March 12, 2014

Spring Gardening Prep

This weekend we were eager to settle in back home and tackle some outdoor garden prep while the weather was so nice (over 70 degrees here in VA). Our front and back spaces have been looking pretty drab due to the freezing temps and winter just dragging on. Needless to say, we are excited that spring is almost here, and couldn't wait to get prepared. Here's how it all went down...

We got things started by just cleaning up the outdoor spaces prepping for planting and just getting things looking a little more in shape. Out front I tackled raking and some hedge trimming while Mary cleared out the weeds and trimmed back the monkey grass (Liriope) in the sidewalk bed.

It's still not much to look at out front, but any progress is good in our book. We'll consider these some good "before" photos for what we have planned this growing season.

Out back, we started with the same thing — I raked and swept the bricks while Mary trimmed back our beds of monkey grass. We got to it about a month later than we did last year, so if anyone else local to the area still hasn't trimmed back your Liriope, here's your yearly reminder!

I also took the time to rip up and remove the installed ground lights back here. They've been a part of the landscaping since we moved in and we initially thought we'd get good use from them, but never ended up using them. They actually became more of a nuisance than adding anything to the outdoor space so it felt good to remove all 6 of them:

You can see we have a pretty blank canvas to work with back here — there's even some leftover snow in our trough planters. Can't wait to start growing leafy greens in these again this year:

Over 2 days, I pulled out the ladder to tackle trimming up all the trees in the backyard. I was able to cut back our crepe myrtle, trim back our neighbor's tree that was catching on electrical lines and make the best headway on cutting back the holly tree since moving in (I love my vintage ladder). 

It's been really nice having the help with Brandon around this week while on spring break. We were able to trim and clear the larger branches in no time when teaming up.

I like to keep the trees trimmed back to allow for as much sunlight as possible to come through in this back patio space. Since we have such limited space and want to grow plants that require full sun, we try to make use of what we can.

Here's a progress shot from the space above while we were in the middle of cleanup — looks like our supervisor was sleeping on the job:

While Brandon and I trimmed the trees, Mary worked to trim some of the smaller greenery and clear out the the plant beds where we want to try growing some flowers this year (we were not paid for the ADT ad dang it):

She also brought all the planters from last season down from the top landing, around the yard and from the garage into a central corner to evaluate for this year:

It may sound odd, but good soil is actually a commodity for us. We can't just dig up dirt from one part of our yard, so we end up emptying all the soil from last season into a large bin, mix it really well with a new bag of organic vegetable gardening soil and reuse it year over year for spring planting. This year we should be able to mix in some of our own compost we've been filling over the past 3 seasons:

While cleaning everything up and trimming our neighbor's tree that shades our yard, I realized that a concentrated bunch of about 4 telephone lines connecting out from the back of the house were hanging out from days since this was a duplex. Since we've never had a landline since moving here, I called up the telephone company to see about getting them removed. Not even a day later they sent out a technician who kindly removed all the wires and phone box from the back of our house:

I figured this might be a good tip to share (I mean look at all those wires!), since so many of us these days are getting rid of traditional home telephone landlines as cell phones become our main means of chatting it up. It makes sense that the wires would still be there from the original install, but you just might be able to remove these eyesores too!

I didn't think to get before shots until the technician was pulling the cables down from the pole, so found a few that show the wires on the back of the house from past seasons. Since our house used to be a duplex back in the day, we had double the fun:

So I'm happy to report we are cable and wire free on the back portion of our house! It's not something that really bothered us before, but now that they're gone, we just love the cleaner look and feel of the solid brick wall:

Here's a better look at how the cleanup/prep shaped up over the weekend:

There's still plenty to do, but we're feeling better prepared to start working in the space and mapping out plans for new permanent plantings in addition to how we'll arrange all the container planters this year. Probably the most exciting part of the cleanup phase for us was all the new sunlight we're getting since trimming our holly tree way back and the removal of those 4 cables from the back of our house:

Whew — it feels good to be getting much of this prep work done. We actually started getting a few seeds started and plants in the ground over the weekend too, so we'll be sharing all those details in a followup post. Who else is excited for spring? We are just so ready to see the bright greens and fresh colors of the season begin to trickle in.

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