Terrific Broth

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

Tag: Garden Page 1 of 5

New Climbers + Recent Cedar Build

You may remember the climbing roses I planted. This Spring, I decided to add  a few more climbers around the house. Some for scent, some for beauty, and some for function. Although these are perennial vines and will take years to grow, I want to show you their baby form today. Hopefully when we check back a few years later, we can see some good progress!

“Scentsation” Honey Suckle

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Planted on the front of the house is a honey suckle called “Scentsation”, a very showy vine with extremely fragrant yellow flowers. It has a longer blooming time compared to other honey suckles, from mid-spring to late summer. I planted it near Slav’s office window, hoping to add a nice touch of scent to the room he spends most of his awake time in.

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Although tiny, this particular honey suckle is expected to grow to 9’~10′ tall and 5’~6′ wide, covering the big trellis behind it. It is deciduous which means losing all the leaves in the Fall. By placing it on the west wall, at maturity, it should shade this corner of the house from strong afternoon sun during summer months, while allowing sunlight in to warm up the house during winter.

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To keep the honey suckle close to the wall I built this cedar planter. To protect the foundation we graded around the house and put down a layer of gravel over 6-mil plastic around the foundation. I scraped away the gravel, set the planter directly on top of the 6-mil plastic, then added more 6-mil plastic to prevent soil and water sipping out of the planter.

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After filling the planter with soil I planted the honey suckle and transplanted some sedum here.

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As a rule of thumb, container plants or plants situated in raised beds need to be more winter hardy than the zone it is planted in. This honey suckle is rated as zone 4-9, which means it should winter over just fine in our zone 5B/6A.

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We secured a big trellis onto the house for the honey suckle to climb on. If it likes the spot, it should climb to the top of the trellis in a few years! An additional advantage of this plant is the bright red berries in the Fall, which are favored by birds and other wild life.

Climbing hydrangea

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Although popular in Europe, climbing hydrangea is not well-known in US. It is also a deciduous vine, famous for its ability of growing in full shade. These plants are true climbers, using the holdfasts (suckers) on their branches to scale walls and other structures. In Europe, you will find this plant covering north-facing walls of old stone buildings up to several stories tall with their large, “lace-cap” flower flowers in early summer. In theory, a climbing hydrangea can reach 50 feet tall at maturity. In our cold climate, it often tops at 20 feet.

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I planted this flower on the northeast corner of the house, right next to the AC unit and outside of the master bedroom window. I want to it to be a screen plant, not only adding privacy to our bedroom, but also beautifying the north side of the house where small windows are swallowed by a sea of brick. As you can see, this spot gets 3~4 hours of morning sun, then shade for the afternoon. Although not an ideal location for most of the flowering plants, climbing hydrangea will be one of the few climbers to perform in such situation.

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Shortly after planting it I added some support from two sides – one being a metal trellis, which we got from Lowe’s as a 3-pack and used all around the garden. The other one being a short cedar fence between the bedroom window and the AC unit.

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I built this cedar fence all by myself! To be honest, among all the big and small projects I did this Spring with the cedar boards (the patio planter, the honey suckle planter, and the outdoor kitchen), this build is my favorite. From setting post, planning board layout, to attaching boards, it covered all the steps for a fence build, yet remained manageable for me to complete over one afternoon.

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I started by setting a leftover post, which is just tall enough for shadowing the AC unit! Love it when I am able to use up leftover materials without any waste.

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To keep the post straight I used a pole level and several clamps. They were so helpful when working solo! I made sure that the post aligned with the side of the window and stood straight before backfilling.

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After securing the post, I marked the length of the boards and cut them all at once.

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Attaching all the boards went pretty quick. A scrape 2″ x 4″ was set next to the house for the other end of the boards to attach on.

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This is the final product. Besides supporting the climbing hydrangea, this fence also hides one of the eyesore from the bedroom window – the AC unit.

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The view from the bedroom window without the fence:

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With the fence:

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Climbing hydrangea is known to be slow during the first few years, but after it puts down a good root, it should take off and cover all the unsightly pipe and outlets on the north side of the house in a few years.

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Passion Flower

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Passion flower is another rarely seen flowering vine in Colorado. Being tropical looking passion flower seems to be too delicate for our winter. But it is actually a zone 5 plant! I put mine on the east side of the house, protected from harsh wind and bitter cold.

