Adding a Porch to the Greenhouse

Since we got the green house set up this summer I’ve been wanting to add a little porch to the front to reduce the step in at the door.  I had planned to build one myself from pallet wood, but the Hubs offered up a few piece of damaged Trex boards that were scrap from our deck projects.  (I’ll be sharing the new deck & hot tub the Hubs has been working on all summer once I get a chance to style it a bit and get some photos!)

I certainly wasn’t going to turn down his help or an option that required less prep work – especially as we enter the last few weeks to get outdoor projects done before winter arrives in Alaska.  He built a simple frame from some some left over pressure treated boards left over from building the new deck and attached it to the frame of the green house on the front.  Because the ground slopes here we used paver bricks to support the frame so we could get it level.  Once we had it attached we pulled out the pavers and the Hubs added a support post using a scrap piece of 4×4, also from the deck construction.

I was busy getting a new flower bed installed next to the shed (I’ll be sharing that update next week) so I didn’t get a picture of that step but you can see it in the edge of the finished photo.  I plan to add fill dirt around the front, side and back of the green house to level things out a bit more before we spread gravel over the whole area around the green house.

Here’s a quick little before and after:

It’s amazing how much that little change elevates the look of the whole green house!  I absolutely love it and can’t wait to see it finished off with the gravel around it.  Now I just need to find a metal R at Alaska Picker Day tomorrow so I can complete the “GROW” sign I plan to add to the top of the front.  🙂  If I find some good treasures I’ll be sharing those next week as well!

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Green House Sitting Area

Now that I spend a lot of time at the green house I decided to make a little spot to sit and take a break when I’m tending the garden.  It will also be the perfect spot to enjoy the new flower bed I’m putting in along the shed.

The spot is between the green house and the berry patch, just at the crest of the hillside as it starts to go down.  It’s a simple set-up that came together easily, starting with the chairs, which I found on the buy/sell page for $20.  When I got them they didn’t match – one was red and the other was tan.  If they had both been tan I probably would have left them as is, but since I wanted them to match I picked up a couple cans of spray paint for plastic to make them teal instead.

Apparently I was in such a hurry to get the project rolling that I forgot to take a before picture of the red chair, but here’s the tan one prior to it’s makeover.

And here it is while drying.  The paint went on easily and because it has a built in primer there was no prep work other than a light cleaning to remove any built up dirt.  It’s been about a month since I painted them and they seem to be holding up quite well.

I had a curbside freebie wooden stand I’d snagged while getting some other freebies off Craigslist and thought it would make a fun little table between the chairs.   You can check out a before picture of this little thing on Instagram.  I first tried to paint it white but the wood soaked up the paint inconsistently making it look splotchy.

I dug through the paint cabinet in the garage for an alternative and found two cans of grey spray paint.  The darker color seemed more uniform, although still not perfect.  I figured it would weather anyway so it just adds a bit of character and you can’t beat free paint!

To pull it all together, I added a couple of pillows from my stash for the backyard, along with some planters I’d filled earlier in the season and a citronella candle to keep the bugs at bay.  Not a bad little spot to relax for around $30 (chairs & paint)!  I may add a little shelf on the bottom of the table next season, but for now it works just fine.

We plan to cover the whole open area around the green house with landscape fabric and gravel over the labor day weekend, which will really finish off this space.  Now I just need some extra time to go out and enjoy it! 🙂

 

Well Float My Rope and Ring My Bell

Yesterday I mentioned making driftwood garlands, like the ones I saw in Homer, but today I’m sharing a similar project I did recently that also has a bit of a nautical flair.  This little project has been in the works for years.  It started when I picked up a batch of wooden floats used for fishing more than 2 years ago.  I only had six and every project I thought up required more so they sat, waiting for more to be found.  Then I happened upon these cool vintage metal floats at Junk Bonanza and decided to pair them together but still didn’t have quite enough to complete the project.

I spotted a pair of metal garden bells in a catalog for $20 and knew they’d be perfect at the end of a line of floats.  Unfortunately the company wouldn’t ship to Alaska so I had them shipped to my Mother-In-Law and picked them up when we visited earlier this summer.  To fill out the rest of the rope I picked up several cork floats from Alaska Picker for a few bucks each.

I used some woven rope I already had in my stash from another project and started with a loop tied with a knot.  I fed the floats onto the rope in a set pattern and tucked the loose end of the rope from the knot at the loop into the center of the first float.  At the bottom I just made a knot and then tied the rope that came with the bell into the knot, again tucking loose ends into the last float.  It was so easy, I did both ropes while watching a movie with the Hubs and it took less than 20 minutes.

