Archive for the ‘Garden Construction’ Category

Building a Walkway

We’ve been slogging thru the wet grass and mud for years now to get from the house and garage to the greenhouse.  So we decided it was time to build a new path to it so we don’t get so wet and yucky.  It was a big project but Louie and I work well together and it only took a few hours, over several days that is.  It was actually kind of fun, once we got everything straightened out so the lines were clear from the old walk to the new one.  Lining it up was crucial to making it look good and a part of the whole.  It worked out just as we’d hoped.  Here it is in various stages of construction:

These are the materials we used.  We had 34 exposed aggregate stones that each weigh about 40 pounds, so just with the stones we moved some 1400 pounds. But before we put down the stones we had to spread 20 sacks of gravel at 100 pounds a sack, or a ton of gravel.   Then we put down 10 100 pound sacks of sand for another 1/2 ton.  So all together we moved close to 2 1/2 tons of material to construct this thing.  And that doesn’t count all the soil we moved!  No wonder it was tiring!

Here it is in an early stage of work when we have the grass out and the gravel just begun.  You can see the old walkway we started from that is the same style of bricks.  We wanted a consistent look to it so we used the  same materials.  We put down about 3-4″ of gravel and 2″ of sand to make the bed for the stones.

We ran all the dirt thru a screen we’d devised earlier just for that purpose.  It sifts out the stones and the grass.  We  compost the grass and toss the stones under the deck.  But the soil we used in the garden to increase the level with a few inches of new soil.  In order to fit it all in there we raised the sides of the beds of the garden about 6″ to allow for the new soil.  We’ll have to mix in compost to make the garden rich again and will do so once the current crop of kale and mustard greens, and the last of the tomatoes, are gone.

Here you can see the gravel starting to be spread on the path.  You can see one of the stones set here to get a feel for the level.  Once the gravel is at the right depth we added the sand to bring the depth up and to even it all so that it can be exactly the same level as the current walkway.  We did OK at that so the line is straight and the path is on an even grade and has no bumps or low spaces in it.  Next we put down the stones to finish it off.

Here is the actual walk set in place.  We threw a bunch of sand down over it to fill in the cracks and make it all solid.   We had to cut some of the stones to fit with the step of the greenhouse.  We had a diamond masonry blade to use to cut the stone.  It did a great job as long as we wore masks to keep the stone dust out of our noses and dripped some water on the blade to keep the dust down and the blade cool.   We just used our circular saw we already had and have used for many previous projects.

Here I am sweeping the sand over the walk to get it into all the cracks.  It took awhile and then we let it settle for a day or so before watering it in and getting it all smooth and nice.  The sand makes it all look like a solid path.  You can see we did a pretty good job of cutting the lawn back to the edge of the stones so that the grass will grow back even and make it all feel like it’s been there for awhile, which it does today as I write this.

Here it is all finished and ready to use.  You can see it’s much lighter than the old one, but then the ‘old’ one was put in new just a few years ago to match what we had then.  It’s weathering well and looking as good as the original old stone we reused in that first project.  The new stone will weather just as well and look consistent in time.  This is being so useful to us already as we go back and forth to the garage and the greenhouse.  We can stay dry now and have a clean path to walk on so we don’t track mud into the house.

This was a relatively big project but we got it done despite the hard work.  It’s not that difficult to do if you want a walk like this.  It was work of course and you have to have a good eye for the lines so it comes out straight and level.  But that difficulty is OK when you consider that you’ve made it yourself and can be proud of your work.  It’s worth it to have done it ourselves.  We’re glad we put it in despite all the work, and you will be too if you decide to try this.

Happy building!

Steve

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The Path

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Going into the Front Yard

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Going towards the Back Yard

This path runs along the north side of the house. It’s shady and grass won’t grow here, and it was all slanted away from the house and muddy in the rains. So we decided to redo it.  We leveled the area and brought in several bags of walk-on bark to create a nice walk along the house. Then we tackled the front area which was another muddy spot which sloped to the lawn. We got some nice stones and laid them in a rising pattern going into the back and planted Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii), a lovely ground cover that smells divinely of fresh mint when you bruise it as you walk past. It’s made an ugly eye-sore into a pleasing path from front to back. It ties the whole garden together so we can walk around the house to see everything. Not much work for a nice return…

Walking gently,

Steve

Evolution of a Garden

I love going thru my photo album and looking back at the garden as it’s grown. I have almost 4,500 pictures so far, dating from 2007 to the present. I’ve been wanting to do a retrospective for some time to show how things have grown over time. So I’ve arranged 3 particular shots over the years in chronological order so we can see each section of the garden and how it’s grown over the years.