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After planting I added some string and a leftover wire panel to help it to climb.

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Since planted, it has grown a few inches! This is what it looked like a few weeks ago:

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And this is today!

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Cucumber and Pole Beans in the Veggie Garden

I also planted some climbing veggies! I’ve been growing cucumber for years, and always let them spread freely on the ground. This year, I tried to grow them vertically. I set a trellis on the end of a veggie bed:

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And planted two seedlings at the base of this trellis. The have been flowering for a weeks now and I hope to see cucumbers really soon!

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I also grew two climbing beans: Red noodle, and Limka.

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It is fun to set up the support for my bean babies. Slav lined some T-posts along both sides of a path and I tied some trellis netting to these posts for beans to climb on:

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I also tied the top ends of the netting together over the path, allowing the beans to create a tunnel.

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Look at the beans go! It has been a month since they came up and they are growing an inch per day with the recent heat.

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This is the first year I set up a bean tunnel. In addition to support the beans, I also want it to shade the veggie bed behind. The garlic here will be harvested soon, and I want to plant greens and radishes here hoping the tunnel can provide enough relief from the hot afternoon sun.

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Climbing roses

At last, I want to show you how our climbing roses are doing! I planted four “awakening” climbing roses along the back fence in 2018. They are all doing very well.

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I started training these roses this Spring. After a good trim, I guided the longest branches of each rose towards the back fence using plastic stakes:

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It might look dramatic but are actually good for the growth of these roses. Bending the branches horizontally eliminates apical dominance and should encourage side shoots and more flowering along the branches.

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I also did the same training to the “iceberg” climbing rose planted in the front yard:

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This rose was planted only last Fall, but has already flowered for us. I got all my climbing roses from High country roses and they all came with their own root and are very healthy. I know it won’t be long before this climbing rose to put on a splendid show on the front fence.

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Training climbing roses is a scary thing – you should see how much I trimmed off these poor roses…But in the end it is for their own good. I am looking forward to the growth of all the climbers. Given time, they shall become the stars of my garden and for decades to come. Let us check back next season together!

Home Stay + Spring Garden, 2020!

Hi friends and family! I hope you had a fun Memorial day weekend. For Northern gardeners like me, a successful Memorial day weekend means getting your vegetable garden planted! Being housebound for 10 weeks, I put more hours into the garden that I could ever hope for. This is the Spring I not only stayed on top of basic tasks like planting, watering and weeding, but also made changes to the garden that will improve our landscape in a long run. I cannot think of a better time to show you the garden than today. Are you ready?

The Video Tours

First, here are the garden walk-through videos! You can click the “play” button in the middle of the video, or for better quality, head over to Youtube.

The front yard tour:

The backyard tour part one, which covers the veggie garden and herb garden:

Backyard tour part two: the berry patch and new patio garden.

If you have trouble viewing the video, do not worry! Below are the pictures I took over the last two weeks of different blooms!

I. The Front Yard Perennial Bed

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Here is our front yard flower bed today!  Most of the plants went in during Fall 2018, when they were just babies.

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Boy did they grow up:

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Planted along the dry creek are irises. They have been blooming since early May:

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Last Fall I dotted some Hens and Chicks along the dry creek. Apparently they all rooted in and came back this Spring:

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The white flowers behind the Hens and Chicks are called “Snow-in-summer”. It is a rather tall groundcover that blooms from early Summer through frost. They are such a fast grower/spreader – this patch was started with two 2-inch cans!

At the end of the dry creek, I cut out this small flower bed last Fall, and planted two peonies and a climbing rose. A trio of grass aligns the fence to add some softness.

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Around the corner of the house is a new honeysuckle, underplanted with stonecrop:

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Imagine the honeysuckle climbing 8 feet tall and filling the space between the window and the gutter, with the sedum covering and trailing off the entire planter…

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The rest of the flower bed is filled with flowering perennials:

Salvias, pink:

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Penstemons, Husky red

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Salvias, Purple

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Penstemons, Pineleaf Beardtougue

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Mugo pine and stonecrop “Angelina”

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English lavender, FlowerKisser “After Midnight”:

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Also planted here are Colorado State flowers and grasses. The Columbines have been putting on lots of foliage growth. They are expected to flower from mid-summer through Fall. The Blue Grama grasses are also getting bigger each day.

