Showing posts from July, 2011

Sowing the Seeds

The boring part of today was pulling more weeds out of the last section of bed around the patio area (a leftover task from yesterday). The frustrating part of today was running out of compost before we could finish amending said bed, leaving a task incomplete until the tree dump opens again on Tuesday (provided we have access to a truck, that is).

The great part of today? Sowing the fall veggie seeds!

This is only a small section of the beds that we sowed today, but it's the most interesting one to look at because we put up the trellis and pea netting. Kirk built it for our old garden and made it take-apart-able, so it was all ready to go after a season packed up in the garage. The ladder is there because we needed some height from which to bring the sledgehammer down upon the posts, but it went back together great, after the annoyance of untangling the netting and threading the posts through it (much less arguing about that this time around, though, so hooray for marital harmony…

First Planting, First Harvest

From a gardening best-practices standpoint, we probably never should have gone on vacation two weeks ago. It was awesome, but you may recall that we came back to garden beds that looked like this:

Well, they're even worse now—completely covered in crabgrass and other assorted weeds. If we had skipped vacation, we would have had the garden beds under control before this happened, but no. As it is, we have a completely irritating extra step as we prepare the planting beds.

Step 1: Pull the weeds. 

Last weekend we took the time to cover all the beds around the large patio area with the black plastic we had used in the side yard. This didn't work as brilliantly as it did on the lawn area, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it wasn't as hot or sunny this week, or maybe crabgrass is just ridiculously well adapted to people trying to kill it. Some bits were dead, but most was just starting to yellow, which left us a lot to pull.

We ended up just doing it b…

The Perennial Border

I am ready to call it a season on the perennial border. We started by pulling out a lot of overgrown plants (and things we didn't really like) back in the beginning of June while we were bored waiting for the excavation of the back yard. And then we got just smidge busy with all of that, and then the late heat wave planting kind of killed the fun part. The good news is that, after three days of much cooler temperatures and a bit of rain, I think those plants have survived. I suppose another bit of good news is that I was able to give this area some attention now that the struggle to just keep everything wet enough to live is past, and I pulled three five-gallon buckets of weeds:

It's mostly some more goddamn crabgrass. So now it's cleaned up, and the perennial border looks like this:

Perhaps you are wondering where the plants are that I was nursing through the heat? In the top picture, you can find them if you follow the black line of the soaker hose. You may want to clic…

The Grass Is Always Greener...

...after a little fall of rain.
Not the ending you were expecting? Me either. But oh, what a lovely surprise Monday evening! Not only was the high for the day just 72 degrees, but it was cloudy almost all day Monday, too. This isn't great for beachgoers, but was such a relief for the nascent lawn (not to mention that looming water bill — lalala!). I only had to run the sprinklers for 10 minutes Monday morning, since the cloud cover keeps evaporation at bay. And then with actual rain that lasted for several hours...!  I am hoping to go a whole day today without having to water. One of the predicted "scattered thunderstorms" for this afternoon might be too much to hope for, but it's still cloudy again today, so that is helping. Here's what we've got so far in the back lawn after 9 days:

...on the other side.
Obviously the grass is greener next door at our neighbors' house, but did you know that this cliché is rooted in literal truth? It turns out that the gr…

More Grass, Less Weeds

Today we could actually go outside without dehydrating in five minutes, so we were back to work on getting grass to grow. We peeled up the plastic in the side yard and were delighted to see lots of crispy, withered crabgrass underneath. Success!

After we took a hoe to chop up the dead weeds and pulled out the remaining giant living ones, we measured and cut some of the black plastic sheeting to the size of the raised beds that will be in this area (for blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries). We held it down with off-cuts from the raised beds, which made us feel a little better about all the waste that resulted from building 27-foot beds.

After that, today was basically a repeat of last week: pull the weeds, lay the fertilizer, spread the seed, and cover with compost. If you're a process person, you can check that out here. We found another sprinkler in the garage, et voilà: 

We now have three sprinklers in action in the back yard, and I set a timer inside to let me know when t…

Pennsylvania Pie

According to and to my seven-year-old's weather station, it topped out at 103 degrees in Newburyport today. I've got nothing to report, garden-wise, because it was too effing hot to do anything. To wit: I was wearing shorts and a tank top at the skating rink, and still broke a sweat. I did invent something to beat the heat, though, so have at it if you are stuck in a heat wave too.

