Our Garden Makeover

We’ve been living in the new house for a little over a  year now. Our house is anything but a fixer upper, like our last one was, but there were some things I really wanted to spruce up around our little abode. Our front yard was one of these things.

While the old homeowners took fantastic care of their house, I found that the front yard was kind of boring, though…lots of iris and amaryllis bulbs. I tried to add a little color in, but a bunch of annuals can only do so much to a space. (pardon the finger in this one)

Before garden

We needed to do something a little more drastic, so I asked my mom (horticulturist extraordinaire) to draw up a little design for our yard.

I honestly thought it would take a day of work, tops. However, little did I know how much work reshaping a landscape involved! In fact, H did most of the reshaping, because as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t dig grass out as efficiently as H. It took us almost a week to finish it all (hey, we have to work too, you know…), but we got it done.

After multiple trips to Home Depot and Lowes, as well as hours of digging/spreading/planting, here’s our new front yard!

Garden

Isn’t it just awesome? The picture really doesn’t do it justice, though. I love that the only things I’ll have to replant are the annuals along the border (vs. when I had them throughout), as well as the annuals around the trees. MUCH easier, in my opinion. I can’t wait to see how these shrubs/bushes look when they grow a little more, too! It was a bit of a splurge for all of these plants, but it’s sort of an investment, since most of these shrubs/bushes are gonna stick around for years to come. :-)

Let’s just hope I remember to keep everything watered….I tend to forget than plants need it. :-P I didn’t get my mom’s green thumb…at all.

Square Foot Garden Update

It’s been a little over a month since we planted our square foot gardens. It’s not growing as quickly as I would have thought, but at least things aren’t dying. :-) The biggest surprise is the green bean plants (top right). Those were the only plants from seed and they seem to be thriving and flowering like crazy!

Square Foot Garden Progress

Now, the soil blend for a square foot garden is really lightweight. I noticed a while back that I really can’t climb in the garden to pick weeds (we’ve only had two weeds this whole month, by the way) or my whole foot will pretty much sink in the dirt. :- Well, Millie just realized that lizards are loving the veggie garden, and when there are lizards, Millie goes nuts. 4 perfect dents in my garden (from her paws), because of a dang lizard. Ugh…dog. At least she hasn’t killed anything.

Puppy Damage

Now, it’s taken a month, but I’m super happy to see ‘mater babies. Grow ‘maters grow!

Baby Tomatoes

I’m also seeing quite a few peppers growing. This is the largest bell pepper I have so far, and it’s eventually supposed to turn yellow. :-)

Baby Bell Pepper

So far, I’m loving the square foot garden idea. Barely any weeds, no bugs and it’s SO much easier to water. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this garden this Summer!

Yard Work Weekends

 The past two weekends have consisted of hardware stores, dirt, flowers, sore legs and smashing tons of bugs that would attempt to crawl on me. It has been tiring, for sure, but when Spring hits, I just get an itch to beautify everything outside.

Last weekend, we noticed our neighbors were fixing up their front beds, and we thought it would probably be best to start with that, since that’s what everyone sees when they drive by the house, and that would take the least amount of time.

2 azaleas and a bunch of begonias/petunias/zinnias later? I think our front yard garden is pretty fantastic looking, if I do say so myself! (We already had a ton of iris/amaryllis bulbs in the garden, as well as 2 indian hawthorne bushes we bought last Fall.)

The rest of the weekend, we cleared some old bushes in the backyard and also built a small shed (from a kit) in the back (that was mostly H, actually). It came out pretty cute, actually.

This past weekend, my big project was finally installing our square foot gardens. I purchased 2 of these kits at our local Sam’s Club, because the kits had raving reviews and for $40 (in store price) for a double raised garden? It wasn’t too shabby!

The only bummer about those kits is the double garden size is 3.5 ft. x 7 ft. So, two 3.5 ft. x 3.5 ft. gardens. Not an exact foot measurement, but eh, I think I made it work. I do love that these kits assembled super easily (no screws, nails or anything) and the materials are pretty darn heavy (sturdy).

We decided to fill the gardens with Mel’s Mix, which we made on our own. We purchased the vermiculite at a local nursery ($29 /4 cu. feet, which beat the heck out of $20/2 cu. feet at Home Depot) and the compost/peat moss at Lowes (compost was $3/2 cu. feet and peat moss was $10/3 cu. feet).  We mixed everything in a wheelbarrow a few cu. feet at a time, and it really didn’t take too long to mix it that way. It ended up costing us $110 to fill up 2 kits with the soil mix, which really wasn’t that shabby!

