Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rain and Contractors-Blah to Both

This spring has been marked by a distinct lack of gardening posts.  Why?  Because I cannot get into the yard.  The entire month of April has been about gloom and cold and rain.  What a contrast to last year!  On those rare days where it actually hasn't rained, the yard has been too gooey to do more than pick up sticks.  I am far far behind and the forecast for the next seven days?  More rain.  Blah

We have made some progress on the patio project in that we have had three companies out to give us a bid.  So far we have received one bid back,  It was from the guy that I didn't like too much.  The bid was reasonable.  Except that he forgot a few things.  Sigh.

 I also got a bid on the pond.  It was an internet bid.  I emailed them pictures of the site and a basic description of what we wanted.  They emailed me back a price of 20K+, without any description of what their most awesome pond plan was whatsoever.  Oh they did say that they know that they are higher but it is because they are better.   Needless to say, they can go soak their heads in one of their most awesome ponds.  I'll pass.

We have another guy coming to look at the site on Friday and hold out hope that the first guy that told us two weeks will come thru for us.  We liked him the best.  The more we consider this project the more I think that I may just do the pond myself.  I'll pay to have it excavated and do the rest.  All of the guys I've talked to so far clearly know the Aquascape variety of pond installation and that's not what I want.  I want low maintenance so I can spend days reading and  gazing at fish instead of vacuuming up their poop.

Edit to say:  Huh, within hours of this post, I got an email that gave more information about the pond design.  So I've decided to remove the pond company name.  Their price however, is still inflated so I'll still be taking a pass.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Put the Patio Plan on You-tube

The bits and pieces that are the current horror of my patio area have started to creep into my blog entries.  We were going to re-do this area last summer but just lost track of time.  I did nothing to keep it up other than a bit of weeding, because we were going to rip it all out.  It is extraordinary (and mortifying) how much deterioration has occurred in one year.  It is hopefully very temporary.  

We've decided to get this area done, rather than do it ourselves.  Mainly because it is a heck of a lot of work and we want to enjoy our summer.  The first contractor came today.  Here's hoping that he saw such a trashy mess that his bid will come in low because he thinks that we can't afford big inflated projects, lol!

Anyway, I figured out how to get what I have been working on in my landscape program, on to you-tube.  It rough.  I can't figure out the camera angles or how to fix the floating mulch yet.  Oh and the program has no boulders so I can't finish the pond and waterfall either.  Nevertheless, I am still pretty proud that I figured out enough to get this done!  Even if the part that shows the pond did get chopped off.  LOL  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saved: One Coldframe/Watermelon grower

The cold frame I built from scrap lumber last spring saw a lot of use.  I used it as a cold frame all spring.  Then in the summer, I moved it to the watermelon bed and planted melons in it.  This was the first year I ever got edible melons!  In the fall I moved it on top of the lettuce bed to allow me to harvest lettuce well into winter.  Chicago winters are hard though, and when I tried to move the frame to the patio last week I ran into some.....issues.  It fell apart and stabbed me in anger with a rusty staple.  Frames don't apparently like to be dropped over fences.   Luckily I'm not easily diverted from a mission. {*BTW:  Please ignore the horrible rotting fence.  This year we are going to fix it...OK I know I said that last year, but this year I mean it!}

 After raiding the workshop for a few screws and a staple gun, I was off to the races.  Screwing it back into something resembling a structure only took a few moments.  Primarily because I was lazy and did not pre-drill.   I used a lot of the old nail holes.  It seemed to work OK.  Definitely wobbles a bit more than last year though.  Heh.

The next step took me about 40 minutes.  I cut slabs of plastic from the ice rink remnants and stapled them to the frame.  The reason this took so long was that the wind was gusting pretty good and stapling large slabs of plastic in 30 knots of breeze is a bit of work.  If I didn't staple fast enough, a gust would catch the plastic and rip it thru the staples.  Still, it was very easy a garden projects go.  Instead of plastic for the front of it, I used some old row cover.  I did this because I wanted the frame to breathe more than last year.  That side came out so well I may just do the whole thing in row cover next year.  {The giant blob of dirty plastic is thankfully now gone.  My yard was starting to look like it was calling out to junkyard dogs for awhile there.}

Here is the end product.  Stunning patio art it is not, but what it is, is free and an extremely useful place to put plants to harden them off and get them out of the master bedroom.  I put a light bulb in there to deal with the 30 degree nights.  I also have a thermostat in there so that I can closely monitor temperatures on sunny days.  It heats up very fast,  easily hitting sixty degrees on a cold sunny day.  {Yes, that is a big patch of mud right off the patio.  I'm not going to seed it because this patio, along with the fence is history this year!  OK I know I said that last year too, this year is the year!

 The celery, amaranth, leeks and a few potted up chard have been in there all of last week and have really greened up.  Its amazing how much greener plants get in frames like this when compared to growth lights.  

I had the tomato babies in there yesterday and today for a field trip.  It was unseasonably warm and breezy so I thought I'd give their stems a little exercise.  Big storms are getting ready to roll through now, so I'll be bringing them back in for the night.  I don't want to risk any broken stems or hail.  Now when they are looking so good!