Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Outdoor Party #1, Check!

Hope you all had a great long weekend for Memorial Day. 

We had our first party of the season (my list goal is 6, so I’m on my way to a check mark there).

What do you do to get ready for a party?

Chances are some grocery shopping, cleaning up the house, pulling out serving trays and dishes, maybe even making some special appetizers or dessert, right?

Well for me food is the last thing I think about.  Good thing I have Mike to pick up the slack in that area or we’d have starving guests!

Around here it usually means pulling out all the stops and busting tail to get a project done before party time.  That’s exactly what I did this weekend.

Friday morning I took 3 trips back and forth to Lowes and Home Depot for 20 more bags of mulch, 22 topsoil, 20 garden soil and 100 more retaining wall blocks. See how low the van is sitting? 

Waiting to be unloaded yet again.


Let’s review this little project….

You may recall the “before” picture of the walkway.


And the awful dirt and weed-filled space between the kitchen and the secret garden entry.


A couple weeks back the pavers got all pulled up and reset with a better base and retaining blocks.


Then last week I showed you one section all planted and mulched.


I spent all day Friday (extra day off), and Saturday, and Sunday trying to pull together the rest of the landscaping around the walkway and outdoor kitchen.

First this little area on the side of the potting shed…


Then the narrow strip between the garage and the patio was built up into a planter.  I went 2 rows high on this part, hence the trip back to Lowe’s for more blocks.



Finally the biggest section along the house…


Seriously, on Sunday morning (party day) I was outdoors in my PJs at 5am preparing to set the stepping stones in front of the kitchen.


I saved that part for last.


From there I went to planting the new planters and mulching around some trees.  Then dusting all the webs off the pergola in the outdoor kitchen. And using the leaf blower to clean up the patio, then dusting again from all the dust the leaf blower kicked up.  Duh!

Time was running out as I pulled out a bucket to wash the breezeway floor……

I stepped into the shower to get cleaned up just 30 minutes before guests were due to arrive.

By the time the first guest showed I was all ready for them.  The night was a huge success, we ate and drank ‘til the wee hours of the morning.

Only one mishap and it turned out ok. 

Katy took off for a run when someone left the gate open.

Very scary moments there! 

Good thing she’s a people dog, I got a phone call from the folks who found her minutes after the escape.

Thank goodness! Slowly everyone started coming back from the search operation and the party resumed.

Wish I had thought to take pictures during the festivities, but alas, I was too busy having fun.

You’ll have to settle for some landscaping shots, ok?

I took these all the morning after.



Wait, what happened to the mulch along the right side of the kitchen?

Could it be dug up already?


Oh, yeah,  Katy decided to dig a deep hole in it and have a nice cool nap!

Caught her red-handed.


Dang it Katy! What am I going to do with you?


I was pretty satisfied with how this part came out; especially after digging out this photo taken last summer from almost the exact same angle.



What a difference!




Ok, so now I can get back to working on that secret garden project.

Really now.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Secret Garden Sidetracked

I’m back with more on the Secret Garden project!  First of all, I wanted to show you a special junk find that I’m using for it.

You might even say these prompted me to start this particular project.


Aren’t they cool?

I picked up these porch pillars from the curb a couple summers ago.  The homeowners had torn down their entire front porch and started over with all new materials.  These were laying out at the curb and I could not believe my good fortune!

It took me 2 trips to get them all home and they’ve been waiting in my storage space ever since.

Waiting for me to get around to this very project.


I purchased some metal post stakes so I wouldn’t have to dig a hole. (have I ever mentioned how much I HATE to dig? Especially post holes, yuck!)

The metal stakes are 30 inches long and take a lot of hammering to get into the ground!

Mike had to help me in the end, I was exhausted!

Then I slipped some 4x4 posts into the top sleeve of the stake. 

In the picture below they are very crooked because I was just trying it out and didn’t want to put them in all the way as I still needed to cut the posts down to the right height.


The porch posts are hollow and slip right over the 4x4’s to make fancy fence posts for holding the trellis panels.


I was going to use all 4, but in the small space it was a bit of overkill.  Remember, these pics are from the trial run for fit. 

Leveling and all that fun stuff will come later.


The end pieces of lattice will be attached directly to the shed on the left and the house on the right.

