Terrific Broth

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

Category: Landscaping Page 1 of 5

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. ūüôā 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!

Front Yard Video Tour – A Year Long Transformation of Our Curb Appeal

IMG_4518

Thank you for all your kind support through our front yard overhaul. We could not be happier with the newly mulched flower bed in front of our house. It is such an improvement of our curb appeal, and many neighbors stopped by to tell us how much they love and appreciate what we did. ūüôā

IMG_4488

Adding curb appeal has been a goal of ours from day one. It is not just about changing the appearance, but also to improve the function. The unsightly are often not maintained, which means they do not perform well or even cause issues to the house.

When we moved into our ranch last summer, the front of our house looked like this:

Ranch house - 1

Immediately we could see three water issues: the flower bed right against the foundation, the sinking patio that directs rain water towards the house, and several rusty window wells failing to protect basement windows.

So, soon after we moved in, the foundation planting bed was removed. Last fall, we replaced old window wells, and graded around the foundation with drainage rocks.

IMG_6815

IMG_8730

To address the sinking patio issue, we had to remove the front patio completely. The rusty awning went with it, which might be our biggest curb appeal improvement yet!

IMG_7165

IMG_7180

Before winter hits, we also replaced the leaky roof and gutter, painted the soffit and fascia, and restored the front doors (1, 2, 3)

IMG_9088

IMG_0283

All these actions not only made the house water-tight, but also improved its appearance from the street. We went into out first winter with the front of the house looking like this:

IMG_9098

And this is what the front entry looks like today. The glass storm door has been the pups’ favorite spot to look out:

IMG_4546

Not too shabby, especially when compared to the Before:

Ranch house - 1

This summer, we decided to give our front yard a large overhaul, consisting of the removal of >600 sqft turf, planting a privacy hedge, and adding a retaining wall and a dry creek.

IMG_4004

IMG_4026

IMG_4088

IMG_4167

And today, our front yard look like this:

IMG_4467

Instead of this:

IMG_7859

We packed 64 perennials in this 600 sqft space during the last 6 weeks. It is nice to see all of them started taking roots and showing growth. Here is a short video walk-through of the garden area:

The mulched flower beds and evergreens not only improve the curb appeal, but also save irrigation water and are more inviting to native wild life. We want our house to be a safe haven not only for us and our two dogs, but also for native insects, birds, and small mammals that need a home they deserve.

IMG_4528

These arborvitaes were planted at the peak of the summer in 95 degree heat. They definitely struggled a bit during the first a few weeks. But most of them bounced back nicely and have put on an inch or more new growth.

The mock orange we planted last weekend:

IMG_4531

The winter berries were planted a month ago. They did not grow taller, but are definitely getting denser around the base.

IMG_4525

This dwarf pine was also planted in the middle of summer, but has been growing fiercely.

IMG_4498

This sandcherry was the last one planted, just five days ago. It is still recovering but I have high hopes for some delicious berries next Summer.

IMG_4510

Of course we had to have Colorado’s state grass – the Blue Grama grass – in our yard:

IMG_4496

And the Shenandoah switch grasses have already started coloring up for Fall. So pretty.

IMG_4505

These larkspur and bubblemint hyssop were planted last weekend. And guess what Рthey bloomed!

IMG_4493

IMG_4495

More hyssop – they bloom red and have a more low-mount form.

IMG_4507

Isn’t this silver brocade sage gorgeous?

IMG_4509

Penstemon, butterfly weed, and sedums. Love the colors!

IMG_4502

IMG_4522

IMG_4513

So GORG:

IMG_4518

We also planted lots ground covers, including prairie winecups, creeping phlox, and veronica:

IMG_4534

To make the garden more inviting to wild life, we put in a bird feeders and bird bath. We also installed drip irrigation and a new hose reel to make watering easier.

IMG_4481

This area under the mailbox did not get as much attention this year, but the plants we put in have done very well.

IMG_4554

Here we have two rosemary plants, one lavender, a red hot poker, and a rose bush:

IMG_4555

Here is another short video in which I talk you though the additional upgrades in the front yard, including the under-the-mailbox planting:

I hope you enjoy to see our “new” front yard in these videos. They are filmed just yesterday so this is truly what our yard looks like now. We are proud of this little corner garden in the making, and hope you like it too. Please consider to start a pollinator garden, put out a bird feeder, or add a bee house too! I just learned that native pollinators feed up to three-story high, so even¬†you are living in an apartment, they can benefit from your flowers too!

Planting It Up!

After overhauling our front yard for months, it is finally planted!

IMG_4467

Landscaping the front yard was never on our 2018 to-do list. But summer rolled around and our front lawn started to look really, really bad. We booked a landscape consultation to get some ideas on how to rejuvenate the front yard, which led to the decision to replace 600-sqft of tuft with a perennial garden. Once we had the idea, we just couldn’t shake it off and had to put it in action right away.

