Trials and tales of a not-so-advanced gardener--both in the dirt and beyond.

Monday, September 29, 2008

All in a weekends work: Tree trimming and brush clearing

When I bought my house this spring, I really did fall in love with the yard. It was just the right size for my first yard, there was an area already there for vegetables, and lots of flower beds, too. I also liked that the yard had several mature trees--my house was built in the 60's as one of the Indianapolis 'burbs (now it's a part of the city, for sure). I also appreciated the fully fenced back yard with some trees growing around the fence line which provided some privacy.

Here's what I saw once I took off the new homeowner, rose-colored glasses:
Mulberry trees, overgrown bushes and shrubs, mulberry trees, brush piles, rotting wood piles, over flowing flower beds, mulberry trees, and a raised vegetable bed that was sure to be falling a part within a few years. Oh, and did I mention mulberry trees?? So that is what led to my fall project list.

I know the list is long, but I felt like these things really need to happen now instead of later (I'm now re-thinking the list...considering I'm not yet done with even one of these things and it's practically October).

My parents came to town to help out this past weekend to assist with cutting down trees, trimming up shrubs, and chipping it all.

I immediately took my post at the chipper rented from Sunbelt Rentals. A word about Sunbelt and my experience with this chipper: On-line it says that this is a 4" chipper. This means it should chip up anything with a 4" or smaller diameter limbs, sticks, etc. I called to ask a few questions about the chipper and was told it is actually 3" and was immediately "up-sold" to the 6" chipper (amounting in about $125 more). I declined. When the guys went to pick up the chipper they said it would only handle 1.5" diameter---excuse me? But you said 3" on the phone!
The chipper worked fine...for about 5 hours off and on...then white smoke bellowed from the belt and no more chipping occurred. Mind you this is Saturday at about 4:40. They close at 5. We called and they wouldn't take back the chipper that day (had to wait until Monday morning) and they wouldn't let us come get another one.

Nevertheless, the work was not finished.

My dad, aka Rambo, is seen here sharpening his tools. He is preparing to tackle the back edge of my lawn, where these woody shrubs have grown out from the property line about six feet.

He and mom are just getting started on the area.

And this is what it looked like when they were done! I've gained about 5 extra feet of yard!

Now I can see my neighbors and the transformers back here. This is unacceptable. I'm going to check out ornamental grasses that will grow tall in part shade.

With the chipper dead, Tod and I decided to just start piling it up by the maple tree in the back. On the left you can see the pile of wood chips we were able to create. On the right you can see the new brush pile. That new brush pile is about 7 feet tall and 12 feet long. Now I either have to rent a chipper again or see if there is a tree service who will come out and chip it up and leave the chips for me.


Backbreaking work this weekend...hauling, digging, raking, dumping, cutting, moving, chipping, stacking.

I can't wait to get pics up. I can see a huge difference in my yard, but I'm not so sure if you were a new visitor to my house, you'd notice.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My bulb booty bounty

Many reasons for the name of my post...
1. I love alliteration. It is one of my favorite things to use in fun writing opportunities (I serve as the VP of Funness, aka Social Chair, at work and have to get co-workers excited in e-mails. Alliteration is way to do that...)
2. the word "booty" is used in the post to pay homage to Talk like a Pirate Day, which just took place on September 19th. According to this website which schools you in how to talk like a pirate says that, for pirates, booty is treasure...which is exactly what this was! BURIED TREASURE!
3. And lastly, it is certainly a bounty! Check out these pictures...

This is an entire work bench in my garage. On it there are all of the bulbs that I dug up from my old place. There are alliums, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, a few minor bulbs, and a couple of surprise lilies.
That postal box on the left is full of seeds from Tod's mom--we went through her garden and gathered tons of seeds! (Those are California Poppies peeping out.)

This is a picture from the side that was cut out of the above pictures. Those are the surprise lilies and muscari.

This picture is of the top of a bankers' box. It is full to the brim with tulips and a few crocuses.
All together digging all of this up took four trips to my old place (and Tod helped on two of those trips). All of these beauties are going to go in my new yard soon and there will be tons of beautiful color next spring!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall projects: raised vegetable garden beds, edging, bulb planting

So there are a number of projects I'd like to complete before it gets too cold to be outside. I'm making an ambitious list--after all, this is my first fall in the house. This is a great time to do plenty of projects--it's cool outside and the rush of things to do in the summer is gone.

