Category Archives: Gardening

The greening continues

Green updates: The compost bin is assembled and sitting in its corner of the yard. Wow. Me composting… I can’t believe how excited I am to have stuff rotting in my yard.

I ordered – and received in two days – two collapsible rain barrels from Woodland Direct. Unfortunately, they didn’t send me the diverter kits that were supposed to be included. Um, I can’t use ’em if I can’t divert the water from the downspout into the barrel. I’m excited, though, to be starting my rainwater saving. It mostly started because of my frugality (didn’t want to pay a bigger water bill) and because the idiots who built my house didn’t think it would be important to put a water spigot in the back. Really…why would you want a water spigot where the yard is? I have one on the side of the house, but that’s on the outside of the gate, which is locked from the OUTSIDE because I have a highly intelligent border collie who know how to open the gate (really). So, in order to use the water I have to go in the house, walk through the house, go out the front door, open the gate, make sure the dogs don’t get out… not worth it. I’ve been shlepping water in a watering can from the laundry room (which actually is only a few steps from the back door, but then there’s the whole spilling of water as I carry the heavy can…) so I’m excited to use rainwater. And I understand rainwater has the added benefit of being better for plants; it’s softer (which I’m sure is true in my case since I have very hard water), and it’s freeeeeeeeee.

I chose collapsible barrels because I will easily be able to store them over the winter, rather than leave them outside to possibly crack. I put them together with no problem. I’m a little nervous about installing the diverter kits, but I’ll ask a man for help if necessary.

Hypertufa…

Do you know what hypertufa is? It’s a combination of cement, perlite and peat moss. You mix it all up, add water till it feels like (ew) cottage cheese and then mold it into planters and stuff like that. It’s going to be my summer project; learning how to use it and make stuff out of it. It appeals to me because it has a lovely, rustic quality about it; it’s a little different; and the materials aren’t expensive. Of course I mentioned it to some colleagues, who all want to come play in the mud, so I thought, once I get good at using it, I’ll host concrete camp (it’s technically not concrete, but I like the alliteration). I’ll serve a mud-inspired cuisine; mudslides, Oreo mud pie… Go ahead; Google it – it’s cool.

What I’m reading right now – thank you to my adorable younger daughter who sent me the link to The Jew and the Carrot. What a great blog!

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Filed under Gardening, Healing through crafting

Green side up

It all started with the lawn mower. Faced with another summer of writing checks to the lawn care service, I decided to suck it up and buy a lawn mower and do it myself. Since I have the bulk of the summer off, it seemed like I could probably spare a couple hours a week to take care of the yard.

Then I started to research lawn mowers. Not one to simply traipse into Home Depot and buy the first thing off the shelf, I spent a few hours (okay, probably more than a few) learning about various lawn mowers and the art of mowing in general. First, I was shocked to learn how horrible it is for the environment to use gas-powered lawn mowers. Seriously. You have no idea how much damage those puppies do. Also, I forgot to mention that I’m pretty scared of gas-powered things to start with. Except cars. I’m good with cars. But gas-powered snow blowers and lawn mowers…nope. As soon as you start to tell me about the right mix of oil and gas, which I’m supposed to keep in a little plastic can in my garage… I’m done.

That left me with two options. Manual and electric. Electric lawn mowers offer “power”ful mowing with a quiet motor. They come in a variety of flavors; price, mowing width, etc. You can get corded or cordless. The cordless ones are pretty pricey – more than I wanted to spend, and they vary in charging time and all that. I didn’t want to spend as much as the good ones cost, though, so I ruled them out. I ruled out corded electric mowers because they’re, well, corded. Sometimes I have problems with the hair dryer, so it seemed like a corded mower should be out of the question.

That left manual. The good news is they’re pretty cheap, and they’ve come a long way since the old days. If you’re a regular reader (yes, both of you) you’ll know that I did choose a manual mower and I’ve been using it regularly for the last 6 weeks or so.

