A Nerd in the Garden – Busy Spring

Spring Tulips

Cappuccino Lily

Cappuccino Lily

last year we spent a couple of months clearing out a lot of weeds and preparing our garden space. We put in 7 raised beds and planted them. We also mulched heavily with hazelnut shells. The mulching worked like a dream. This year there were very few weeds and they were easily pulled. The entire garden space looks neat and well cared for.

We learned also that the squash, pumpkins, zucchini and like vining vegetables will take up all the space they can. We had 20′ vines, possibly even longer. they have been banished to the side yard.

Gunnera

Gunnera

This year we put in two more raised beds and have been cleaning up the side yard. We have a problem with Himalayan Blackberries, which are very thorny and grow very fast. They are all but impossible to get rid of once they have gotten a foothold. Every year we tear out so many sharp thorny vines. The thorns go right through leather gloves. Those are probably the worst of the offenders, although no one told me that Clerodendrums propagate underground so I have to pull some Clerodendrum shoots every year. Likewise catnip. I planted it many years ago, all unaware of its propensity to propagate underground, for the neighborhood kitties. I’ve almost got the catnip out for good but it’s been a battle.

Of course there are the usual suspects too: Dandelions, thistles, broadleaf weeds, clover, various grasses and bindweed. There is a lot of weeding to do and clean up takes a lot of time and effort. It’s very satisfying when it is done though.

Raised Beds

Raised Beds

You may notice the inverted pot on the side of the raised bed. This is to set my sprinkler on. It gets it high enough that I’m not wasting a lot of water watering the sides of the beds and the pathways.

We have a gorgeous garden this year and at long last the flower bed we’ve been putting in the side yard is starting to look like we want it to. The attempt to dig up and move the Crocosmia was unsuccessful. It came back where it was dug up and did not grow where it had been planted. In the fall I will try again.

Rose Taboo, Mallow, Dutch Blue Iris and Crocosmia Lucifer

Rose Taboo, Mallow, Dutch Blue Iris and Crocosmia Lucifer

We planted dutch blue iris and they came up beautifully. Likewise lilies and earlier in the season tulips. The Gunnera is finally thriving. It’s a swamp plant so I have to water it frequently but I love it. We had to mulch it heavily to get it through the winter but it survived and has rewarded us by getting to a height of 4 feet. The leaves are easily 3 feet wide.

Spring Tulips

Spring Tulips

The area will take several years to get all of the weeds out and mulched, since we are doing it ourselves. Sure we could hire professional landscapers and they’d do it in a weekend but it would cost thousands of dollars that we just don’t have. By spreading out our planting, and our clean up and preparation we are dividing the project into manageable chunks and spreading out the cost so that we can pay as we go. It also gives us a chance to correct errors as we learn. Sure it’s going to take years to get this yard looking the way we want it to but it won’t consume too much of our time at one time and it won’t break our budget.

In the fall I planted a lot of tulips and lilies. It was a delight to see the tulips bloom this spring. The lilies are starting to bloom now and will carry through the late spring/early summer. Then the roses will be in full bloom. This year the roses got an early start.

Flower Bed

Flower Bed

Purple Prince Lily

Purple Prince Lily

From Garden to Pumpkin to Pie & Pecan Bourbon Pie

Ready for the oven

IMG_0199Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and if you’re putting on the feast yourself, cooking has to start at least the day before. Today I baked pies and thawed out the turkey. The bird will go in brine when it finishes thawing and be ready for roasting the morning before the feast.

In years past, on request, I’ve made pumpkin pie from real pumpkins. I learned that most of what is called canned pumpkin is actually butternut or hubbard or some kind of squash. It took some searching but I found a recipe for pumpkin pie that calls for pumpkin slurry, which I make by roasting pumpkin and putting it in a food processor. Let me tell you, pumpkin pie made from real pumpkin, fresh pumpkin is the most delicious pumpkin pie I’ve ever eaten.

Roasted pumpkin

Roasted pumpkin

This year we upped the ante. This very morning I went out and selected a lovely pumpkin that came from our very own garden. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and roasted it in the oven. Once roasted the skin just pulled right off, no fuss no muss. The skin went into the compost bin and the pumpkin slurry went right into a mixing bowl to be turned into pie filling.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Fresh pumpkin pie filling smells good even before it has been baked. My modest 6 to 8 inch pumpkin made two deep dish pies. Already I’m having to beat back the hungry hordes who want to test them before Thanksgiving dinner is served.

