My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.




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Entries in Gardening (31)


Fall Planting

With winter on the horizon I like to have something growing in front to the house for as long as I can so I did a little fall planting a few weeks back.

I picked up a variety of mums, kale, cabbages and pansies and set to work. On my porch steps I put some large purple and burgundy colored mums in a planter and set decorative cabbages in urns in front of them.

In the front bed I planted some beautiful purple celosia in between my boxwood shrubs. I've never tried planting it before in my garden so I'm curious to see how late in the season it will keep blooming. Along the front of the bed I planted some decorative green/white and green/purple cabbages to create a border.

In my hanging baskets I planted burgundy mums and pansies. I like how the different hanging heights of the baskets look together.

In the bed that circles my tree I planted some frilly looking green/purple decorative kale in between my hostas.

I'm happy to have some flowers and greenery in my front yard for as long as I can, especially if we have another really cold winter this year. It makes coming home a bit more cheerful on a bleak day.


Creating a Berry Patch Behind the Garage

The small strip of land behind the garage has always been a hot mess. When I bought the house it was a jungle of overgrown black raspberries with poison ivy lurking along with other weeds. I had tried to unsuccessfully clear it out with nothing but a bad case of poison ivy for my troubles and ended up hiring someone to do it for me. Of course, the next summer everything was back with a vengeance. Since I didn't learn my lesson the first time I tried tackling it myself with the same itchy results and ended up hiring to have it cleared out again. Unfortunately, I wasn't so clear about the fact the black raspberries were keepers and to my dismay it was all wiped out. Last summer Frank put several bags of mulch down to keep the weeds and poison ivy at bay but this year I wanted to have a more permanent solution as well as plant some berries again.

We started by cleaning out all of the random things that had been stashed behind the garage and getting rid of the few weeds that had popped up again. Frank rototilled the dirt and then I spread it with a rake to level things out.

Next, I evenly spaced out our berry plants (4 raspberry and 4 blackberry) along the garage and planted them.

To define the berry patch border we decided to use black composite edging. I rolled it out on the patio, weighing it down with bricks to flatten it. Once we were ready to install it, I attached a stake to the edging every four feet.

Frank dug a shallow ditch where we wanted to place the edging and then I put the edging in place, hammering in the stakes and backfilling and tamping the soil down around it.

I definitely wanted to keep weeds at bay so I spread a bunch of mulch around the berries and laid out a sheet of landscape fabric on the pathway we were creating.

The biggest part of the project was filling in the path with nearly a square yard of marble rocks. Frank used a wheelbarrow to move all of the rock and then after he dumped it I spread it out with a rake. It was pretty exhausting but I love how it looks.

We finished off the project by putting down some more mulch along the fence and laying down a piece of sod. I think it looks great and in the three weeks since we did this it has remained gloriously weed and poison ivy free. The plants have been growing and some of the blackberry bushes have several young berries on them. I'm not expecting many berries this year but I have high hopes for the years to come.



Porch Garden Bed for Summer 2013

After sharing the transformation of my front tree bed last week I thought I would also share how things are shaping up with the plants for my porch garden bed.

This garden bed is always a bit of a struggle for me because of the wide range of lighting conditions. The front is heavily shaded by the two huge trees in my front yard, however the side gets full sun all day. Don't even get me started about trying to deal with the corner section.

Trying to figure out a cohesive design with plants that work in the various areas of the bed has been a bit of trial and error for me over the past few summers. I try new things and see what thrives and what doesn't. Of course I do some research about what conditions work best for a plant before I try it in a location, but that isn't always a surefire guarantee. I'm sure I will always be tinkering with this garden bed.

Across the front I have three boxwood shrubs. They seem to do well there and I like that they stay green over the long Michigan winter. Last year I planted some starfire dahlias for color in front of the boxwoods but the bunnies in my yard really enjoyed biting off the flower buds so I chalked that up to a failed experiment. This year I decided to go back planting New Guinea impatiens which have worked well in that spot in the past. The bunnies seem to leave them alone and they are happy in the shade.

For the past two years on the corner I have planted pink mandevilla which has worked really well. I wanted to do again this year, but I couldn't find a decent plant at the nursery. I spotted some calla lilies on sale at Lowe's however, and thought that I would give them a shot. I've planted them with success in between the boxwood before, but this spot is a bit sunnier so we will see how things go.

Along the side I have some small shrubs that I thought I killed back in the summer of 2011 when I was traveling around Southeast Asia for three weeks and they didn't get any water. Last year I pruned back the dead branches and they are really thriving now. I like that they have a different shape from the boxwood but the leaves are similar making it a nice tie-in. I also planted some pink superbells in front of the shrubs that I tried in that spot and worked well last year.