The Hubs added hooks we had left over from another project on the front corners of the green house so I could hang the ropes easily and take them down for the season quickly.

Here’s the rope on the other side, where I’ll have a large metal horse trough planter next season.  Right now it’s serving as a brooder for the baby chickens we picked up yesterday!  Get a peek at them on Instagram or Facebook.

The bell on this side is a little smaller than the other, but has the same style and finish.  They don’t get much movement in this spot so they stay pretty quiet, but when they do chime it’s a pretty soft sound that’s soothing and just right for a garden.

I’ve still got several projects to tackle out around the green house before we close up the yard for the winter and I’m already putting together the plan for what we’ll plant and do next year.  Until then these float ropes add a little bit of Alaska style whimsy to the garden and make me smile every time I see them.  One more project checked off the list. 🙂

Herb Rack Update

I promised to provide an update on our indoor herb planter once we got some real plants in it, which proved to a be a bit more difficult than I anticipated.  It took a while to find what I was looking for at the various stores in town and then several of the plants didn’t do well so I replaced them.  As you can see below that still didn’t keep a few of the plants from failing again.

I think they just weren’t getting enough full or direct sun to thrive.  There were a few that seemed to do ok.  The bay plant did pretty well and the sweet basil did better than the spicy basil.

After replacing several of the plants 2-3 times I gave up deciding that the location just wasn’t getting enough light for herbs.  I moved the remaining viable plants outside on the deck to a raised planter (which you may remember from last season) so they are still nearby for use when cooking or grilling, but stay out of reach of the dogs.

They seem to be doing pretty well out here, and both varieties of oregano have grown since I moved them out here.  The basil and bay have stayed about the same, I think just from the shock of transplant.

I’m a little bummed that the indoor option didn’t work out as I was pretty excited about having fresh herbs all year long, but I’ll be sure to preserve some of these so they can be used throughout the winter instead.  I’ve already got a new plan for the space in the dining room where the rack was – but I’ll have to wait until after our trip back east this fall to put it together.  I’ll be sure to share that once I do.  In the meantime I’ve filled the rack with faux succulents left over from another project since all the IKEA plants are now in use in other spots.  Find me on Instagram to see how it looks today.

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Garden Touring

Today I’m sharing a recap of the fantastic garden tour I did last weekend.  Grab something to drink and get comfy because there are going to a LOT of pictures in this post!  The tour started off at the Willow library where the Willow Garden Club maintains this lovely display garden.  I wandered through and enjoyed the flowers while waiting for the maps for the tour to be handed out.  There were several varieties of columbines that were doing quite well.

There was also a Monkshead plant tucked between the columbines.  I was surprised to see how clumped it’s foliage was as when I spot these growing in the woods on our property it’s usually a single stem with just a few ‘hoods’ on it.  I’m going to have to research them a bit more to see if this is a different variety or if it’s just that it is in full sun, versus the shade ours have under the trees.  I’m aware that they can be poisonous so  I won’t be adding them to the flower beds, but I’d still like to know.

The tour organizers gave a brief welcome and introduction to the event, then handed out the maps to the four gardens and lunch location with a short write up about each, which I’ll include in my descriptions below.  Most of the gardens were open for the entire time of the tours so you could visit them in any order.

I decided to visit the two gardens closest to the lunch spot to get started.  The first garden I visited was Janet & Lee Thibert’s Garden on Nancy Lake.  They’ve done a lot of work to the property since purchasing it as a cabin property in 1989.  They tore down the cabin and built a lovely home with a verity of landscaping, including peonies, forsythia, dogwood, bleeding heart, roses and many ground cover plants.  Part of their property has gorgeous rock work that creates a very manicured feeling.  Also situation around their home are many cherry, birch, larch, maple and spruce trees.

The first part of the garden that tour visitors saw is an adjoining property they purchased a few years ago where they created an idyllic terraced grass and flower beds.  The first two beds as you descend the walkway were full of strawberries, which Janet said she uses as ground cover more than a harvest crop, although she did say she will sometimes pick a few to enjoy.  The third bed had a mix of bell flowers and other perennials.  The bottom beds were still under construction but had recently been planted with peonies and poppies that should fill in the space as they grow.

Off to the side there was a small trail through the trees that led to their home on the property next door.

It was a lovely wood style home surrounded by a lush green lawn.  Off to the side they had created a rock retaining wall and raised deck for their hot tub.  The top of the wall was adorned with pretty annuals and several cool rock sculpture ants.

Following the lawn down the opposite hillside led to a beautiful open area with more rock work that reached well above my head before the trail narrowed and led to a dock on the lake.

