Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Back Yard Page 1 of 2

Home Stay + Patio Planter Build

My personal life has always been driven by getting rid of stuff. I was Marie Kondo loooong before I even knew her existence. This Spring the urge of purging came stronger than ever, probably because I am stuck home with a husband and two messy dogs. But I am also cheap, led by my Chinese heritage. So I refuse to throw away anything that I can juice value out of. Balancing between saving things that can be used to create and getting stuff out of the house is the delicate dance I perform.

All this is to say that please imagine the extraordinary joy and relief I had when I turned leftover lumber from our horizontal fence build into a set of planter/seating combo for our patio. We used exclusively 1″x 6″ planks for our fence. But we did purchase fifty pieces of 1″ x 4″ planks for creating a decorative pattern, an idea was nixed quickly. Since returning these planks cost a restocking fee, my Chinese side decided to keep all the lumber in the garden shed for “future use”. Then my Kondo side blamed myself for the next 16 months every time I walked into the shed and saw this giant pile of wood.

IMG_0778

But not anymore. They are now my new planter/seating for our patio and for strawberries we will immensely enjoy over the summer months. Allow me to brag to you how I executed this perfect plan intersecting home organization, building projects, and garden planning. And feel free to admire along the way.

IMG_0749

IMG_0756

A light bulb went off (on, actually…English is weird) moment

I’ve been wanting a planter/trellis combo on the north end of our patio. Our northern neighbor’s house sits lower than ours. Even though there is a 6′ fence between our properties, our patio is completely exposed to their eyes.

IMG_9570

We did plant some privacy trees along the fence but it will take years for them to grow into a sizable hedge. We need something to stop neighbor’s curious eyes now and for all four seasons. After some research, I decided on this design of planter box with tall climbing trellis.

Planter Boxes with Climbing Trellis

It does not only offer privacy, but also function for growing herbs and flowers near the kitchen. I also like how the simple look of this planter box echoes our horizontal fence. Lastly, it is easy to build with the 1″ x 4″ cedar planks I intended to use up.

The cedar I had on hand could build more than one planter. For the second one, I landed on a bench planter design. This planter will be facing our backyard, where we do not need tall trellis for privacy. Rather, we need more seating that can be utilized from both side. Compared to having individual chairs on the patio, integrated seating reduces visual clutter while offering seating for multiple guests when needed.

One big advance of DIY is personalization. Slav has some snowboards than he could ride. But just like me, he has a hard time to throw them away. I planned to use one of them to create an unique seating bench – a good way to incorporate things that reflect our interests and taste into this build.

Cut list: the Basic Design and Dimension of the Planter

The first step was to decide the dimension of the planter. The picture below shows the northeast corner of the patio, where the two planters will be placed. The trellis planter will be set on the short edge, to the right in the picture, whereas the long side of the patio will be boxed in with the bench planter. Our patio is 6″~8″ above the soil at this corner, so I decided the planters should be 32″ tall, with 24″ above the patio when placed next to it.

IMG_7726

I also decided on this dimension because the 2″x 4″s we would use for vertical support for the planters are 96″ long. So there will be no waste when I cut them to three 32″ pieces. In addition, the 32″ height happens to accommodate nine of the 1″ x 4″ boards when arranged horizontally with minimal gaps in between. It is a fairly polished look I like.

IMG_0716

To minimize the scraps with 6′ long planks, I decided to make the width 2′ (24″) for both planters. In this way each dog ear plank will produce three side pieces without any waste.

Planter 1: Design the carcasses

With the plans in place I got to work. First I transported all 50 pieces of 1″ x 4″ x 6″ boards and some 2″ x 4″s left from the gate build to our newly organized garage. It was so nice to have plenty of room and all the right tools in place.

IMG_0672

IMG_0705

I started with the planter bench and built the side panels first (32″ tall and 24″ wide).

IMG_0716

Next was to decided where the planter ends and where the bench starts. I like the look of square planters, so I kept the length of the planters equal with the width (24″).