Today I also made bourbon pecan mini pies. The pecan pies are mini pies mainly because I only have two pie plates and I used them for the pumpkin pies. Thankfully I have a large muffin tin that I was able to press into service for individual sized pecan pies. Although I suspect they are actually large enough to share with a friend.

Next I’ll make my grandmothers dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs and the sriracha slaw. That’ll leave only the green beans, salad, and turkey for the final day of cooking.

Pumpkin Pies out of the oven

Pumpkin Pies out of the oven

Pecan Bourbon Mini Pies

Pecan Bourbon Mini Pies

Cold Weather is Upon Us, Finishing Up For Winter

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

Getting Ready for the other side of the walkway

Getting Ready for the other side of the walkway

This may be the last weekend A Nerd In the Garden can actually garden. We’ve gotten cold weather this last weekend. Rain is one thing, a good raincoat will get you through but cold weather is quite another.

The last thing I need to do is prune the roses now that the weather has turned. I try not to prune the last bloom of the roses so that the plants can set fruit and get ready for winter. Then when I’m fairly certain they won’t start leafing out again I do a hard prune to get them ready for winter. I’ll do that and melt candle wax over the cut stems to keep the borers out.

One Side with Elephant Ear plants

One Side with Elephant Ear plants

It had been my intention never to buy a plant that would have to be dug up to winter over. However; I was looking at the growing instructions for the beautiful elephant ear plants I’d put in the side yard and to my dismay, discovered that they shouldn’t be out in weather colder than 50 degrees F. Eeek! It’s been high 40’s for the past couple of weeks at night and now about to get much colder.

So I had to race home from work and quickly, but carefully, dig them out of my garden. They are in buckets in the garage. I hope that stays just warm enough for them. I hesitate to bring them into the house proper but it may come to that.

This weekend I dug up the Crocosima Lucifer and moved the bulbs. That took a lot more work than I had anticipated. I only got 2 clumps done before I had to call it a day. There are at least 3 more clumps to be worked. I’ll just have to move them in the spring. There is still quite a bit of weeding to do too. I’m about 1/3 of the way done with the area I wanted to clear, so around 100 sq ft.

The raised beds for the vegetable garden are just about ready for winter. I wanted to put some landscaping fabric over them but I’m not sure I will.

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

With the Crocosima in place I was able to replant some of the bearded Iris I saved while cleaning the area out. I don’t know what colors are in the box but I know they’ll be beautiful. I’m kind of hoping for a peach one I had blooming in the area years ago is one of the ones that got saved.

Lastly I got started on the east side of the walkway border. I ran out of bricks to do the edging or I would have gone farther. In clearing off the brick walkway I discovered that the west side was around 6 inches to far south and didn’t come all the way up to meet the north edge. I debated leaving it but couldn’t. So I extended the channel a bit and slid each brick up to move the entire run the distance it needed to be flush with the patio.

crocosima bulbs dug, cleaned and ready to replant.

crocosima bulbs dug, cleaned and ready to replant.

Digging through cardboard to plant bulbs

Digging through cardboard to plant bulbs

Vegetable garden ready for winter

Vegetable garden ready for winter

A Nerd In The Garden: Crocosima Lucifer, Carnations and Laying Out Your Flower Bed

Hummingbird in Crocosima

One Month Ago

One Month Ago

In the Garden the soil can be worked right up until the ground freezes. Take care not to compress it too much if it rains and the moisture content gets high enough for that to be an issue. So there is a fine line that has to be maintained when pushing the garden work deep into fall.

As you may recall, gentle reader, I had a section of the front flower bed I really wanted to get weeded out while the soil was soft enough to pull roots and all. That’s fine in theory but even with soft soil, grass roots are difficult. I did the best I could and actually rototilled the area and still there are some very tough and persistent roots that I could not get out.

That’s where the cardboard mulch layer comes it. I only use a single layer and it gets completely soaked and stays soaked for months so it breaks down quickly. Cardboard won’t improve your soil quality but it will kill the majority of weeds. Since I’m battling grass right now that’s my best, least toxic, option aside from digging everything out which I just don’t have the time for. Nor do I want to destroy the slope I’m working on.