The entry arbor will be centered between the middle posts. 

In the picture above you can see how I’m using the lattice right now  to keep curious dogs out of the work area. 

See the post stake sticking up in the new center planting bed below? 


I have plans for that 4th post!

Ok, so this is where I got sidetracked.

Anytime you’re working on a project the work zone gets rather messy, I get that.

But when I was taking the pictures of the secret garden work, I realized how awful the area in FRONT of the secret garden was.  This was beyond construction mess, it was seriously bad.

I was dismayed.  How on earth was I ever going to make this look decent?


That brick paver path from the house had been installed by me on a whim one day several years ago and I didn’t level or properly prepare the base.

I just put the bricks on the ground and that was that.

Yeah, I know, that’s dumb.

You’re not supposed to do that.

Why not?

Well folks,  if it’s not prepped right the bricks will sink and water will puddle on the path making it a muddy mess every time it rains (or you use the hose).

Just ask me, I know!


What to do? 

It looks like hell.

I bit the bullet, grumbled a lot, and pulled up all the pavers.

And started over. 

This time with a shovel and lots of paver base and sand.


3 trips back to Home Depot for even more……

Finally I had it sloped properly away from the house and towards the patio.

I had to reset the whole walkway, leveling, pounding in the pavers and then finding something to edge the walkway to finish it off.


I settled on small retaining wall blocks.


Last night I finished the small section by the Japanese Maple corner.

I was able to use some of the plants Linda had so generously shared with me last month.  I still have a lot waiting in the raised planter holding area. (they’re flourishing in there!)


A few bags of mulch finished it off.



Ahhh, much better.

See how easily I get sidetracked?

Tomorrow I’ll get the other side done and then work my way back to the lattice fence build.

Oh yeah, umm, did I mention we have our first party of the summer planned for Sunday?

I’ve got some work to do!

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Secret Garden-Started

A few weeks ago I shared my desire to have my very own Secret Garden, as in the book. 

I have the space all picked out for it and I actually started on it already. 

Some before pictures are in order here, so you can get a sense of what I’m working with.

These are pretty embarrassing. 

Here goes…


The grass is spotty, the stepping stones are awkward, and the garden by the fence is totally overrun with flowers and weeds. I can’t tell which is which anymore.  By midsummer it’s totally wild.

secret garden 039

It’s come to look like a garden junk graveyard.  

Somehow it has all migrated to this part of the yard. 

Lots of material to work with, but lots to say goodbye to as well.

secret garden 038 

It didn’t always look so bad….in previous summers the side yard looked like this.


And then this…


Ok, so it did look so bad. 

It’s high time I try to tame it and edit some of that junk out of there.

All the garden planning articles suggest using a garden hose to form the edges of the planting beds.  So I  pulled out some old hose to try to figure out what to do with the shape of the beds. 

Well that trick must only work in warm weather. 

The hose was so stiff it didn’t really work out so well.

secret garden 037 

I decided a center planter would break up the narrow strip and give the eye a place to pause before the gate on the end.

secret garden 041

The bricks are staying, I will use them as edging.


They all came from the yard to begin with.

outdoor kitchen 010

As a matter of fact we decided to take apart that old brick bbq oven and use those bricks too. 

This was here when we bought the house.  It had obviously not been used in many years.

Mike has begun the task of breaking it up.


It just made no sense trying to fix it up when we don’t really need it.

(Pretty soon we can strike that task off the list!)

Once I decided on the shape of the planting area I removed all the grass, and used some pavers to border the new center planter. 

I broke out the paint sprayer and used it to stain the stockade fence AND the lattice panels I had been saving for just this purpose. 

It worked out pretty good to lean the lattice against the fence while I was spraying, that way the overspray wasn’t wasted as I needed to paint the fence anyway!



I like the white, it gives it a fresh look.  Like a blank slate.

The dogs were most interested in what I was doing.  Pretty soon this whole area will be off limits to them. 

I think Katy knew this, she promptly left me a “present” on the new path.




Next I laid down landscape fabric, then added a thick layer of mulch over that to make a soft walking area. 

I don’t want Mike to have to come in here with the lawnmower ever again!




It’s a start, but there’s lots more work to be done.


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