Except for the first row where there is no garden, the shots are arranged to show first the front of the garden, then a side view, and finally a back sort of view. Not all these are the same shot of course, but I managed to find ones that seemed to show what I wanted pretty well. Over the time these shots encompass we go from a simple lawn with a few foundation shrubs at the back and some fruit trees to a dense garden full of plants. Unfortunately we lost both of the big Cherries and a large rhododendron. So this garden has a mixture of styles and formats due to the changing of the canopy and other factors.

I might have done things differently if I’d known the trees would die, but who can know those things? I’ve tried to replace them with other trees that will be nice, but there will never be a canopy over it again. That’s OK tho,  because there will be a different look to it as the conifers at the back and sides get bigger and provide an enclosure for the garden on 2 sides. Somehow I managed to have all deciduous trees in the middle of everything so in the winter the center of the garden is bare but the sides stay green, and the underplantings stay green too. It’s a nice effect.

If you scroll down each line you can get a sort of slide show effect and see how each area has grown each year. Or you can click on the first one and go thru them that way so you see more. In fact I recommend you do that to see the full pictures.

I took the last set just a couple of days ago so they’re recent.  This is how it looks today, tho it’ll be different in a few months after the conifers grow more. It’ll take many years for this garden to mature, and we’ll never get to see it all, but I’m amazed at how much it’s grown in such a short time, so who knows? We’re planting trees we’ll probably never live to sit in the shade of, but other folks will get to. Planning for a future of green…

I hope you enjoyed this look back in time,

Steve

Maples in the Sun

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We’ve been lucky to get some sunshine lately and I happened to be out in the back yard the other day when I saw this shot. So I went in and grabbed my camera and took a few photos. (You can click on them to get a larger size shot). I was struck by how beautiful the Japanese Maples look in this picture. From the left is a small dark red one called Red Dragon. It’s a Dissectum type maple and is supposed to be “the best red dissectum”. I’m leery of superlatives but I will say it’s quite beautiful tho it hasn’t grown much in the 4 years it’s been here. But I like it just fine as it stays this dark red all summer long.

The one in the middle is called Red Pygmy and is a Linearlobum type maple. It has strap like leaves that are deeply cut, almost like a dissectum but not as much so. This tree looks almost bronzy golden in the sun but its leaves are actually a light burgundy and look lovely. This tree has grown immensely from a small stick to over 6 feet by 7 or 8 wide. It turns a spectacular golden in the fall.

The third one on the right is a classic Palmatum type of maple called the Bloodgood. It’s an Old standard that has been in cultivation in this country since the Civil War and is named for the Bloodgood Nursery on Long Island in the late 1700’s. It gets to 20 feet tall as opposed to 10′ for the Red Pygmy so it’ll get larger here and fill the space it has to grow into fine.

You can see several other plants in this shot. On the far right is a newish favorite of mine from just a year ago. In that time it’s grown 4 feet and is amazing. It’s a Cryptomeria called Radicans. I have several of the Cryptomerias and I love them all. All are unique and interesting. On the far left is a spreading yew, or Taxus repandens. It’s grown quite a lot in its years here and is a low dark green presence at the corner of the yard. Next to it on the right is a Wintercreeper called Gaiety, or Eunoymus fortunei. It’s trying to grow up the Plum but I’m not letting it do so.

To the left of the Plum is a Manzanita called Howard McMinn that shows off its reddish bark for you tho it’s a bit hard to see. I’ll do a full shot of it soon and show a bit more of it. In the center of this shot is a Leucothoe fontanesiana called Rainbow that turns lovely purples and reds in the fall, tho not as much as I expected. I love the fountain like display it puts on. It loves the water it gets when we clean the fountain too.

