It took me a long time to figure out that what my front yard needed was edging. Like an embarrassingly long time. But these aren’t the kinds of things people talk about! I have never in my life actually seen a person edge their yard. I read about it on a few blogs (probably A Way to Garden, which is quickly becoming my go-to source for everything) but even then I didn’t quite get it.
It took two trips to Home Depot and extensive Googling before I finally understood exactly what I needed to do to make all my edging dreams come true. And boy, does it make a big difference.
First, you need a half-moon edger, just like this one: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ames-Half-Moon-Edger-1826100/202057284#.UZaCEYFqgrM.
Then, you pick the line that you want to edge. A lot of people recommend laying out a garden hose or a string. I didn’t feel this was particularly necessary, maybe because my edging job wasn’t too complex. I just started edging and then took a few steps back to take the whole view in every once in awhile to make sure I was still on track.
What you do, (and this is the part that I had the hardest time finding a clear description of) is you stick the curved part of the edger in the ground, straight down. Then you step on it, or if the ground is hard you might have to jump to get it all the way in the ground. Then, while it’s still all the way in the ground, you push the bottom of the edger away from you and pull the top of the handle towards you, removing the sod and making a nice clean, deep cut. You can find a nice illustration here: http://www.funkyjunkinteriors.net/2012/07/how-to-edge-flower-beds-like-pro.html
So that’s edging! When the edging is done you probably want to mulch. In our case, all manner of grass and weeds had grown in the area we wanted to mulch. I have dug up big areas of sod before, and believe me, it’s the pits. Not to mention you then have to have somewhere to dispose of all that sod. It makes the lawn and leaf waste bags way too heavy (so you’d need a huge number of bags to dispose of all the sod we wanted to get rid of). You can’t very easily compost sod either, because it takes a long time to break down. If you have an out-of-the-way and out-of-sight area you can chuck it and leave it alone, it will eventually break down. But we really don’t. So I decided to try A Way to Garden’s cardboard method: http://awaytogarden.com/cardboard-as-mulch
Basically, we just laid down pieces of cardboard and thick brown paper and put a bunch of mulch on top. Hopefully over the next year it will smother and decompose what lies beneath. So far, it’s working pretty well, though you will see the photos a few weeds have popped through, probably in places where we didn’t overlap the paper enough. I am planning on going back to fix those soon.
Here’s the before:
That poor azalea just up and died right after we moved in, for seemingly no reason. I replaced it with a lilac from Freecycle! Here’s the after, with edging and mulch:
We added those cute little solar lights too. Just $20 for a set of six from Home Depot, and they work really well. Here’s a shot of the other half of the house:
It was a lot of work for a small change, but totally worth it. It makes a huge visual difference.
i recognized this in the woods today, as Carolina allspice, after seeing it for the first time at the Stauton farmer’s market on Saturday. #for the win
Sweet shrub! This plant holds a special place in my heart as it grew in my grandmother’s backyard garden when I was a child. It smells truly wonderful. I actually did not even realize, until a quick Google search just now, that you could buy these. I’d love to get one for my own garden.
The first thing you may have noticed in yesterday’s post is that we have a big strip of fresh sod surrounded by dirt (and grass seed) running down the middle of our lawn. Above is the asphalt (!!) walkway that used to be there. And this photo was taken on the walkway’s very best day after our neighborhood lawnmowing kid trimmed up the edges and tried to make it look like a real walkway. Normally it looked about 100x worse than this.
We think that after the previous owners poured the asphalt driveway they took the leftovers and dribbled it down the middle of the front yard. I don’t even think they used forms! It just kind of trailed off at the end when they ran out of asphalt. Really bad. Really ugly. I’ve hated looking at it every single day for the last two years. So when we had a contractor come and replace our shed roof I asked him, “Hey, do you think you could have your guys rip out this asphalt too?” And he was like “Sure!”
It only cost a couple hundred dollars to have them do it. This seems like a real bargain when you consider we’d have to spend several hours or days ripping it out ourselves, maybe rent a jackhammer, rent a truck to haul it to the dump, and pay the dump fees.
So now we have this:
The edges of the asphalt were so jagged that it didn’t seem worth it to rip up a bunch of tiny pieces of sod to fill in the sides. So we filled in with dirt and put grass seed on top. We’ve been watering it every day. In a couple weeks when the grass is filled in you won’t be able to tell there was ever anything else there!
We bought a fall-blooming Camellia yesterday! It is going to replace a half-dead azalea in the backyard. We may try to cut back and relocate the azalea to see if it recovers.
Camellias like shade and I wanted a fall-blooming plant because practically all our inherited plants bloom in spring. Some of the Camellias bloom all the way through winter, so we’ll see how long it lasts.
