Terrific Broth

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

Category: Gardening (Page 2 of 5)

Water, Water, Go away

Frontbed demo

Hi friends! I’ve told you what is in store for our ranch, which included a list of things we need to do to protect our foundation from water:

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 corner foundation cracks
6.Fix faucet leaks
7. Grading around the house

This is THE list we have to cross off before winter. The roof, gutter, and porch work will be handed to the experts, and we have started working on the rest ourselves.

1. Removing front flower bed

You’ve seen our front flower bed before. Here is a closer look:



Landscaping right against houses is such a bad idea for any foundation, but lots of people do it for curb appeals. Our flower bed is a classic example – it is right next to the foundation of the house (the grey concrete part at the bottom of the house), and there is a vertical crack at this corner of the foundation:


You can see we have extended the downspout here (and at other corners of the house). But water issue from the bed itself persists.

Not surprisingly, the window well is badly rusted:


We enjoyed our morning roses for a couple weeks, but for the foundation, the plants had to go:




The roses developed very long and deep roots. We had to cut off the main root under two feet to move them. Not sure if they could make it. On the other hand, the irises were so hardy that they may stand a move in the middle of the summer. So I dug them all up and put them in pots with some soil.


I have nowhere to transplant them now, so I put them next to the curb with a “free plant” sign and they were gone in an hour!


The wood planks holding the flower bed have become rotten. It took Slav probably five minutes to take them down bu just some kicks. With little force, they crumbled into mulch:



While Slav is transporting the soil, I weeded around the corner. After an hour, this corner of the house changed from this:


to this:



Now our foundation can breath!


2. Grading around the house

We then moved onto grading around the house. The goal was to create a 3~4 ft barrier around the house with a slop of ~1 inch per foot, so any surface water can flow away from the house instead of sipping down.

Sloping is pretty straight forward – you pile soil near the foundation, compact them down and make sure that there is a good slop, then cover the dirt with 6-mil poly layer. To improve the looks you can put gravel, mulch, or even replant sod on top of the poly layer. Instead of purchasing dirt, we decided to slowly building the slop around the foundation using free dirt generated from other yard projects.

I marked the area three feet from the foundation, all around the northern and western (front) side of the house:


The northern side – there are two bedrooms on ground level and the two windows are basement bedroom windows.


The west side (front) of the house, next to the front porch.


When Slav removed the front flower bed, he dumped the soil along the northern wall, where I marked.



Rest of the foundations (site plan here) are mostly surrounded by concrete patio, driveway, or walkway. With the front bed taken care off, our next task on the “water” list is to repair the concrete porches. it is happening this weekend, and we should have new patio next week!

Now our to-do list looks like this:

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 (in progress!)
5. Seal the corner foundation cracks
6. Fix faucet leaks
7. Grading around the house (in slow progress) 

Things are moving along!

Let Us Take It Outside

One of the things that drew us to this house is the yard. Being a small ranch on 1/4 acre, the house is surrounded by large pieces of green lawn.



Shortly after we moved in, we did a walk-through around the yard and discussed what action we need to take. The yard is simple – there is not much landscaping except a couple trees and a flower bed. However, there was definitely some trimming and weeding ahead of us.

First, the pine tree in the front is scraping the porch cover and the roof. Our roof is already on its last leg. We really do not want to put more stress on it until we are ready to replace it. So the lower branches of the pine tree needed to go.


The backyard has a pretty healthy apple tree in the middle. However, the perimeter of the yard was aligned with dead trees and random bushes. they were either next to the electrical line or sandwiched between neighbors fence and our chain link fence, so they needed to go as well.






There was also a pile of old fencing and old branches on the side of the shed.


Last, there were so many weeds! The Sloniowskies have no tolerant for weeds.


Trimming and weeding sound easy, just like removing carpets. But it is actually pretty labor intensive and generates tons of trash. We were blessed with a cool (cold for me!) weekend in the middle of the mid-west heatwave. And you bet we totally took advantage of it to work outside.

Slav oiled up (his chainsaw) and got to work:




He cut down three completely dead trees, and a bunch of lower branches from the living ones. Look how much he cut off!