 

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In this next shot of the garden a few steps closer, you can see the maples better and also the Blue Star juniper in the middle of the front row. Next to it is a Mugho Pine called Pumilio. It’s done well so far but not gotten too big which is fine with me. It holds down the corner of the garden there near the path. I should mention the two big trees you can see as trunks are an Italian Plum on the left that feeds many of the food bank folks we give the plums to. We like to eat them too but we get so many it’s good we can share them with others. The other tree trunk is a Queen Anne cherry that gives a lot of fruit to the birds but we rarely get any of them. Oh well, it’s a lovely tree and gives some shade to the otherwise open garden.

 

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This is the closest picture of the garden and in it you can see the Heather blooming in the left of the shot, and next to it is another Cryptomeria called Elegans, for its elegant look and soft quality of its leaves. I’ve profiled it before and it’s one of my “Petable” trees. It’s grown from about 1 foot and 1/2 to over 9 feet in 5 years. Wow! I’m impressed. Also here are on the right side you can see the Variegated Sea Holly with its purple cast of blooms near the white picket fence. It’s the most bee friendly plant I have in that it attracts several varieties of bees and is covered in them at times in the sun. What spectacular sights to see and it holds its color for several months quite nicely. Also in the middle of the shot is the Coast Redwood I profiled a week ago – the Kelly’s Prostrate. It’s just to the left of the Red Dragon maple in front of the Heather.

So that’s the pictures of the garden in the sun. It’s so lovely when it shines thru things like it does now. I like how it illuminates them from behind like this. I was lucky to catch it when I did as we haven’t had much sun since this happened a couple of days ago. It’s still been in the 90’s tho, which is very hot for us here in Seattle. We’re melting…. 🙂

Japanese Maples rock!

Steve

 

Seattle Home Show

We didn’t make it to the Flower and Garden Show this year so we decided to go to the Seattle Home Show instead. It’s mostly focused on home improvement, but they have several nice landscape features that I tried to capture a bit with a few photos. None of these gardens are really spectacular but they’re still pretty and show some of what folks around here are doing with landscapes these days.

We went to look at some things for the house, like new tubs for walking into, and new carpets and greenhouse windows and other stuff, and we got a lot of good information. It was a fun, easy day of wandering thru the show seeing all the new things people are using this year. I was amazed at all the spas that are for sale now, and the little saunas are cool too. But not for us…

Many of these shots are surrounding model homes of various sorts tho there are also shots of the wine and beer garden in the large open areas. I took these photos to show some of the particular plants that they have displayed. Some of them are ones I have in this garden here but many are not. You can tell how popular the coral bark maple is in how often it’s used here. Same with the Pieris and some others. And lots of grasses. I especially love the Yuletide camellias with their bright red blooms with yellow stamens.

Some folks bring in large trees to create a feeling of the forest in this huge convention center. It’s part of the CenturyLink Field where they hold football games, I think. I’m not a sports fan. This is in the exhibition hall and it’s one of the largest home shows in the country. I can believe it. We covered it in about 3 or 4 hours of solid walking with a break to learn about earthquake safety, something we have to worry about here in the PNW with its fault lines.  They expect a Big One sometime in the next 50 years. I hope I don’t live to see it… 😉

I also included some shots of a statuary place that had very interesting creations that the owner designs himself. We talked to him awhile about how he uses rubber molds and cement to make these beauties, and his prices are really nice. We plan to go to his showroom near us in the future to add a few more art pieces to the garden. They add a really nice feeling to it.

I can’t claim to have gotten any new gardening ideas from this show but I still appreciated seeing the designs that folks do. Of course none of them would grow in the real world as they’re display gardens meant to look good now and not in 5 years. They’d all be overgrown like crazy. But that’s OK and just the way it has to be. It’s nice to see things that look good from the get go and provide a sense of completion when they’re created.

