Tag Archives: spring

Food for the Soil: Compost Update

A few years ago I blogged about compost…and the DIY project that went along with it. If you missed those posts, or if you never had the opportunity to read them the first go-round, here are the links:

DIY Compost Bins
Composting 101

After a few years of composting I wasn’t sure how enchanted I was with the dang thing. I got everything set up, and made sure to keep the balance of brown and green just right so as to avoid having my backyard smell like a landfill on a hot summer day. I turned the compost every so often to keep it all mixed up and jivin’ in the way that it does to break down into something delicious for my soil. And it just seemed to take forever. Some things didn’t break down all that well, there didn’t seem to be much in the end result and maybe it was my general lack of patience but this project felt like a whole lotta work for not a whole lotta reward.

This winter I resolved to re-purpose the barrels for growing potatoes and just be done with it…until something magical happened.

Okay, magical might be a stretch, but it was mind changing and turns out, I am enchanted with making my own compost. Who knew?

When J dumped the barrels this spring, for what I thought was the very last time, I spied something quite pleasing to the eye. I raced from the deck to the garden to get a better look…that compost was so rich and wonderful I was actually quite beside myself. I only regret that I didn’t get a picture snapped before he tilled it in. Rats!

And so, I’m back to composting.

Turns out, what seemed like not very much compost in those barrels once it had broken down is in reality more once it’s been dumped out. Funny how looks can be deceiving. I can get on board with that.

And here are some lessons learned — because why go through the pain of it yourself if you can just learn from someone else??

  • The plan I had for ‘turning’ the compost in my original “DIY Compost Bins” post didn’t work as efficiently as I had hoped. I found it was just as easy to turn the compost with a pitch fork right in the barrel.
  • I didn’t follow my own advice about keeping the compost wet. While you don’t want it sopping wet, moisture is part of the compost making equation. Mine was too dry, I’m sure, which is likely the reason it took eons to do its compost thing. I’m leaving the lids off the barrels going forward and will let Mother Nature have at it. As long as there’s ample drainage opportunity, which mine have, it should be fine.
  • A few foods didn’t seem to break down all that well for me so I’m no longer adding them to my compost as part of the ‘green’ mix. Those are: corn cobs, & avocado skins and pits. Even egg shells didn’t break down quite like I thought they would but I’m still adding them, I just crush them up before tossing them in the barrel. And in some instances, coffee filters, but because I know the benefits of coffee grounds in compost, I’ll continue to add them and those that don’t break all the way down are easy to pick out once the barrels are dumped and the compost is spread out with a rake.

For more information on what not to add, what to add and how much, etc. visit my Composting 101 link above. And if you have any other bits of wisdom about composting DIY, please share in the comments section below! I am clearly not the expert on this – heck, I just had to talk myself back in to continuing!

H

 

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Fresh Start

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Photo Credit: David Ammerman

It’s the songs of birds in the large tree outside that stir me awake in this early hour and beckon me out of bed. The sun just beginning its ascent brings promise of a fresh start; a chance to begin again. It will later direct our paths as it gives light to the darkness and will thaw the thin layer of frost blanketing the earth.

As the coffee begins to brew, I peer through the kitchen widow. The greenhouse sparkles with a million crystals of ice shimmering in the slowly rising sun. Tucked inside all my delicate plants are happy and content; saved from the damaging frost by the shelter literally built by love.

It is the beginning of a new day.

Seize the opportunity to drink in all that is wonderful and good, and against all that may stand in your way, make this an incredible week.

H


May Day, A Forgotten Tradition?

As a child growing up in a small’ish rural community in Nebraska, I remember with fondness the fun and excitement that was “May Day”. I am astonished how many people have no idea what I’m talking about when I’ve brought this up in my adult years and I have to wonder, is this a lost tradition? Was it a tradition only known in certain areas of the nation? Both?

For those of you who don’t know, or who have forgotten after all these years, May Day presented an opportunity to share treats with the ones we love AND add a whole lotta fun in the mix. In the days leading up to May 1st we would spend time putting together May Day Baskets with little treats in them. They weren’t fancy or complex, usually a disposable cup of some sort filled with sweets or other inexpensive treasures. Then, when May Day arrived (on May 1st) the fun really began!