The front of the house was just as stunning, with more grass pathways and and rock work.  There was a water feature in the top section of the year and a few raised beds off to the side in an area that looked like it was still being developed.

The next garden was “The Birches” on Long Lake.  When I arrived I followed others down this amazing tree lined driveway which opened to an amazing country style garden packed with a variety of ferns, iris, currants, rhododendrons, a massive mock orange and other perennials planted many years ago.  The design of the garden encourages walking through the groupings of plants on several paths.

I followed a main path around the house to find this lovely view of the lake accented with more beds of wildflowers along the shore.

Off to the side was a pathway that ran along the shore.  On the other side of the lakeside lawn was a smaller path that curved around the other edge of the shore.  This area had several areas still in development including a fun boat and trellis planter in the making!

It was time for the lunch stop so I headed a few streets over to the Nuss home on Little Lost Lake.  They had a great open lawn area next to the lake where you could see their boat dock and arbor.  They had set out a large tent which was decorated with fun paper lanterns.

They even had a cute little spread of treats on the deck where they did raffle drawings for plants from several of the host gardens, including several unique and rare varieties.

While enjoying my lunch under the tent I spotted this amazing bird house.  I’m now on the hunt for something similar to add to my yard.  And I got a chuckle out of this guy’s shirt.  I need to find one for the Hubs!

After lunch I spotted this fun little fairy garden out near the driveway as I made my way back to the truck to head to the next garden – the world famous Coyote Garden.!  It was the one I was really excited to see and I knew our neighbor friend would be there helping out!

On the way to the next garden I spotted Denali in the distance and just had to pull over to get a shot considering.  It’s still amazing that we can see “the great one” hundreds of miles away.

This is Coyote Garden’s 25th year of garden tours!  Created by Les Brake and his partner Jerry Conrad, the garden has been featured in numerous magazines over the years.  It continues to receive kudos from well-respected garden publications all over the U.S. and was featured in last year’s fall issue of Garden Design with an article written by Dan Hinkley.  This year the garden will be profiled in the summer issue of a new magazine for the northwest – Northwest Travel and Life.

Our neighbor, Debra took a break from her duties greeting guests to walk through the garden with me and show me around.  She also introduced me to both Les and Jerry who are good friends of hers.  We started the tour on the deck of the house, which featured several pieces of Jerry’s amazing willow furniture.

The deck leads to a stone walkway along the side of the house where a variety of perennials were blooming.

This is the view from the deck, down the stone walkway.  That’s Les chatting with some ladies from the Anchorage Botanical Garden about – of course – garden stuff.  I enjoyed listening in for a bit until they started talking above my head. 🙂

Near where Les was standing was this amazing poppy.  I’ve never seen one with this coloring or pattern and it was the only one I saw there.

Looking from the pathway toward the house there is a small area of grass which leads to a narrow trail back around to the front of the house.  I’ll share more on that side in a moment.

At the end of the stone walkway you go through this curved structure that Jerry built, which leads out to an open lawn area.  This is the center of the garden as there is more beyond the grassy area that I’ll show shortly.

to the left of the grassy area is a small pathway to the lake.

Across from the curved structure is this newer back section of the garden.  It holds quite a few surprises.

As you enter this area a small gazebo structure is down another stone walkway off to the right.  It was created by Jerry using the same methods he makes the willow furniture from.  It just begs for you to sit and enjoy the garden.

Across from the gazebo is this stunning moss meadow!  I just wanted to lay down on it and pretend I was in a fairy tale movie.  It would be an unbelievable photo session location!

And here’s the view looking back from the moss meadow toward the house to give you a sense of the depth of the gardens.

We made our way back up to the original stone path off the deck and wandered behind the house on the narrow trail I mentioned before that leads around the other side of the house.  Debra told me that this large structure is new.  It replaced an older willow structure that was deteriorating after decades in the garden.

Les was also having a plant sale during the tour and thanks to Debra I already had a pink peony on reserve when I arrived.  I opted to add another to my pile since they were well priced and something I’ve been planning to add to our garden for a while now anyway.  I’ll share where they end up before the end of the season. 🙂

The last garden was Dream a Dream Dog Farm.  Veterinarian Susan Whiton, and Iditarod musher Vern Halter have combined businesses, pleasure and beauty when they decided to create this lovely bed & breakfast with a garden area to complement a bustling dog kennel.  Dream a Dream hosts many visitors every year who wish to savor the true Alaskan experience.  I was quite impressed with the spread as I walked up the driveway from the sign at the road.

Just past the house and kennel building are the main dogs’ quarters.  They were actually very quiet, napping in the sun until one saw my camera and sounded the alarm.  Luckily Vern was nearby and told them to pipe down so they all went back to napping.