So that’s it. I hope to make it to the Flower and Garden Show next year and will try to do a post on it when that happens. They do have some really nice gardens there and I’ve gotten some good ideas attending it. It’ll be cool to see it again, but for now I’m glad to have had the chance to see the gardens here at this Home Show and to have seen all the ways people are remodeling their homes and building new ones. It’s all fascinating to me looking thru my gardener’s lens…

Happy remodeling,

Steve

Early Days

Here are some photos that Louie took starting a full year before I started my own journal of photos. So he has some of the very early shots from before we even started the garden and I’m showing some of them now with some others that show what it’s grown up some to be in the first year or two. I’m amazed at how fast things grow but those first years were slow and I re-arranged things quite a bit to get the right balance.

The first shot shows the back of the lot before I started to change it to a garden. It had some nice big Osmanthus, Gold dust plant, a big Blue Peter Rhodie, and some Alberta Spruce that Louie salvaged from the neighbors. As you can see it’s just grown up and formed a nice shrubbery. All that changes in the next picture a year later as you can see with the new path and plants.

The next one is still that old but from the other end of the path so you can see how it goes from there. And the next one is of the very back of the yard a year later when it’s in growth.  You can see the small Metasequoia in this one tho it’s bare in the previous shots. It’s huge now after 5 years of growth and is now almost 10 feet tall!

This one is of the very front of the house by the street. You can see that I’ve just planted these Nandinas and Oregon Grapes in 2008. In the next shot it’s 2009 and they’ve started to grow, but just barely. They take off in years to come. Next is the fern bed before it was anything more than a bare bed. In the next shot you can see some ferns I’ve planted. A lot of them made it but some didn’t and I had to replant them.

These next ones are all shot from the inner front yard. Starting with the first you can see that there’s not much there except the lawn and a rockery Louie put in years ago. The Arborvitae makes a nice backdrop to all these plants. You can see from under the apple tree in one of them and the whole line up of plants starting from 2008 going to 09, and one of the other end so you see out of the garden in 2009.

The next ones are more of the inner front and are taken in 2010. They show how much things have grown here. I have lots more shots of all this but I was trying to give you an idea of the overall changes and these seem to do it the best. I hope they give an idea of how sparse things were at the beginning in comparison to what I’ve been showing you lately.

Here we’re in the back yard in 09 and the very back as well. The next is sort of in the middle of the back yard and the next is one of the fountain in it’s place with a few plants around it. You can see the stone pathway we put in to walk to it here. It makes it nice to be able to walk on it to get to work on the fountain when we want to clean it.

The final shots are of the whole back yard garden with some of the wheelchair accessible path we put in to the deck in case it’s needed. The other one’s a larger wide shot of the whole back yard as it was in 2010. It’s changed a lot since then and I’ll show more pictures of what that looks like in the coming days as I get to them.

I hope these pictures have shown you how little there was to begin with when we started this garden back in 2008 and 2009. It seems like it has been a short time but in other ways it’s been an eternity to wait for the little things to grow. I’m patient, but c’mon! 😉

That’s the problem and the joy of dwarfs. You can watch them stay in place for years and years without having to do much to keep them OK. They may take awhile to get there but they do in time and now many of ours are bigger than I am, a good test of growth for me. With a small garden like this you have to plant mostly dwarfs tho I have few larger tress I’ve planted as well.

I think that’s the true test of an optimistic gardener. As Wendell Berry put it, more or less, “I see my crops as the Redwoods, which I did not plant, and which I will not live to harvest.” Planting big trees when you’re in your 60’s is an act of faith that tho you may not get to see them some day as large trees, we’re really planting them for future generations, and that’s a cool thing to do.

Gardens for all!

Steve

Building the Greenhouse

Some of these next posts will take us back in time a few years to when we first started some of the garden. I’m going to do a bit of an overview of how we built our greenhouse first. We started with a blank wall where the garage ends and we begin the work to level the ground to put in the greenhouse. We left the floor as dirt with gravel on it eventually, so it’s really grounded in the earth well.

To start the building itself is a picture of the framing of the foundation for the walls. After that we poured concrete mixed by hand in a big box made for it and put in the foundation. It’s got a wide foot on it and comes to a top of 4 inches wide to accommodate the frame. We poured it in a day, or was it night, I forget.. We worked at all  hours to get this one done. These first shots are from January 2010 when we started to build. Winter was not bad that year so we could work fine thru it.