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I love this Pawnee Buttes Sand cherry! It grew much bigger this Spring compared to 2019, and we are not even getting to the Summer days yet! This particular Sand cherry variety is a western native and supposed to be a low-mount ground cover, but I’ve seen mature plants about 4 feet tall.

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The Silver brocade sage adds a nice ice-blue color to the flower bed:

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Near the retaining wall are planted groundcovers that flowers in different time of the season. They look like low mounts now but will eventually meet each other to create a nice flowering carpet:

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I tacked some baby Hens and Chicks last Fall into the small gaps between the retaining wall and the sidewalk. I did not hold too much hope then, but look at them now!

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How could you not love a plant that is beautiful, always looking like it is flowering, impossible to kill, but not invasive?

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II. The Mailbox Garden

On the other side of the driveway is our mailbox garden:

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This spot is one of the toughest on our property – west facing, beating afternoon sun, water runoff, compact soil, and being pilled onto salt and snow for months during winter. It is my test ground for plants – if a plant can survive here, it will thrive anywhere in my garden without water! And so far everything I threw here passed their entry exam:

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The Red Hot Poker (Torch Lily), Hot and Cold:

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Salvias, Blue

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Lilies:

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More Stonecrop:

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Creeping Thyme:

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One of the best upgrade we made this Spring, is to automate all the front yard irrigation, not only for the flower beds but also for the trees and the lawn. It saved us so much time and stress, and the plants are much happier too for getting consistent water:

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III. The Backyard Vegetable Garden

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This is the third season of this vegetable garden. Starting with just a couple beds, we now have five 4′ x 16′ in-ground beds, two of which are planted with perennial vegetables. I am a believer of perennial edibles – “planting once, harvest forever” sounds great!

The strawberries bed has been producing for two years:

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A chive border was planted in front of the strawberries last Fall by splitting one – yes, just one – chive plant! Gotta love a plant that is beautiful, edible, tough as nails, and attracts pollinators!

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Last year I asked Slav to “pick a vegetable you want me to grow”. And he picked asparagus! The plant ended up loving our soil and intense sun.

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This Spring, I added 25 more crowns around it and dedicated this entire bed to asparagus. All the crowns sprouted nicely. We should be able to start harvesting asparagus next Spring, and many decades ahead!

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I am a big fan of garlic scapes. Growing up, garlic scapes and strawberries were only available for a couple weeks each year, usually around my birthday. Each year I look forward to them as birthday treats. Starting 2018, I plant a whole bed of hardneck garlic every Spring for the scapes.

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The remaining two beds are planted with annual vegetables we love – tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumber, cabbages, radishes, beets, arugula, and salad greens.

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After filming the video tour, I put up some trellises for the climbing beans: This year we are growing Limka and red noodle.

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IV. The New Ginkgo Tree and Helleborus Garden

One of the new addition to my garden this year is a Ginkgo tree. I planted it next to the veggie garden. It is a slow-growing tree, especially during the first a few years, so it would not cast shade on the veggie garden any time soon. But eventually, I would love to have the whole yard covered by canopies of big trees for a forest-type micro-climate.

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Before that happens, this little flower bed under the crabapple tree is my only “shade” garden. I dedicated this whole space to my favorite plants: helleborus.

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Helleborus, or hellebore, is also called Christmas rose or Lenten rose. It flowers in January through April, and offers the most delicate looking flowers that often used for water art.

I planted this garden last year with white, dark purple, and black flowering helleborus, basically what you see in the picture above. They have not flowered this year, but all of them came back from the winter looking much stronger. Without the flowers they still got nice and glossy foliage to look at:

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V. The Pollinator/Herb Garden

Besides the veggie garden occupying the south side of the backyard, and fruit trees and climbing roses aligning the east fence, we also densely planted the north side of the backyard. This part of the yard receives full sun and is on a slope. To prevent water run-off, we covered the entire area with wood chip mulch and turned it into an edible garden.

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The flower bed in the front is our pollinator garden. Planted here are all sun-loving perennial herbs and flowers. There are sage, English lavender, mint, tarragon, catmint, lemon balm, oregano, hyssop, walking onion, Black Eye Susan, lavender cotton, sulfur flower buckwheat, and some ground cover.