Yesterday

Yesterday

I’ve put nice hazelnut shells over a part of the area as a real mulch and I will use my cat’s claw/hoe tool to plant the bulbs right through it. The forecast is calling for rain for the next week and that will soak everything quite nicely. Then I plan on digging up the Crocosima bulbs and planting them on the east side of the bed. That will be quite a job.

The nice thing about the Crocosima is that they will naturalize quite nicely wherever I put them. The bad thing about the Crocosima is that they have naturalized where I tossed them so many years ago.

I had no idea how tall they would get or how much they would spread. I got only 5 little bulbs of Crocosima Lucifer free in an order of tulips or something one year. I did not expect them to become one of the centerpieces of my flower bed. While I am glad they did, now I need to put them in a better place.

That being said, let’s talk about laying out the garden. When I first started this flower bed, lo those many years ago, I took a rather haphazard approach. I planted what caught my eye at the time, wherever I felt like planting it. While there is a certain freedom and whimsy to that approach, I would not recommend it. That is the kind of planting approach that leads to 5′ Crocosima in front of 2′ Bearded Iris and 3′ Gladiolus in front of 6″ Dianthus…um Carnations. And that is what leads, seasons later, to having to replant an entire bed.

Hummingbird in Crocosima

Hummingbird in Crocosima

Either get some graph paper or make some in Excel (it’s super easy to do) and you can plan out where you want to put your flowers, or vegetables if that’s the kind of garden you’re planting. I used graph paper for my raised beds in the back because my space was limited and I wanted to get as many beds as possible.

Last Week

Last Week

I planted a full 4’X 4′ bed of carrots and I’m loving just going out and pulling a few out of the bed whenever I need them. It’s going to be gorgeous to have these heirloom carrots for Thanksgiving this year.

This week

This week

While I am enjoying this massive project of mine, I’m also looking forward to being done and having just maintenance to worry about. There will always be weeding to do. There will always be flowers that die off and need to be replaced. But there will not always be this huge multiple month weed-fest and border building and replanting. Also come spring this flower bed is going to be breathtaking.

When the weather forces me, at long last, indoors I have some home repair and improvement projects that I intend to get going. I’m not sure where I’ll start just yet, but there is plenty to be done to improve our home.

I also need to get working on my next cosplay. It ain’t going to make itself and comic con season is right around the corner. K.

A Nerd In The Garden: Spring Gardening Pt. 1 & A Recipe From The Garden

All planted and partially mulched

Taking the retaining wall apart

Taking the retaining wall apart

Pretty much all of the landscaping that happens at my place will be not just because of my own hard work and planning, but also be a labor of love. Many years ago I built a raised bed. Due to certain obstacles I was unable to go to the edge of the area I had chosen for the raised bed.

This resulted in a strip of weeds that was too narrow to get a lawn mower down and too far away for the weed eater. In short it was an unsightly pain in the patookus. So this weekend I decided to take apart the corner of the raised bed border and extend the bed to use up this narrow strip of yard.

I have never wished so much that I had half-arsed something in my life. Apparently when I put the raised bed in, in the first place, I meant for it to last. That was some solid construction. With a little help I got it taken apart, dug the base for the new border and got the blocks into place. The result was 10 inches wider along the entire side of the bed.

Why oh why did I make this so sturdy?

Why oh why did I make this so sturdy?

Once the bed was rebuilt with the new border I got my trusty little rototiller out. After borrowing an indoor/outdoor extension cord from my neighbor (because mine was 6 feet too short), I got to rototilling. The soil hadn’t been worked in years and I could tell. It was terrible, hard, filled with rocks and gone to clay.

So a trip to my local favorite nursery was in order. I got steer manure and peat moss to amend the bed with. This created a much nicer soil for my planting. I had to make three passes with my rototiller to get it all mixed in and the underlying clay broken up but the results were worth it. This also gave me the opportunity to get a lot of weed roots out of the bed too.

Building it out.  Sturdy.

Building it out. Sturdy.

Also the nursery had huge, gorgeous mums on sale and then on top of that sale price they were buy one get one free. Also winter pansy were on sale. It was only by repeating to myself that anything I buy I would have to plant that I got out of there with just two mums and four pansies. I’ll need more pansies but that will be for a time when I’m not exhausted from rebuilding the bed.

Now, when I order tulips and lilies to plant for spring, I never fail to order approximately twice as many as I actually want to plant once I get deep into the planting. This year was no exception. Add to that the mums and pansies, plus all of the stuff I had managed to save when rebuilding the bed and I had quite a bit of planting to do.