I always remember May Day landing during the week, which is obviously impossible, but that’s how the memory is stamped in my head. So, anyway, school would let out and we would race home to get the festivities started. Mom and Dad would load us up in the car and drive us around to the homes of our friends and family (unless they lived in our neighborhood, in which case, we set out on foot). They would drop us off and park just down the street. We would set the basket on the doorstep, ring the bell, and dash off. The recipient of the May Day Basket (if they were home) would race after us, and if caught, we were met with kisses, hugs or pinches — depending on who caught us. My grandmother handed out the sweetest hugs and kisses. I’m certain my cousins (who were all boys with exception of one) relished in pinching!

This would continue, one house after another, until all the baskets were delivered and then we would return home…usually to a wonderful pile of treats others had left for us on our doorstep while we were out. But, maybe the best part was when my grandmother brought one to me and I got to chase HER!

Every year when May 1st rolls around I remember this tradition and wish I had thought of it sooner so I could give life to it once again (or bring it to the area in which I now live, where people look at me as though I’m speaking a foreign language when I talk about “May Day”). I will have to set a reminder on my calendar for next year, so I can remind us all well in advance and we can get our ducks in a row and make May Day a ‘thing’ once again!

I promise if you have younger children, and you make this a tradition in the years to come, it will be one they won’t forget! Honestly, it’s right up there with Trick or Treating…maybe even better!

In honor of May Day, here is a treat for you from my garden. Spring bulbs make their appearance and warm my heart — I hope they will do the same for you.

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Happy May Day!
H


Spring 2017

Flowers

Spring is quite possibly my favorite time of the year. While I don’t appreciate the finicky weather that Colorado brings our way in the Spring (seriously, the forecast for today is sunny and eighty degrees and by Friday we are in the path of snow!), I do so love watching everything come back to life.

It renews my energy. It beckons me outdoors. The labors of love that leave me with sore muscles, perhaps the first sunburn of the season, and eventually evidence of the fruits of this labor when our kitchen is filled with delicious veggies from the garden and vases of freshly cut flowers begin to pop up all over the house.

Friends, it has been quite some time since a new post has hit my blog. Seems I write this same sort of post periodically – after I’ve gone MIA in the blog world. Here’s the ugly truth about why: allocation of too much time to things that don’t really matter. It’s a tough pill to swallow when one sits back and realizes that the best of them, both time and energy, has been given to an obligation; leaving little to nothing left over for the things that truly fuel their soul. When you fall into a rut with life…work, eat, sleep, repeat.

If you find yourself in this same situation, I encourage you to allow the newness of Spring to help you turn that around. Set better boundaries. Save some of what’s your best for whatever energizes your life and fuels your soul. I know I’m going to….

Hope to see you back here at the blog in the days that come as I share what’s going on in the garden and the kitchen, tidbits about my favorite things and stuff that blows my hair back with inspiration.

-H


Mid May Already??? And Seedling Update!

Hi Friends!

It’s been more than a minute since I’ve even logged on to my blog. A couple weeks ago I thought I was getting my feet back under me, only to totally disappear all of last week again. Ugh! I’m soooo sorry!

Life happens tho. Am I right? Anyone else totally surprised to fully  partially comprehend that we are officially half way through the month of May? If I’m honest, I think part of my brain is still stuck in late March.

So much is happening around here. It is Spring, after all! And with Spring comes much to be done. Battling Colorado weather (you never know what you’re going to get), I’ve been trying to take advantage of every opportunity to get outside and get things rolling in my veggie and flower gardens. I’ll have much to update you on in the coming weeks…

I think I promised many, many weeks ago, an update on the seedling project. With Spring planting upon us the seedling project has mostly wrapped up so this is more a final post on the project than it is an update, but as I indicated above, time is flying by.

I’m quiet pleased with how the seedling project ended up. There were lessons learned, for sure, but it was mostly a success. A success very much felt <by my bank account> as I checked out at the nursery last week. I had to buy very few plants — and if I hadn’t had a total lapse in judgment, I’d have bought even fewer than what I ended up needing. As I said, lessons learned.

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As my seedling project wrapped up, I took care to acclimate my plants to the outdoors before sticking them in the ground (a step I’ve mostly neglected in the past – and likely the reason my previous attempts have been such a disaster).  I think a solid week of acclimation is the way to go. Find a place that gets some sun (but isn’t blazing hot) and is somewhat protected from the wind and just let the plants sit. Remember that being outdoors will also likely mean you need to water a little more frequently – but only do so when the soil has mostly dried out.