IMG_4063

Following professional advice, we removed the turf of the northwest corner of our front yard and amended the soil. We also built a retaining wall and a dry creek to help to keep the topsoil and precious water in our yard. We are new to landscaping and needless to say, there was a lot uncertainty and self-doubt. Did we add enough compost? What about PH? Is the retaining wall tall enough? What curvature should the dry creek have? Which color of mulch looks the best? And most importantly, what plants should we get for the front yard?

The last question probably took the longest time to research. We wanted flowering perennials that look good but low-maintenance, pollinator friendly and diverse, strong yet xeriscape, and we want as many native and edible plants as possible. There is a high bar to meet.

IMG_4042

Fortunately, Colorado has a long tradition of urban permaculture¬†and lots of helpful resources. We have been attending water-wise seminars and visiting garden centers/exhibitions full of native plants. The “bee heaven” garden-in-a-box kit we have been growing since Spring boosted our confidence. And the free (!) landscaping consultation we received from Resource Central provided a long list of plants we could choose from in order to assemble a successful high country garden.

IMG_4399

Most of the plants arrived last Saturday and we got busy at planting.

IMG_4376

IMG_4385

IMG_4403

In total we packed 64 perennials into this 600 sqft space, including evergreens, large flowering shrubs, berry-bearing shrubs, grasses, flowering perennials, ground covers, and irises.

Six evergreens (North Pole Arborvitae) functions¬†as windbreakers along the north edge of the front yard. They should grow into a 10~15 feet tall privacy hedge between our yard and our neighbor’s driveway.

IMG_4406

In addition to the arborvitaes, we planted a dwarf mugo pine in the middle of the landscaping. I love the color and the low mount growing habit of this pine. Colorado has long winters and most of the trees in our yard are deciduous. We could always use more evergreens for winter interest.

IMG_4436

Speaking of winter interest, I want more color on top of evergreens. So we chose to plant 4 Berry Poppins (one being male). The three female shrubs should bear bright red berries next winter once they put on more growth, which not only look great against snow, but also provide food for hungry birds in winter.

IMG_4443

Another fruit-bearing shrub we planted here is a western native Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry. This shrub produces edible berries in summer which are delicious. It also has a mahogany-red foliage in the fall.

To create a mixed and soft-looking hedge, we planted a mock orange tree called “Snow White Sensation”¬†at the northwest corner of our yard. It should grow to be 6’~8′ tall and mask the street light pole behind. It will carry some height to the corner, provide some shade and privacy, without being too tall while being right next the sidewalk. It also has a softer look compared to the arborvitaes – it has multi-stems that arch gracefully and will bloom white flowers in Spring and early summer.

Mock orange, at the lower left corner:

IMG_4458

Little dog sign hopefully prohibits neighbor’s dogs to poop in our yard…

IMG_4456

I used 14 irises (white and purple) to align the dry creek, and ground covers along the retaining wall.

IMG_4431

IMG_4435

IMG_4434

On the slope, in between the house and the street, we planted xeriscape perennial grasses and flowers. These plants came from another garden-in-a-box kit called “Cool Connection” from Resource Central, which has a color palette of pink, white, purple, and burgundy which I adore. I am really happy with the quality of the plants from our last garden-in-a-box purchase, and I think the selection of native, drought-resistant plants really sets the garden for success. All the perennials included are either native to Colorado or have been shown to do well with little water in our weather.

IMG_4450

IMG_4437

IMG_4439

IMG_4441

IMG_4427

This is how the garden-in-a-box plants supposed to look like on their third year – with our experience with the Spring garden, I expect most of the plants to reach their mature sizes in their second summer!

Before we put down mulch, Slav and I put in drip irrigation for the entire garden bed. We divided the whole planting bed into two zones according to the water need Рone for the arborvitaes, and the other one for all the other perennials.

IMG_4383

IMG_4384

We then put down 4″ of wood chips to cover every inch of the bare soil. (We get our mulch for free from our city park service), then top dressed the planting bed with¬†additional 1″ of black mulch. Slav and I both love the look of green plants again black mulch. However, we want to use as little dye as possible, even though it is advertised as a natural, non-toxic high quality dye . So top dressing is the best solution for us.

IMG_4461

With >4″ of mulch, we only need to water once a week to keep the soil damp and cool. Mulch also allows everything in this flower bed to naturalize and spread. We only used landscape fabric under the arborvitaes and at the bottom of the dry creek, since we do not want anything (else) to grow there.

Here is our finished flower bed. ūüôā

IMG_4466

Cherry on top, I made a fall wreath for the front door and Slav replaced the rusty and old hose hanger with a brand new Eley hose reel.

IMG_4388

IMG_4481

Remember the sad before?

IMG_7859

And this is the happy “after” after we replace the¬†600-sqft of tired grass and weeds…

IMG_4466

We. Love. It!¬†We will be keeping an close eye on all the tiny plants and baby them over their first winter. I think it might be time for another video walkthrough of the yard, don’t you think?

Page 1 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén