Tag Archives: Garden cart

DIY Landscape: Forsythia corner Part 1

When we first bought our home, there was very little usable landscaping. For starters, we knew we would be pulling out the Yew that were only 2 ft from the foundation in the front, which would leave the front yard bare, but stop the roots from further damaging our foundation. And the only other tree in the yard, a lovely cherry in the backyard, was so termite infested my husband took a chainsaw to it 2 days after we moved in. I wanted to keep it, but after I saw the large hole inside the trunk I realized he was right.

IMG_2297IMG_2470So we are starting from scratch. Last year we removed all the foundation plantings in the front yard. We then landscaped the side yard beside the garage and driveway. This task literally took me 10 months to do, but yy goal is to do a little bit of something every year, ending with a finished landscape in roughly 5 years if Im lucky.

This year I plan on tackling the back corner near the power lines where two already established Forsythia bushes are in dire need of friends and tidying up. I could have opted to remove them and start fresh, but they are the only bushes remaining from the original owners (presumably), and I have already worked their awkward placement into a doable landscape design.

IMG_1104This is what the space looked like last summer. The whole corner was so ugly and overgrown I found it difficult to keep myself from chopping down the Forsythia along with all the wild volunteer trees, vines, and bushes that were with it.

Unfortunately my husband didn’t get the memo that we were keeping it. He had already severely disfigured it before I managed to stop him. I really hope it will put on a more rounded shape in the next few years, otherwise he will off it for good.

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My husband had placed our compost tumbler on that side of the yard, but it was difficult to access and the legs were uneven due to bumpy terrain.  So I decided this year that I would tackle this particular corner so we could gain easier access to the bin, and reduce an eyesore visible from my kitchen. No one wants to see a compost bin, even if it is a slick container raised from the ground. Its just not meant to be pretty.

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I needed to start by revisiting my original rough sketch from last year. I hadn’t taken the time to insert a lot of measurements or details, I just wanted a basic landscaping guide to help to tote around if I saw a few good plants on clearance.

I knew I wanted a curve by the opening in the back gate that swung around toward the Forsythia. I had a vague idea that this curve then needed to follow the side fence before tapering off where the fence ended in the front. But I hadn’t done a really good job of looking at the slope of the yard when this sketch was made. I didn’t realize it makes a good 15” drop or so toward the fence on my neighbors side, and dips back up about 6” from the fence, creating an awkward valley where one would ordinarily begin to place landscaping plants.

I was halfway through the digging before I decided I wanted a few fruit trees in that spot. Wouldn’t a pair of cherries trees look nice? Maybe one on either side of the Forsythia? Instead of cherries, maybe a nice plum or peach?

However, there are power lines in that corner that stretch over my yard to both my house and my next door neighbors house. All the other trees on the back fence line have received an ugly top chop from the power company, and I didn’t want my babies to endure the same fate. So I ordered dwarf fruit trees from the Arbor Day Foundation. The great thing about them, in addition to being able to buy really cheap trees, is that they will recommend suitable mates for trees that are not self pollinating. The Plum and peach I ordered didn’t need another pollinator, but the cherry tree did. Luckily, I didn’t have to do a lot of intense research to decide on a the pair I wanted.

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But that also meant I now really needed to change my original plan. I hadn’t accounted for any trees in my plan from last year, so the design was too small. And based on my experience with the Arbor Day Foundation, I needed to have my spots prepared well in advance. Since the last frost date for my zone is projected at April 7, I expect the trees will arrive the 2nd or 3rd week of April. And I still have two other fruit trees to prepare for.

First I measured where I wanted the trees. They needed to be roughly 4 ft from the fence after all, I do want most of that fruit for myself. So I placed a stick at the desired distance. I then tied a string to a stick, measured 4 ft of string, and attached that to a can of white spray paint which I used to go around the stick in a semi-circle to create the base of the tree (you can barely make out the circle in the photo below). Why 4 ft? The trees will never reach a width of more than 8-10ft. They need to be at least half that distance from any other major landscaping element (in this case, the fence and the forsythia).

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After this I sprayed the rest of the border free hand with the same white project paint, then began to cut into the soil with a shovel. I don’t have one of those wide tined forks designed to pull up grass, nor did I want to strain my back like last year, so I sat down and pulled the grass up by hand, shaking off or removing excess dirt to reduce the weight in my garden cart. I left a  small circle of grass in the center to mark the spot where the fruit trees would go (the boys kept moving everything else I was using to mark the spot).

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I am so thankful for my birthday present last year! That Garden cart has been more than worth it. Im using it to cart away the grass I am removing to a dump site at the back of the house.

I feel like I haven’t gotten very far with this project, but I think Im nearly done pulling out the sod. Just a few more trimmings here and there to clean up the curves. Maybe make them less curvaceous? I think so. It’ll be hard for my husband to mow the lawn without running over some of the plants if my angles are too harsh.

The pavers around the Forsythia are for the boys. They wanted so badly to walk through my newly exposed dirt, and I wanted so badly for them not to. So I moved some existing unused pavers from other parts of the yard and created a path around the Forsythia. I am still 4 pavers short, but I will find a way to fill that space in. Thank goodness there are some wooden planks sunk into the ground behind the shrubs. They are their own natural path structure, so I don’t need to anything there.