Anyway, now that I’m out in the yard mowing it, I’ve started, well, paying attention to it. Last year I don’t think I stepped out onto the grass more than a dozen times or so. I think it was a hold over from thinking it was Mr. Ex’s domain (even though we started having lawn services while we were still together). But this year, being the Head Mower and all, I started to pay attention to it. And, now that it’s June and the lawn is coming in nice and FULL, I’m starting to think about lawns in general, and how wasteful they are.

There’s a lot of stuff out there in Internet-land about how we should abolish lawns. They waste water (if you water them, which I don’t), fertilizing them uses really BAD cancer-causing chemicals that are banned in many other countries, and, well, they’re high-maintenance without getting much in return. In my backyard, the lawn is pretty much where the dogs run and, um, poop. In the front, the lawn is completely worthless; it’s nothing more than a big wasted green hunk-o-land. And mowing it is a PITA. There’s a huge tree shading the lawn, so every time it rains the lawn is littered with tons of twigs (which stop the manual mower dead in its tracks), and the culvert thing for the rain sewer is in the front of the lawn and it’s a huge pain to mow. And my neighbors to one side aren’t real good about mowing their part of the lawn, so….. well, you get my drift.

So, this summer, I’m out to kill my lawn (which, since I didn’t fertilize or spray pre-emergent weed preventative, I’ve gotten a good start at already). Okay, maybe not kill it completely, but seriously reduce it.

I’m reminded that, years and years ago, Mr. Ex stated that we should have concrete poured over the whole yard. I poo-pooed that idea, and, even though I still don’t think the all-concrete look is the way I’m headed, I do think that a little more hardscape (like that word? It’s garden-speak for, well, concrete, or wood, or flagstone, or brick…y’know…non-growing stuff) might be in order. And ground cover. Lots of ground cover. That’s green stuff that isn’t grass. Oh, wait, like the clover that’s already growing in the backyard where I didn’t fertilize. Did you know that clover isn’t as horrible for your lawn as the folks at Scott’s would want you to think? There’s a lot of information right now that says that your lawn should have some clover in it. And maybe even weeds (and did you know that weeds are just plants that grown where you don’t want them to?).

So, here I am, first official day of summer break, and I’m researching what plants to plant, what ground cover to encourage, and how I’m going to reduce the lawn overall.

Yard dreams:

I want more plants and flowers (which will amuse my children, who bought me an Aerogarden last year because it tells you when it needs water – I think they were giving me a hint). The herbs that I planted in containers at the beginning of the spring give me a huge amount of pleasure, and I haven’t killed anything yet (well, the mums aren’t too happy, but my score is still pretty good). The lavender smells great, the rosemary is gigantic, and I planted a hydrangea bush last week which is still alive.

I want to extend the patio with flagstone or something similar. And I’m going to have to suck it up and pay someone to fix the patio where the tree roots raised it. Blech.

I ordered a compost bin, and I’m ordering two rain barrels this weekend. The ONLY water spigot is on the side of the house on the other side of the fence (seriously. What brain surgeon decided to put it THERE?) and it’s a pain to use. And I’m too cheap to pay for more municipal water or lawn waste removal and composting appeals to the new-green me.

In the spirit of less-mowing, I’m planning a shade garden in the front of the yard, next to the house. It’s a small space, so mowing is a pain, but it’s fairly shaded from the house and the fence so it wouldn’t be good for a vegetable garden.

Perhaps a butterfly garden at the back corner by the tool shed. I don’t know if it gets enough sun (unfortunately, with the weather we’ve had the last few days, charting the sun is an impossibility), but it would be lovely. And the shed is ugly, so maybe it will dress it up.

Plant more prairie grass, more ground cover, more Things-That-Don’t-Need-Mowing or upkeep.

Decorate the yard with hypertufa. More on that tomorrow. Or, as I like to call it, concrete camp.

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Filed under Gardening