Next we start to frame it and the walls are partly up here. We definitely overbuilt the thing since we managed to score a huge pile of wood at a local lumber store and got most of the wood for a mere $45 dollars. We got 2×8’s and 2×10’s and 2×4’s and trim wood and all sorts of stuff that they had in a special pile to sell cheap, So we took out generator and chop saw down to the store and cut the pieces to fit the van and hauled it all back home. It was a real deal and made the cost of the greenhouse much less expensive than it would have been.

We also scored on the windows. We found some big Millgaard last forever windows at a neighbors house where they were giving them away. They’re both double paned and are some 4′ wide by 3 1/2 high and make up the south west corner of the greenhouse. It’s was a real deal that saved us hundreds of dollars. It’s great when neighbors share their cast offs and they can be reused in our own place. Thanks, neighbors!

Next is a bit more framing with the door in it. Then one of the initial cladding of fiberboard to make the walls out of. Then the cladding with the door in it as well. We got a new storm door to put in since we don’t have a lot of light in the north side since the sides are walls instead of windows. So this big glass double paned door works great. It’s useful for letting in the light and keeping in the heat both.

Here are some interior shots as we put it together. In one I’m putting up some insulation which we put on all the walls. The garage was already insulated so we didn’t have to worry about that side. The whole place is insulated well with the thickest we could put in and it seems to work well. It’s sealed up really tight and when we first finished and shut it it was so tight we called it our Volkswagen Greenhouse. It would float! We had to open a window to get the door closed at first it was so tight!!

This is an interior shot of the greenhouse when we first did the seedbed and are getting ready to make it real. Next is the interior finished with the seedbed and the bench to put the finished plants on to grow. It looks like it has plenty of room here but we’ve filled up the space quite well over the years. At times it was bursting as I’ve shown in a past post. We made it as big as we could and fit the free windows in with an inch to spare. It’s tight as I said…

Here’s the seed bed all ready to go with the covers on it to hold in the moisture and keep the seeds moist and warm. There’s a coil of electric wire in the sand in the bed that heats up and provides bottom heat to the seedlings as they start to grow. It makes a big difference in starting seeds and in keeping the whole greenhouse a bit warmer when it’s on. But we only use it some of the year of course as heat. The rest of the time we just put plants there to use the space. Next are seeds in the seed bed growing. They look so cool and this was so exciting to see for the first time I’ll tell you!

This is my tool rack, or one of them. We have to use part of the greenhouse as a tool and storage shed – a potting shed if you will. It’s actually a combination of potting shed and greenhouse and I like the two combined. We both love to just hang out and sit in here on a rainy day and listen to the rain on the roof. It’s all done with fiberglass so the whole thing gets lots of light. So even tho some of it is walls there’s plenty of light to allow things to grow well in here as the years have shown us.

Finally here are a couple of shots of the outside of the greenhouse when it’s all done. First from the north side where the door is and the water barrel we use to gather the rain from the greenhouse roof and use it almost all year to water. We have to augment it in summer when it doesn’t rain (Yes, there are Months where it doesn’t rain here in Seattle, despite what you’ve heard… 😉 Next is the west side which gets the most sun along with the south side. The east is a garage so we don’t get much early daylight but it gets sun early enough to warm it up well each day when the sun shines

So that’s it. I made it in one post which surprises me. I guess it’s a lot to take in but it’s from start to finish, more or less, and I’ve given you an idea of what it takes to build a greenhouse. Or at least This greenhouse, anyway… The last pictures were taken in April of 2011 so we did all this in about 3 months or so. It was a lot of work but we’re so proud of it. It’s allowed us to grow so much good food and flowers it’s all been worth it. We get to grow all sorts of things we couldn’t grow outside, like the peppers we still have going after two years.

It’s a treat to have a greenhouse and if you have one I hope you’re enjoying it as much as we are. It’s a great thing to have to enhance your gardening, even if it’s a little one like ours. BTW this whole place is only about 6 x 14 feet overall with a ceiling of 7ft or so. It’s compact and just right… I wouldn’t want anything bigger or I’d go crazy trying to fill it. It’s big enough that we’re happy with it and will be for years to come.

Happy Greenhousing!

Steve

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