Battle of the Cinder Blocks

As I mentioned in my previous post, after finally clearing most of the poplar roots from my new herb bed, I discovered that cinder blocks were buried under the dirt — a good five to six inches deep — in about a third of the bed.  Thus the next battle began.

The ruler is sitting in a semi-cleared spot, but is resting next to the regular level of the garden bed.

The ruler is sitting in a semi-cleared spot, but is resting next to the regular level of the garden bed.

The first thing I had to do was uncover the cinder blocks.  To do this, I discovered that a snow shovel worked best, because it had a flat blade and could scrape most of the dirt off with ease.  Then I went over the blocks with an old broom to get as much dirt off as possible.

Freshly Swept Cinder Blocks

Freshly Swept Cinder Blocks

Now it was time for the pry bar.  Fortunately for me, the previous owners had not mortared the blocks together, so this chore was not as onerous as it could have been.  When I was done, I had a decently-sized stack of cinder blocks, a lot of very compressed dirt, and an exposed ant farm.

 

Stacks of Cinder Blocks

Stacks of Cinder Blocks

No More Cinder Blocks 2 -- 8-5-2014

Very Compressed Dirt

Ant Farm

Ant Farm

Finally, the end was in sight.

To be continued . . .

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Attack of the Poplars

For years I have been trying to get an herb garden established. Unfortunately for me, though, a good portion of our yard floods every winter.  Each time I thought I had found a good spot, the floods would destroy the plants.  Sometimes they would struggle on for a few years, but the results would always be the same.  Finally, I started looking in other areas of my yard — even in places where I had not planned on planting anything in the near future.  As I did this, I noticed that there was a promising site next to my deck.  Originally, it would not have worked.  Our old apple tree had to be cut down, though, so this area was no longer in the shade.  Eventually, the new tree, planted a little further down the fence line, might force some of the herbs to be relocated, but that should not be an issue for several years.  For right now, this seems to be the ideal spot, except for one thing.  Establishing my herb garden next to the deck meant waging war upon the poplars.

Until I had moved to this house, I had always loved poplars.  They looked very stately lining roadways and I could understand why so many people planted them.

That was before I met my arch enemy.

Doesn't she look all innocent and peaceful?

Doesn’t she look all innocent and peaceful?

My neighbors have a gorgeous poplar growing in their yard.  Unfortunately, she is not content with merely looking gorgeous.  She intends to conquer the world.

This is the army she is building in her own yard.

This used to be a backyard.

This used to be a backyard.

We weed-eat/prune our “wild” areas at least once a year, so this is the worst it has gotten in our yard.

They grow faster than the apple tree that they surround.

They grow faster than the apple tree that they surround.

Even our lawn is not immune.

Mowing just keeps them short.

Mowing just keeps the poplars short.

Despite this unrelenting attack, I decided to go to war.  First, I used my heavy-duty pruners and cut down all the saplings.  Then I loosened the soil as well as I could with a shovel.  After all that, I went to work with a long-handled claw.  Whenever I encountered a poplar root, I pruned it out if I could.  Usually, though, it meant digging around the root, pruning off all its runners, and sawing through the taproot.  Despite being a relatively small space, several wheelbarrows of roots were hauled off to our brush pile before I was done.

One of many wheelbarrow loads of roots.

One of many wheelbarrow loads.

Eventually, I had cleared out the worst of the roots, and the bed was at the stage where I would normally prep it for planting.  Unfortunately, during my battle with the poplar roots, I had discovered that this was just the beginning of the war.  Buried well under the dirt, there were cement bricks throughout a third of the bed.

Mostly root free, but hiding even more obstacles.

Mostly root free, but hiding even more obstacles.

To be Continued . . .

 

 

Posted in Herbs, Landscaping, Trees | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Searching for the Perfect Avatar

At times I can be a perfectionist.  I get an idea in my head that seems absolutely perfect.  Then, when that perfection is not readily attainable, I cannot and will not deal with lesser substitutes.  This is why my house felt bare and empty for several years after we bought it.  Until I could afford the furniture that I actually wanted, I saw no point in buying anything that was not absolutely necessary.  It is also why my blog has never had an avatar.

Finally, my sister took me to task over this.  Granted, she was not the first to do so, but she also listened as I explained what I wanted.  I simply cannot draw well enough to create the logo I was looking for, and I do not have the funds to pay somebody else to create it for me.  Eventually, though, we decided to take a picture of a rained upon flower.

