard from our side door.  Please ignore how horrible our grass is.  Jason assures me that we will fertilize and seed in fall and everything will be better next year.

View from the North, looking South.  That big ugly firepit was left here by the previous owners.  I would love to put it on the patio, right smack dab in the middle there, but it’s all rusty and will ruin our new pavers every time it rains.  So, instead, we will let it kill the grass weeds until we get a new one.

During our trip to Milwaukee 2 weeks ago, we managed to score some free lilac plants from my mom and grandma.  I was particularly excited to plant the ones from my grandma – they were off-shoots from her lilac bush, which she transplanted from my great-grandmother’s farm before the farm was sold.  Isn’t that amazing?  You should all know by now what an obsession I have with all things old and heirloom-y, so I am just pleased as punch to have these little guys growing in my yard.  Now let’s just hope JT can keep them alive.


July 13, 2008 at 11:17 pm 3 comments

a garden revisit

Dear Everyone,

Get your comments ready! This post is going to be about our oh-so-controversial garden.



Alright. Remember when you said that you thought we were crazy for planting all of our plants so close together. And, um, as much as it pains me to say this: you might have been right. Ouch. Ahem. Anyways.

So here’s the garden:

Isn’t she a beaut?


This minor fact still amazes me. I don’t have a great track record with house plants – I think I’ve killed every. single. one. I’ve ever had, including the succulent that my grandma suggested would be impossible to kill. She’s had her succulent so long that it’s grown into a tree. Mine? Lasted 2 months. And then I watered it for 3 more months, clinging desperately to the hope that it would come back alive, if only I would water it excessively.

Jason has banned me from caring for our current houseplants, and I feel like this ban should certainly extend into the garden. So, really, I haven’t done anything to the garden other than pull out a few weeds and admire it occasionally. But, I live with Jason, and I feel like that is fair grounds for me to take credit for his gardening. So, let me say it again: REAL LIVE PLANTS THAT MAY PRODUCE EDIBLE DELICIOUSNESS ARE GROWING IN MY BACKYARD.

If you look closely, I clearly planted too many pumpkin seeds in the front right square. In my defense, I was slightly convinced that none of it would really grow anyways. The cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers that we started as seeds and moved outside died 3 days after we replanted them, and those squares have remained open. Also, that bright green stuff in the middle of the garden? It’s lettuce, and it’s everywhere. I would just like to announce that 15 min after I planted those seeds, the sky opened up and threw hail and rain down on my poor defenseless garden, and the result was lettuce everywhere. I suspect that, since lettuce seeds are planted relatively close to the surface of the soil, the rain washed them everywhere. We decided not to pick the extra lettuce because, hey! SOMETHING IS GROWING IN THE GARDEN! As we eat the lettuce, we’ll just pull it up (roots and all) out of the squares we don’t want it in. In the one square where the lettuce should be, we’ll just cut the leaves 1/2″ above the soil, and according to the seed packet, it might grow back.

The tomato plant has just really taken off (the one that we actually bought and started as a real big plant), and it looks like we’ve got 4 tomatoes growing, even though we have some pruning to do. The cucumbers, watermelon, and muskmelon are all growing large and vining (over the side of the garden so we don’t run out of room in the garden). I think someone suggested that having the plants vine out over the grass was going to be a complete and total pain in the butt. We’ll see.

The onions and garlic have sent up leaves, but who knows what is going on beneath the soil. The radishes, however, are big and beautiful and ready to be picked. I love radishes. They’re like instant gratification for gardening (or like 20-days later gratification, which, I think, is as close to instant as you get with gardening). So is lettuce! So, I picked some lettuce and radishes and made a salad for us to eat with our grilled chicken last night.

I’m quite happy to be picking that radish out of the garden.

There is something so so so super-cool about just heading out the back door and picking your dinner. It’s incredible. It’s like, HEY, I DID THAT! (even if JT is primarily responsible) AND IT’S DELICIOUS! I MADE SOMETHING EDIBLE AND DELICIOUS!

Look at this perfect radish!

I LOVE IT! So I planted more radishes so that I can get another gardening high in 20 days (as well as delish radishes). I love radishes with salt on them. Yummy!

So. Amazing.

A Barley picture, just so you don’t forget what he looks like. It has been a full 48 hours since I’ve posted about him, and he was quite upset that I didn’t write about him yesterday (he emailed me to tell me).

July 2, 2008 at 10:53 pm 2 comments

a less controversial garden post?