Behind the house is this lovely little garden, which was well laid out to contain a lot of crops, yet still feel wide open.

The green house was cram packed and getting good use.

They had a gutter running along the side of the green house that drained into a barrel for rain water collection.  We’re setting up a similar option along our shed which will stock the water tank for the raspberries.

There were several raised beds, some with edible crops and others with flowers.  This one was cram packed with a variety of poppies mixed with a few other perennial wildflowers.

Here’s the view from the far corner at the front of the garden.  It’s amazing how much they’ve fit into this small area.

Down the hill from the garden were more raised beds and this monster rhubarb plant.  I hope the one I just adopted from a co-worker is this healthy after acclimating to our yard!

Beyond the gardens was a small enclosure for some of the older puppies.  They were so stinkin cute and super friendly.

Next to their enclosure was this Iditarod sign, which I’m sure is authentic!

This area of the property opened up to a mushing trail, which is perfect placement for training the dogs.

After exploring the gardens I visited the kennel’s building which was set up to entertain tourists and showcase Vern’s mushing career accomplishments.  The mural on the wall was a great depiction of him and it was pretty cool to stand under the bibs he’s worn on the trail.  The inside of the large bay doors also had a mural of Alaskan scenery and wildflowers.

It was a perfect day for touring gardens and it was so much fun to see the different styles and methods used by each host.  I’ll be putting a few of the ideas I got during the tours in reserve for our property and look forward to attending again next year and seeing some new gardens!

 

DIY Compost Bins

Part of our green house project was creating a compost system to supply nutrient rich fertilizer for our crops.  After a bit of Pinterest browsing, I came across an idea that used plastic barrels raised on a stand so they could be filled, rotated and emptied easily.  I showed the picture to the Hubs and he whipped me up these.

I placed them right behind the green house where they get full sun exposure and there’s extra room for the stand supports. Although they currently sit on a slight incline I plan to remedy that when I add gravel around the green house so that they sit level.

The design is fairly simple.  He cut a panel door in the side of the barrels and created holes for the metal rod to go through the center of each barrel.  In a stroke of genius he added a weight to the opposite side of the barrel from the door so that the hardware wouldn’t cause the barrel to always rest with the door upside down.  He also added several large bolts that protrude into the barrel from the outside to help with the mixing process when it’s spun.

I’m still figuring out the right ratios of brown and green material and haven’t been great about keeping it damp to aid in the break down, but it also hasn’t been very warm here this summer so I’m not sure that if I had I would see much difference.  Luckily there’s never a shortage of material to add to the bins so we’ll continue the trial and error method with a bit of research until I get it just right.

If you compost I’d love to hear your tips and tricks both for cultivating the pile and using the resulting material in your garden!  Leave me a comment with what works or what doesn’t for you – it might just be something that helps me decrease this learning curve. 🙂

Growing Strawberries Vertically with Strawberry Straws

Yesterday I shared the progress our crops have made in the green house during it’s debut season.  You may have spotted a unique strawberry planter in the background of several of those shots.  Today, I’m giving you a closer look at how those went together and are performing.

We started with a simple 4″ black pipe that the Hubs added a cap fitting to one end and drilled holes in on one side.  He then fastened them in the two corners of the green house where we don’t have the hydroponic shelves using simple clamp bands.

Here’s how they looked after they were put together and installed in the green house.  He kept the bands loose enough that I could still pull the tube back out to plant it, which sure made planting them much easier!

I love that they don’t take up any floor space in the green house.  Their placement on the wall in the corners make great use of an awkward space that wouldn’t work for other crops.  And it keeps the berries from sitting on soil where they could spoil as they ripen.

Once they were planted I realized I needed a way to water each hole of the planter without washing away the dirt each time.  I’d seen several versions of these planters on Pinterest where they placed a second smaller pipe with drain holes along it’s entire length inside the large tube so water would seep out along the path of gravity.  I’ve tried this system before with other set-ups and not had great luck so I decided not to go that route.  Instead the Hubs helped me create what I dubbed ‘strawberry straws’ – simple PVC pieces tucked into each hole near the roots of the plant.

They were super noticeable at first when the plants were small, but as they’ve grown the white ‘straws’ start to blend in with the flowers on the plants themselves.  And as you can see they are working great!

We’ve now got two of these vertical planters in the corners filled with strawberries and are starting to see blooms which give way to the developing fruit.  Hopefully we’ll have an edible crop to enjoy very soon!

And if they produce a decent harvest this year I may have the Hubs figure out how we can fit two tubes into each corner next season!  I’ll let you know when we get the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of our labor. 🙂

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