Monday, November 07, 2011


Sad looking front yard. Ok, maybe it just looks sad to me.
I don't know why, but each time we buy a house (you know, all of two times) the yard sucks.  All the plants still have their nursery tags on them, the plants are mostly kinda junky, and we have tons of empty bedding space.  Also, these houses don't have any mature trees. 

Our current house had only 5 trees - 2 mystery trees that could possibly be cherry trees, one which I was hoping was an apple tree but sadly, its a crappy crab apple tree where the fruit is a good 2" in diameter and makes good throwing weapons for the neighborhood urchins, and 2 austrian pine trees. 
Really pretty crab apple blossoms in mid-May.  Not sure
2 weeks of pretty blossoms is worth 3 months of picking
mini-apples up from your lawn.
NOTHING that would considered be a shade tree. 

The front yard is really horrible.  Ok, I'm exaggerating.  We have a very cute porch and in front of it are very ugly and mis-matched bushes.  There are some sort of juniper/evergreen shrubs combined with these weird pale green leafy bushes (which did turn a very pretty shade of red this fall).  This is completed by generic river rock underlain with weed fabric.  BLAH.  The back yard is slightly better.  We have 2 types of lilacs (I love lilacs), some really fugly ornamental plum bushes (they're very scraggly and we have a TON of them.  And we have some creeping blue juniper (which is ok) in the beds under the plums.  And a stand of aspen - which really are just big weeds.  The weird thing is that there were NO FLOWERS at all in our yard.  How sad is that?
veggie bed.  Strangely, this HUGE space was completely
devoid of plants.  Also see aspens behind it.

We bought the house in May but then had IMTX to contend with.  Which meant no time for the new house until June.  Which was too late to do anything substantial to the yard.  We did install a 5 x 8 ft raised vegetable bed.  Planted a ton of herbs (peppermint, 3 types of basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro), eggplant, zucchini, japanese cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, green peppers, butternut squash, mini-canteloupe, strawberries, and spaghetti squash.  I think it was just too late to plant anything, because for the most part, the garden was a collossal flop.  We managed to have nice herbs (although the cilantro died nearly right away - I never have luck with that stuff).  We got 3 lemon cucumbers, 2 japanese cucumbers, and a whoppiong 2 zucchini.  So weird.  I did get one decent sized spaghetti squash but when I picked it, it was fairly green and watery on the inside.  Ick.  And we did get a few tiny strawberries.  
Sad little cukes....
They were small, but actually SUPER tasty.  All I can say is THANK GOODNESS for my CSA and the weekly veggie deliveries.  Otherwise, it would have been a sad, veggie-free summer.

I also ordered a ton of plants from Spring Hill Nursery.  Huge disappointment.  They arrived as little plants, and I think by the time they got in the ground (mid-June) was was too hot and we were too far into the growing season for them to do anything.  Also: Will decided to "weed" some areas with a shovel and killed several of them.  Boo.

After about a month of being in the house, we knew that we needed some real trees.  Our living room / kitchen / bedroom face west with big windows.  Western sun + nothing to block the sun = HOT rooms.  Seriously, in the past 15 years, WHY did no one plant a real tree for shade?!?!?!?  Also, our house in situated on a corner and our back yard faces the front door and driveway of our perpendicular neighbor.  Fortunately, they don't have windows on that side of the house so its not like we're starring at each other.  Still, I really don't want to be aware of their house features.  So in late June, we ordered a HUGE (probably 20 ft tall) autumn blaze maple.  This thing will get
Maple tree. Small green shrubs were the existing lilacs.
to ~50 feet tall and should provide awesome summer shade.  We also got a baby blue eyes spruce and a vanderwolf pine.  Picking pine trees for this area was a bit tricky, because we didn't want the trees to be wide but we wanted them to be fairly tall.  Hopefully these trees will do what we need them to do.

Summer went by and we didn't really do anything with the yard.  In August, we came back from Idaho with some irises from grandma's yard. I also got some seeds from some ornamental poppies and hollyhocks that went to seed in the yard.  (I totally forgot about these until now... hmmmm).  Then my mom found some random guy who had "award winning" irises that he had split up and was giving away.  Apparently these things are expensive and lovely.  So we planted a TON of irises in the outskirts of the yard.
right to left - vanderwolf pine, baby blue eyes spruce,
austrian pine.  With icky scraggly plums in between.
  And hopefully in a few years, we'll have iris flowers.  Oh, and we got some hops from Will's grandparent's mountain cabin.  They were growing, but the bunnies ate the leaves off.  They now are surrounded by chicken wire.  Maybe next year we'll have hops for beer?

Its fall now and has snowed 3 times.  Fall is the time to plant bulbs, so you have a pretty spring. And once they're planted, you typically don't have to do anything with them for years to come.  They just do their own thing and come back every year.  When I lived in Houston, the first year we had a house I planted something like 150 bulbs. Most of them came up.  But over the following years, I'd say that maybe half came back, then half of that half, then soon, nothing.  Something to do with a lack of a hard freeze, bulbs rotting, crappy soil. Simply not worth the effort. But in Colorado, bulbs do great!  So I ordered some daffodills, tulips. hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and alliums.  And for the garden I got garlic.  We got some garlic in August from the CSA and it was some of the BEST garlic I'd ever had.  Small bulbs but they packed a punch.  A coworker told me about this garlic internet "farm" where you could order seed bulbs, so I got a small garden pack, containing 0.25 lb amounts of four different types of garlic.  I've never planted garlic before, so this whole thing will be an experience.  Apparently, you have to break up the garlic into individual cloves and plant each clove separately.  You want the big cloves, as they determine the size that your garlic will be at maturity.  So I got to work splitting up the cloves.  It was weird because it just looked like a bulb of garlic that you buy at the store.  Still not sure why these were special "seed" garlics, but whatever.  So after they were split up, I counted the cloves and we had over 60.  Which means I could have 60 heads of garlic next summer.  Good thing we're not vampires or we'd be in trouble.  Also: holy crap, that's a lot of garlic.  I didn't want to take up space in the raised garden bed, but the soil surrounding the bed is pretty good.  So I picked 4 distinct areas for each variety and planted those.  I probably should have planted them a month ago, but I didn't.  Hopefully they'll survive.  We shall see.

This spring, I would like to re-do the area in front of the front porch.  That means getting rid of those crappy ugly bushes that don't do anything and replacing them with other things.  I'm thinking miniature pines or spruces with maybe a flowering shrub.  This area faces to the north, so it could be tricky.  And I'd also like to get some potted flowers for the front porch - to make things cheery.  I also want to get into this area by our dining room.  Its a deep corner of the yard and it has 3 VERY scraggly plum bushes.  (can you tell I hate those things?)  We have at least 7 of those damn things and they really don't do anything at all.  Instead, I would love to do a cute xeriscaped area or maybe a rock garden.  Of course, this will depend on my training for the Boise HIM and how much time I feel like spending on a part of the yard that I don't see very often.  And we're going to start veggies inside and move them into the yard in ~April.  Two months earlier than this year.  Not certain what I want to plant, but I do know I want more basil, would like to try cukes and squash again, and I definitely want to grow romanesco squash (its like zucchini but so much tastier!).  We are thinking that we planted too late and our plants just couldn't get a good start in life, thus the very poor production.  I may also do some spring crops like lettuce and things. 
So that's the plan for next year.  We're still at least a good couple of summers away from things looking really nice, but its a good start.

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