Man, you guys are tough! But, you’re largely right: our garden is small. That’s what happens when you live IN THE CITY. It’s tricky. So we turned to Mel, but it looks like none of you are big fans of Mel’s technique.

Seriously, though, I am a little doubtful that we will grow anything at all this summer. If the garden is anything like Jason’s compost bin, he’s going to forget all about it in 2 weeks (hopefully the garden won’t turn as stinky as the compost bin has). And, we all know that I am far too lazy busy to go out there and water the garden.

But now that you’ve all commented, I secretly hope we get the best yield ever. Because, ha! That would show you. Right?

(Jason says: I have yet to eat anything grown by your mom! Or uncle Brian and aunt Jackie! And that translates roughly to: who are they to tell me how to garden? Although, now that I think about it, he has never eaten anything grown by Mel, so how do we know whether this by-the-square-foot technique will work?)

Anyways, even though you’ve all ripped on our garden, I’ll risk more criticism in order to bring the world pictures of our other planting beds. Over the weekend, we bought some 4″ x 8″ x 12″ tumbled concrete blocks and created a cute little hops garden, and began construction on a raised bed next to the brick patio.

Remember this?

Well, we got rid of the extra dirt, and lined the garden, as mentioned earlier. Here’s Jason, hard at work

And, in case you missed it, Barley totally helped:

Jason planted some hops, put up some twine, and put down landscaping cloth to block out the weeds. Now it looks like this:

Do you remember this?

Well, we started putting up what will be a little retaining wall. (We still have to go back and get more stones… at 24 lbs a piece, we’re nervous about putting any more than 24 in the camry). Here’s what it looks like now (note that it is still not done):

Here is what I need from you, faithful blog readers:

1. I need perennial clippings! Because now that we’ve done all this brick work, there’s not much left in the budget to buy plants! So, please, if you’re dividing those perennials and have some extras, feel free to just save them for me! Or, maybe if you’re real lucky, I could even help!

2. I need advice on what to plant in these beds (ahem, Mandy). The hops garden gets sun from about 11am-dusk (its facing West), and is about 7′ x 17′. The bed along the fence gets sun from mid-morning (10-11am-ish) to late afternoon (3-4pm-ish), is on the North side of a fence, and is about 1′ deep by 21′ long.

Do you like the new homework assignments on the blog? I am so demanding! But you knew that already.

June 2, 2008 at 6:31 pm 11 comments

gardening genetics

We spent much of the weekend outside again this weekend. First, we stopped by Bachman’s (told you I’d be bach. Is that joke done yet? It wasn’t even very good the first time.) and picked up some plants for our garden. To refresh your memory, this is our garden:

Jason mixes manure into the dirt in our garden.

The garden is 16 square feet, and is divided into 16 1-foot sections (a la Square Foot Gardening). According to Mel Bartholomew (author of the aforementioned book and this website), this is the best way to maximize your garden with a minimum amount of space and effort. Sign me up!

I wonder if this technique comes with the straw hat and rocking chair…

Mel Bartholomew and his by-the-square-foot gardens. [Image Source]

We’re going to grow half of the vegetables from seed and half from plants. And then we’ll see what does well and maybe by next year, we’ll be experts. (or maybe we’ll have given up). Here’s what we’re growing from seed: pumpkins, radishes, lettuce, scallions, onion, tomato, habenero peppers, serrano peppers, and cilantro (the tomato, peppers, and cilantro were started inside a few months ago and transplanted to the garden). Here’s what we’ve got that’s already a plant: roma tomatoes, jalepeno, cucumbers, muskmelon, watermelon. And the garlic… well, we just threw a couple of cloves in the ground to see what will happen. We’ve been searching for seeds or plants but haven’t found any. Does anyone know if this technique (or lack there of) will actually produce garlic? Any other tips for a nice garden with a good yield?

Garden layout. A little hard to see, but you get the picture. One type of fruit/veggie in each square, then you plant only as many of that plant that will fit in the square. For example, you can get 16 scallions in a square, but only 1 tomato plant.

