Tag Archives: garden

Front porch planters

I felt adventurous: Having the rain barrel set up made my watering chore a lot easier. So easy, in fact, that I decided I could handle a couple more planters.

While I turned the back porch planters into a salad bar, the front porch was asking for something slightly more ornamental.

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But before I got to the growing part, I had to prepare a spot that would hold planters.

At some point, the previous owners poured a crude concrete cap with a round top over the graystone wing walls that frame the staircase to the left and right.

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This is a perfect location for planters, but I first had to cut and grind the round concrete top into a flat surface and mount a pressure treated board on it.

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The board bought me some extra width and served as the base for the next step: Extending the architrave profile from the column bases all the way across the wing wall. I had purchased some cedar boards that I milled and assembled into a matching profile. I chose cedar in the hope that it will age and turn a similar gray color to the limestone.

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Mirroring the existing profile required a fair bit of planing to match up all lines. Thanks to our friend Job, I had become a proud owner of a handful of quality planes, and knew how to keep the sharp. And let me tell you, a good tool is half the battle!

I was doing the milling and planing close by, in front of the house, and always had a few kids stop by wondering what I was doing. But once I whipped out the plane, I had a real audience with jaws wide open. This was something the kids had not seen before.

I asked them to pick us some of the shavings and smell it – smell the cedar. That caused a real sensation. I think every single kid took some shavings home with them. I put the rest in containers and placed it in our closets.

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To make sure the planters don’t get blown or knocked over, I assembled two boxes (also cedar) that would hold them in place.

All that was missing were the actual plants. I opted for Nasturtium.

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These are very ornamental, yet edible. We love that nutty, yet spicy taste of pragmatism!

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Hickory, dickory, dock

I have been wielding the chainsaw quite a bit: On the mulberry in the front yard, on the tree of heaven next to the house, and most recently on the ash tree in the vacant lot. That left things out of whack and it is time to get back some balance – restore the yin and yang.

We didn’t have trees in our parkway by the street. That changed last year when we planted a small oak in front of the house. But I still wanted to find another tree for the parkway in front of the vacant lot.

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Lo and behold, I had the opportunity to salvage a tree for our parkway – although the salvaging operation may have been more like butchering.

One of my clients had a small hickory growing next to a big oak. To preserve the oak and keep it free from competition we had planned to remove the hickory. This fall, I asked my clients if they would mind me digging up and transplanting the hickory rather than cutting it down. My clients were gracious enough let me have a go at it.

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I wasn’t sure if I could get a viable root ball on that hickory because of its proximity to the oak. Fortunately, I didn’t have any big oak roots in the way.

But that was only half the struggle.

Do you know why hickories are rare to find in the nursery trade? Because they develop and rely on a taproot, which makes them notoriously difficult to transplant. And boy, did this sucker have a taproot – which I had to cut. This was the point where the transplanting turned into butchering.

On top of this, I had to drive with the tree in my truck 40 miles south. I tried to protect it from drying out as best as I could, and drove as slow as I could without causing pile up. Once back home I wished I would have opted for the quick death (i.e. cutting it down), rather than torturing that poor thing.

I tried to make up for it with some extra care while planting it in the parkway and some diligent watering.

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But I have to say that I have no expectation that will come back next spring. If it does, I will refer to it as a resilient son of a bitch! And that will be a compliment.

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Green fuzz growing

The sedges I started to grow last winter have progressed rather nicely this summer, from the tender green fuzz this spring to four inch tall plants that are well rooted.

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They are ready to vacate their pots and find a new home in the parkway rain garden, although this will have to wait till next spring after I am done with the rain garden preparations. If we get the promised mild winter, I may even get some preparations done this year.

And the sedges will have company! Late this summer we divided a whole lot of wild geraniums at one of my clients’ rain gardens.

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We ended up with so many extra rhizomes that I took a bunch home and potted them. Some of them were in a hurry to put on some growth and developed leaves.

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I also needed to cage them because the squirrels kept digging them up to take a nibble. After replanting some of the unearthed rhizomes for the third time, I prescribed protective custody, thus the wire mesh.

I now can dedicate some thought to what other companion species I would like to include in the rain garden, to keep it functional and with seasonal interest.

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Seeding sedges

These two pending items have kept me out of the yard and away from therapy (gardening = therapy): (1) The teardown and rebuilding of our back porch and (2) the basement wall insulation.

Cathy and I were getting very restless and decided that we need a fix. On the search for a sliver of landscape that could handle our bursting green thumbs, I honed in on the parkway in front of the house and vacant lot.

We don’t think highly of turf grass, unless it has sound raison d’être.

The turf grass in the parkway is a one dimensional space filler – a patch to prevent a mudflat between the sidewalk and curb. Not a sound raison d’être in our book.

That parkway is screaming “stormwater infiltration and rain garden!” But to get that growing idea into the ground, I need a whole lot of native sedges … one sedge per square foot.

I collected plenty of seeds this past summer from the sedges in the front yard. I also have saved trays and pots over the years so that we can grow our own plants. I busted out the tape measure and added up the square footage of the parkway to calculate that I need 580 plants. Then I started seeding sedges.

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32 pots per tray = 32 square feet worth of sedges. That is, if every pot produces a sedge.

To assure a good germination rate, I filled the pots with potting soil and topped them off with a coarse sand layer. I sprinkled 10 to 20 sedge seeds into each pot and covered them with a mulch layer of stone ships.

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This is half science and half anecdotal evidence. The sedge seeds like to have close contact to the growing medium to draw moisture (without drowning), yet maintain good access to oxygen. The layer of sand does just that.

The stone chip mulch layer is a capillary break that prevents the sand and potting soil from drying out too quickly. It also creates a microclimate with a high relative humidity that protects the germinating seedling from desiccation.

The trays will sit outside all winter long. That provides ample time for the seeds to slowly imbibe the needed moisture. Plus, the frigid winter temperatures take care of the cold stratification that should break the seed’s dormancy.

Will it work? It should, based on past experience. But late spring will tell us for sure.

Related posts:

Garden reflection and scheduling realities

The back porch project

Following the control layers

From wish list to reality

Front yard clean up

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