This was in the realm of possibility, unlike my hand-drawn logo, but it would still be difficult to achieve.  I may live in a rainforest, but it is in the middle of August right now — drought season.  Besides that, when it does rain, everything is usually so soggy afterward that it does not make for a good picture.  My sister told me to just spray the plants with a hose, but I was determined to wait for actual rainfall (the perfection thing again).

Fortunately for both myself and my blog (and Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter) today’s rainfall was just what I was looking for.  It rained most of the day, but it very rarely poured.  Most of the time it sprinkled just lightly enough that the plants did not dry out.

I took several pictures, but eventually settled upon this fuchsia.  (And yes, there are two watermarks on it.  Oops.)

It's me!

It’s me!

It might have taken me several years, but I have the perfect avatar for both myself and my blog.

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Pruning and Shaping

Normally, I try to post one blog entry during the week and one on the weekend.  That was not going to happen last week, though, because we were going camping.  Realizing this, I planned to do some super-easy garden work on Thursday, take some pictures of it, and get an early post in.  I decided that pruning was just the thing.  After all, how long could pruning two shrubs and one tree take?

You might have noticed that this post is going up on Monday . . . after I have gotten back.

Anyway, I had three plants I wanted to prune this month: the Indian plum, a barberry, and the cherry tree.  All of them needed shaping, and I had been putting it off for far too long.

This is what my Indian plum looked like before pruning.

Unpruned Indian Plum -- 8-7-2014

The Indian Plum before Pruning

As you can see, it is very healthy, but it is also putting up more shoots at its base in its quest to become a thicket.  I, on the other hand, want it to pretend to be a tree.  Knowing that Indian plums want to be thickets, not trees, I would never have bought this plant for this particular property.  However, it was here when we bought the place, and instead of cutting it down, I transplanted it to the best place possible and resigned myself to a lot of pruning.

This is how it looks now.

The Indian Plum after Pruning

The Indian Plum after Pruning

Eventually, I would like to prune it down to one main trunk, instead of two, but so far neither trunk seems dominant, so I am leaving both.

Next on my list was the barberry.  This just needed a little shaping, because it was starting to get unruly.  However, I have found that once I start pruning, I keep noticing more areas that bug me.

The Barberry before Pruning

The Barberry before Pruning

The Barberry after Pruning

The Barberry after Pruning

Yes, that is dead grass sticking through it.  In this instance, though, it is not a failure to weed on my part.  We try to keep this area more natural for the birds.

Finally, I tackled the cherry tree.  Cherries do not normally need to be pruned, but it was getting hard to walk under and it was encroaching upon the road.  (Being the photographer meant that there was nobody to take awkward pictures of me bonking my head upon the lower branches.  As the tallest person in my family, it happened a lot.)

The Cherry Tree before Pruning

The Cherry Tree before Pruning

Encroaching upon the Road

Encroaching upon the Road

This is how it looked when everything was done.  I was not expecting this big of a difference.

The Cherry Tree after its Haircut

The Cherry Tree after its Haircut

As long as I was in there, I also cut down the spirea.  Now I can easily walk under the branches and I no longer have to worry about them reaching into the road.  My day of pruning may have taken longer than I had planned, but I am happy with the results.

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Locally Grown Heirloom Garlic

Garlic Braid -- 8-14-12In August 2012, I posted about a bumper crop of garlic.  It grew so well that I had full intentions of using some of it for seed.  Unfortunately, that October had heavier rainfall than normal.  Any marginally clear day had to be devoted to salvaging what little bit of the harvest I could, and there was no time to plant my garlic.  With a heavy heart, I realized that I would have no garlic for the next year.  However, I promised myself, I would order the same varieties next fall no matter what, so it was only one season that I would have to do without.

Then life happened.

As of now, it has been two full seasons without garlic.  That cannot be allowed to continue.  This year, even while I am in the midst of reclaiming my garden, I am making sure to order my garlic.  Like other Spring bulbs, this needs to be done now, so that I can get it in the ground before the first true freeze.  On the Southwest Washington Coast, this usually happens in late October/early November.  However, as in 2012, the non-stop winter rains can arrive as early as mid-September.  Getting garlic in the ground as early as possible is a must, so that means that ordering early enough to be able to do that is also a must.  Even though it is still early August, I ordered my seed bulbs today so I can get them as soon as possible.