Eventually, it should look something like this:
Big changes have been happening this spring on the outside of my house! It’s been really nice to work on the outside since for the first year or so of living here we were focused on making the house safe to live in and halfway decent looking on the inside. We’ve had a nice long and cool spring this year that has also enabled us to do some heavy work outside without feeling like we are going to die. And, a hefty tax refund allowed us to bring in some professional help.
Here’s what the house looked like from the front a year ago:
So, not too terrible, but not the best, either. Here’s what it looked like when it was listed for sale, around three years ago:
Yikes! Obviously we’ve painted the awning and gotten a snazzy new black roof since then. And the listing photos were taken in the late fall or winter when things weren’t looking too green and vibrant.
After several weekends of hard work and a little professional help, what does the house look like today? Here’s the after:
Over the next couple posts, I’ll break down step by step what we did and how we did it!
I ended up ordering five tiny “starts” of these Hadspen Blue hostas from HostasDirect.com, mainly because they were inexpensive ($5 each!) and available. Very excited. Hope they like it under the Holly tree!
It was only last year when I said I didn’t like hostas. But now I have a huge, shady and acidic part of the yard to fill (underneath our giant holly tree, where not even weeds will grow). It turns out some of the best candidates for shady and acidic conditions are, you guessed it, hostas! Time to eat humble pie.
My first idea was to plant hellebores in this spot, but research indicates that hellebores don’t love acidity, though they may tolerate it. So what I’m thinking is, a huge group of interesting hostas along our fence, merging into another huge grouping of Athyrium niponicum var. ‘Pictum’ (Japanese painted fern).
For hostas, so far I’m liking Blue Mammoth:
But I also like Komodo Dragon and Blue Mouse Ears, which are bigger and smaller, respectively, but similar in color.
Then, along the outside edge, where the holly branch overhang ends and there is more sun and less acidity, I’ll put a border of my hellebores. Personally, I’m partial to purple and black varieties.
Now, where I will get the money for all these plants is another question. Did you know hellebore seeds take 6 to 18 months to germinate?!
Hello everyone! As usual, when you are doing a lot of gardening there is no time for blogging about it! We made five trips to Home Depot over the past two weekends and my hands are sore today from pulling out weeds. Also I am exhausted. Pics soon!
Here’s the trunk after a Home Depot run this weekend! I planted romaine lettuce, cabbage, spinach, onions, and broccoli.
…has chewed three big holes in my plastic outdoor compost bin. I can’t imagine why as there’s just old sod and tree branches in there. I suspect a rat or mouse but could be anything, I guess.
I started digging out the area that will be my vegetable garden this weekend. I also moved the random hodgepodge of bulbs that were scattered around the front yard into one spot in the back.
Things are happening!
Also, this year-round garden planner from the Seattle Seed Co. (originally posted on A Way to Garden) looks fantastic. So much easier than googling planting info when I happen to think about it. It’s only $4 and with free shipping, you’re practically losing money if you don’t order it. I’m getting mine as an early Christmas present to myself today!
There are a few things I promised myself I’d do this winter to get ready for spring:
- First off, I really really need to test our soil to make sure we aren’t eating arsenic tomatoes or something. Also it would be helpful to know the soil pH. Here’s some information about selecting a soil testing lab from the University of Maryland.
- I need to turn my compost pile at some point. I can’t believe how long I’ve let it go unturned. Plus, I’ve decided not to do indoor composting anymore (at least for now) so I need to mix the contents of my indoor bin into my outdoor bin.
- Meanwhile, I bought this book several years ago and never read it. I thought it would be good to read it over the winter so I can hit the ground running when the planting season starts. We’ll see if I actually get to it this year.
- How will I protect my vegetable garden next year? I need to start seriously researching fencing materials and find out what we can easily and cheaply make ourselves.
I received an email today advertising the 2013 seed catalog of a company I have ordered from in the past. I immediately deleted it. I guess many gardeners love to spend the winter months dreaming about what they are going to plant in the spring but I’m in no way ready for that yet. The idea of the spring vegetable garden fills me with dread over all that has to be done. Let’s not even mention the blog posts I never completed about what I did in the garden last season…
Instead, let’s focus on one of the nicer parts of the cooler season—eating. I always enjoy a big pile of greens on my plate but my regular quick greens sautee with olive oil and garlic (best with Swiss chard) is getting a little tired. Here are two fabulous looking recipes I’ve stumbled upon recently:
Sauteed Swiss Chard with Onions
Creamed Collard Greens
The Wingthorn rose in this Danger Garden post caught my eye. I’ve never seen anything like it before! And it happens to be hardy in my area (zones 5-9). I’m a little hesitant to add more thorny things to my garden because my thorny blackberry is already becoming a, well, thorn in my side. But… this plant is really a stunner. And it has big white blooms, which is right in my wheelhouse. Maybe in the spring I’ll try to acquire one.