Green(ish) thumbs

Hello! Although it may have seemed like it, I have not forgotten that this blog exists. (I’m going to let you in on a little secret though – I’m a really bad blogger. Somewhere there is a blog graveyard of mine where a fair amount of blogs have gone to die. Or do whatever blogs do I guess.)

But I’m back, and with quite a bit to share. Since the kitchen no longer occupies all of our time, we of course had to look for another project to dump our time and money into. Enter: landscaping. And all things plants and growing and all that good stuff.

We started with the front of the house. When we first moved in the front had some garden beds, but they were overgrown and overall just looking kind of crappy. We tore everything out and were left with something that looked like this:

After much research and worry and hemming and hawing and trips to the nursery, we finally settled on some shrubs and flowers and a tree. (For the record, I am learning more and more to not worry about these things. I thought the woman at the nursery was crazy when she said ‘just throw the bulbs wherever and see what comes up, it’s supposed to be fun!’ But the more we do this, we’re realizing it really shouldn’t be something to worry too much about and things are probably going to turn out fine if you’re not planting things with a blindfold on. Which I’ve actually never tried, so maybe even that would be alright too!)

Anyway, we settled on Little Princess Spirea shrubs, a limelight hydrangea bush, a hydrangea tree, some violas, some diascia hybrids, and something called “cheddar pink” dianthus. Here is a really faraway shot for those who like to squint.

And here are some close ups for the rest of us – these were taken the day everything was planted.

Since we planted everything it has started to fill in a little more. Especially the tree. It won’t bloom this year but at least it’s filling in and thriving.
The spirea has also started filling in and growing a lot actually. Recently they even started to bloom and are now covered in little cluster of light pink flowers.
In the front there is also a section of garden bed that is set back a little more and to the far right. This is because the addition to the main part of the house sits back a little. Instead of trying to continue the same landscaping into this garden bed, Matt decided he really wanted a flower garden. In fact, I’m pretty sure this garden bed was the only thing he really cared about. Or at least was really excited about. I mean, like, really excited.
So we went to a nursery and picked out a variety of bulbs. Matt was very adamant that he wanted dahlias, and more specifically some dinner plate dahlias. I don’t know if I had ever heard of them but apparently they are his favorite flower. We choose some dinner plate dahlias, pom pom dahlias, begonias and 2 kinds of flowers that look like simple wildflowers.
We planted the bulbs a little early and we were afraid some of the cold nights we ended up having were going to kill them. Right when we were sure they weren’t going to come up, they started peaking through the mulch and now look like they’re filling in just fine. There are some that still haven’t come up yet, but we’ll just wait and see.
Another plant project we undertook was building a vegetable garden. I’m not sure why I decided this should be a hobby of mine, but here we are. For several reasons – not great soil, convenience and a measure of protection against the dog peeing on the plants – we decided to build raised garden beds.
We settled on building two 3′ x 6′ beds, figuring that would give us enough room to make a decent attempt at gardening and find out if we like it or not. We put the beds behind the garage (the short part of the “L”) and there’s room for more back there in case we decide to be even more ambitious next year.
So Matt and our friend Ryan, vegetable garden extraordinaire, dug trenches for the boards to sit in and then connected them to make rectangular beds.
Then they laid down some weed paper:
And after we filled the boxes with dirt we had delivered, we got to planting. Figuring it would be too late to start certain plants by seed, we just decided to go to the farmer’s market and buy small plants. We only spent around $20 and got two kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, romaine, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. And we still have plenty of plants left.
I’m not sure how we’re going to protect the beds against deer and rabbits and the like. We could put a fence around the beds, but I’d like to find something simpler. I heard planting marigolds in the beds helps keep deer away, so maybe we’ll try something like that. This year is mostly a learning experience for us anyway.
Speaking of learning experiences, I also started a compost bin using a rubbermaid container. Everything I saw online said to drill plenty of holes in the top, so we drilled a lot. Like, a ton.
And then it rained and we had compost soup. So, our plan is to just get another lid for the bin and then only drill holes in the side of the bin near the lip at the top. Until then, I have to move the bin into the garage anytime I think there’s a chance of rain. Live and learn, I suppose.
And finally, our last outdoor project to share is one Matt was (still is) very excited about. The sewer vent out front (the little pipe with the mushroom-looking tops, which are apparently called Syracuse Mushroom Cap Vents) had been in terrible condition since we moved in. It was faded green and covered in rust.
So Matt decided to buy a new cap and then just grind the rust off the actual pipe. But instead of just replacing the cap, he had a much better idea. First, he spray painted the cap white. Then we used painter’s tape to cut out small circles and stick them on the cap.
And we were left with something like this:
Then he spray painted the cap again – this time bright red. And as a result, we were left with our very own Mario-inspired mushroom.
Yes, a bird pooped on it just a few days after it was done.
And I’ll end this post on that note. I’m not sure what other landscaping/gardening projects we could undertake anyway.
Anyone have any advice on the garden beds? Ways to keep the rabbits and other pests out? There might be a tomato or two in it for you, assuming we get to harvest anything!

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