Here’s one bed filled. You might notice the cardboard below the kit. That’s not only to prevent weeds/grass from growing in the bed, but also to provide the drainage the garden needs (since paper is porous). Coincidentally, we were able to use the box from the shed kit. The front and back of the box were the perfect size to place the garden kits on top of.

Once that was done, I placed the veggies in the garden to get the spacing right. Then, I just dug holes with my hands (yeah, no hand shovel needed…this soil mix is SUPER light and easy to dig into) and placed the veggies in the garden! Here’s the first kit done…

And…here’s the second kit done! After everything was planted, I gave the garden a good soaking with the sprinkler.

 I’m way excited to see what our garden produces this year. I’m hoping we have better luck with the square foot garden vs. just planting veggies in the ground. :-)

Here’s what’s in our garden (so far…we still have some room to plant a few more things):

  • creole tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • heirloom tomatoes
  • sweet basil (and also a purple basil, which should make for a really cool pesto)
  • green, yellow and purple bell peppers
  • bush pickle cucumbers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • poblano peppers
  • cucumbers
  • chives
  • dill

Have you started on the ol’ Spring yard work yet? What are you up to in your gardens this year?

14 bags of mulch later…

Spring always gets me in an excited mood to pretty things up around the house. The bright colors, fresh air, sunny skies…I wish all four seasons were Spring! :-) Our garden is one of the larger projects that we work on when Spring starts, and man, this year was our biggest year to date!

Geraniums

In the past, we didn’t really make a budget. I just bought some 6 pack annuals, a few bags of mulch, some veggies and called it a day! However, when June would hit, those annuals would fizzle, our garden was just a nightmare to take on with the weeds, and the veggies…oh, don’t get me started on the veggies.

This year, we made a budget and a plan, which included plants that would come back year after year and could easily take on our crazy summer heat! Our house has three main gardens: the front yard, the side of the house and the back yard (if you even consider what we have a back yard lol).

Our front garden is the typical “pretty” garden. Flowers, pretty bushes, a fountain…gotta have curb appeal. :-) I blogged about our struggle with one area of the front garden. Sago palms + doggie? No…

Our side garden became a huge project that me, Joey and my Mom took on right after Hurricane Gustav hit a few years ago. We ended up losing power for over a week, so the house was very uncomfortable to stay in, but ironically, outdoors was much more pleasant for the first few days, so we took on this project. Before, the old homeowners filled it with dirt and landscape rocks (the large ones). When we started digging things up, we actually discovered they tried to put a pond in there, left a few random knick-knacks and all sorts of weird stuff….ugh. We decided this garden was just a huge undertaking, so we ended up filling in the dirt, completely mulching it and place plants in large pots on top of the mulch. Luckily for us, the old homeowners left a few rustic looking freebie pots, so, we used those for this garden!

Geraniums

I think it looks spectacular, and it’s a fun place to put a few random garden signs. :-P

Flamingo

Our back garden is primarily a veggie garden. I’ve learned a good bit the past two years with having a veggie garden. The biggest change this year is that there will be no ‘maters in our veggie garden. I’m willing to pay regular price for those precious creole ‘maters or steal a few from my Dad, who is a ‘mater growing pro! Those bugs were disgusting, and I never want to deal with them again! Instead, I’m planting pickle cucumbers, along with bell, poblano and jalapeno peppers. This is my first time growing cucumbers, and peppers have done really well in our gardens, especially in the summer, so I’m very optimistic about what this harvest will bring!

Pickling Cucumbers

Peppers

We also have our baby meyer lemon tree. I got the tree last year for my birthday, and man, that thing is flowering like crazy! I’m super excited to see what this winter’s harvest will bring!

Flowering Lemon Tree

Also, just for kicks…here’s the dog who thinks fresh mulch is the coolest thing since Beggin’ Strips. I literally have to take mulch out of her mouth every time we go outside. She seriously wants to eat it. Agh..oh well, she’s cute. :-P

Millie

What do you love about Spring?

Digging in the Dirt

November has been an awesome month as far as days off go. My office had off for Election Day, Veterans’ Day and we’ll also have off for Turkey Day, as well as Black Friday!

I decided since the weather was so gorgeous on Veterans’ Day, it was time to dig in the dirt a little bit and revamp our front yard garden. :)

And no, there are no before pictures. Just imagine LOTS of weeds leftover from the end of the Summer and dying Spring annuals.

Gardening Gloves

Yes, I’m 5’10” and have size small hands. I’m all out of whack.

Bouquet Dianthus

I decided to plant some perennials in front of our azaleas this time around. The annuals I bought were getting on my nerves and they weren’t tall enough to see from the road. However, I couldn’t avoid these bouquet dianthus when I saw them in the nursery. Aren’t they so cute?

Lantanas

The perennials I decided upon? Lantanas! They are so pretty and will attract butterflies in years to come!

