I feel like every time I talk about a home improvement project I automatically add the phrase “it’s done – for now.” Because it’s true. Our bedroom has mirrored doors on the closet that I’m not a fan of, in fact, all the doors could stand to be updated. There are crafty projects sitting in my head that are waiting to be added to both of the girls’ rooms, the hall bathroom needs a new vanity, mirror, and updated floor tiles. The list goes on, but I think you get the point. And I’m fully aware, as this is our second home, that there is ALWAYS a project on deck, or five. Especially when we try to avoid using credit at all costs – it means things like replacing that teal vanity will just have to wait until higher priority items are accomplished.
One of the reasons I fell in love with this house – that was not my dream house, but ended up instantly feeling like home – was the beautiful gardens. Three large, well-manicured beds in the front yard, one on each side, and two more in back. On the day of closing, we were chatting with the owner’s son who revealed the reason for the large beds – turns out he was in charge of mowing the lawn so when they designed the gardens he kept sneaking the line they had for the border out further and further. Tom was nervous about the amount of work they would take, but I felt like I was in heaven.
At the time, I didn’t really know what was planted, and where. It was Fall and a lot of the plants had already died back and been mulched over. Therefore, each month since early Spring has been a surprise. Tulips, Daffodils, Peonies, Black-eyed Susans, and Lilies, have all arrived, pushing up through the mulch to create a 3-season garden. Beautiful. Except I can’t leave well enough alone. I found my love of gardening at our first home in Utah, and I wasn’t about to stop and be happy with what I had.
I’m not planning on replacing everything – I’m very happy with over half of what we have. But there are plants that I love, that I want to be a part of my garden (like the whirling butterflies I put into my mailbox planter, and the hens and chicks I planted near our walk-way). There are definitely some that I want to remove as well (the roses that are prone to disease, the ugly evergreen bushes that house multitudes of spiders) and of course I also wanted to add a vegetable garden, something that wasn’t already in place.
With Tom’s help (despite his worrying, he loves gardening almost as much as I do – at least when it produces edible results) we got the vegetable garden in, and he built 2 rain barrels to harvest the abundant East-coast-rain-fall for my potted plants and the rare dry-week. I tried (and am still trying) to restrain myself from coming home with the entire nursery, and instead focused on a few key areas. We ripped out an insane amount of ivy out of our front bed that was choking out everything else, and there was a gaping hole left to fill. That was main goal. And I’m happy to say that I got a lot of it done. The bed won’t be finished until next year when we attack the ugly evergreen bushes, but it’s close. I also ripped out a disease-ridden rose and replaced it with a clematis, planted a few strawberries, added some low-maintenance perennials in each of the other beds, and Tom cleared out a small bed on the side of our house to make room for squash, cucumber, and pumpkin plants.
I have to say that I was so thrilled with the idea of gardening here. There is real soil in the ground, very few rocks, and abundant rain. It was going to be so much easier than rigging irrigation systems and trucking in soil. Right. I’ve become so frustrated that I’m longing for the days when water was my biggest problem. Turns out that lots of rain and humidity=black spot on your tomatoes and peppers. I managed to keep it at bay for a long time by spraying the plants with liquid copper, but while the peppers have rallied, the tomatoes are pretty much gone. We did get a good crop the last two months but it was just sad watching everything wilt away, and I neglected them too much when I got distracted with other projects.
The tomatoes weren’t the only casualty – my squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins were killed by either a bug or virus or both. We got a decent crop of squash and cucumbers before they died, but not one single pumpkin. And the bugs. The bugs! I couldn’t even stand to be outside on humid days because of them. I kept thinking I must have looked like Pig Pen, from Charlie Brown – only my cloud wasn’t dirt, it was gnats. The mold is super fun to deal with as well. Turns out I’m allergic (although it’s mild) – something I never noticed in Utah. Plus, as an added bonus, we have a whole slew of critters that like to steal, chew, and destroy. Bunnies, groundhogs and squirrels, oh my!
But! I have hope. Next year will be better. I am determined. I found out, much too late, that my neighbor is an organic gardening expert. I’ve already decided on several new attack plans based on his advice. It will also be easier to get things started next Spring since we won’t have a newborn to take care of. I’m very excited for the possibilities and steeled for the challenges.
Check out flickr for more detailed pictures – I’ve added notes on most of them, showing what we’ve done and still plan to do.