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To add more shade trees, I planted a maple tree here in 2019. It will eventually become 40 feet tall and its canopy will meet the canopy of the crabapple tree.

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VI. The Berry Patch!

A big part of our edible garden, besides the vegetable beds, is a berry patch we planted last year. 20 berry plants, including 15 raspberries and 5 black berries, and two hazelnut trees went into this big mulched area:

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The three rows of raspberry are different varieties. You can see the difference between their sprouting time and growing habit. The row on the very left came up first and spreads the most, and the right row has a more of a tight form.

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VII. The New Patio Garden + Planters

Last is the newest addition to our backyard – the patio garden!

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What I call the “patio garden” includes the patio planters (planted with stawberries), the strip of mulched area in front of the planters and the berry patch (which is mulched with dried grass clippings for now), and the area between the herb garden and the shed.

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Due to the pandemic, we did not manage to get perennial plants to fill the new patio garden. To fill the space, I seeded some annual flower and vine crops. The entire patio garden, from the patio to the shed, is full-sun and get overspray from our grass sprinklers. It will be fun to plan this garden this Fall!

The space closest to the house now have a couple annual herbs, with cosmos seeded in between:

Lemon verbena

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Rosemary

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Cosmos

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The pink flags are there so Roxie does not get into the flower bed – this girl likes to nap on fresh mulch, which I totally understand. But the new flower seedlings would like to disagree.

I did manage to put in two perennials here, one being a Chinese Snowball Viburnum. It will eventually grow to be a multi-stem tree, 8 feet tall with a 6 feet spread. It will provide some afternoon shade for the snowboard bench and the flower bed below.

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The other perennial is a lingonberry, and it flowered right after being planted!

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Where the patio garden curves along the berry patch were recently seeded with lettuce and beets. It is treated like an extension of our veggie garden this year, but will be plant with pretty perennials this Fall! I have some leftover cantaloupe seeds that are fairly old, so they all got thrown there too. Maybe one of them will come up!

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Near the newly built shed patio I planted a vine crop patch! All the seedlings of  zucchini, squash, cucumber went in here.

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The goal is to let them becoming a green mulch for the area, so less weeds can come up:

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I did manage to get one perennial in this area, and it is an apple tree!

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We already planted a honey crisp apple tree a couple years ago, but transparent apple is Slav’s favorite. Although popular in Poland, we could not find this apple sold in stores around us. So let us grow it!

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VIII. The Shed Patio and A New Pollinator House

Remember the shed patio I created a few weeks ago? It is still bare and covered by black plastic…given the current situation of the pandemic, this patio might have to wait until next Spring.

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We did spice it up a bit by setting two faux evergreen trees in front of the shed. One of (many of) Slav’s snowboards serves as a temporary seating.

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Oh, the leave-cutting bee house we DIYed last year reached full occupancy! Totally did not expect it and very encouraged by it. We put up a bigger native pollinator house for native bees and butterflies this Spring, and hope it ill be appreciated.

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So, here you have it, our 2020 Spring gardens! We put lots of hard work into landscaping over the last two years, and I think the garden really shows it. Although many of our trees and perennials are still young and need time to fill in, I’d say that we’ve landscaped 90% of the property already! I especially appreciate the hardscape we put in, such as patios, fence, dry creek, the retaining wall, and the most recent drip irrigation and automation system, which will all serve us well for years to come. I cannot wait for our garden to mature and to support the native ecosystem – the pollinators, birds, and even animals. Grow little garden, grow!

Fall is Perfect for Gardening!

After a long summer dry spell, we welcomed Autumn rain with open arms. The water from the sky arrived just in time – with night temperature hovering about 40, it is almost time to blow dry the drip lines in the garden.

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Fall is the perfect time to garden – who is with me on this? There is much less weeding and much more flowers, and the sun is not nearly intense. Honestly, I am taking the Fall garden tasks very causally and spent most of my “gardening” time sipping coffee, petting dogs, and watching graceful grasses dancing in cool breeze. It is LUXURY.

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A front garden update

Our last year’s hard work in the front yard totally paid off. Our front yard is the one the most beautiful in the neighborhood I dare to say. I intentionally stayed with a cool color palette for flowers and I do not regret it.

