Terrific Broth

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

Tag: Shed Page 1 of 3

Home Stay + Building a New Terrace Garden

When landscaping our property I like a methodical approach. Starting with removing the dead and unwanted, followed by hardscaping and planting trees and big shrubs. The hardscape and structural planting form the fundamental elements of the landscape, directing the choices on small shrub and perennials. I manage to hold off on ground covers and bulbs, waiting for the trees to cast shade and the perennials to fill in. It is surely a long process, several years before one area to complete. But it allows ideas to emerge and taste to develop, resulting the best garden possible.

This approach worked wonderfully in creating our front yard garden, which we added in 2018. After deciding to turn the weedy part of the front lawn into mulched garden bed, we removed the turf, amended the soil, and built a retaining wall system for erosion control. We then added a dry creek and installed drip irrigation to manage water. As of planting, we started with an arborvitae hedge, some evergreen, and tall shrubs and screening bushes, before packing the space with hardy perennials. The once weedy and difficult area has shaped up to one of the most beautiful gardens in our neighborhood, and brought so much joy to us and our neighborhood.

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The shed surrounding before

This Spring, I decided to apply the same approach to another problematic area on our property – around our garden shed.

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The shed is located at the northeast corner of our land. The structure itself is in superior condition thanks to our renovation in 2017.

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But the area around the shed is not so hot. With the shed being a few feet away from the side and the back fence, the space behind the shed is a perfect catch-all space:

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Our compost bins have been here for two years. Without much sun they have been rather slow to produce.

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This corner is the only spot we could not see from the house. Inevitably, stuff got dropped off here, temporarily, then become part of the permanent exhibition…

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Firewood, tree stumps, shrub trimmings, they are used as ramp for squirrels to get over the fence.

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Moreover, the lawn space around the shed was… terrible. The steep slope= soil erosion = patchy lawn space = weeds.

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An overhaul is so needed yet so intimidating. Being the furthest from the house it is easy for me to look away. But this Spring, I won’t anymore. I cannot think of a better time to transform this space. A better time to admit challenges, to rip out of what does not work, and to rebuild from ground up. Transformation is scary work, especially when you have to shake the root. But it is the only right thing to do. So, let us!

Decluttering around the shed

The first order of business is always getting rid of what does not belong. The compost bins had been moved to the veggie garden. So what’s left to address is the big pile of firewood, big stumps, and tree trimmings.

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Trimmings were chipped into mulch, tree stumps were used up (you will see it later), and firewood were neatly stacked. It is amazing how tidy this space became with just a couple hours of work.

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I always liked the spot. Maybe it is the leaves slowly decaying on the ground, maybe is the summer shade thanks to the trees above. It has a woodland feel.

Here is the space before the cleanup:

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And after.

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Defining the boundary of future garden

With a clean slate I was much more inspired. Ideas started flowing and you could almost see steam coming off my ears. I had plans before, but they were no longer cool enough. Now I want a patio, and retaining wall, and a terrace garden. Go big or go home, right?

I will explain. Allow me to lay down some plastic (for killing weeds) first.

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Terrace garden is the best way to address sloped land, and I like the look. It cuts big slopes into small and flat garden beds, which are much easier to plan and manage. It also gives structure, variation, and transition space to a big open space. With appropriate screening planters, a terrace garden can be used to create “rooms” so not everything can be seen with one glance.

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For the area around the shed, I think it makes sense to have three tiers – the highest tier being the existing perennial garden (to the left), the lowermost being a patio space (where the black plastic was, leveled with the shed), and a heavily planted “bank” in between.

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I like to use a flexible hose to trace the boundary. It takes any guess work out of equation, and makes it easy to visualize the future flower beds from different angles and distance. In this case, I left it on the ground for days so I can watch it from every windows from the house.

Once I am happy with the shape of the flower garden, I cut out the new edge along the hose:

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Then reinforced it with metal edging. These edging were lining up the raspberry patch before. I just pushed them out to align with the new edge of the lawn.

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All the three tiers will be behind the metal edging. I went with a gentle curve rather than a straight edge.

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Creating a patio space around the shed

The next step was to define the boundaries between each of the three tiers. I started with the lowermost tier, namely the patio area, by leveling the soil here with the shed foundation.

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The excess soil was flipped to the future second tier – the “bank” if you will. Can you believe how much soil was removed from this small space?

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This space will be finished as a stone patio, which requires gravel base, pavers, and joint sand to say the least. For now, I simply laid down some 6-mil poly for weed control, and used the tree stumps from the tree removal last year to act as a temporary retaining wall. One stone, two birds. I am not mad about it!

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Leveling the second tier

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Now you can finally see the look of the patio. Do you like it? The perennial bed on the left houses lots of herbs. Once the mulched area behind the perennial bed gets incorporated to the second tier, I can walk around the perennial garden and harvest the herbs with ease. The bare soil between the mulch path and the black plastic-covered patio will also become the second tier. It will be heavily planted with trees and tall shrubs to screen off the future patio.

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Here is how the space look now. The boundary between perennial garden and the 2nd tier will be created as soon as I could get my hands on materials for a retaining wall.

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Can you see how tall the retaining wall would be around the patio? It needs to be 24 inches tall so I can mulch the second tier. I also plan to incorporate some kind of bench seating into retaining wall, likely with snowboards again.

Adding lighting to the garden shed

With momentum I tidied the shed: from head to toe. Here are my two walls of gardening tools:

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The left side houses storage shelves.

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And I have a handy small storage next to the door for strings and rulers:

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Our shed does not have windows, so it was pretty dark when the door is closed. I finally got around to add a shed light. And it was such an upgrade!