This also was my opportunity to rearrange some of my favorite plants so that they had better position and would be better displayed. Lets just say that with all the planting I had to do, I failed to complete it before the rains came. I ended up completely soaked but well pleased with my new flower bed. In the spring it will be gorgeous.

Saving a plant overnight for tomorrow's planting

Saving a plant overnight for tomorrow’s planting

This really takes little more than a willingness to do back breaking work (I ached so bad I had trouble sleeping the first night), some research into plants and planning on where to plant them. Granted I probably spent close to $200 on materials, including the bulbs and amendments to the bed but the end result is gorgeous and will be spectacular. And I don’t buy bulbs every year. So if you spread it out over years you can spend very little and still end up with a gorgeous yard.

One of the things I really love about bulbs is that if you treat them right they will come back year after year. I have calla lilies that were gifts from loved ones for my father in law’s funeral and I remember him and them every year when they bloom.

I have tulips and gladiolus that I planted years ago that still come up. Every time I work the soil I try to dig up the bulbs and save them. This year I spent more than I normally do by quite a bit. Some years I have spent less than $20.00 but because they keep coming back I have more flowers than I buy in any given year. IMG_0029

The vegetable garden has done well. Especially since this is the first year we had the vegetable garden. We learned some lessons this year. Namely that the pumpkins and squash are banished to the side yard. Also the tomatoes will get huge so don’t cram a bunch of other things into their bed. Plant the melons sooner and not near the tomatoes. Plant the brussle sprouts sooner. Water vegetables slightly less than the ornamental plants like to be watered.

We are adding two more raised beds and maybe one more after that if I can get the spot weeded out and ready for it. I think maybe we can put strawberries in one. We will have to see.

This year we got around 10 pounds of potatoes from the garden. Not bad for our first try. I used them to make ham and tatoes which is a favorite around here.

Layering Potatoes and Ham into the crock pot

Layering Potatoes and Ham into the crock pot

Oh and for those who asked:

Ham and Potatoes (approximate)

Enough potatoes to fill your crock pot 1/2 full
Ham hocks or ham steak or leftover ham from easter (the best) Basically some ham.
1 cup of gorgonzola cheese
4 cups of cheddar cheese
1 Onion — sliced medium thin
1 Stick of butter
2 cloves garlic (or so, if you like garlic add another clove, if you don’t like garlic don’t use it)
1 t. pepper
1 C. Cream
4 C. Milk (or so, you’re making a cheese sauce here)
1/4 C. flour (for the roux)

Slice the potatoes thin and if you like, par roast them in the oven with olive oil and seasonings like garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and a pinch of salt. Just a pinch though, you don’t want this to be too salty and the cheese and ham both have salt in them.

Grill or caramelize the onions. You want the onions to kind of melt into the ham and tatoes so slice them a bit thin. Make a medium roux with the butter and flour. Add the milk and cream and stir. Add 3 cups of the cheddar cheese to the sauce and stir until well incorporated.

In your crock pot, layer potatoes, ham, onions and cheese sauce, top with remaining cheese and Gorgonzola. I usually get two layers. Cook on low until potatoes are cooked through, stirring occasionally. Enjoy the noms.

Cheese it up

Cheese it up

Sauce and more cheese

Sauce and more cheese

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Zucchini Lasagna & Some News From The Nerdverse

Spaghetti Squash supported on tomato cage.

Spaghetti Squash supported on tomato cage.

Spaghetti Squash supported on tomato cage.

This last week the first fruits of the garden ripened and were harvested. It starts slow but as things get going there will be plenty more squash, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and other delicious things to add to our diet fresh from the garden.

Because this is the first year of the garden I haven’t used any pesticides, weed killers or sprays of any kind. Just water, soil and sun have gone into these veggies. You can’t get much more organic than that.

We got two zucchini, one cucumber, a handful of basil and two patty pan squash this week. The Vintage Wine tomato is absolutely loaded with green tomatoes right now and when they ripen we will have a lot of them. Likewise the spaghetti squash and pumpkins. The squash keep well in a cool dry place and should last well into winter if we get enough of them.

Some ingredients

Some ingredients

On my search for something creative to do with zucchini, instead of just zucchini bread (which we all love) I found a recipe for zucchini lasagna. Now there’s an idea. The recipe called for using grilled zucchini in the place of the pasta (do I sense a low carb lasagna?).

