Category Archives: gardening

Retaining wall in a day, Really!

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When we purchased our home 11 years ago, the back yard was a barren wasteland.  There was no plant life, only a pit of red clay.  Many people have the luxury of planting their yards immediately after moving in.   The mechanic and I did not have that luxury.  We had major erosion problems.  We live in a neighborhood where each neighbor’s yard sits progressively higher than the next.  The yard to the right has rain runoff into our yard, and our yard erodes onto the property to the left of us.  You get the picture.  We kept putting topsoil dressing on our yard to only have it wash off into our “lower neighbor’s” yard.  This is the solution that I came up with, which caused much moaning and groaning from the mechanic.  I had just undergone some minor surgery and could not help lift the 50lbs bags for this project; however, I did dig the ditch.

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It was a long, deep ditch too.  I needed the bottom of the ditch to be level with my neighbor’s yard. Clay-type soil is often baked into a hard crust, and is difficult to break apart with a shovel.

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I was extremely nervous.  I was not positive that my “concrete retaining wall” idea would work, and the mechanic had just started putting the bags in. I did not let the anxiety show on my face.

 

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We decided to place the first layer of concrete bags on their sides to help hold the loose soil. The mechanic loved it when I decided we needed two more rows of concrete bags placed on top of that bottom row.

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Once all the bags were in place, I watered the wall daily for four days.  I could hardly wait to rip the paper off of the concrete.  I even got a bit impatient waiting on the top row to harden.  I poked a hole large enough to fit the water hose nozzle in and filled each bag with water.  Looking back, I should have been more patient.  You can see the holes that were made in the concrete.   If I do this again, I will continue to water all the bags daily, until they are all hard.  The wall didn’t need to be pretty because it does not show.  My planting beds are in front and the fence is behind it.  RESULTS?  We had torrential downpours since this wall went in, and we no longer lose topsoil in our neighbors yard.  The retaining wall works!  This makes me breathe a sigh of relief because I don’t have an issue with the mechanic.

Some “spring” in my soul

I pull my flip flops from the closet and notice a dullness of the sequins that were once sparkly.  I dust them off, scoot them on, and head out to my back yard.  The sun feels good on my toes after winter’s end.  All is well with my soul. nest in glass The birds are screeching for me to fill the feeder with more seed.  Two of them barely avoid flying into my face as they are busy fighting for their right to a mate.  I notice the birds have been stealing sphagnum moss from a hanging Staghorn plant.  They have left me a giant hole to fill.  The bird bath is full of partially eaten worms, no doubt left there accidentally while they were getting a drink.  One lone feather floats there too.  I see that the birds have left their poop all over my swing that sits under a big oak tree.  What a mess!  I fill up the bird feeder with more seed, check. I drag out the water hose to wet a bucket of sphagnum moss.  I need to replace the missing moss in my hanging planter, check.  I wash out the bird bath and put in fresh water, check.  Now my flip flop sequins are dirty again and I’ve spent too much time on these birds.  I’m frustrated and a bit angry, especially about the poop.   I think, THIS IS CRAZY! Why do I do this anyway?  Then, I spot a loan nest in my crepe myrtle tree.  It’s a tiny one left over from last year.  I pull it down from the bare branches to inspect it closer; there were not any eggs. The nest fascinates me.  I have a habit of emptying the contents of the vacuum cleaner outside and the prior owners of this nest used those contents for nesting materials.  I notice tiny strands of silver and blonde hairs woven throughout the dry, grass structure. I examine it even closer and discover a pleasant surprise.  It’s my hair!  This is exciting!  I even feel honored and privileged somehow.  My hair cradled those baby birds that were there last year.  I have a new treasure to keep.  All is well with my soul again!

Not Your Usual Fern

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I planted, or “framed” this Stag Horn Fern this past spring.  Now it is really starting to fill out.   I don’t know if you can tell, but it has Stag Horns on the back too.  I got a super deal on four Stag Horns, $3 each, at a local nursery.  I immediately placed one in my home, and it is currently growing in a pot indoors. Many years ago, in another life, (long story) I had purchased a small Stag Horn in a small framework. I wanted to reproduce that Stag Horn that I loved,  but in a larger size.  So, that being said, I used the remaining three Stag Horns to make this hanging one!  I had some old 2X4’s that I cut to make a frame. (I am not a carpenter; forgive me.)  I used wood screws to put the frame together and corner braces to reinforce the corners. Also, I had some old wire fencing that I couldn’t stand to toss.  I wrapped that wire fencing on one side of the frame and hammered in gardener staples to adhere the fencing to that side of the frame. (I left enough excess fencing to make a continuous wrap on the other side, however; I did  not finish wrapping it until I filled the frame with moss)  Next, I carefully removed the Stag Horn from it’s small pot.  First, I worked the leaves of the Staghorn Fern through the fencing that was attached to the backside of the frame, making sure to face the fern outward.  I left the fern and all it’s planting materials together. Only the green part was sticking through the fencing.  To make more room for the bigger leaves of the plant, you can use wire cutters to clip away some of the extra fencing. I just maneuvered mine through the fencing by gently curling the leaves and pushing them through the fencing holes. I placed the whole plant, including some dirt that was in the pot, under the fencing. Eventually the base will grow over the fencing,  but I used the fencing to hold my ferns in place.  Then, I soaked some sphagnum moss  in a bucket of water. (You can purchase this moss at any garden center) A good soaking enabled the moss to be packed and held together easier. The next step required some extra hands.  I needed someone to hold the frame and  lean it backwards.  This was so that I could access the front side, and not squish the fern that I had just placed on the back side. While leaning it towards herself slightly, my daughter held the frame steady. This enabled me to stuff the Sphagnum Moss  behind the fern I had just planted. Then, I filled the whole frame with moss.  Next, I wrapped the extra fencing around the front side, bending it to go around the front of the frame.  I did not attach it yet,  but first placed my remaining ferns (you must start with small Stag Horns to do this project) on top of the moss and through the fencing like I did on the back side.  Finally, I permanently attached the fencing to the front side.  I used the gardeners staples, being careful not to crush the plants on the front side.  I hung the framework of Stag Horns from my oak tree.  The Stag Horns are thriving and seem to enjoy the shade of my Oak tree as much as I do.  Tip:  I also attached another rope from the bottom of the frame and secured it to the ground with a stake.  One time, on a windy day, I saw that my Stag Horn was getting a beating while the wind blew it against the tree’s trunk.  Now safely secured,  it can only “spin” on a windy day.

This plant makes me do my happy dance every time I see it!

Seed starter pots made easy!

Use old newspaper to make seedling pots.  I cut strips of newspaper.(about 2 inch wide strips but used the side of the newspaper as the length of the strips)   I dunked each strip in water. The kitchen sink was the best place to do it.  Don’t do all the strips at once.  They’ll fall apart.  I then took the strips and wrapped them by circling around the bottom half of the glass.  (I did not want it too tall so I used only half of the glass)  I also liked cutting two sheets of newspaper for my strips.  I used some paper to wrap across the bottom too.  While the paper was still wet, I pressed down on the glass wrapped in strips of paper.  This squishing down on the glass resulted in my pots having flat bottoms. That way they will stand better when filling them with your seed starter mix.  My advised is to always use seed starter mix for your seeds. Lastly,   I carefully slipped the paper form off the glass and set in the sun to dry.  I have found these to be  the best seed starter pots ever!