I figure that even though JT and I are completely inexperienced with this gardening business, we’ve at least got genetics on our sides. Jason’s grandfather used to grow tomatoes, corn, and “a bunch of other crap that he used to sell on the side of the road” (men are so sentimental sometimes). My Great-Grandma Behnke used to live on a farm and I remember going over to her house as a little girl and playing while my mom, grandma, great-grandma, and aunts spent time out in the garden. I think my great-grandma grew corn, but I can say with absolute certainty that she grew rhubarb because I can remember eating lots of rhubarb kuchen at her house! Yummy! Of course, I also remember my Grandma and Grandpa Bruskewitz growing lots of stuff in the little greenhouse they had… and, man-oh-man, can my Grandma B make a mean rhubarb kuchen (although, in accordance with recent family legend, I cannot promise said kuchen will be bug-free. Sorry, grandma!). My Grandma Perry also has an amazing rock garden. The rock garden used to have raspberry and blackberry bushes in it and they were so yummy (but also, kind of a pain to pick because they were on a hill and it was tricky to pick them while standing on the hill). And my mom has done pretty well with her own garden… things are really starting to flourish in the backyard of their house (I remember planting things, then digging them up, then planting them again… perhaps now she is satisfied with the location of everything? nah, I suspect not.). Anyways, I will let her tell you about it in her new blog. But! If anyone knows of any other family gardening history, or has any good gardening stories, I want to hear them! Now! That’s an order, mister.

The current status of the garden. Not too impressive… but also not too bad, considering that it hailed 2 hours after we planted them.

June 1, 2008 at 11:17 pm 13 comments

pavers! part 2

Did I mention that we RAN OUT OF SAND on Sunday? As in, didn’t even get halfway through the project before realizing that we were not going to make it? So we had to improvise. We woke up around 8am Monday, and headed to Home Depot, then Menards, to rent a truck. For those of you who have never actually been in Menards – it is fantastic, and I hope you get to visit sometime. Definitely make a point to notice the DOS-based computer system still in use. They’ve got computers that look like they’re straight out of the 1980s. So awesome. Menards is like Fleet Farm meets Home Depot meets Walmart. (only, not so much Wal-mart-y, because I hate Walmart, but love Menards). Jason thinks it is best described as “a flea market… of hardware”. He also tells me that there are no Fleet Farms or Menards on the East Coast?!? Oh, the East coasters are missing out. Fleet farm is also fantastic.

Anyways, we rented the Menards truck because the Home Depot truck was rented, and headed up to Bachman’s, which is a huge garden/landscape shop in these parts. Bachman’s might be my new favorite garden shop, but it’s more likely that I’m just amazed by the sheer size of the place. It is huge, despite it’s urban location. Bachman’s, I’ll be bach. or, back, actually. Anyways.

Jason in the Menards truck.

We picked up another yard and a half of sand, then emptied it into our driveway, returned the truck. Cousin Catherine showed up to help out, and thank goodness she did. (Dear Aunt Tami and Uncle Doug: thanks for not only being willing to put up with my shenanigans for several months on end, but also for having kids that are willing to drive 30 min each way to partake in my shenanigans! Dear Catherine: you’re my new favorite cousin.) Catherine is pretty darn good at bricklaying… she put down most of the patio, while I brought her bricks and Jason tacked down pave-edge with stakes that we had purchased at Bachman’s. It looks good. Really good.

Awesome cousin Catherine works her bricklaying magic!

Around 3, I left to go to work and Catherine left to head home to do her homework. I also ran errands in between doing work stuff – we ran out of pave edge and stakes – so I had to rush around town to find them. Tricky. But Menards and Bachman’s were still open, so I managed to score the necessary supplies, and a burrito for JT (from Chipotle, of course). While I was at work, Jason finished the rest of the patio and put more pave-edge in surrounding the bricks. Then, I came home, freaked out, and re-did the part of the path that Jason had finished. Why? Because it didn’t look right. (Because the section had only 4 rows of brick instead of the 5 rows the rest of the walk had).

Jason installs the pave-edge.

So then, I was annoyed with Jason for not having paid attention to what he was doing when he laid the path, he was annoyed with me for ripping up all of his hard work and redoing it, and we were both totally annoyed with the project and also with the dog, because he kept barking from inside the house. I suspect the dog may have been annoyed with us for ignoring him all weekend. Annoyance was rampant.

Yeah, I ripped it up and redid it. Can you say “control freak”? How about “perfectionist”?

Barley spies on us from inside the house.

Anyways, we kept working till about 8 Monday night, when we finally called it quits. I finished laying all of the brick. Jason tamped the front walkway and patio, then put sand over the front part of the walkway and tamped again. I had to return the brick saw this morning, but we kept the tamper to finish up some things this evening.

Last night, we swept sand across the bricks and tamp them down. Repeat x3. This morning, we returned the tamper. This evening we (Jason) finished the bricks outside the side door (we couldn’t use the tamper because we couldn’t get it close enough to the house and then the bricks would have been sunk into the sand at different angles). But now we’re all finished with the brick pavers! Yay! It was honestly not all that tough to do – the most frustrating part was not having all of the supplies that we needed to complete the project, especially since we had to rent a truck to get the sand. But! If you’ve read our past home adventures, you’ll discover that not having the proper supplies to do the job is a theme around these parts…

Look! The finished product:

The patio and back walkways.

Another view of the patio and back walkways.

The back patio.

The back walkways.

View from the front. Not bad when you consider what it looked like 2 months ago…

The new patio and pathway are a huge change from before!

More pictures are here:

Pavers 5-2008

May 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm 5 comments

House Project #2, Phase 2

By now, you’re all aware of the madness taking place on the South side of the house. Today we’ve crossed off another project on the list, and it was the easiest project to date. I didn’t have to lift a finger (except to pull out the credit card… and that was a little painful for yours truly).



Looks good, right? And is much safer, and also a little more tornado proof than the old windows (perfect timing since part of MN is under tornado watch right now). And this makes me a very happy girl, because I am paranoid about: 1. someone breaking in the house while I’m sleeping, and 2. tornadoes. More on that breaking-in paranoia later – JT’s got theories (of course, he is a scientist after all). The tornado paranoia I blame mostly on the middle-of-the-night trips to the basement frequently experienced as a child. What can I say? My mom just loved me too much to let me blow away in a storm. Dad, on the other hand… well, he loves me, too, but more in the I-know-it’s-raining-and-windy -but-the-back-of-the-house-just-blew-off-and-I-need-you-to-help-stop-the- rain-from-coming-in-despite-the-electrical-wires-hanging-in-the-way. Father-daughter relationships are unique. Yes? Anyways, other born-and-bred midwesterners that I know seem to have similar feelings about tornadoes, so its normal. Maybe.

Anyways, the windows. The window installers got here and Barley barked at them. A lot. Which is fantastic, because that’s exactly what I want him to do – bark at strange men who are walking around the yard. I went to talk to them, and from then on, Barley thought they were here to play with them, and proceeded to follow them around. He was really confused when they started removing the old windows and were looking out at him from the basement. He finally calmed down for a while, but wouldn’t go inside, so I was able to sit outside and read for a bit. And I took some pictures. I actually played around with the color of these a bit. I think it works. I’m also working on a new header for the blog, so stay tuned.

sundog sunbathes.

sundog cannot be bothered to fetch the red ball. and if he CAN be bothered, you’re gonna have to wrestle it away from him.

May 1, 2008 at 9:02 pm 4 comments

House Project #2, Phase 1

Our second house project is probably going to take us most of spring and summer to complete, but it should be worth it in the end…

The South Side of the house – where most of the action is scheduled to happen.

Since we’ve been getting water in the basement, we decided that grading the dirt away from the house should probably be a priority. Thus, Project 2 will involve:

  1. Removing the sidewalk on the South side of the house
  2. Building a raised planting bed where the path was
  3. Adding a drainage system along the South side of the house
  4. Building a fence
  5. Adding a new pathway using brick pavers
  6. Grading the rest of the yard away from the house (this is not as important since the water only seems to be coming in on the South side, but still should be done)

After all that is done, we’ll probably be doing some landscaping. We also need to have the basement windows replaced with glass block windows since the wood around the windows is currently rotting and the glass block will be safer and probably more energy efficient than what we’ve got now. And finally, we’ll have to scrape old concrete/paint off the basement walls and add a layer of concrete to them (we have to re-grade first because the walls are damp… we’re hoping the regrading will reduce the dampness of the walls).

Remember when I hinted that Jason didn’t do anything around here?  I totally lied.  Check out this action shot.

Today we completed phase 1 – we ripped up the sidewalk along the edge of the house. We are sooooo sore! Jason was primarily responsible for breaking up the concrete with a sledge hammer, and I hauled the concrete to the driveway.  Barley sunbathed most of the afternoon.

The results of today’s work.

This weekend we also:

  • cleaned the entire house
  • gave Barley a bath
  • got Minnesota driver’s licenses
  • took Barley to the vet (he’s doing great, but could lose a little weight… winter wasn’t kind to him)
  • put up some shelves for DVDs/CDs and then unpacked more boxes and put the contents on the shelves (Jason’s special weekend project)
  • went on a double date with Jeff and Andrea – we had delicious mexican at Pepitos!  Yummy!

All in all, a great weekend!

April 13, 2008 at 9:32 pm 10 comments

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