Where I went wrong was with my veggie plants. My tomatoes were struggling anyway (for reasons unknown) but my pepper and cucumber plants were going crazy….and then I put them outside too early. Well, not too early, but had my head been on straight, when the weather cooled off again (and didn’t warm up for 2 straight days) I should have brought them back in…which I didn’t….which is the reason I had to buy new pepper and tomato plants (GRR!) and will be a month and a half behind with my cucumbers (double GRR!). Oh well.

Everything else is doing wonderfully – I’ve even planted quite a few of my seedling babies and they are going strong. Aside from a couple plant varieties that didn’t come up at all (?) I’d mark my first run at this project a HUGE success and will probably look to expand on my efforts next year!

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Did anyone else take on a seedling project? Any final notes or updates from your end?

Happy Planting!
H

 


Screening A Garden

We were blessed over the weekend with one very beautiful day; perfect weather for outdoor work. The weather here has been a tad on the Bipolar side – shifting from ‘couldn’t ask for better’ weather, to blizzard conditions in the blink of an eye. I am beyond ready for the nice weather to set in and stick around a while…but who isn’t?
So, over the weekend we took advantage of the one very beautiful day and worked in the garden. I posted previously about the garden space and my big plans which include ripping out the planter boxes and removing the rock that was previously put down for the walkways.

We already moved out the top layer of rock; the rock that was nice enough (i.e. not mixed with a bunch of dirt) to be used somewhere else on the property. What we were left with was 2-6 inches, depending on what area of the garden we were in, of rock mixed with LOTS of dirt, on top of landscape fabric – which also needed to come up:

start

We pondered several ideas of how to attack this task.
1. Pull up all the rock, dirt, and landscape fabric and haul it off? This idea was then crossed off the list when we determined that to do the task without killing ourselves we would need to rent some large equipment AND find a place to dispose of the material. That expense, in addition to the expense of replacing ALL that soil was an indication that this wasn’t the most ideal plan.
2. Pull up the landscape fabric, leaving the rock and dirt behind, and buy several truck-loads of nice soil to top everything off? I worried that over time the rock would just work its way to the top, leaving us right where we are now, so this idea was also vetoed.
3. Put in all new planter boxes and pull up the landscape fabric, rock and dirt only in those areas? My heart really is in being able to till up, and plant, the entire space – I think J knew I wasn’t enthusiastic about this idea, so he helped to reject it as well.

We finally settled on a plan that is taking a little more time up front, but in the end is the best plan for our budget, and for gardens to come.

J built this screen:
screenscreen2
We are running all the dirt/rock through the screen – keeping the dirt in the garden and moving the rock to another space where it will live until we figure out what will happen with it permanently – pulling up the fabric as we go.

Here’s what the space looked like after all the fabric came up, the rock was screened out, and the dirt was spread evenly back over the space:
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We are a little more than half way through this leg of the journey. Here’s what we have left:

remaining
And here’s a look at the whole darn thing:

whole
My little arms nearly snapped off by the end of the day – seriously, this girl with the desk job isn’t cut out for running shovel for long periods of time – not without some whining anyway.

One more really nice day and we will have the remainder of the garden ‘screened’. Then I can get some really good compost mixed into the soil, and with any amount of luck, this baby will be ready for planting as soon as the weather decides it will cooperate for more than 24-hours at a time.
How are your gardening plans coming along? Are you like me and taking advantage of every second of nice weather you can get, in order to prepare your space for planting?


First Day In The Garden

Boy oh Boy! I must tell you, last week completely got away from me! I lost Monday to a migraine and before I knew it we were knocking on Friday’s door. I’m not complaining, just wanted to offer an explanation of why I was MIA in my blog world last week.

I hope this Monday finds everyone doing well, and adjusted to daylight savings time. The time change in Spring is a mild adjustment for me, as compared with the change in the Fall that leaves me feeling a zombie for longer than seems fair. I’ve been enjoying the longer days. That, combined with the nice weather we’ve experienced, has me itchin’ for summertime!!
Over the weekend we started work on the garden area. I’ve shared in previous posts that the new house offers an excellent spot for a large garden and I couldn’t be more excited!! Here is what we are working with right now:

garden

You will notice this area was previously designated for a garden. You might also guess that the layout just isn’t going to work for me. A couple planter boxes and rocked walkways seems like a waste of valuable gardening real estate. So, the new plan will be for the rock to go away, and the planter boxes too. The entire space will be tilled up and planted – no planter boxes!
This space also has drip lines that run off the sprinkler system. I am in love with this idea!! We should be able to re-route some of the lines to areas that plants will grow, and then we will be freed up to leave town without having to inconvenience someone with watering duties at our place.