IMG_0718

I used a couple of the full length 1″ x 4″ planks to link the two side panels together. They also kept everything straight and square. Then, I built the third side panel (furthest to the right) as the side of the snowboard bench. It does not only offer support for the snowboard, but also creates a side table on each end of the seating.

IMG_0724

The picture below offers a better view of the third/inner side panel. The snowboard/seating surface will be inserted into it and on both sides.

IMG_0722

The next step is to add planks onto the carcasses. I decided to cover the back of the planter+ table area completely, but leave the under the table area open to the patio side for additional storage.

IMG_0733

IMG_0725

IMG_0731

Above is a top view of the 2′ x 2′ planter box on one end. The pictures below show how the snowboard seating would be positioned into the inner side panel.

IMG_0727

IMG_0730

Planter 1: Complete the Other End

It took a while to build the first end of the planter. But once I figured out exactly the style I wanted and the dimension, the other end was fast to build.

First the far end panel:

IMG_0738

Then the middle panel with half of the table top incorporated. To save the 1″ x 4″ I used only the dog ear portion and one piece of leftover 1″ x 6″ at the bottom. This panel will be mostly hidden anyway.

IMG_0740

Last was the inner side panel. I left out one horizontal board to accommodate the snowboard.

IMG_0741

After all three side panel were built, I connected them with horizontal planks:

IMG_0747

it is worth while to line up the screws. For any horizontal build, this step really elevates the look:

IMG_0744

Now we could get a good idea on what the final planter bench looks like.

IMG_0749

I made sure that the height of the snowboard works as seating for our patio. The table top part was not in the initial design – it was created to accommodate the curvy ends of the snowboard. But I like it now. It offers a nice separation between the soil and seating, and serves as a great spot to set drinks.

IMG_0751

The Second Planter Build

was a lot more straightforward as it is just a big box. We will get a already-made trellis once the stay-at-home order is over.

IMG_0756

The height and width of this planter remains the same, 32″ and 24″, respectively. After building the sides we have only 18 1″ x 4″ planks left, and I decided to use all of them and make the most of them too. Since taking the dog ear portion off the 6″ planks results in 70″ of straight planks, these planters are set to be 70″ long.

IMG_0761

IMG_0758

Being this long it needs additional vertical support. I added another two pieces of 2″ x 4″s to link the planks from the middle. I also linked the two middle vertical supports with scraped 2″ x 4″s at the bottom, so the pressure of the soil is less likely to cause blowout in the middle of the planter.

IMG_0765

Out of 50 pieces of 1″ x 4″ x 6′ material I was only short for two 24″ horizontal boards – soooo impressed! I did have shorter scraps so two were jointed together on each end to create the top boards.

IMG_0766

IMG_0767

With the supporting blocks they looked pretty good from the outside. I was pleased.

IMG_0768

Placing the Planters on the Patio

It took me two days to design/build these planters. Before sunset on Sunday, the planters were set onto the patio. They looked sharp! And I think they balanced out the visual weight of our fire pit + seating on the other side of the patio just right. I left the long boards at the bottom – they will come in handy to ensure everything is at the right level when we set the planters in place. Of course after all the snow melts. 🙂

IMG_0778

I am extremely pleased to have these new planters on our patio. The current plan is to move our strawberry plants, which are currently in ground, into these planters. We got beautiful and delicious strawberries from them last summer but had to fight bunnies for the fruit. But not this summer!

More importantly (to me), now the shed is empty again! Crowded by these boards our poor garden shed has become so dusty and disorganized. I can see my next project in the horizon…

How are you doing in quarantine? Are you managing to work on some fun projects? Or just enjoying life? Be good and be well, everyone!

Spring is here!

IMG_8504

Although the weather is still unpredictable (there is a blizzard outside right now), Spring has certainly arrived. Almost overnight, all the buds on the “Mount Baker” lilac turned green.

IMG_8510

The most exciting news is that everything we planted last year survived their first winter. Most of the trees and perennials we put into the ground were baby plants. With record snow fall and cold snaps this winter, I was worried about how many of them would make it. But after a careful check under the mulch, I found almost everything we planted last year has started to come back to life.