As I have mentioned before, I prefer to order locally.  Along with limiting my carbon footprint and helping my local economy, I believe these seeds are more likely to grow well in my garden than seeds that were ordered from far away.  Last time, I ordered my garlic bulbs from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, an organic seed catalog based out of Idaho.  Since the garlic grew so well, I had planned on ordering from them again.  A couple of days ago, though, I was poking around on Pinterest and came across a list of heirloom seed providers.  Lo and behold, one of the three providers based out of Washington, Filaree Garlic Farm, specializes in garlic.  As happy as I have been with Irish Eyes, I decided to check this place out, especially when the two varieties I chose to try, Nootka Rose (also available at Irish Eyes) and St. Helens, were both originally developed in Western Washington.

With any luck, I made a good choice and these varieties will thrive in my garden just as well as the old varieties did.  If not, I will go back to the tried and true the next time around.

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Giving the Lavender a Haircut

Everything is so dry right now that I have to run the sprinklers just to be able to weed without choking on the dust.  Yesterday, by the time I watered things down, thee was not a lot of time left to devote to garden chores.  I managed a quick weeding/thinning run through in my vegetable garden, but felt like I should tackle something else as well.

Looking over my To-Do List for the month, I realized I had the time to deadhead and trim my lavender, especially since I only have one pot of it.  This was especially convenient timing, because all the flowers had seemingly died on it overnight.  As you can see, it was looking quite sad.

Lavender with Dying Blooms

Lavender with Dying Blooms

 

I did not want to trim too much off, so at first I just pruned out the flower stems.  Yes, it still looked scruffy and sad.

Freshly Deadheaded Lavender

Freshly Deadheaded Lavender

 

After its haircut, the lavender looked a lot better, albeit a lot shorter as well.  Hopefully new growth comes in soon.

New Haircut

New Haircut

 

Next year, I want to do something with the blooms before they all die.  I have always thought that lavender was just used in crafts, but apparently it is used in a fair amount of recipes as well.

Some recipes I would like to try: Lavender Shortbread Cookies, Lavender Lemonade, and Lavender Ice Cream.

And, of course, some crafts: Lavender Fire Bundles and Lavender Dryer Bags.  I am not much of a cutesy cute person when it comes to crafts, but both of these crafts are as practical as they are easy.

Do you harvest your lavender?  If so, what do you do with it?

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August To-Do List

Maintenance

  • Sharpen mower blades.
  • Water when needed.
  • As always, keep on weeding.

Vegetable Garden

  • Plant lettuce, peas, and beans.
  • Order garlic bulbs.
  • Sow cover crops.

Herb Garden

  • Remove flower stems from the lavender when it finishes blooming.
  • Reshape lavender if necessary.
  • Clear space for the new herb garden.
  • Hold off on transplanting the lavender until next month.
  • Plant dill.

Flower Garden

Annuals:

  • Nothing this month.

Bulbs:

  • Nothing this month.

Native Plants:

  • Prune Indian plum.

Perennials:

  • Nothing this month.

Roses:

  • Take a picture of the roses.
  • Deadhead roses until the end of the month.

Shrubs:

  • Prune the barberry.

Houseplants

  • Nothing this month.

Trees

  • Remove English ivy from the cherry tree.
  • Take pictures of the trees.
  • Call an arborist to cut down the dead pine.
  • Prune the cherry tree for overhead clearance and road encroachment.
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Let’s Breathe New Life Into This Thing!

So, I haven’t posted in quite some time — something like a year and a half, in fact.  For a while, life just got too hectic, but things are settling down now and I’m starting to make time for normal life again.  This includes both gardening and blogging, so be prepared to see new posts.  :)

That is all for now, but expect to see an actual post of substance by the end of this week.

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Still Alive!

I haven’t posted in forever, because life kept getting in the way.  Even worse, I have pretty much neglected my garden since July.    Hopefully both situations will change with the new year.

Best present so far: My husband got me an indoor/outdoor weather station that also connects to the computer, so I can easily save the data.

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Bring on the Rain!

Apparently laying my potatoes out to cure under a leaky roof wasn’t the best plan.  Yesterday, the rain wasn’t that bad.  It rained off and on all day, but it was a slow, steady rain.  I made sure the potatoes weren’t under a drip and left it at that.

I woke up this morning, planning to put all the cured potatoes into storage and making sure all the rest were as far from any of the drips as possible.  That’s when I discovered our nice, easy rain of yesterday had turned into a deluge over night, and the roof was leaking a lot worse (For being top-priority since we bought the place, our deck roof has never been replaced).  All the potatoes were at least damp, and a bunch of them were soaked.

I ended up, setting up the card tables in the shop and laying the potatoes out there, like I should have done in the first place.  It doesn’t have the air circulation of the deck, but at least they will dry out.

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