Posts Tagged ‘Garden’

Tomato garden 2014

Like every year, we planted our 2014 tomato garden along the sunny side of the garage.  Unlike every other year, however, this year the first 6 tomato plants went into the ground Mothers Day weekend – at least 3 weeks earlier than usual.  For most of a month, they stayed protected in a mini-greenhouse tube made of plastic and wire semi-hoops.

The early planting and efforts to keep them warm in May were in response to last year’s tomato harvest, which didn’t start in earnest until September. With frosts coming in early October, the tomato plants were a lot of work all summer for not much yield.

Here they are this year on July 19:


Today is August 1 – and checking in on our plants, here’s what we find:


The left-most plant is finally taller than I am.


The 6 plants nearest the front of the house/the door are obviously the ones planted in May.  The other 5 were planted in June, per usual.  The difference in the size of the plants is obvious – and we picked our first 3 tomatoes today.  They are not ready to eat yet, but they are orange enough to continue ripening in the relative safety of the window.  Planting 3 weeks early seems to have moved the harvest up by at least that 3 week margin.



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One of our big projects this summer and fall was to revamp the landscaping (or start to) on the front side of the house.  Unfortunately I was totally remiss in taking real “before” photos, but this is the area in question earlier this spring:



The things we were seeking to change were:
– remove the bush in front of the front door, which as soon as summer comes, needs to be cut back every couple weeks to keep it from overgrowing the walk.
– remove the white flowering bush on the corner of the house.  By May it was starting to overtake the bay window.  By June, it was out of control.  Again.
– remove at least one of the azaleas.  There are two, right next to each other.  Red blooms in early May, pink blooms in late May, and they look terrible together.
– fix the general grassy messy look that we had going on as soon as the spring flowers (daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths) finish blooming.

In the long term, we plan to replace the lilacs too, but not yet.

…and… here we are in September:

So, no, it’s not super impressive looking right now.  But given some time, I think we’re headed in a good direction.

The bush at the end of the bed (in front of the front door) is gone, root ball and all.  We also dug out as many of the grape hyacinth bulbs as we could find.  They look pretty for a couple weeks in the spring when they flower, but it’s just not worth the mess they look the whole rest of the year.  We also dug up some daffodils and hyacinths.  Those we hung onto; not sure where we will put them.  Those we wouldn’t mind keeping.  Same goes for the daylilies.

Now even if the lilacs pinch the walk a little, at least the other side is clear.  Plus it seems a little more welcoming not to have a bush smack in front of the front door.  The mums looked pretty and festive for the fall.  We’ll have to figure out what to do about that part of the garden bed in the spring.

The big, white flowering bush on the corner of the house has been replaced with a gray gleam juniper, which will eventually get to be 5-7′ wide, and 15′ tall.  It’ll be a foot or two clear of the house at mature size, and will never encroach on the window.

It has a twin mirroring it on the other side of the house, to the right of the driveway.  There used to be an enormous, sprawling honeysuckle plant there.  Gone!  Hopefully the grass seed surrounding the mulch circle germinates soon.

The original red azalea we moved to the middle of the bay window, and two matching red azaleas went in flanking it.  Eventually they’ll grow together, without growing all the way against the house.

For its part, the pink azalea took a field trip to the backyard.  I didn’t hate it, I just hated it next to a red azalea.  Hopefully it survives the transplant to the side fence area.  (I swear, there are lilacs flanking it.  Baby plants are a theme around here.)

Our other recent acquisition was a Blue Prince holly, which we’d been in the market for:

It’s pruned a little roundly, and its leaves aren’t as deep blue-green as the Blue Princess hollies that we have, but it looked pretty healthy for spending the whole summer in a bucket at a nursery.  And on year end clearance at $20 (60% off!), it was a buy.  Next year (hopefully!) our female blue princess hollies will be pollinated by the new male holly so they will grow bright red berries.

And one more backyard activity for the weekend…

I mean, that’s what it’s for, right?

Happy Sundog!

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This weekend, with some help from our friend A and his chainsaw Nibbles, we dug our front yard out of the arborical cave it was fast falling into:


Despite last year’s pruning, the larger maple in front of the house was getting tough to mow under again, so we wanted to take it up a whorl of branches.


The other red maple (next to the driveway) needed to come out entirely.  It didn’t get the pruning it needed 20 years ago, and the resulting triple trunk didn’t lend itself to corrective pruning at this point.  One of the three main branches also had a (remarkably lucky for us) fall this winter:

which left the remaining branch cracked lengthwise, and only half as thick.  We’ve been concerned that a wind or ice storm would bring the other half down, and that we’d be less lucky with where it fell the second time.  Plus, it was getting annoying picking the leaves out of the Subaru’s sunroof when low-hanging leaves got closed in.  So, regrettably for the tree, it needed to come out.

Nibbles took care of that in short order, and laid waste to the trees:

"Hey, there's a house back there!" - Neighbors

In retrospect, doing it the day after a Friday night local high school graduation was probably poor [lack of] planning on our part.  Multiple neighbors on the street (including next door and across the street, oops) were having parties for their graduates, so cars were going by and trying to park around our mountain of tree limbs all day – but at least we were done with most of the sawing by lunch time, and had the yard cleaned up (more or less) by 3pm or so.