And the backyard suddenly looked bigger and much greener after all the brown branches were gone:



While Slav was waving his chainsaw in the backyard, I tackled the weeds. They were everywhere, like one every step. And we had some problem areas along the fence, under the tree, and around the mailbox.



Aside from the mianbox area, the right side of the front yard looks pretty decent. However, the left side yard did not look so hot. The grass near the fence was completely taken over by the weeds, creating a perfect trap for loose trash over the years.



After 6 hours of weeding, things started looking up:


And these was how much weeds I dug out of the yard! Two big yard waste bags!


After cutting all the dead trees and branches in the backyard, Slav started to trim the pine tree in front of the house.


The needles and pine cones from the tree covered a good portion of the roof and filled up the front gutter. Slav jumped on the roof and hosed everything clean.



Look how much needles came out of the gutter just below the tree! We plan to buy a gutter protector for the portion directly underneath the tree branches when we replace the roof and get new gutters.

Much. Better.


Believe or not, all the branches filled our 5′ x 10′ trailer, twice. Slav spent a whole day just to dump trash – one trip to a landfill for the carpet and other loose pieces we pulled off the house, and two trips to a yard waste center. But by the end of a three-day overhaul, we owned a weed-free and open yard!


It also made squirrel-watching a lot more fun for Roxie and Charlie. The pups are so on it! Sadly the two squirrels living in our yard are a lot quicker and smarter. I am pretty sure that they tease the dogs on purpose.


Did you do any summer cleaning around the yard? When Slav went to the landfill, he also got rid of the old grill left behind by the previous owner. We are getting a brand new grill – for the first time in our life time! And when we do, it is not too shabby to have a clean yard to look over!

Evergreen Sunroom Garden


The growing season in west Colorado is pretty short. Evergreen, where we currently live, is in zone 4b. The last frost is in late May, and the first snow fall is usually in September. Compared to central North Carolina, which is zone 7b, the growing season is cut down to half. And the plants and vegetables we can grow in the mountains are very limited.

To extend the growing season and get more fresh vegetables, many people here have green houses. As you might remember from this video tour, we have a pretty large sunroom included in our rental. The tenant who lived here for 14 years built a big rock flower bed in the sunroom and maintained a very successful garden.


The sunroom can accumulate a lot of heat. It only takes a couple hours of sunshine for the inside of the sunroom to reach 70 degrees. Therefore, I have never seen the water in the dog water station freeze. I have never had a green house before, so I am pretty shocked by the magic a simple structure can do to change the course of nature. Or look at it in another way, how amazing is the sun, that we just need to steal a little bit of its wonder to sustain our living.

As soon as I returned from my oversea trip, we brought back a bag of soil, gathered the egg shells we had been saving since moving in, and grabbed some herbs from a local nursery.


This rental is a temporary stay for us (we have found another place in Evergreen – cannot wait to show you the pictures!), so we decided to plant herbs instead of vegetables. We picked out lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, chives, stevia, and a couple annuals to mix in some color.

Almost all of these plants require full sun. But I do not want to under-estimate the power of a few pieces of glass windows. Without proper ventilation, the sunroom can get to 90 degrees in a couple hours. To make sure that these tender plants are ready for hot and dry afternoons, I left them at their designated spots, and watched them for a few days.


The new soil was worked in, and the eggshells are grounded and added into the soil as well. The herbs got a good nice drink every morning. After a few days, almost all of them showed new growth, as if they were saying,”we like it here!”

Planting a garden is always a precious moment. Holding young, tender plants in my hands, just like holding a new baby, brings gratitude, a sense of new hope, and excitement. Regardless how well they may grow in the future, at this moment, it is good. After planting, the scent of lavender and mint lingered on my figures for hours. Mixed with the smell of fresh, wet soil, it is really the happiest perfume in the world.

The first I planted is the mint. We had such a wonderful mint garden back in North Carolina and it reminds me the happy days there.



I never had stevia before and am excited to try it out.


Lavender, basil and chives








A couple weeks have passed after planting. We since had a couple snow storms, but the herbs are doing very well. Here are them today:




They have shown quite some new growth and the flower seeds I planted right after moving-in sprouted as well. We might not be here long enough to enjoy all the fresh herbs and flowers, but I am glad that we made this place a bit sweeter than that we came to.

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