Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Building of the Poop Deck

Tim has had this project going for awhile.  Anyone who had done hardscaping knows that a lot of work goes in behind the scenes before the finish work gets done.  There were trees to cut, stumps to pull, gravel to add and compact....  then you must wait and let the earth settle.  The object here, is to get our compost area up closer to the garden.  We have stored the manure, and the compost pile back in the edge of the woods out of sight.  Which means, during canning/freezing season, I am generally emptying my scraps at night, in the dark, in the woods, beyond the reach of all outdoor lights... out there, down the lane and around the bend.

Having the compost stored right outside the garden, with no puddles to cross, in the edge of the mercury lights, is a great luxury.  Plus, when we bring in loads of manure, it will be easy to just back in and dump.  We don't compost on a small scale.  My horse is boarded at my mother's farm, and my step father cleans the barn and maintains the manure pile.  He composts it through the year and spreads it on the pastures at the optimum time.  He always saves the best poop for me :) 
When the pile gets home, I just dig a hole in the side somewhere, and throw our fresh scraps into it.  We cover the new material with old material, and periodically turn the pile.

Tim constructed the retaining walls with used railroad ties which were drilled and secured with steel rods on each side of any seam.  They don't need to be high as we have plenty of area and won't have to pile up against them.   He back filled with dirt to reinforce the walls and I will transplant some ground cover back there.

Over the crushed bank run, which was compacted with the two-ton-rock-crusher, Tim dumped sand and he and I screeted it off level with a little pitch towards the back so rain won't wash any debris from the pile into the drive.

Tim's work is always meticulous even when building a patio to dump shit on.  But the more time you spend in the building of something, the less time you will spend in the repair and maintenance.

Neighbor Mike was recruited to help heft the heavy 2'x3' concrete pavers which were salvaged from a local landscaper.

This part went fast.  Many hands make light work.

Shelly and I looked for high spots and jumped up and down on them to seat the pavers into the sand.  The spacing had to be adjusted, so everyone stood on the pavers that shouldn't move while Tim levered each row into the proper spot. 
EveryBody's Doo-O-in' a Brand New Dance Now... Come On Baby, Do the Locomotion!

About this time we decided that the "Poop Deck" was much too nice for a compost pad and that it would make a much better patio.  It affords a lovely view of the garden, and is shaded from the afternoon sun.  We grabbed a couple of the fire pit chairs and tried it out.

To finish it off, I swept sand into all the joints.  Tim laid the last course of pavers and finished the front edge with a row of railroad ties to lock everything in.  He watered everything in well, and after a few more rains, it will have settled permanently.  Then I will go fetch some more horse manure.  In the mean time, I agree... this would make a much nicer patio than a poop deck.  But, if you're going to have a pile of poop, it may as well be properly staged.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

In our neck of the woods, the "Garden Deadline" is Memorial Day.  People flood the cemetaries with geramiums and combination pots of red white and blue.  They also flood the greenhouses and nurseries so the parking lots are death traps and stock begins to run short.  On my third and final trip for geramiums, it took me 10 minutes to locate the last 6 salmon geraniums which had been relocated for ease of watering.  Luckily, that was just the number I needed to fill out the landscaping.  Now I know exactly how many and where to put them next year.

This is also any gardener's busy weekend.  I took Friday off and spent all day trying to catch up on spring cleaning by hoeing out and scrubbing the side porch of 5 months worth of project dirt.  Saturday is always horseback riding day, and then house cleaning day.  In between I planted tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans and herbs.  Sunday is family fun day, but it is finally raining (although lightly and inadequately for what we really need) so after filling in some nasturtium and calendula that didn't germinate from my spares in pots, I decided to spend whatever is left of my garden time today to wish you all a good holiday weekend.

Not only are my decorative annuals blooming and brightening up the place, but the first planting of potatoes, my peas and the Brandywine tomato are also blooming today so I am looking forward to summer harvest.  Now that the bulk of the garden work is done, I can spend time on new fun projects like filling the pots I bought last fall with novelties like Okra.

And Tim is on the homestretch of his latest project so stay tuned for news and photos of the "Poop Deck"!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Mother Nature

We enjoy seeing wildlife on the PERIMETER of our lawn.  But, they often get the erroneous idea that because a certain area, such as the front porch, appears deserted and abandoned 23 hours of every day that we no longer use or want said area, and they are therefore welcome to barge in and do with it as they wish.  Every morning, as I make my rounds, I dread what new breach of our defenses I will find. 
This morning, I awoke to a dream that hogs had gotten into the garden and left large, pig shaped depressions in bed #6.  Which, in my dream, I photographed and Blogged about, afraid to awaken Tim with the news.  In reality, it was coons and some mischief with my annuals, both planted and unplanted.  I did tell him, and then I stomped off to the office with this Blog, which had been percolating in the back of my mind since Saturday, on full boil.
Dear Mother Nature,
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times.  I own 75 acres of farm land.  Our property here is 16 acres.  Of those 91 acres combined, there is a wide range of habitat.  There are rolling fields, wetlands, babbling brooks.  There are acres of both deciduous and pine forests.  There nearly abandoned apple orchards.  There the wildlife can carry on their business, eating the abundant nuts, grasses and native shrubs, apples and other wild flora.  They can dig holes and poop all over to their heart’s content.  Of those 91 acres, we have staked out less than 2 for our own use.  That is just 2.19% of the whole. Wildlife is Not Welcome.  Stay OFF my two acres.  If you do not, I will shock, trap, shoot, or otherwise make your life miserable.  You will recognize my two acres by the carefully manicured lawns, elaborate fences, and the faint sound of an electric fencer.  Tell all your little furry and feathered  friends:
From now on, there will be no bird’s nests on the front porch.  Yes it is exceedingly charming, and sheltered from the elements, but that wildflower wreath is fake.  I am sorry you were taken in by it.  Those are silk flowers, and they’re mine.  And I don’t like cleaning mud and pine twigs off the rugs and rockers every morning.  We DO use this porch, when we’re not busy defending our territory.  Get out.  Pick a tree. Any tree.  There are thousands of them.

Birds should also be respectful of the garden. Yes, there are lovely bugs in there to eat.  You are welcome to them.  I don’t even mind you eating sunflower seeds.  I actually put those there for you.  I don’t know why the Mourning Doves felt it necessary to pull up all the onion plants five days in a row.  When I found the onion sets rounded up in a group as if you were going to either hatch them, or host a Snooker tournament, I began to feel you had gone too far.

Bees and other pollinators are welcome.  We have provided accommodations within an easy distance of the garden, as well as shallow water sources.  However, there will be no mud wasp nest in the downspout.  The Engineering error in that will soon become apparent.  Don’t blame me, it was your idea.  Ground bees are not welcome under the steps, particularly with their notoriously surly attitude.  As much as it pains us, we WILL employ chemical warfare.        

Underneath the chicken coop is NOT the ideal location for a chipmunk army surplus nut commissary.  There are many hollow trees not 50 feet away which you are welcome to.  You chippies paid a heavy price for that and seem to have learned your lesson.
There will be no baby rabbits raised in the luxurious confines of the strawberry cages.  You may have pulled one over on Farmer McGregor, but I have better technology and a very clever husband.   If I admit to him now that he was right, and should have framed in the berry bed with 2x6es and hinged the cages along one side, it will make me look bad.  Plus, I already planted asparagus along the side, and hinging the cages now will necessitate me moving the asparagus bed.  Again.

Woodchucks will be shot on sight.  Destructive burrowing little bastards.  Neighbor Mike has gotten quite good at it and now thinks nothing of shooting right through his screened in porch to take you by surprise.  The first hole is the hardest.  After that it’s actually sort of fun.

My perennial border is not an all you can eat Chinese buffet for local yolkel white tails.  Y’all wouldn’t recognize a native forage species if it smacked you in the face.  Hint, in case you already missed it: Hostas are from CHINA.

And too the raccoons… No, I did not hide a Cracker Jack Prize randomly under one of the sixteen marigolds I planted last night.  You do not have to lift each one to check.  The chipmunks probably told you that, as they have been operating under that delusion for nearly a decade.  There are plenty of grubs and slugs to be found elsewhere.  I even salted them for you.  And the seed potatoes in the pots… are the same ones you dug up and discarded yesterday.  They are still just as boring and just as dirty.  Only now they have to reroot themselves.  Thank you, at least for just reaching in and stirring around this time instead of spreading dirt all over the gravel.  I hope you enjoyed the red basil.  It is quite tasty isn’t it?  But dirty seed potatoes actually taste better with parsley.  No, I will not be planting any.


Exasperated Gardener

P.S.  My boss says he is not amused by what the Beaver living in his pond did to his dock.

Monday, May 21, 2012


YAY!  It's Raining!!!

The List

This time of year, it is easy to suffer from gardening burnout. There are a million things to do, and they all seem to either all need to be done at once, or done yesterday. As I spend time gardening, making my rounds of the greenhouses and garden stores and talk to fellow garden enthusiasts, a dozen good blog ideas come. And, somewhere, under the sun and dirt…they go. There just isn’t enough time! And with the beautiful summer weather we’ve had all through May, there is no excuse to put it off, and a LOT of watering to do.

My life is dominated by The List. This past weekend, it grew faster than I could cross things off as I walked around the property and noticed more things that needed to be done. Why is it that a half dozen 15 minute projects take 3 hours to complete? A) travel time. B) collateral projects. Tim had his own projects, finishing up the side yard where the trees were cut, and staging supplies for the next project… a compost “bin”. We were both soon over heated, over sunned and filthy. But, we did manage several hours of relaxing on the porch. So, in this blog, I’m just going to share my List with you.

First, there is the Shopping List. This contains all the supplies I will need, as well as all the Annuals and occasionally Perennials for replacement. I frequent 4 greenhouses, and if time allows, manage two more. Each one has its own speciality, and I make sub lists of The List to try to keep return trips to a minimum. Even so, I will stop at least twice at each one. For one thing, this stuff won’t all fit in the trunk of my car. Heck, it won’t all fit in the bed of the truck!


28 Geraniums
16 Marigolds
2 Packs Wave Petunias
3 Packs Petunias
12 Sweet Alysum
8 Sweet Potato Vines
4 Calibrocha/Petunia baskets
10 of something (?) to go under split rail fence

Vegetables (Because I didn’t start any in the house this year)

3 Tomatoes
8 Sweet Peppers
4 Eggplants


1 Peat Moss (Large)
1 Vermiculite/Perlite
1 Greensand
1 Iron Phosphate (Sluggo)
1 Diatomaceous Earth (In case they don’t eat the Sluggo)
1 Neptune Fertilizer
2 Epsom Salts

And then the To Do List. Each morning this starts with

1. Water

2. Thin Lettuce. The lettuce is growing exceptionally well, and this year I am going to thin it. I pick 1 or 2 big bouquets of lettuce babies, and cut the roots off. Then I rinse them, shake them off, and put them in a Ziploc bag for latter on.

Plant Geraniums
Plant Marigolds
Plant both whiskey barrels
Grow Through supports on Black Eyed Susans (other perennials have already been done)
Stem Supports on Irises
Trim back Tulips
Cut flowers off Rhubarb (AGAIN!)
Re-hill potatoes (Growing fast)
Take bricks back to pile
Weed strawberries
Add compost to north end of bed #1
Plant Cukes and Zukes
Pot up azalea bush (the myrtle is drowning it)
Mix Soil (involves laborious sifting of compost)
Plant combination pots
Hang shades in garden shed
Cut shade cloth for cold frame
Wash the garden shed doors
Find a home for unwanted perennials (sitting in pots against the house)
Scotchguard Porch Cushions

I only got four and a half of these things done, between all the watering and thinning! And weeding! If I had a nickel for every ash seedling I’ve pulled in the past month, I could take you all out for dinner.

One trunk load of Geraniums

Tonight's harvest meal: Fresh salad with baby radishes

It's hard to chose a photo of the garden because by the time I get around to blogging, it has changed so much that the photo looks pitiful!

Tim's tree project.  Nine blue spruce.  Our excavator is pleased and says he knows in 20 years Tim will cut them down and he will get to haul off the stumps and bring top dirt.  He says it's Job Security.

It just seems at this time of year, before it all gets established, it is a big burden to keep it all alive.  There are seedlings to harden off, things to fertilise, and water water everywhere.  Water the trees, water the tiger lillies we moved, water the pots, water the newly planted geraniums.  When you've spent all this money, effort and TIME, you worry about water all the time!  I just need a few raining days, or at least some seasonable weather instead of record breaking temperatures to catch my breath.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Great Garden Gadget ~ Cane Connectors

My favorite Garden Gadget of the year is the Garden Cane Connector.  I've seen them a couple of places, but bought these from

They are made out of rubber similar to old fashioned jar rubbers and come in a six pack.

 I put them to use on my conduit bean poles.

We're all ready for pole beans.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rootin' 'Round the Tater Patch

It's time to plant potatoes in our zone, but we're ahead of the game.  Those gnarly sprouted potatoes that I planted two months ago during an unusually temperate March, are going strong.  Prior to the last snow fall, Tim and I covered them with salvaged roof panels from a friend's commercial greenhouse, and when the snow melted, we just propped the panels up for ventilation and left them there.  Voila' ~ Tater Greenhouse.

They are now ready to be hilled.  Now, the drawback to my tidy little tater patch at the edge of the walk is that there is NOwhere to put dirt.  Last year, we planted the potatoes, and when it came time to hill them we brought in a loader full of dirt.  And another.  And another.  There was no way we were going through that again.  The tater patch has been tilled and prepared, and was a good 12 inches higher than the railroad ties containing it, but luckily not eroding.  I had to come up with a plan to move the dirt.  I began by digging a trench to plant the second row carefully shoveling it down each side of the existing row, hilling up two thirds of each plant as I went. 

That seemed to be going well, so I paused to cut the larger seed potatoes.  You need to leave two eyes per section, then leave your cut pieces out in the sun and wind for a few hours to dry out and sort of scab over before planting.

When I had the first row laid out, I began digging the third row, using the soil to fill the second row and leaving the extra in between for future hilling.

When I was done I had one hilled row, and two shallow trenches planted with potatoes.  When the first row is ready for it's second hilling in a few weeks, I can pull dirt from the ridge over into the hill.  When the other two rows are ready to be hilled, I can dig my way in from each end using the ridged soil to in between the rows to cover the plants protecting the roots from the sun.  Extra seed potatoes went into large pots on the patio which I had great luck with last year. 

Next year, I will rotate my plantings and put summer squash and cucumbers in this area.  Then I will be faced with the challenge of hilling potatoes in a raised bed!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grow ~ Fine Gardening

From the publishers of Fine Gardening, the lates issue, Volume 7 is on the newstands.  This is one of my favorite glossy gardening magazines.  I picked the first one up, by chance, in an airport newsstand, and have been hooked ever since.  It is published quarterly (approximately) and has so many useful gardening tips and great articles that I refuse to part with any of my back issues.

For those of you who cannot find it locally, it is available mail order, along with most of the back issues, from Taunton Press.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mid-Spring Update

Spring is the time for relocating, replenishing, eradicating and euthanizing various perennials.  I keep an ongoing list of what needs to be done, and while I am weeding and edging, I am also making adjustments to each bed.  I don't think my gardens have ever been in a truly satisfactory condition.  There is always something on the agenda.  While we worked on the beds this year, I was doing figures in my head.  We have approximately 392 feet of straight edges to cut, and another 75 to 100 feet of free form curves.  And 144 railroad ties edging drives and beds which have hatched out a fresh batch of slugs that need to be salted.

We have had a beautiful spring for enjoying bulbs.  I planted quite a few last fall, and looked forward to the first crocuses and hyacinths.

This is the bed on the far end of the raised bed garden.  I planted clumps of large daffodils, with day lillies in between.  I have a list started for more bulbs to plant this fall.

There are some volunteer pansies which I have transplanted and added to.

The garden peas are up.  These were planted very early and have survived a dozen frosts and a foot of snow.  They came out a bit flatter, but none the worse for wear.  Down the center is a row of radishes and carrots, too tiny to note.  Ironically, the only plants I lost to frost this year were radishes.

The garlic is doing very well, and the onions have been planted.  I STILL have onions from last year in storage.  I don't use many, but they have kept longer than I imagined. 

The potatoes have proven very persistent.  I got tired of covering them for each frost, and even though they burned back to the soil line, they rallied and are thriving in the warm weather.

I finally got around to crushing the two catnip plants I dried in the coop over the winter.  They yielded a suspicious looking two gallon bag full of weed leaves!

Mitey Mite is enjoying it immensely

The tree project is in it's last stages.  Tim and Mike power washed the garage which had mud flung as high as the scalloped shingles from the day the trees were felled.

Hooking up the water line involved more men in holes.

Here mike is telling Tim that he "drills like a girl".

We had a HUGE garage sale which took up three bays of the large garage, and six large folding tables.
People were really chomping at the bit to hit the sale circuit and by late morning on day two we were down to two boxes and a couple of small appliances to donate.  Our house, basement, attic, both garages and the garden shed heaved a collective sigh of relief as their dusty corners were relieved of a five year hoard of unused furniture, construction materials, collectibles, antiques and junque.

We earned enough money to pay for four sets of Trex lawn furniture which will set out in a new fire pit area Tim is planning.  They each have holes drilled for sunbrellas.

The cold frame has been put to use.  We aren't using the automatic openers, we're just propping it open each day.  I have some herbs and annuals started, and will soon be filling it with vegetable transplants.  It's greenhouse season again!

Before the snow storm last week, we hauled out these greenhouse panels leftover from a friend's collapsed commercial house two winters ago.  They kept the taters snug under the foot of heavy snow.  Now that the temperatures have warmed again, we added bricks and propped the panels up, two bricks high so air can circulate underneath, and the potato plants are growing like crazy.  They're almost ready for their first hilling.  I have seed potatoes for the other two rows, and as soon as things dry out again, I'll be planting them as well.