Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#thomashouse2014: the yard, the garden, the growth

Welcome back for another week of talking about the home that now holds the Thomas two. And, though the house feels like it's finally coming together, it's the yard that brings us much fodder for the day.

Our previous living came with a beautiful yard, one so large it was tended by landscapers and not by us. We always undertook a little veggie growing adventure as soon as the winter freezes stopped and the sun started to shine. (Those were years we used to have cold-ish weather here in California.) But, #thomashouse2014 has just the right amount of yard for us to keep and work and love. So, the last few sunny weeks we've done just that.

We threw down some seed in the spots in the lawn gone bare. The muddy path through our backyard became stepping stones (which make me think of the yellow brick road). And we planted fruit trees, flowers, and a garden.

First thing was first for us: fruit trees and flower bushes. Jason wanted to be sure we had some fresh produce growing in the yard. I grew up with beautiful roses for every occasion. Thus it was solved: we should plant a pattern of rose bushes and fruit trees. Rose bush-fruit tree-rose bush-fruit tree all along the edges of the yard. Some important fruit tree facts:

1. They need water. More than the lawn -per say. So you've got to give them some extra water loving -we did that with drip line run to the base of each tree.
2. The lawn will steal their souls. Okay, maybe dramatic. But it's really important to give the trees some space -especially when they're babies. Grass will cozy right up to the base of the trunk and steal some of the life-giving agua. We did this with some bricks round their base and mulch (you can see it in the pictures above).
3. Sun-shade-sun. We have mature trees in our yard. Very mature trees. So it's important to ensure there's some good hours of sun coming through the larger trees' branches and shining down on them. This was a little bit tricky for us and required watching the way the sun and house and big trees interact with one another.

As far as the roses: they need sun. That's the big thing -at least for now. Once they grow larger we can talk pruning and blooms.

Next (and probably more interestingly), the garden. We bought bags and bags and bags of manure. Then turned it into the soil in our little garden area. The man at Home Depot who helped us load them asked why we'd bother with manure when there's far more advanced technology available. Mostly, sir, because it's a quarter of the price of the other stuff. But also because manure worked for farmers many years ago and it'll work for our humble selves today. (Do be warned: it stinks.)

Jason ran drip. And I planted the seedlings as well as some seeds. Zucchini never disappoints. Herbs are my guilty pleasure. Tomatoes abound. We're trying our hands at eggplants. And then we lay down beet seeds. These have always done well for us.

My plants are fancy plants. So fancy -in fact, they are Starbucks fans.
Yep, those are Starbucks coffee grounds. I picked them up for free on Saturday while grabbing my regular Vanilla Misto. Check your local coffee spot and see if they will save grounds for you -usually they make their way into the trash and then local landfills. They make amazing compost or, in my case, soil additive. I used the entire bag throughout my garden sprinkling it atop the ground and then mixing it in with my fingers (so no to disturb the plants). Talk about a lovely smell. This is new for me, so I'm not sure if it's going to do anything amazing or not, but why not give it a go?!?

Finally, we have a shade-flooded spot in our yard. Literally it gets no direct sunlight. So, I headed to the local store in search of hydrangeas (thanks Mom for the recommendation) and other shade-loving blooms. They had a whole section for me to pick from. It's been two and a half weeks and these babies are kicking -though one plant is starting to wilt a bit because it gets less than a half hour of rays. They're finicky I tell you!
Google is the world's biggest helper when it comes to planning your yard. It helped answer questions like: which brand of trees would tolerate our local climate and the amount of sun available to them? What flowers are hardy in case I'm not as good at this garden thing as I thought? How do you prune and care for roses? All answers courtesy of the good ol' Google.

My favorite gardening gear is important because without it I'm a muddy, blistery mess. Nitrile gardening gloves are a must. They're cheap and come in sets of three or four online and in store. They keep a good grip and aren't too bulky feeling.

Get some sweet galoshes. Hunters would be adorable and amazing but we don't have the rain to justify them here in CA, so I've got these black beauties. Just hose the babies down when you're done and they're clean. Win-win.

A little hand shovel. Planting seeds or seedlings can be tricky. So use a hand shovel to get the perfect hole, then fill it in nice and compact. This will allow your plants to be closer together since you're not in danger of tearing up other plants with a bigger shovel head.
And when you're all done it's time for sweet tea, good reads, and sunshine at the patio table.

Whoa. This. is. too. long. Obviously I could have done a better job breaking it up. You win lots of knowledge as your prize for surviving the wordy madness!
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Please tell me: 
what are your garden tricks that'll bring me all kinds of food-growing success?


  1. Brooks @ Cotton & BootsApril 1, 2014 at 6:03 AM

    i love everything you planted! My grandfather loved growing roses, and seeing yours brought back memories of him.

  2. oooO! This is beautiful--can't wait to see what your garden produces! My mom saves all her fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, etc. and composts them. She swears by the soil she gets from doing this! Good luck :)

  3. Ugh your house is just so cute and perfect! Now an adorable backyard and your own gardening :) I wish I could give you some tips but Sean and I are also trying to figure out how to do a garden. We are afraid we will kill everything once we start haha

  4. What a beautiful spread!
    Ahhhh, I can't wait to have our own house!!!

    Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you.

  5. i can't wait for the ground to thaw so we can start our garden. this weekend i'll be doing some serious planning for what veggies will be going in, as well as the pretty things!

  6. Oh, I LOVE! Hydrangeas are my favorite! Also, super cool about the Starbucks grounds! I'll have to keep that in mind!

  7. I love what you're doing with your yard. We really need to do something with ours.

  8. Vicariously all day. Every day. Though sometimes I grumble because it's annoying being out in the yard AGAIN. Then when we're done all I want to do is sit out there... How confused am I?!?!

  9. Please tell me there will be lots of green. You deserve green after all this snow and frost and ice and cold. Pink and blue and white and yellow flowers too.

    Am I asking too much?

  10. Isn't it cool?!? I wanted to carry the 2 pound bag home with me when my mom regulated (thank goodness it would have been a long 2 miles). But now my garden smells SO FABULOUS.

  11. It is NOT for the faint of heart. Jason and I both collapse into bed at night feeling like we're going to die and our hands are going to fall off. But then when I'm out wandering through the plants in the morning I'm glad we did it.

  12. Jason desperately wanted to get a lot big enough to have all kinds of trees and a big garden and bushes. I loved the idea, but now that we're doing it ourselves I'm SO thankful that we don't have any more room! :)

  13. I cannot wait for the roses to start blooming with reckless abandon. I did a good job picking out all different colors (even though we buy them based on the names) so I will have the chance to make amazing little bouquets out of them! Now I'm going to think of you and your Pops while I garden. So happy for me! :)

  14. Oh tell me more about the compost! Does she keep it in a box and then spread it after? We tried composting once and it just ended up being a stinky mess... But I'm thinking we did it wrong.

  15. Oh perfect doesn't include the patchy-desperately-needs-paint walls or the holes in a couple of the ceilings while we move lights around... :) The garden is so much fun. SO MUCH. And thankfully plants are pretty hardy once you've got them in the ground so killing them ends up being a challenge!

  16. I think she started small, but recently purchased an actual composter she keeps outside (similar to this one: http://www.lowes.com/pd_458756-49078-8000-BK_0__?productId=4620580&Ntt=composters&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dcomposters&facetInfo=) and she LOVES it. Keeps everything contained & is easy to spread. Hope this helps!!

  17. I want a garden soooooo bad, but we have stinkin jack rabbits and they'll eat everything. haha. we live a little bit outside of town and they're every where. those things are huge too. seriously bigger than my weenie dogs. ha


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