A took the bulk of the useable wood home to split, dry, and eventually use as firewood.  There was enough to pretty much fill the bed of his truck.  The smaller stuff stayed behind for the town to pick up (we’ll have to call them on Monday, given the large volume…).  The yard now looks like this:

Not bad.  We still have a tall, mature tree in the front yard, which I like, but it doesn’t hide the house anymore, or take up the entire yard.  When the scars age a little from the removed branches and it grows a little, it should look just fine.

We still need to grind the stump of the maple that came out, and decide what to plant in its place.  Part of that decision will hinge on whether the existing bush stays.  Lilacs are front runners, because they won’t grow so tall that they shade the tomatoes – a side benefit to the tree coming out.

Speaking of the tomatoes…

Here’s hoping for a good year!

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August tomatoes

It looks like we can expect a pretty good tomato harvest this August here in Guin’s Yard!


Hard to believe it’s peach season in NJ, and we still only have small green tomatoes here!


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This weekend was a yard weekend – among other things, we started the process of collecting estimates to have the backyard fenced in.  (Ooft!)  It’ll be great to have done, though – Guinness will be able to run, chase balls/bunnies/squirrels/falling leaves to his heart’s content, and we won’t have to worry about him going walkabout to visit all his dog friends up and down the street.  It’ll be especially nice when we’d like to sit out on the deck and bring him out with us during the summer months.

We also put in some time on the garden beds around the house.  Now that June is here, it’s finally warm enough to start planting without much worry about a cold snap hurting the plants.  We pulled up the messy looking bed alongside the garage:

Before - it was a jumble of all kinds of different (but all unidentifiable) plants.

Before: It was ... kind of a disaster.

…and planted 12 tomato seedlings:  4 each of Big Boy, Sunbeam, and Celebrity.  August tomatoes, here we come!  (Fingers crossed.)

After:  we suspect our neighbors may be relieved at the improvement.

After: Even if tomatoes aren't particularly pretty, it's a whole lot more orderly!

We suspect our neighbors may be relieved at the improvement.  

In the front yard, rather than planting, we did some ripping out:

Before - the giant yew (which turned out to be two yews)

Before: The giant yew (which turned out to be two yew bushes)

The yew bush was probably planted too close to the house to begin with, and was growing unevenly, out and away from the house as a result.  That was also crowding out the azaleas, euonymus, day lilies, iris, and everything else planted near it, to their apparent detriment.  The euonymus is scraggly at best, and the azaleas barely flowered, and are growing at a 45^ angle to try to get some sun.  The yew had also gotten so big that pruning it into a manageable size was getting harder and harder to do with a decent result.  So, we ripped it out:

After - no more yew!

After: no more yew!

Can’t say I miss it.  The only thing it was really good for, was serving as an object for covering with Christmas lights in December, and I’m sure I can find another victim candidate for that.  As far as what we’ll do with the space, I’m not sure.  A lot will depend on how the surrounding plants respond to having the garden overlord yew out of the picture.  I’m also not sure whether the big bush on the left will stay or go.

DSCN2516There’s quite a lot of space back there now – I’m thinking of putting in some taller annuals — maybe zinnias — just for this summer, pulling the yew stumps out in the fall, and considering new permanent plantings for next spring.  I think the area gets sufficient sunlight, and zinnias are so bright and happy…


In the long run, I’m thinking of keeping (or replacing if necessary) the red azaleas, adding a hydrangea or two (I’m just really fond of them), and I’m not sure what else.  I’d like a blue hydrangea, but I honestly don’t know [haven’t checked yet] what our soil’s pH naturally is.  If it’s acidic, we could grow blue hydrangeas, but if it’s basic, they’d turn out pink, which would not be a plan with the red trim on our house and the red azaleas.  If the soil turns out to be terribly basic, rather than fight it (with aluminum sulfate) I’d probably just do white.


The backyard got some love too, mostly in the form of red and white impatiens to fill in a few places and add some color (eventually; they’re still pretty little).  

DSCN2522In a similar theme to the front yard, we’re going the route of planting annuals to look nice for now, while we give some thought to what we’re going to do about these planters (which clearly need replacing).  I’d like to replace the wood with stone, but that is likely to be a bigger project than just the planters, since we’re also thinking of doing a patio extension off the deck to reach the glass door in the family room.  The patio would give us a place to have a fire pit in the summer without putting it on grass or the wood deck.  But that’s for another day.

Herbs and impatiens in the deck railing planter boxes

Herbs and impatiens in the deck railing planter boxes

Last but not least in the plans, the bishop’s weed island in the middle of the yard:DSCN2518We’ve decided its time will come in August – we’ll apply herbicide before we leave for vacation to kill the bishop’s weed, since there’s no way we’d be able to pull it all out otherwise; and when we get back, we’ll pull it out and plant grass at the end of  August.  The bishop’s weed just gets too big — it’s already had its first haircut of the season — and it takes up too much of the lawn.  Also potentially on the chopping block is the evergreen straight behind it.  Nothing wrong with the tree, but it’s right in the middle of everything, and doesn’t added much to either back property line privacy or the overall plan for the yard.  It’s hard to see, since it blends in with the rest of the trees, but it’s actually probably 5 feet further into the yard than any of the rest in the back row.



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