Up on the porch I have a few hanging baskets of fuschia and petunias. I am not a big fan of plastic planters so this year I repotted the plants in white metal Socker hanging planters from Ikea. At only $4.99 each they look nicer than the plastic and were pretty inexpensive as well.

I've had everything planted for a little bit with everything doing well so far. I'll just have to wait and see how the bed continues to grow over the rest of the summer.

If you are curious for reference, here is the same garden bed from last summer.

How is your summer gardening coming along? Do you have any difficult spots with mixed light?


Front Tree Bed Makeover

This weekend I worked on some gardening around the house. About four years ago I made a bed around the base of the tree in my front yard since no grass seemed to be able to grow there. Unfortunately, due to some neglect this year a bunch of weeds and grass had made the bed a huge overgrown mess that was in dire need of some help.   

Because I had let it go for so long it was quite a lot of work to clean it up. I had to use a shovel and trowel to dig everything up to get at the roots. I also removed all of the stones to pull up grass that had grown in between the rock border.

After about an hour I had the whole bed cleaned up and cleared of all the weeds. Much better!

I was thinking of putting some ferns in, but when I got to Lowe's I saw that they had these pretty blue green hostas for only a dollar in the clearance. They were a little rough looking but they were basically healthy plants and it only took me five minutes to trim the dead leaves and make them presentable. Beside the hostas, I bought some New Guinea impatiens to add a little color for the bed.

I'm not keen on measuring so I usually just place out my plants and move things around until I have everything where I want it before I start digging.

After I finished planting the hostas and impatiens and added some mulch the front tree bed now looked like this.

I can't wait until the hostas start to fill in.

This was definitely a much needed item to tackle on my to-do list around the house. It makes it so much nicer to walk up to the front of the house and see a neat garden bed around the tree instead of a mess of weeds.

Have you been working on any gardening projects around your home? Do you hate weeding as much as I do?


Stump Removal: Take Two

Earlier this week I wrote about taking down the large white maple in my backyard, but still needing to deal with the remnants of the stump. I have been planning to add another patio to my backyard so when I was speaking with the guy that I had put in my previous elevated patio on the back of my house I asked him if he had any recommendations about getting rid of the stump once and for all. He did, I made an appointment and as of the morning the stump is now happily gone!

Here is the view of my backyard from my upstairs window at 7:55 this morning with the remnants of the stump still making a little hill in the middle of my back yard.

By 8:10 the stump and the surrounding roots which has also reached the surface were on the way to annihilation.

By 8:45 the stump was ground down to about 5" below the surface of the grass so that we can reseed or sod and have a flat lawn. In place of the stump we have a sizeable hill of wood chips and dirt. 

I am so excited and happy to have the stump gone and I can't believe I didn't have it taken care of earlier. My plans for the the backyard are now to fix the lawn in the area where the stump was and add a large patio to the side of the garage with a pergola over it. The garage is 32 feet deep and I think I'm going to make the patio 10 feet wide so it will be quite sizeable and a great place to relax this summer. Below is my poorly drawn rendition of what I am planning.

I'm planning to grow wisteria to climb up the pergola which will add a bit of shade to the backyard now that the maple tree is gone. The patio and pergola will also balance out the space between the side of my garage and my neighbor to the rear's garage. I'm really looking forward to making some more steps to completing the backyard and have a chance to enjoy it this summer.


Square Beadboard Garden Planter

With spring here I have been wanting to spruce up my front yard and I had an inkling to try building a garden planter for myself for my front porch steps. On my Yard and Garden Pinterest board I had pinned a few planters that I drew some inspiration from. I liked the beadboard sides from the planter I pinned from Plow and Hearth and the legs that raised the planter off the ground that I pinned from the Simply Planters

After doing a little sketching I came up with a design that I liked that also fit the space that I was planning on putting the planter on my front steps. I have shared my supply and cut list, but it would be very easy to resize the dimensions if you wanted to make a bigger planter.

Supply List:
1 - 2x2 @ 4 feet long
1 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long
1 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long
1-1/4" pocket hole screws
Brad nails
Wood glue

Cut List:
4 - 9" x 9" pieces of beadboard for sides
8 - 1x2 @ 9" for side supports
3 - 1x3 @ 9-3/8" for bottom slats
4 - 1x3 with 45° mitered ends @ 9" (measured from short side), 14" (measured from long side) for top 
4 - 2x2 @ 11-1/2" for legs

To start I put some wood glue on the back of the side supports and attached one to the top and bottom of each piece of beadboard.