Dianthus

As for these little flowers (more dianthus)? These are going to go perfectly in the pots by the front door. :)

Have you done any Fall gardening?

Bye ‘Maters

I remember in March, when I scoured the local nursery for my beloved ‘maters. They were little babies and I was so excited to see them grow and make full-blown ‘maters for me to enjoy.

veggarden

I was so giddy when I saw the first ‘maters on the vine. So perfect and organic too!

tomatoes52010

After fighting squash bugs and stink bugs, most of these ‘maters got infested. Organic gardening was making me impatient, cranky and worrysome. I only ended up with 5 good ‘maters out of the crop of 7 ‘mater plants.

Tomatoes June 17, 2010

And now, in the heat of July, the ‘mater plants are dead. Full of flowers, but nothing happening. I knew it was their time. I’m fairly sure after this season, I need to brainstorm ways to keep things organic without the bug fuss. I’m not a bug person, and definitely lost to the bugs this year.

RIP Maters

I am, however, very hopeful for the future. The future of the peppers.

Jalapenos July 2010

Perhaps this plant will make me lots of jalapenos to make lots of happy jalapeno jelly with. It will take me out of the garden fail that was my beloved ‘maters.

How has your vegetable garden been this year?

Once a failure, now a success!

I can’t tell you how good it feels when something you fail at previously, succeeds. Around this time last year, I had my very first vegetable garden. I longed to have a garden like my Dad’s. He would bring in tomatoes every afternoon after work in the summer, and we’d snack on them with salt/pepper shakers handy. They were just that flavorful, delicious and full of love. Dad worked hard on his garden every year, and I had high hopes that my genetics would help me. My mother is a horticulturist and Dad is a garden hobbyist.

I’d love to tell you how many tomatoes I had. I ended up with 10 cherry tomatoes, out of one cherry tomato bush and 6 creole tomato plants. It was discouraging, to say the least. This was the culprit, along with a painfully dry summer, which made manners worse, since the pests LOVE dry weather. No amount of watering plants made them leave.

Thinking back on it, I realized I used a lot of Sevin pesticides, and perhaps, that killed the good bugs that would have loved to eat on some spider mites. So, I decided this year to stay as organic as I possibly could.

One month ago, I discovered what I thought were assassin bugs living all over my tomatoes. Good sign, right? Well, those turned out to be leaf footed bugs in their nymph stage. Not good. Since these bugs are resilient to most pesticides, I would have to put on garden gloves (they apparently bite) and pluck them in a bucket full of water or throw them on the ground and stomp them until their aqua guts came out (yes, they seriously had AQUA guts!).

Two weeks ago, I found two stink bugs. Ugh….I basically threw the two in a bucket of soapy water and watched them drown. I’m heartless. Since then, it seems like there are no pests. ::knock on wood:: I’ve harvested 10 super fantastic tomatoes this season so far. They are tasty, mostly organic and all MINE. Hubs hates tomatoes. :)

Note: There is a funny story as to why they are MOSTLY organic. One day, there was a leaf footed bug that looked like it took steroids the night before. It was HUGE. I tried to throw it in a bucket, but before it landed, it flew. The #$%@ bugs can FLY?!? I screamed like a high pitched toddler, ran to the shed and got Sevin spray from last year. It landed on a tomato, and I doused that tomato with Sevin until the bug died. That tomato, however, was thrown in the trash.

Here’s my garden today…beautiful red tomatoes and baby bell peppers growing. :) I’ll say this year is SO much better!

Vegetables 6.17.2010

Now, flower wise, our pansies died. My mom warned me that pansies can’t stand the summer that Louisiana brings, so I went to Lowe’s and bought the flowers on the left to replace the pots with. :) It said “feather flowers” on the label, and I think they are just pretty.

The flower on the right? It was once this….I can’t believe how tiny it once was! :)

Flowers 6.17.2010

Now, ever since the rainstorm that lasted a week, which was a couple of months ago, our meyer lemons started growing again. Before that, we thought it fizzled for the season, but check out how much they are growing! I’d really love some summer lemonade, little tree. Just sayin’.

Oh, and to the right? That’s no longer known as veggie garden. This was a veggie garden.  Rather, it’s veggie jungle. The tomato plant on the left side of the arbor is my height. I’m 5’11”. Go tomatoes!

More Garden 6.17.2010

This year’s garden is just so encouraging. I mess up at a lot of things, but it’s great to see that a fail can turn into a success! Have you had any failures turn into successes lately?

A renewed me..

I’ve been in such a funk lately, and I felt like nothing was going to change for me for a long time. Everyday was same ol’-same ol’ to me, and it was hard for me to see the positives and appreciate the little things. 

I think God realized this, and decided it was time to show me exactly how quickly I can change. I’m not super religious, so this isn’t going to be preachy, but it’s funny how things in life can be related directly to you. For me, it was our garden.

The same garden that no matter how many times I tried to water it to make it look better, it wilted.

Same thing went for my life, it seemed. I’d sew something, hugely mess up, and have to rip the seams, only to have the fabric itself rip…fail. The mess in our house was getting out of hand, and I had no motivation in me to clean it. I had no motivation in me to really do anything fun. I just wanted to sit on the couch and be lazy. Things were bad, and I needed an intervention.

Well folks, it rained Saturday…literally poured.  Sunday, it rained…Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday..all rain. It was getting a little depressing after a while, and I just was in a funk, until Thursday.

Thursday was a wonderful day. Thursday’s surprises shook me and made me realize that while things might look bad for a while, things can change for the better. It takes something drastic, like, say, a 4 day rainstorm, but things can most definitely change.

Staring at the garden yesterday helped me to realize just that. We have a tree full of baby lemons. That same tree last week had no flowers, full of dead/burnt baby lemons. The rain jolted it awake, and it’s just looking more alive than ever.

lemon52010

The first jalapeno showed up on our pepper plant. The same pepper plant that was looking fairly pathetic next to the bell peppers and tomatoes.

jalapeno52010

The tomatoes exploded in size, and the plants are thriving…pesticide free still. (Thank you companion plants).

tomatoes52010

The hydrangea that never bloomed last year is showing signs of life.

hydrangea52010

I even got a complete surprise in my garden. A begonia I never planted, in the middle of a garden full of dianthus. I thought it was a weed 4 days ago, but it bloomed into a little surprise. :)

begonia52010

Looking at our garden has made me realize that yes, things can look bad in life for a while. Just don’t avert your eyes away from the little surprises that are trying to give you a chance to change that outlook. :)

Spring Surprises

Remember our veggie garden? I can’t believe this was less than a month ago.

veggarden

Ahh how wonderful Mother Nature has been to us this year. So far, no need for pesticides. Is it possible that the companion planting is working?

Veggie Garden 5/3/10

Those tomatoes surely shot up, no? Upon closer inspection, I found a few little surprises in the garden.

Baby Super Fantastic Tomato
Super Fantastic Tomato

Baby Heirloom Tomato
Heirloom Tomato

I’m SO excited about tomatoes! Last year, my crop suffered severe blossom end rot, and so I’m watering daily, as well as adding diluted milk to the soil near the plants to hopefully help!

Also, I noticed this little gem in my chives. These are edible (according to horticulturist Mom) but I’m not sure if I’m that brave, yet. Plus, I just think these are gorgeous on the plant, not in my mouth. :)

Chives Flower

Ahh, I love how this picture turned out! I’m completely on manual mode on the dSLR right now, and I’m just so excited when pictures come out great (in my humble not at all professional opinion). :)

A glimpse of Spring..

I surely hope you didn’t forget about me. I’ve been working on a new set of sparkly brand new blogs to try to make things uniform. So, here we go. This blog is now The Nifty Foodie’s Life, based on my new food blog, called The Nifty Foodie.

I have to give mad props to His Birdie’s Nest, because a while back, I wanted to change my Twitter name from a screenname I used in college to something more, well, me. She came up with The Nifty Foodie, and ever since, I’ve LOVED this name.

So, here’s the new blog. Feel free to comment on the new look and layout. Just try not to be too harsh, k? :)

So, let’s bring some Spring into this blog, and well, nothing shouts Spring more than gardens. The hubs and I completely redid our gardens, and I’m a lot more optimistic about the year to come with our vegetable crop, because of an interesting theory: companion planting.

Companion plants are plants that either repel pests from the garden or solely attract ALL pests to those respective plants, thus, leaving your precious vegetables ALONE in a natural way.

After reading this article and speaking with my mom (a horticulturist), I planted marigolds and salvias around the tomatoes.

Check out our vegetable garden, which is in our backyard. I planted heirloom tomatoes, super fantastic (yep, that’s the name) tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapenos. I also planted some herbs along the front of the garden with thecompanion plants dispersed around.

veggarden

Because of last year’s experience with spider mites and goodness knows what else killed my tomatoes, I decided to up the companion planting ammo with these companion plants, and grew seedlings of MORE marigolds, sunflowers, and cosmos.

You might also notice the salad greens to the far left. :) That’s just because I love me some lettuce, and I’m too cheap to spend $2/plant.

seeds

These bad boys will be going in the ground in the next few days, and I can’t be more excited to watch these little seedlings grow into lean mean companion plant MACHINES!!

Are you as psyched about your veggie garden as I am? C’mon Spring!