Fall Projects:
  • Plant bulbs -- I have tulips, daffodils, irises, crocuses, alliums, and a few others (that is all from the old house, which I dug up and brought with me). New bulbs include hyacinths, minnow daffodils, dwarf iris, more crocuses, and wood hyacinths.
  • New bed in the side yard -- at some point a previous homeowner thought it would be smart to put down a ton of pea gravel in the side yard. My goal is to dig out about 6" of a section of this, along the privacy fence, and put in some plants. It's under a big maple tree, so these plants have to like the shade. I'm thinking hostas, astilbe, bleeding heart, spring bulbs, wood hyacinths, etc.
  • Raised veggie beds -- I have one now...but the soil is trash, it runs east-west, it's too close the raspberries, and the wood is rotting. I think I want to create 2 beds that run north-south, with fresh soil, encased in the composite decking so that it will last longer and I don't have to worry about painting it and making sure bad things don't leach into the soil.
  • Clean up the raspberries--these things are running wild! There are black-eyed Susans, a peony, a rose bush, and lamb's ear through out and at the edge of the raspberries. In an ideal world, I'd put in a post at each end with wire between to get the brambles to grow up, instead of out.
  • Prune trees--this is a massive undertaking. Everything is so overgrown. My dad is coming to visit next weekend with the "machula" (aka the chainsaw) to work on this. I'm renting a chipper for this as I don't see how I would possibly burn everything that will come down. I anticipate easily gaining 6 extra feet on the back of my property once all of the shrubs are trimmed back.
  • Re-seed the lawn--honestly, it's more weeds than lawn and with the addition of more land near the back, we'll want to seed that, too!
  • Edge the flower beds--was gifted some black plastic bed edging and I purchased a bunch of limestone recently. None of my beds have a clean edge and this should be done.
  • Thin flowers--since I've not lived through a full season of the flowers here, I don't want to get too crazy since I don't want to pull out flowers. BUT...some things have got to go..or be moved at least.
Can I get this all done in time?? I'll keep you posted on the progress!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bloom Day -- September 2008

Well, there are a few flowers the high winds didn't destroy yesterday. The elephant ears look like they've been pelted by a B.B. gun and the black-eyed Susans are partially horizontal. I had 3 good size (~12'-15') fall out of the sugar gum tree. Thankfully it didn't fall on the house and only damaged some of a butterfly bush and ripped my patio table umbrella.

Now for the blooms!

This little bee is getting his fill of pollen from the golden rod.

Some of the hostas continue to bloom through September.

The Japanese anemone does as well.
I'm assuming this is some sort of morning glory. It is a bright blue with purple stripes. At first I thought it was from the clematis that grows close by.
The tall phlox continues to bloom and be incredibly beautiful and fragrant just outside the back door.

The mums are blooming on the front steps, the hanging baskets of petunias and geraniums continue to add color to the front of the house.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What bulbs to order? Minor bulbs, spring bulbs, summer bulbs...

It's dreary outside and fall has certainly started showing it's face around here--falling temperatures, leaves turning.

I'm debating about what, if any, bulbs to order. I dug up a huge bounty from the old place and need to get those in the ground. But it just feels right to order some more!

Minor bulbs do a good job for some low lying, early spring color. Color is something I definitely need in the front yard. It's just too plain up there for me!

But I remember before I bought the house, there were hyacinths blooming in the front and so were a couple of sparse tulips. I love hyacinths...perhaps I'll buy some of those. Tulips I have a ton of...but they are one of my favorites. You can never have too many.

I think I might check out Habig's selection. they had some lovely dwarf irises a few years ago that I really liked.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It sho' wasn't a fungus -- Squash Vine Borers

So remember when I said that a stinking fungus attacked my squash and zucchini?? Yeah, a few weeks ago in this post.

Well, it turns out I was wrong! I consulted Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens, another Indiana gardener and asked for her opinion. "Squash vine borers," she, a comment in my blog.

While I believed Carol, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. A few articles I read on the Internet said you can find them gnawing through the stems of your vines if you catch them earlier enough.

With steak knife in hand I marched out to the last crookneck yellow squash plant and slit that sucker down the middle. Sure enough, there were two little culprits responsible for destroying my last squash plant.

So naturally my response was to stab them, several times each, and them burn them with the rest of the vines in the fire pit.

You can see them there on the left in the middle of the picture. They were less than an inch long and cream in color with a spot of brown on the end.

Upon further inspection I also found these little brown dots and whole load of ugly, nasty little creatures. You can barely make them out in the picture, but this webpage has a better image.

SQUASH BUGS! EVERYWHERE! I found tons and tons of these little brown eggs on my squash.

These suckers when into the fire, too! BURN SUCKERS!

I think next year I need to wage organic pesticide war before these take over another veggie garden of mine.