I aligned the top support flush with the top of the beadboard and the bottom one I overhung by 3/4" which left me space to attach the bottom slats later. I then clamped the supports to the beadboard while the glue dried.

Next, I used my Kreg Jig to drill pocket holes on both sides at the top and bottom of each side beadboard piece. For two of the sides I attached the legs with pocket hole screws, aligned flush with the top.

I then attached the two remaining sides to one of the sides with legs using pocket hole screws.

I then attached the last side to complete making the box of the planter.

To make the top I put some wood glue on the mitered ends, clamped it all together into a square and then used my nailer to add a few brad nails to tack it together.

After the glue dried, I used a bit more wood glue and my nailer to attach the top to the planter box.

I then flipped the planter upside down and attached the bottom slats with some wood glue and my nailer. I left spaces between the slats for drainage.

I used wood filler to fill in the nail holes and imperfections and then sanded the whole piece smooth.

I wiped the planter down with a tack cloth and then painted it with a few coats of Valspar's Duramax Paint and Primer in Everglade Deck.

Once the planter was dry I was excited to get planting but I didn't have any potting soil so I just placed a potted calla lily in the planter for now. Before I do put potting soil in the planter I plan to line the bottom with some landscaping fabric so that water can drain out between the slats but the soil wouldn't fall through.

I'm really happy with how my planter came out and think it will add a little fun to my front porch. With this turning out successfully, I think I will have to make a second one to have a matching pair.

Note: I am posting as part of the Pinterest Challenge hosted by Young House Love, Bower Power, Sparkle Meets Pop and Red Bird Blue. If you posted anything for the challenge, please share your link with me!


Goodbye Tree

When I bought my house there was an enormous tree in the middle of my backyard. While I love the two large trees in my front yard, this tree was not doing much for me.

My main problem with it was that it was not healthy and was continuously dropping large branches into the backyard and the roof of my garage. I was nervous that it would eventually do some damage to my garage or even worse to my house and I wanted to get it removed.

From a secondary standpoint, my backyard had effectively no sunlight because the tree was so large it shaded everything. The yard was constantly full of debris dumped down from the tree and I had a hard time getting the grass to grow decently.

Getting a large tree taken down is no inexpensive task. I got a few quotes and then found a guy that would do it for half the price, but didn't grind down the stump. I figured that I could find someone to grind down the stump for much less so in November of 2011 I had the tree removed.

I had fun periodically taking a peek at the progress from my upstairs back bedroom. There was a ton of branches and wood, filling up their trailer a few times over. After two days my tree was finally gone.

At the end, I was left with this very large stump, smack dab in the middle of my back yard.

I hired a guy to grind down the stump for a great price in April 2012 and was excited to reclaim my yard.

Unfortunately, he finished up while I was out and he left it so that it was a little higher than the grass around it. I was unhappy with that because if I covered it with dirt and grass it would make a little hill in the middle of my backyard which I definitely didn't want.

I was really frustrated, so much so that I just left it alone all last summer and didn't deal with it. This summer I need to get it addressed. My backyard is not very evenly graded so I may just try to take care of everything at one time, but I am not sure.

On the positive side, I do love how opened up my yard is without the tree and the backyard grass has become much more lush. Eventually, I will make it something respectable back there...


Sprinklers for My Garden

This past weekend was gorgeous, so Frank and I spent most of our days outside working on the yard. While Frank tackled the grass and some much needed garage cleaning I worked on prepping and planting the herb garden on the side of the house.

The picture to the left is what my herb garden looked like as of Sunday night, but it took me two afternoons to get it there. The perennials in the back had come back beautifully, but I had a lot of cleanup to do.

I cleaned out the brush, tied back the perennials and roto-tilled the areas around the existing plants and the empty area up front. I also flipped up each of the stones in my border to pull the weeds and grass that had grown up between them. I love the stone border that I put in a when I made the garden, but it is really labor intensive to keep looking clean and neat. By the end of the day on Saturday I finally had a clean slate to work with. 

Below is what I was faced with on Saturday after we had brunch before I got it all cleaned up. It was such a mess that I was really discouraged when I started but I am so glad that I tackled it this weekend.

After getting everything tidied up I was tired, but made a run to Lowe's to get mulch and some other items so I could get busy on Sunday.

One of the things I wanted to do before planting anything new was lay down some sprinklers. I had put out sprinklers last year but after I had laid everything down so they stuck out and looked a bit ugly. Also, the hoses that I had used were too long for the space so I wanted to make some hoses that were a custom length for the spacing of my sprinklers.