IMG_8524

IMG_8523

The garlic

IMG_8480

IMG_8477

The fruit trees

IMG_8485

IMG_8488

IMG_8489

Even the newly planted hazelnut trees started leafing out:

IMG_8492

IMG_8495

Besides the hazelnut trees, we decided to add a berry garden in the backyard this Spring. To begin with, we ordered five blackberry canes and fifteen raspberry canes.

The blackberry canes

IMG_8514

The raspberry canes

IMG_8525

IMG_8527

IMG_8528

IMG_8529

The new berry garden is located between the flower garden and the house. We have covered the field since last fall with black plastic to get rid of the grass. When the elm trees were removed a few weeks ago, we got yards of wood chips and used them to mulch the berry garden area.

IMG_8512

According to the planting guide, the canes need to be spaced a few feet apart. I used bricks to mark the location of the canes before digging.

IMG_8463

IMG_8467

After getting the raspberry canes into the ground, I used flags to mark the canes so the dogs hopefully will not bother them.

IMG_8532

IMG_8534

The blackberry canes were planted between the northern fence and the hazelnut trees.

IMG_8518

IMG_8520

IMG_8537

I also plan to add a garden path around the berry garden and the perennial garden. I laid out the shape of the path with garden hoses, and expanded the perennial garden bed to include the maple tree.

IMG_8452

IMG_8460

The new shape of the garden bed works with the garden path much better. I filled the new garden bed with leftover wood chip mulch:

IMG_8471

IMG_8464

The leftover concrete blocks make a perfect circle around the serviceberry bush:

IMG_8472

The nut trees and the berry canes added another 1000 sqft of edible garden space to our backyard, in addition to the 600 sqft of veggie garden. With good care, the berry garden should start producing next year, and the hazelnut trees should start producing after three years. I cannot help but wondering what our yard will look like in 5 years, with mature perennials, climbing roses, and fully-grown fruit and nut trees. What about your yard? Did everything wake up? What are you planting this Spring?

IMG_8501

Two Trees Out, Two Trees In

Oh boy did time fly…It has been two months since I last opened the blog page. What happened? Work. Work, work, and work. In good news, Slav started a new job which he enjoys. But it sucked 200 hours out of him in just the first 3.5 weeks. 200 hours! I barely saw him in February. Luckily I was also up to my neck in my work – writing one manuscript and one grant proposal stole entire February away from me. Needless to say that we did not do a thing to the house/yard during this time.

IMG_6073

This is the latest picture I took in the basement after putting in a new egress window in. It was late January, right before our money-making jobs got in the way of our money-burning renovations. Since then, we devoted the last bits of spare energy into ski trips – priorities. 🙂 And before we know it, it was March!

March brought a sense of emergency – I’ve told you of my plan on planting more edibles this Spring, which is contingent on removing all the vegetation along the northern fence. This is the only portion of fence that does not belong to us, and it was in very rough shape:

IMG_5181

This photo was taken after we removed the chain link fence from our side. You can see the trees along the fence have grown into the posts and started to lift the panels off the ground. These are elms trees, which in Colorado are considered “trash trees” because they are invasive and easy to catch diseases. They likely seeded themselves and no one could get in between the two layers of fences to remove them in time.

These photos show what they look like during the growing season. Due to lack of care and diseases, The elm tree in the middle and half of the other two elm trees were already dead. In the second picture, you can see only the trunks of the middle elm tree because it had fell down.

IMG_2976

IMG_3124

To eliminate the danger of them falling on the house or one of us, and also to save the fence, we decided to cut them down even through they are technically not our trees. But someone gotta do it. Right?

IMG_6109

Removing the chain link fence exposed the entire trunks of these elm trees for easy removal. To do it safely, we hired a licensed and insured tree company (Arborist Alliance) to remove the elm trees and the big stump left from the elm in the middle. We were fortunate to have a couple sunny days in between snow storms for safe operation.