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Cont to Part 2.

DIY Landscape Part 2: Lobster plants and Garden carts

Continued from Part 1.

IMG_0910When we bought the house, I was of the opinion it had no flowers or plants, with the exception of overgrown brush, a rotten cherry tree, and a fence line riddled with spearmint that had taken over. But when I raked all the fall leaves from the side yard by the garage, I came upon a happy surprise. A 12 inch by 18 foot bricked in Iris garden was awaiting me. And boy was it in need of maintenance! Some of the Iris had even started to grow outside the brick border. You can barely see it, but the darker patch of green in the back is actually about 5 feet of daffodils.

 

IMG_0917These poor babies were so tightly woven together it took me about two full days of work to free them all. And at the end of those two days, I over 400 Iris spread over 3 boxes. I found out from my elderly neighbor (the one who laughed at me) that the original owners had moved out 15 years ago and the place had basically been a hotel ever since (meaning no one stayed for long). So its a pretty safe bet no one has tended these babies in at least that long.

As I pulled the Iris out, I realized many of them were diseased, and some of them appeared to have rotten roots (I later found that Iris don’t have true roots, they have rhizomes). Others had ant colonies throughout the root. I found myself browsing website after website trying to figure out whether the Iris I had were usable or not.

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I also found I knew absolutely nothing about dividing Iris, and I didn’t know anyone who had any real knowledge of plant care. So I did some independent research on my own. Then I decided, since I had 400 Iris to play with, why not just give it a go? I had nothing to lose in trying.

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Here is an example of my first attempt. Note the original speciman-it has two sets of “fans” a larger offshoot to the left, and a smaller offshoot to the right. Im referring to them both as offshoots because neither of them is a part of the main stem (the portion in my hand), which did, at one point, have its own iris, but Im guessing that died off to support the offshoots, and maybe also because it was woven in with a bunch of other iris.

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I started out by breaking off the larger fan from the stem. You can also see right away that it has few roots, and that the rhizome is running in the same direction to the fan instead of in right angles to it. Thats because of the other iris that were woven in with it. The only way the rhizome could grow was straight down-typically they run parallel to the ground, just below the surface.

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Next, I broke off the smaller offshoot, and threw away the diseased stem. This little guy has only two roots. That is ok. My garden has several very living examples of Iris I planted (after all of this) that had no really developed Rhizome (as this one does), and one root sticking out from the crown of the fan. I wanted to know if they would grow or not from one root and a small hub of a rhizome. And yes, they do.

But they need that rhizome to flower. The larger the rhizome, the greater number of flowers it will yield. It all has to do with the ability to store energy. So, while the one root wonders will grow, it will be several years before they flower, and even longer before they send out multiple flowers. They simply don’t have enough storage for energy.

NOTE: You can actually break of a diseased portion of Iris to save the main plant. Just keep breaking until you come to healthy tissue, and break or cut off a smidgen more to make sure you have it all. I am also told the soil will be contaminated as well, so the advice is to plant elsewhere or remove and replace the old dirt. So far, I have returned the plant to “bad soil”, not knowing this ahead of time. I’ll let you know what happens. Additionally, they advise that you give the diseased iris a diluted bleach bath-something else I haven’t done. 

IMG_0913My kids and I had fun playing with the dug up Iris. They have a remarkable organic resemblance to lobsters, apparently. While I dug, they played “lobster plant” with the bad iris.

The “kissing lobsters”, and the “lonely lobster” were the stars of the show, but several other Iris became a part of the outdoor stage, as well. Just goes to show there are ways to keep your kids occupied without toys or media, you just have to give them free reign of the natural environment and stop meddling with their creativity!

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A friend of mine knew I was trying to landscape on my own on the cheap, and offered me three 2 ft boxwoods. Free bushes! And nice ones, too!! Due to extenuating circumstances, I wasn’t able to plant them for 3 days after we dug them out of the ground, so I was in a hurry to plant them and may have placed them a little close to the house. Also, my husband had no interest in helping me (he doesn’t care for gardening), so I had to haul them, arrange them, and plant them on my own. Thanks, honey!

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Up to this point I had been using my children’s red wagon and some large buckets to transport the dirt from one side of the house to the other. Not only was this time consuming, but it also strained my back a little and may have given credence to the general assumption that I was a crazy person. So my lovely husband decided to surprise me with what I consider to be my best birthday gift to date: a garden cart!!

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O of the M of the G! This thing is supposed to handle 600 lbs (though I don’t think I would trust it with more than 300), and is surprisingly sturdy for something with a plastic bin. We have used it for dirt, “rubble”, rocks, mulch, plant transportation, and occasional totally absconded without mommy’s permission kiddy rides.

A year later it is still in great condition. Pneumatic wheels don’t need air, the bolts are sturdy (they have a small amount of rust from being left outdoors accidentally), and it has no cracks in it. There is a small handle on the front that, when pulled out, can be used to lift the cart up and over like a dump truck. BEST GIFT EVER!!! Thank you hubby! It made up for the lack of interest in helping out with landscaping.

Part 3 continues here.