I cut lengths of hose from an old hose that I had and then it was simple to make the hoses using replacement couplers and a screwdriver.

I untightened the screws on the collar of the coupler and slid it on the end of the hose.

I then pushed the coupler firmly into the end of the hose.

I slid the collar back up over the coupler and tightened it back down with a screwdriver.

It is super easy and takes only about a minute to do for each end. In a little over five minutes I had my three custom length hoses complete.

With my hoses done I attached them to my sprinklers and laid them out in the garden. I used some small rocks that I had to weigh down the sprinklers to make sure they wouldn't shift around with the water on.

I turned the water on to check the connections and everything worked great with no leaks. I then dug some shallow trenches to bury some of the hoses.

After I planted the rest of the garden and added mulch you can barely even see the sprinklers anymore. This is a much better look than last year.

It didn't take much effort to hide the sprinklers, just a little advanced planning and I think it is so worth it. Later this week I'll share some details about what I planted. I'm looking forward to a bountiful summer of herbs!


Taming My Black Raspberries

When I was a kid we had all sorts of cane berries in our backyard grown from cuttings taken from my great-grandmother's farm. I loved eating them and would commonly snack on them right off the bushes. In the morning I would often head out to the backyard with my cereal bowl to top it with fresh raspberries or blackberries. At the peak of the season there were so many berries that my sister and I would harvest them so that our family could freeze them for winter.

With my berry loving history I was delighted to discover when I bought my house that the previous owners had planted black raspberries behind the garage. Truth be told it is not the best location for them due to limited sun, however they seem to really thrive back there. I really enjoy the berries and over the years I have eaten them fresh, included them in mixed berry pie and combined them with red raspberries to make jam. They are such a wonderful summer treat.

Sadly, however, due to neglect from the previous owners and also from me they had become completely overgrown and weeds were taking over. It was so bad that I could only pick berries on the outside of the bushes.

This year I decided to do something about it. I spent a Sunday afternoon early this summer starting to clean the area out. I didn't make a big dent but I was happy to be making some progress. That happiness was shortlived however because I woke up the next day with a huge rash on my arms, likely from poison ivy or something similar. It was awful! I felt like my arms were on fire. I had to keep my arms slathered in calamine lotion and keep taking Benadryl to make it even somewhat bearable. Six months later I still have some faint scars on my arms from this. Needless to say, operation "Tame the Black Raspberries" was quickly aborted.

Even though I decided I wasn't going to clean it out myself it still needed to be done. When I scheduled to have my gutters cleaned out this fall I decided to ask if he would also clean out the area behind the garage. He always charges me really great prices and even if he didn't it would have been worth it simply to not have to mess with it. As an aside if you are looking for yard work in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, let me know and I will give you his contact information. I wasn't sure when he would make it over, but this week on Wednesday night I came home and it was all cleared out! Here is a photo of how it looked all overgrown at the beginning of this summer and now.

It looks a little desolate now and I still need to do a bit of weeding amongst the canes but I am so excited to finally be able to take control of this space. I have some great plans for it this summer. I want to build a lattice for the berries to keep things orderly and under control. Along the right side I want to level the ground and cover it with pea gravel and pavers to create a walkway next to the berries for easy picking. Finally in the back I plan to build a dual compost bin for myself. I think it will look cute and make good use of this currently wasted space in my yard.

Have you ever let any plants get out of control in your yard? Do you have any summer gardening or yard plans for next year that you are thinking about now? 


Autumn Front Garden Bed

With the colorful autumn leaves that decorated the trees in my yard having finally all fallen, things look a little bleak outdoors around here, especially since we have been hit with a recent rainy spell.

The one bright spot in this dreary weather are the autumn plantings in my front garden bed. Winter is so long here in Michigan that I like to have some color outside as long as I possibly can. Planting kale is a surefire way for me to do that. Mums will generally last me through until early November (I had two large pots of yellow mums on my steps until recently) but nothing outlasts kale for me. I have had luck in the past with kale looking lovely in my yard until December which is really quite wonderful.

Typically flowering kale can be a touch on the pricey side so I usually wait a little while until they go on sale at the end of the fall planting season. I got the large purple kale for $3 each at Blocks Farm Stand and the little green ones from Lowes for $1.50 each. I planted them in a border along my front stone bed wall in front of my boxwood shrubs and then added a fresh layer of mulch to keep things looking tidy and clean.

Seeing a little bit of vibrant life left in my yard as I pull up to my house really cheers me up. That purple really is striking!

Have you planted anything this autumn? Is anything still left alive in your yard?