Elm tree No. 1

IMG_6104

Elm tree No. 2

IMG_6105

Of course I took a day off to watch this exciting operation. I took zillions of pictures kneeling in melting snow + mud despite the weird looks from the crew members, only to find in the evening that there was no memory card in the camera. Oops. Anyway, I hope you still get the excitement with the blurry cell phone pictures below:

20190307_102150_HDR

A crew of five people arrived bright and early and started working. The tree on the right were brought down by cutting at the chest height, one trunk at a time. But the one on the left were cut down a lot more slowly and carefully due to its close proximity to the houses.

The one on the right was done in half an hour:

IMG_6147

The one on the left were cut down branch by branch, a couple feet a time:

20190307_102257_HDR

20190307_103744_HDR

20190307_103854_HDR

20190307_104346_HDR

This crew worked like a well-oiled machine and very efficiently. Two crew members worked on the two elm trees while the third crew member assisted them from the ground. As the branches came down, two other members separated the branches from the main trunks with chainsaws, and brought the smaller branches to the wood chipper parked in front of our house.

IMG_6145

All the smaller branches were turned into wood chips immediately. Technically, the trunk of the tree and big branches can be chipped too. But we wanted them for firewood, so it worked well in both their benefit and ours to just leave the main tree trunks in our yard. They cut the tree trunks and bigger branches into 3 feet sections and stacked them neatly next to our firewood pile.

The task that took the longest was actually cutting down the elm tree on the left. It was not only because it was sandwiched in between our house and the neighbor’s house, but also that there were several big nests on the tree and potentially had wild life in them. Just like we guessed, one of them was used by squirrels. The mother escaped before a crew member climbed onto the tree, left two babies behind:

20190307_111941_HDR

We carefully transferred the babies and all the nesting materials into a cardboard box, then set the box near the tree trunks after all the tree work (with loud noises) was done. The baby squirrels were picked up by the mother within half an hour and relocated to another nest. No animal was harmed during our operation! Yay!

The crew arrived around 830 AM. By noon, the two elms were gone and the decris were mostly cleared out:

IMG_6153

After lunch break, the crew worked on stump grinding. They brought in a machine which has a saw blade running vertically into the ground to grind the stumps and roots into basically saw dust. Due to the close proximity of the stumps to the fence, they removed a fence panel to get to as much tree stump as possible.

20190307_124610_HDR

Grinding three tree stumps (one left from the elm tree in the middle which had fallen down) took about 2 hours with the machine and just one guy. Other members spent this time cleaning up in both our yard and our neighbor’s yard. All the debris was racked up and put into the chipper. At the end, the fence panel was nailed back.

IMG_6156

Even without the main branches and big tree trunks, the wood chips generated from our trees still filled more than one big truck load. I asked if they could leave some for us to use as mulch, and I got a big “Yes!” as the reply. It actually takes tree business money, gas, and time to dump wood chips at the city. So downloading some to customers was always welcomed. They kindly suggested to leave the wood chips from their previous job, which were all from a healthy tree instead of the wood chips from our diseased elms. So, just like that, we got a bunch of firewood + ~10 yards of fresh wood chip mulch, and in addition $100 discount for taking them off the tree crew’s hands. A win-win for both of us!

IMG_8443

10 yards of wood chips did not look like much, but it took Slav two days to move all of them to the backyard where I wanted. At the mean time, the two hazelnut trees came in early March. They were planted along but ~8 feet away from the wooden fence, in the middle of the sloped hill.

20190321_190613_HDR

IMG_8450

Hazelnuts need cross-pollination to fruit, so it requires at least two different varieties of the hazelnuts trees. We ordered two dwarf North American native varieties, one called Jefferson, and the one called Yamhill.

20190321_190544_HDR

IMG_8448

These hazelnut trees are supposed to get to 8~12 feet tall in 3~4 years. I expect them to provide some privacy year around between us and the northern neighbor, as they flowers in winter. They also should eventually provide shade to the mulched area below, which will create more forest-like micro-environment. But before they reach their mature size, we will use the space around them for wine crops such as melons and pumpkins, and for bushy crops including rhubarb, zucchini, and squash plants. These plants will keep the mulch moist and discourage weeds from coming up. It will be fun!

IMG_8446

Just like that, two elms are out and two hazelnuts are in. The berry garden is the next and I could not wait to get all the edibles into the ground before the real Spring comes!

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén