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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A Green House Update

I’ll be sharing updates on the projects that have been going on while we were offline for the next several weeks.  So let’s jump right in with an update in the green house!  Temps were staying above freezing by mid-May so I went ahead and planted everything I could but kept it all in the green house as a safeguard against overnight frost.

During that time I tested out a DIY hack for heating the green house I got from a local gardening club – a crock pot of water!  It not only provided a bit of heat inside the structure it helped increase the humidity for the plants once I got things started.  It worked really well so I plan to do the same thing again next year, although we also picked up a small heater for next season at a garage sale recently.  I also ran a humidifier in the green house for several weeks to help the plants get off to a strong start.  That’s another little DIY I plan to do again next season.

Here’s how things looked at the end of May.  My much planned layout was working well – getting the food crops started and providing a bit of room for my flower pots to wait out the slow to arrive summer weather, including hanging baskets I put together myself with geraniums and lobelia.  I snagged the baskets at Lowes for just $5 each and they came with the coconut liner, so even with the cost of the plants and dirt they were a far better deal than the crazy expensive ones the stores and nurseries put together – most of which have color or flower combos I’m not keen on anyway.

The freebie metal bed frames I scored last season fit perfectly behind the tubs to serve as a trellis for the peas and green beans.  Since I could only get a couple of the plants along the back side of the tub I put a couple along the front as well and the Hubs cut me a couple extra pieces of heavy gauge fencing from some scrap we had sitting around to create a mini trellis for the other side.

I didn’t  realize just how much I had packed into this space until I started moving the flowers out to the deck and yard and suddenly had a lot more room – that is until the food crops really got going!  The Hubs installed a water barrel in the corner for easy watering and started putting together a hydroponic system for the tomatoes but got sidelined with our trip, so we’re just now finishing that project up.  I’ll share the details of that set-up soon.

Although not everything made it through the transplant and adjustment period, a good majority did and things are growing well now.  Here’s how things are looking now!

Not bad for our first season with the green house and learning the ropes.  We’ve already enjoyed peas and lettuce from our efforts several times and look forward to plenty more before the summer is over.  Tomorrow I’ll share a closeup look at the vertical space-saving strawberry planters we’re using and the DIY solution we came up with to water them, so be sure to check back.

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A Revamped Freebie Planter

Anyone else amazed that it’s already May?  We’re just flying through this year, but at least it’s almost time to start planting and getting our yard ready for the summer season.  Here in Alaska the temps are still pretty chilly overnight so I don’t dare plant anything outside just yet, but that doesn’t mean I have to sit around and wait.  I’ve been cleaning up the flower beds, looking for signs  of life from my perennials and getting my plan for where things will go together.  That plan includes a few new pieces like this freebie planter I got from someone I bought another item from.  They were moving out of state and were purging items so she said just take all the pots and planters on the porch too!  I was all too happy to help!

The other pots in the freebie group didn’t really suit my style so I grouped them with other pots I no longer needed and traded them on the buy/sell page as part of a deal for another item I’ll share on the blog soon.  But I had a plan for this little gem.  While the bright orange was cheerful it needed a new coat of paint and I knew it would have a classic farmhouse style if I painted it ORB.  So the first sunny day I had time I drug her out in to the driveway and sprayed away.  Here’s how she looked after!

Luckily I’d been hoarding saving a large planter liner for quite some time and it was a perfect fit!  Since I already had the spray paint and liner the only cost I had for this project was the plants I’ll be putting in it!

Now she’s all ready for summer in the front flower bed.  I’ve got two Bacopa set aside just for her.  She also hides the cord that comes out of the garage wall in this corner – which will all but disappear once the plants start to grow and trail over her edges.   One planter down, and a few more to go before the weather cooperates and it’s time to plant! 🙂

Shared on Savvy Southern Style’s Wow Us Wednesdays and Knick of Time’s Talk of the Town.

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Getting the Green House Ready

As I promised last week I’m sharing a little update on the progress we’ve made in getting the green house ready for the season.  But before we get to the progress, let’s take a look at how things looked when we started.  Since the Hubs finished the structure as fall arrived last year we used the space for storage of all my pots and planters, along with some of the patio furniture and accessories.  We’ll call it organized chaos.

Luna decided to join me in the greenhouse as I started clearing it out.  She seemed to appreciate the warm cozy temps inside and made herself quite comfortable.

While Luna took in the warmth I harvested the dried blooms from the lavender I’d stashed away in the fall.  It was a decent little harvest, which I used to give the chicken’s nesting boxes a bit of freshness.

After that I made Luna move off the table so I could drag it out to the deck.  When I returned she had found a new favorite spot in one of the planter boxes.  I let her be as I sorted and dug out everything else to make room for the new set-up.

We purchased large plastic totes to serve as our planters in the greenhouse.  I filled the bottoms of each with plastic containers from our recycle bin – plus a few from the coffee shop at work – to help fill some of the space to reduce the amount of soil I had to use and provide space at the bottom of the containers where moisture could settle and then be wicked back up.  There are no drainage holes in the bottoms of the totes as that would become quite messy on the floor of the green house so I’ll have to water carefully.

And here’s where things are now.  We’ve got four totes down each side which sit on plant dollies so they can be moved easily, allowing me to work on the plants from all sides – a feature that might come in handy during harvest.  On the left side I brought in the two rusty bed frames I’d used as trellises in the wheel bed last season.  They worked well for the peas in the wheel bed, but this time one will be for green beans and the other will support cucumbers.  The tote in the back corner will be for dill and the one in the front corner will be for peppers.  The Hubs plans to secure them to the wall just to be on the safe side.  This side of the green house will also get vertical strawberry planters in each corner to maximize the space.

The right side has a shelf where the Hubs will be setting up a hyponic system for the buckets you see there.  Those will hold 4 varieties of tomatoes and a squash.  Below them will be yellow and red onions, asparagus and peas, which will get a smaller DIY trellis to climb.

In the back I added a large galvanized trash can under the window to hold extra dirt and the Hubs installed a wire shelf above it to serve as a potting bench.  That way when I’m preparing pots for the deck and porch if I spill it can fall right back into the dirt bin.  Plus the way he installed it I can lift it up against the window if I want it out of the way for any reason.  The ledge created by the wall framing was the perfect spot to store all my garden decor over the winter.  Once the yard finishes thawing out I’ll be moving those items out to their ‘summer homes’ and that space can hold any extra pots awaiting occupants.  My hand tools will be kept in the small tub you see on the shelf, which will be filled with sand to keep everything sharp – an idea I found on Pinterest of course.

It’s still getting pretty cold overnight so I haven’t put any plants out in the green house just yet, but I have purchased the first round of veggies and a couple of flowers which are pretty happy in the laundry room sink and on the kitchen counter for now.  I’ll be going to the big annual season kick-off sale at my favorite nursery this weekend to buy the rest of my stock and will test out a DIY trick I learned on the local garden club page to heat the green house up a bit at night to make sure it’s ready for planting.

I’ve also got a few things planned for just outside the green house, including moving the gutters I used last year for strawberries and potato towers, but I’ll share those once we get things set up a bit more.  It’s going to be a lot of work but if it all goes well we’ll have a great crop of fresh food because of it!  I’m so excited to see what works and what we can improve for next year.  If you have ideas, tips or suggestions on what might be an improvement please share them below and I’ll try to test them out this year.

Shared on Savvy Southern Style’s Wow Us Wednesdays and Knick of Time’s Talk of the Town.