Since I already have a really good lasagna recipe I thought I’d just substitute the zucchini (and since I had it some patty pan squash too0 for pasta in my own recipe and call it good. Things to keep in mind are that zucchini and patty pan squash have a lot of moisture in them, that’s why they suggested grilling the slices first. I didn’t want to fire up the grill just for some zucchini so after I used my mandolin to get thin slices I let them rest on paper towels for a while to absorb some of the excess moisture.

My mandolin is not adjustable so I only got really thin slices of squash when I used it. Since the texture is what you are looking for when substituting anything for pasta I’ll have to see if this works or if I need to get a mandolin with an adjustable blade.

Zucchini Lasagna:

2 Zucchini
1 lg patty pan squash
4 cups mozzerella cheese
1 cup parmesean cheese
1 lg container of ricotta cheese (16 oz)
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp italian seasoning
2 tsp fresh basil
2 eggs
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 jar spaghetti sauce (when the tomatoes are ripe homemade is the way to go)

Tools

Tools

Rinse squash and basil in water. Cut ends off squash and run through mandolin so that you have a nice pile of thin slices of squash. Spread out on paper towels and blot to dry a bit.

Brown ground beef in skillet with salt, pepper, italian seasoning, and 1 tsp of the fresh basil sliced thin. In a medium bowl mix ricotta, parmesean and 1 cup of mozzerella with 1 tsp basil and 2 eggs.

Spray 10 X 19 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sauce in bottom of dish and sprinkle a little bit of the cooked meat. Layer in the squash, overlapping the edges just like you would with lasagna noodles. Cover with half of the ricotta mixture, 1/2 cup of mozzerella cheese and 1/2 the remaining meat and 1 cup of the sauce. Repeat layers. Put a final layer of zucchini on the very top, cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

Thin sliced zucchini

Thin sliced zucchini

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until cooked through. If it’s watery, try grilling the zucchini slightly or broiling it for a few minutes to drive out some of the excess water.

Starting the layers

Starting the layers

Layer the zucchini

Layer the zucchini

Cheese, meat and sauce then repeat layers.

Cheese, meat and sauce then repeat layers.

In the Nerdverse I’m way behind on movies I want to see and with the release of Ant-Man I’m even farther behind. I didn’t get to Age of Ultron due to illness, nor did I get to Intersteller. Both are movies I will have to see on DVD.

I’m conflicted about Ant-Man. I truly hope they don’t go down the route where he tries to murder his own wife because he’s an abusive misogynist. Heroes do not try to murder their wives; heroes do not abuse women or any other people full stop. In fact heroes stand up for people who are traditionally abused or oppressed by the culture. That’s why we love them.

I still want to see San Andreas and Jurassic World. I love a good disaster movie and I love a good monster movie. To be honest I love cheesy disaster movies and monster movies too. Which is why I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to discover there will be a third Sharktopus movie. Because there were so many unanswered questions from the first two. The third one, apparently, will be Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. Yeah, tis going to be a festival of goofballery. But I’m a push-over for a good (or terrible) mad scientist movie. According to IMDB 7/19 is when it premiers.

Finally, news has been rather sparse for the Toho 2016 Godzilla. I keep hoping to hear more updates. It would be fantastic to have another Godzilla movie from Toho. Plus I don’t want to wait till 2018 for the next legendary Godzilla. Also they just started filming the second Pacific Rim movie and I am impatient for them to finish it.

That’s news from the garden and the less main stream nerdverse, more of an outlying nerd nebula, like a satellite nerd nebula than the nerdverse, but that’s what I’ve got for you this week. K.

squash vines

squash vines

A Nerd In The Garden: Landscaping & Hummingbirds

Vertical gardening

3 yard^3 of hazelnut shells

3 yard^3 of hazelnut shells

This weekend the hummingbirds made their return presence known. I was delighted to see them visiting the crocosima and I’m pretty sure that I heard the chicks in their nest. The crocosima and my mallow plant bloomed about two weeks early this year and I was worried that the hummingbirds would be late. I hope the blooms last long enough for the chicks too.

A local nursery was having a sale and we picked up four plants for the empty flower bed. We got two Rose of Sharons and two elephant ear plants. I also re-planted the gunnera that died in the unexpected freeze last year.

This week we had 3 cubic yards of hazelnut shells delivered so that we could mulch everwhere we didn’t want to have to weed next year. There were a surprising amount of whole nuts in the delivery and we set them out for the squirrels and the crows.