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We did not run power to the shed. So I picked a solar-powered light with a string on/off to conserve power. The solar panel was mounted outside of the shed door.

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I threaded the cable under the roof and secured it on a truss:

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So!

Here is the progress shot for the shed terrace garden! I like this layered look a lot better. Cannot wait to build the retaining walls, set the patio, and plant up the bank. As I mentioned at the beginning, I usually finish the hardscape before planting. But with the pandemic, things might go with the order of which can be shipped to my door first…

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Have you been doing any hardscaping at home? Do share!

Fall Backyard and Putting Finishing Touches on Our Shed

The weather has been getting colder each day, and we had the second snow last week. The mornings have been dark, wet, and cold, making it a real pain to get up. So when I woke up on Sunday to bright sunshine through the bedroom window, I was happy and felt so pumped to be outside. Roxie and Charlie must have thought the same, because they came to me at 7 AM begging to be let out! So we all (except Slav) had breakfast super early and headed out for a play.

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It was the first nice day after a while. Knowing that another cold snap was coming, we wanted to wrap up a few things in the yard. Slav raked all the leaves and mowed the lawn. It was a whole afternoon of work but our lawn looked super neat compared to our neighbor’s:

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Most of the leaves in our backyard came from this crab apple tree. It was a good timing raking the leaves since it just shed all its leaves.

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Charlie loves napping under the sun, and he always get dry leave all over in his fur. Now our boy can stay clean again!

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I begged Slav to mount a pair of vintage ski on the shed to dress it up a little.

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This was the shed without the skies. It was already nice, but I think the skies added some character and made it more “us”.

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Aside from adding the skies, I finally painted the new 2″x4″ trims and exposed rafter and subroof. It has been 6 weeks since the roof was replaced, which left a good portion of overhang with untreated 2x4s and subroof.

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I started by priming everything by hand, but soon found that it was totally a mission impossible – the plywood subroof was unfinished and rough, neither brush or roller would work.

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This little portion took me almost an hour to paint with brushes – not acceptable. I had to break out my paint sprayer.

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After finishing priming, I reloaded the sprayer with the brown paint I used for trims and birch tree stencil, did two thin coats from the bottom to cover the plywood subroof, rafters and the underside of all the trims. The side of the trims facing outside got two coats of bronze paint, which we used on the gutter, trims, and fascia of the main house.

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With the help of the paint sprayer, I was able to finish both sides of the shed in an hour and half, including the time to clean the sprayer between primer and paint.

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At this point, I decided to continue painting the back of the shed brown as well. The backside of the shed was painted green to match the color of the compost bins. However, the green exterior paint we used does not have as good coverage. The compost bins have since relocated, and the green wall by itself just looked odd.

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I continued to spray away. In less than 15 minutes, the shed painting marathon was (thank god) finally done!

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When we picked the paint colors for the shed, we had no idea that it would too get a new roof. Now it did, I am so glad that the color of the shed fits well with the roof and trims – the shed and the house now look like they are intentionally designed to echo each other, a happy coincidence I’d say.

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With the yard cleared and the shed completely finished, we kicked back and enjoyed an lovely evening outside with a big bonfire. Our DIY solar chandelier looks so spooky against the naked branches! Happy Halloween, everyone!

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The Roof Project Completed!

Bing!

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Bing!

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Bing bing!

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Bing bing bing!

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Did I hit you hard with these photos yet? How about some before and after photos:

The main house front before:

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And after!

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Garage roof before:

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After!

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The back of the house when we moved in:

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And the back of the house today!

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Our pipes and vents before, badly rusted and leaking:

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And this is how they look today!

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The brown trims we inherited before:

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And what they look like now:

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We chose to paint the trims and soffit with the same bronze color as our gutter, so the gutter can disappear on the fascia. The goal is to have fewer horizontal lines on our one-story ranch house:

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And being the same bronze as our front door, we made the front doors look taller. The goal here is to elongate any vertical lines on the exterior (doors, windows, so our one-story ranch looks less flat:

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A far cry from what we had before:

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This is what the same area look like now:

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The gutter contrasts the bricks handsomely:

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And even better, we have the same new roof put on our shed as well!

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The shed roof came as a nice surprise to us. When we booked the roofers we did not know that their quote includes the shed. It felt like a Christmas in September when they started tearing down the old roof on the shed! Our shed could use a new roof – aside from missing shingles, the plywood sub-roof was rotten:

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The roofers torn it to studs and put in all new plywood and underlayment.

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And here is our new shed roof today:

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We took the opportunity to extend the overhang out from 10″ to 2′, so the firewood stored underneath are better protected from rain and snow:

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We do not have anything stored under the overhang on the other side yet. But it gives us options for more firewood if needed.

The new shed roof conveniently completed the phase II for our shed renovation, which is a lot faster coming that we expected after phase I! I almost forgot how bad it was when we bought the house. This is the real before:

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Wow, right? Look at this lady now:

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As soon as the whole roof work was done, it has been raining cats and dogs for a solid week. The new gutters and our grading around the foundation are doing a great job to direct water away from our foundation. There was not a bit of moisture in any of our new window wells.

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We are sooo glad that we have crossed all the things off our long, “water” to-do list before the fall rolls around. It was a long list and we did lots of hard work ourselves. I cannot help but having it here again, just so I can do my “Shift+Alt+D” once again:

1. Replace the leaky roof and gutter
2. Extend the downspouts
3. Getting rid of the front flower bed
4. Correct the sloping issues of the front and back porch 
5. Seal the foundation cracks
6. Seal all the exterior holes and gaps
7. Grading around the house

Now, let it snow! We are ready for our first winter in Colorado!

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