We took advantage of the nice’ish weather over the weekend (truth told, it was a touch windy and the wind was cold so by the time we finished I was quite chilly and had a headache but…we made due) to get started on this project. What we accomplished is the top layer of nice rock has been moved from the garden and re-located to another area on the property. The second leg of this journey will include pulling up the landscaping cloth under a couple inches of rock mixed with lots of dirt. Leg 2 is going to be a LOT of work because there’s a LOT of rock/dirt that will need to be moved and we will likely have to haul it to a friend’s property, 25 or so minutes away (and we’re talking several truck loads).

I’m feeling good about the start and progress that has been made, but think I may have to accept that I won’t be able to plant quite as early as I would like because the space just won’t be ready by then. All in good time I suppose…
Have you started any work outdoors, or are you waiting to tackle those projects as we get closer to summer? I’m excited to hear what others have in the works for their outdoor living spaces, fill me in by posting in the comments section below!
H


Slow To Come Around

I’ve blogged a couple times now about my excitement for Spring. Even without a lot of help, things are coming back to life and thriving. Except for this sad, little tree:

It’s starting to show some leaves (on some of the branches), but look how far behind it is from the other tree in my yard!!

Truth be told, I’m worried about this little guy. He seemed to be struggling last summer. Now, this spring, he’s looking particularly pathetic. Any suggestions on how to jump start his little tree heart beat??

The thought of having to cut him down makes me ill. Here’s why: when I moved in to this house there was somewhat of a crazy, miniature forest growing on this side of the house. Multiple trees and bushes planted, in random places, with no apparent rhyme or reason. So…I cut down 2 trees and pulled out 6 bushes. Things were looking good!!
Then the following year, one of the three tress saved from my manic chainsaw ways died. Ugh! So, now I’m down to two, AND they both look great right where they are. I’d hate to see his little guy banished to my firewood pile.

I’ve looked at tree stakes. Any thoughts on these? Any other suggestions that might be better than the tree stakes? I need something good, and I think I need it fast!!

-Hilary


Oh Spring, How I’ve Missed You!

Signs of spring are EVERYWHERE!

I forgot how much I love spring because for as long as I can remember my area of the world hasn’t had a ‘true’ spring. We’ve gone from winter to summer seemingly overnight. For the first time, in a very long time, summer is slowly creeping up on us and allowing spring a moment to shine. As I walked through my yard this weekend I noticed these beautiful signs of the season:

With a little help of some weed & feed, and Mother Nature assisting in the water department, the grass has come back to life.

And, the chive plants are in full bloom. This particular chive plant has been totally neglected, yet, look how full and colorful those blossoms are.
(If you look to the left you can also see my yellow onions coming up along the chain link fence).

My very favorite thing about spring, though, is that it becomes time to get the vegetable garden going.

I learned my love for vegetable gardening from my late grandfather. Several summers ago, unable physically to tend a large-scale (or maybe any size) garden, he talked me into planting a 2000 square foot plot. We planted 980 square feet of the property (the rest of the space was for walking paths around the various rows of plants) and it was quite a project. Lots of sunburns, bug bites, dirt stuck to sweat, and veggies coming out of our ears! That same summer I also learned the art of putting up veggies for use throughout the winter months. It was quite an experience, one I doubt I’ll re-create for myself, but the time I got to spend bonding with my grandparents was priceless. My only real regret is that there aren’t pictures of this venture.

The first summer in Therapy House (if you missed it, you can read about TH here), I had much success with this, smaller-scale, garden:

Unfortunately, the following year was not as successful as a result of two storms containing this:

As it turns out, large size hail does not play well with plants. The garden had to be planted 3 different times that summer which meant a very late start for harvesting the bounty, as well as a very short growing season.

On a mission to have a more successful garden the following year, my super handy BF built me this:

Not only does this bad boy allow me to extend the growing season, but it keeps the hail off my plants. Three hail storms last summer, including a late one in August, and I was one of the only people in town with plump, red, delicious tomatoes (and green beans, and peppers, and lettuce, and spinach, and…).

Garden 2012 is well under way, in fact, one of the tomato plants has flowered already. Yay!

I’ve mastered the art of canned tomatoes, and tomato juice. This year I’d like to learn how to can up some variations of pasta sauce (marinara, spicy red bell pepper spaghetti sauce, etc.). Anyone have suggestions where I can find some tips and pointers on this one??

Hope you are all enjoying the colors of spring-
H