I like the look of the hazelnut shells and they are lightweight so it is easy for me to shift a bunch of them by myself. Since we had a heat wave this weekend I was glad that I was able to get a lot of the work done myself.

Vertical gardening

Vertical gardening

The gunnera got pretty badly sunburned before we got it properly mulched. It spent a week in the ground before we were able to get the mulch delivered. Thankfully there is a bunch of new leaves coming up. It seems a lot happier now that there is a whole thick layer of mulch over it.

We planted the Rose of Sharon and the elephant ear plants inbetween a rhododendron and two pink roses. It’s a long narrow strip of a bed that follows along a fence, and I’m using the term bed very loosely here—it’s more a strip of dirt that mere weeks ago was a long narrow strip of weeds.

Garden

Garden

The pumpkins and squash are taking to growing vertically very well. We picked up some more tomato cages and they are vining up them quite merrily. We also have a nest of bumblebees living behind a rose bush. I’m fairly certain they are the ones who are so kindly pollinating the tomatoes. I made sure not to bury the entrance to their nest when we were mulching.

It’s been a very busy few weekends but also very satisfying as the garden and yard start to come together. Next weekend will be more gardening and also 4th of July celebrating. K

Along the fence

Along the fence

A Nerd In The Garden: The Raised Beds Are In

Raised beds

Raised beds

Raised beds

Last time I wrote we had just cleared the space for my raised bed garden. I had calculated the linear feet of lumber I would need and due to pricing had gone with cedar kits which Amazon was kind enough to deliver to my door. I was too busy actually putting the beds together, filling them and planting them to blog. Now that the garden is in, though, I thought I would post about the almost completed project.

There was a minor hiccup with the fill dirt for the beds. I had calculated I would require around 3 cubic yards to fill all of the beds. On the garden site I was checking out they had a free fill dirt calculator and I went ahead and checked myself against their calculator. Their calculator came up with a fraction of what I had calculated and, being an idiot I trusted their number over mine. This was a somewhat costly mistake.

Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required

I purchased the amount of soil they said I needed and it barely filled 1 bed. Ugh. So I ordered the amount I calculated I needed and it was the correct amount. Trust yourself, fellow gardeners.

It took two days to move 4.5 tons of fill dirt. As it turns out a cubic yard of dirt weighs about a ton and a half and I ordered 3 cubic yards. A friend loaned me his wheel barrow–it was very barrowy. That helped a lot. I was using a tote in a wagon assembly that was comprised of items I actually had until he dropped off the wheel barrow.

Assembled

Assembled

Once the beds were in and we had mulched the walkways with cocoa shells and hazelnut shells I planted. I have 8 4X4 beds and in them I planted a variety of squash, including pumpkins and spaghetti squash, a mix of lettuces and spinach, tomatoes and herbs, peas and brussle sprouts, onions and potatoes (in two beds). I top dressed some of the beds with the remaining cocoa shells and intend to top dress the rest of them soon.

I also added a few decorations since I really do enjoy my garden and I want it to be lovely as well as functional. I’m going to clean out the sides and perhaps squeeze in a couple more beds and some more decorations.

A Nerd In The Garden: Designing A Raised Bed Layout & Clearing A Space

After tilling

Sort of Before

Sort of Before

Good day, gentle reader. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks designing and researching a raised bed garden. This has involved measuring the area I will get to use for the garden, compiling a list of vegetables and herbs that we would like to have in our garden and preparing the spot chosen.

The design side took quite a bit of time. Once I had the dimensions I made some graph paper layouts in Excel and printed the grids on paper so I could draw raised bed layouts to scale and find what appealed to me the most. The most efficient use of my space took several tries to get. Each bed needs a 2′ walk path around each side of it so that a gardener can reach the middle of the bed. To get the maximum amount of useable garden space with that restriction that also appealed to me aesthetically took several layouts.

Once I had a layout that I liked I used it to calculate the linear feet of lumber I would need to build the beds as I had drawn them. Once I had that number I went online and began looking at the kinds of lumber I could use to build the beds and the costs. Different board widths, heights and lengths gave me varying options not only for construction but also price-wise.

Calculating how many pieces of which size helped me reduce waste. For a raised bed garden wood that is bug and rot resistant is a must. I wanted cedar but it was so expensive. There was no size I could afford to get in sufficient quantity for my project. In the end for economic reasons I decided I would go with 2x12x16 pressure treated wood, which for the size of my garden would be pricy but worth it. I could already imagine the fresh vegetables and herbs.

The lumber is pricy and once I purchased it I would have to load it in my vehicle, bungie cord it and put the red safety flag on it to get it home then unload it. I would also need to get corner fasteners, posts and other little things to actually construct the bed.

OR…the interwebs was happy to suggest that For $50.00 more I could order pre-made raised bed kits made from cedar (superior and preferable) from Amazon and get them delivered free to my house. Hmmmmm….I’m already committed to spending quite a bit of cash….And I really wanted cedar to begin with, I just couldn’t afford it if I got it at any of the number of local home improvement/lumber yards I’d checked out.

Still $50.00 is a lot of money, so I went to the store I’d found online that had the pressure treated wood for the price I was willing to pay. There I found that they didn’t actually carry the lumber I had chosen for the price listed. The price they did have was more by $2.00. Multiply that over the number of boards I would need and suddenly the pre-made kits were in range. I was sold–on the pre-made kits that is.

Let’s be honest here. If I constructed the beds they would be basic boxes. I am not mitering any corners to give them a finished look and I’m not buying end caps for the post tops. My basic garden would look like someone bought some wood and made boxes. Since this is intended to be a semi-permanent installation the beauty and finished look of the superior cedar beds was really worth the little bit extra they cost me. It was the free delivery that put it in range. If I’d had to pay for delivery I wouldn’t have done it.

Now over the course of the past month we have been cleaning up the garden space. We have been cutting out Himalayan blackberry vines, which are vile things with huge sharp thorns and digging out the roots, cutting out Clerodendron runners (apparently it propagates underground too–who knew?) and catnip that was planted in one little spot 15 years ago. Catnip is invasive. It was an absolute mess back there. We have filled our yard debris bin to overflowing every weekend for the past month. The day finally came when we had enough space cleared to rototill the spot.

After tilling

After tilling

I researched several little rototillers online, even going so far as to watch youtube videos of people reviewing some models. I finally settled upon a lightweight model that was reasonably priced and that I felt I could operate myself without having to ask someone else to do it. Once again my local hardware store did not carry it. This is the same place I went for the lumber I had chosen. Oh I could order it online and have it shipped to their store for free but this involves a wait while the item ships and then I still have to pick it up.

For the record, offering to have something shipped to a store is a bad strategy for a local store. If I want to wait for something to ship, I don’t want to have to then go pick it up. The only reason to buy something like this locally is if you want to pick it up the same day. If the shop is forcing me to wait for it anyway, then I’ll order from the place that not only gives me free shipping but also ships it right to my door.

Thankfully, another garden center nearby actually carried the little rototiller and I picked it up there. With the added bonus that this was a locally owned place. I try to support locally owned places whenever possible and had I known beforehand that they carried this item I wouldn’t have even tried to get the tiller at the other place.

This week the kits arrive and next weekend we will assemble the first beds. Stay tuned.

In My Garden: A Rose Called Distant Drums and Hummingbirds

Distant Drums bud

Distant Drums bud

Distant Drums bud

My garden is a source of great satisfaction, peace and joy for me. I have several rose bushes and one of my favorites is one named Distant Drums. It has a mauve, dusty rose color to the blooms that I find soothing and gorgeous. This week it has burst into bloom. I have some lovely pictures to share with you.

The hummingbirds are still visiting the Crocosmia Lucifer, much to my delight. I had planned on removing most of the flowers and moving the rest of them to other places but I’m going to hold off on that so long as the hummingbirds visit.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

It has been quite dry here so I’ve had to water more than normal. My Gunnera isn’t grwoing as large as I would like but I suspect it’ll take a year or two to develop a large enough root system to produce the really huge leaves I’m looking for.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

My gladiolus is blooming one at a time. I’ve got three coming on but they don’t look like they will bloom together. It keeps my garden pretty though to have different flowers blooming at different times.

I also have this gorgeous double flower daylily I got from a neighbor who was moving out and had some landscaping done. They were throwing away the plants and asked if I wanted any. Since I had a corner of my garden that needed a ground cover and I love flowers I accepted a few of them. Much like the Crocosmia Lucifer, these are naturalizing quite nicely. K.

Double flower daylily--name unknown

Double flower daylily–name unknown

Distant Drums in bloom

Distant Drums in bloom