Pennsylvania Pie
Ingredients: 1 chocolate graham cracker pie crust
                    1 carton of Turkey Hill Vanilla ice cream
                    1 box of Kandy Kakes (6 packs of 2)

The retro box from Acme tastes better, so you should try for that. If you live in Massachusetts you are shit out of luck, unless you spend a week down the shore and save room in the car for a case of Yuengling and several boxes of Tastykakes. You should probably keep the Tastykakes in the trunk so you don't eat them while stuck in traffic in Connecticut.

1.  Freeze the Kandy Kakes, and try not to e…

Sisyphean Gardening: Tales From the Heat Wave

The Lawn
We sowed the grass seed for the back lawn last Sunday, and the temperatures have been creeping up steadily since then. It's a crap shoot to plant grass in July anyway, but we figured that we A) had no choice if we wanted to ever enjoy non-dustbowl conditions this summer, and B) living on the coast lets us get away with somewhat more temperate conditions than we used to have inland. But we are getting clobbered with extra-special heat and humidity for the next three days. As I type, for example, it is 93 degrees, and it is supposed to be hotter (like 100) tomorrow. As for the heat index, I don't even want to know, although it is quite breezy, and there have been some clouds. (Perhaps I should have taken advantage of those clouds to go out and water the orchard, but oh well).

So we run the sprinklers about 15-20 minutes twice a day and hope for the best. I think I may change this plan to running them for shorter periods (like 10 minutes) but three times a day, though, d…

Welcome Back, Get To Work

Crabgrass Farm
Last week we traded in our work boots for flip flops and headed down the shore. This was a week of sun and sand, mini golf and ice cream cones, and we loved every second of it. By the time we got back from New Jersey it was dark, so the next day we woke up to this:

In case you were wondering, it takes one week for crabgrass to take over bare soil in July in Massachusetts. When we left, there was nothing there. I suppose all that green gives a sense of what the back lawn will look like when it's filled in. Before vacation we had been debating rakes vs. rototiller for preparing the lawn surface, but all the crabgrass made the decision to go rent some big guns a no-brainer.

Tilling the Fields
Driving to the Seabrook Home Depot sucks on a Saturday afternoon thanks to the beach traffic. We tried to avoid it by going to Kelly's, but they didn't believe the rototiller would fit in the hatch of a Ford Focus. So at the Home Depot we were able to get the rototiller and

The Orchard

Looks like our Fourth of July hiatus to enjoy life and stop lifting heavy things for a few days is stretching into a full two-week vacation from garden-building. Our next step is to move some earth to finesse the transitions from the brick paths to the yet-to-be-planted grass (making gentle slopes instead of steep drop-offs), but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to try to plant grass before we head to the shore for a week, so we haven't worked on it. A rationalization? Yeah, probably.

In the meantime, I did spend some time today weeding the orchard. What orchard, you ask? Why, this one:

These are our 10 fruit trees in the front yard. We planted them last spring, the first act of gardening in our new house. We decided to plant them in the front because it is a southwest facing slope that has a hedge along the street that serves as a windbreak (sort of—a lot of the prevailing winds come straight across the front from the west northwest). If, by the way, you immediately thou…

Design Change

We've been taking some time this holiday weekend to rest from the physical work, spend time doing fun stuff with the kids, and clean house. A lot of that stone dust we were laying bricks on got tracked into the house, and after a couple weeks of ignoring the toys and the laundry and the clutter, it took a whole day to set things right. But on the Fourth, in between the beach in the morning and the burgers, beer, and sparklers in the evening, we spent some time in the garden fixing up a part of the design we knew we would have to change.

It's kind of windy here in Newburyport. On our second day in the house, for example, this happened:

That is a 60 foot tree that came down right over Atlantis, breaking the fountain and stripping the side of an oak that used to be in that awful raised bed in the middle of the yard. This literal windfall actually helped our design by reminding us that, yes indeedy, that stuff had to go. And I suppose it saved us a few hundred bucks on tree remov…

No More Bricks!

Today we finally laid the last brick in place, and I never have to pick one up ever again.

Total square feet of brick: 1,633
Total number of bricks:     7,348.5
Total pounds of brick:       40,416.75  (That's a over 20 tons!)
Total man hands acquired: 2

You'll have to trust me that the other one looks just the same. Take note specifically of the insane muscle at the base of my thumb. I wish I had a "before" photo so you could see how my hand used to have just webbing there, and taper ever-so-elegantly from my forefinger to my wrist.

Anyway, once all the bricks were down, Kirk went over them with the compactor again. Then it was time to exercise a whole different set of muscles (specifically, triceps and lower back) for sanding them in place.

To do this, you shovel some sand (which has been dumped, like everything else, in a giant pile in the driveway) into the wheelbarrow and pour it in a pile on the bricks.

Then you grab a push broom and start pushing the sand o…