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The flowers above is Rocky Mountain Columbine, which is the state flower of Colorado. The grasses behind them are Blue Grama, which is the Colorado state grass.

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Besides summer flowers there are also Autumn colors. Here are the red berries, the silver brocade sage, and the blue stonecrop:

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Last fall I dropped a couple pieces of blue stonecrop next to the dry creek. Look at how lovely they are doing now! Gotta love a strong ground cover plant.

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Succulent the dry creek

Inspired by the look of stonecrop next to the dry creek, I decided to dress it up even more. Last year I got some divisions of Hens and Chicks from a neighbor; they did very well in our climate and tripled in number during just one season. So I transplanted them along the dry creek to fill all the gaps and crannies.

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I also tucked some baby ones along the retaining wall. These voids were filled with sand and the little green bundles peeking out really brings the look up a notch.

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Re-work the veggie garden

The main gardening task this Fall is to redo the vegetable garden. We started growing vegetables in our back yard in the Spring of 2018 with just 5 beds, and added three more last Spring. After two seasons trying different vegetables, I now have a pretty good understanding on what grows well in our yard, and more importantly, what we like to eat. I would like to put more effort into vegetable gardening next year, and this Fall is the perfect time to plan and prepare the beds.

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There are a few things I wanted to address here: first, after two years of farming our vegetable beds could use some rejuvenation aka compost. Second, the bark mulch we put down two seasons ago has decomposed significantly and there are quite a few places bare ground is shown.

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Lastly, the drip system here could use some reconfiguration – we’ve been slowly adding drip lines and soaker hoses as the garden grows, which results in choppy grid and inconsistent water pressure throughout the system.

So here is the steps I took to rejuvenate the veggie garden space:

1. Redefine the veggie beds and restrict the bark mulch only on the paths

We used to have bark mulch on both veggie beds and the paths in between; I have found that the coarse mulch we used does not help with seed germination especially for small seeds. I would like to use compost as mulch next year for better soil health and veggie growth. So I racked all the bark mulch onto the paths between beds.

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I took this opportunity to redefine the boundary of each bed. To space them evenly I used a landscape measuring tape, which I found very useful in all different kinds of outdoor projects. From planning large project such as patio or fence, to planting hedges, I use it all the time when I need to measure long distance.

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We also decided to remove the very first veggie bed to make driving the trailer into the back yard easier. So I moved the edging back to define the new boundary.

The first bed:

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The new boundary:

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2. Organize the drip tubing and re-run soaker hoses

We have been watering the veggie garden with soaker hoses. After spacing the beds and move the mulch, I took out all the soakers hose onto the surface, fix the leaky area and rearranged them to accommodate the new grid of the veggie beds.

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The new grid:

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3. Propagate and divide perennial crops in the vegetable garden

Fall is a great time to propagate and divide perennials. We have some strawberry plants that are sending lots of runners. I buried the runners in soil which will encourage them to grow their own roots. I also divided our chive plant and made a row with the divisions in the front of the first veggie bed. Imagine a hedge of green shoots and purple flowers in Spring? Wouldn’t it be nice?

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4. Top-dress all beds with organic compost

As the last step, I put down a thick layer of compost over the vegetable beds to give the garden a boost of energy for the next season. These compost will be worked into the soil next Spring and another layer of compost will be used as mulch after Spring planting.

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After all the reorganization and refreshing I had to plant something. So I planted garlic crop in for next year. These are all the hard neck varieties and were grown successfully in this garden last year. And now I am using my own produce as seed garlic! How exciting!

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At the mean time…

Compared to my moderate gardening effort Slav is speeding down a long list of house winterizing – sealing the windows, replacing weather stripping on exterior doors, and winterizing our vehicles. Last weekend Slav fixed the sagging fence gate fortunately just replacing the hinges, and set a pair of cane bolts to hold the gates in place.

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This is the last 2% of fence work we did not complete before the ground frozen last winter, and you know how small tasks get overlooked – it only took us a year to wrap it up!

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Oh, The teeth mark on the fence gate? That was Charlie, our black lab, who developed a deep obsession on neighbor’s front yard and has broken out a few times this summer. Hopefully these can bolts will be able to keep him in the escape artist!

We are looking forward to some friends’ visit this coming week and a much-needed relaxation in the mountains. I hope to have an update on the basement in a couple weeks. We are so close!

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