alternate pathways, tree roots and looking up

front walkway through vegetable beds integrated among perennials backyard pathway leading to wooded area and driveway pathway al...

Friday, November 10, 2017

biodiversity in the suburban landscape

The urban living landscape is built. Elaborate planning goes into these designs for zoning and traffic and commercial development. After these systems are built they must be maintained or they begin to fall apart. Things constructed of lumber, steel and concrete degrade over time. So do the planned parks and greenspaces.



Now that you have a picture of this system in your mind, turn your thoughts to the last time that you were in nature, a true wilderness area. These systems regenerate over time through the natural cycle of decay and renewal. Can these systems be applied to urban landscapes?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

garden therapy for the perfectionist

The affirmation of "I can do it" can easily turn to isolation and even perfectionism in the process of maintaining independence.

Gardening has helped me create a great sense of balance. You can design and create a garden, but you cannot control it. And with native planting and habitat gardens you are designing so that you do not have control.

Monday, October 16, 2017

first frost date approaches, October 19th (Zone 5)

October 19th marks the first frost date for this area. It is hard to believe, with the unseasonable warm weather that we have been experiencing but watch your forecasted night time temperatures. Those 50 degree nights have dropped to the 40s. We will have a nice weekend ahead, but the following week brings temperatures down again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

6.5 hrs of yard work today. More than two of those hours were spent cutting back the neighbor's untended hedge.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Garden Center Visitors

Each year it seems we attract new friends to the garden center. This little guy is looking a bit bloated after consuming two bags of koi food. And I suspect, from his size, that momma and siblings may be nearby.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Phenology: temperature and day length in the garden



Just two years ago I took a photo in front of my azalea in full bloom in March, the past two years this same azalea has not bloomed until May. 

You may have heard the saying, "when the forsythia bloom it is time to prune (roses, specifically)."

For centuries farmers have taken their cues from nature. Watching these natural indicators has evolved into the use of soil thermometers, greenhouses, and cold frames to extend the natural growing window. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Early Spring Zone 5

I have gained a new appreciation for bulbs here in Zone 5. In Zone 8 bulbs were often lost in the burst of Spring that presented an orchestra of colors in one maddening show following early rains. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Looking Back: Garden Projects 2012

2012 was our first spring in the new home, new state, and new hardiness zone. As I look back I now know that the weather was a complete fluke. We completed a lot more projects than I remember. Most of these projects involved clearing and hardscaping.

Saturday, August 2, 2014




Year three, it is starting to come together.

Entering Year 3 in Zone 5

We are now entering our 3rd gardening season in zone 5.

The first year, 2012, was primarily spent removing invasive species, clearing rotted timbers, planning flow and soil building. We had a small vegetable garden and established blueberries and strawberries.

2013 was a building year. We added fruit trees and built up the habitat space with pollinator plants and berries. The vegetable garden was larger and the composite site was fully operational.

Inspired by the Chicago Flower & Garden Show we walked out this morning to assess the winter damage and look at spacing for a few new ideas. The bitter cold drove us back inside very quickly. This has been a harsh winter and we feel the difference 3 zones make. As friends in Portland post photos of their garden and discuss their new projects we are still covered with snow.

We are still waiting to see what has survived the winter. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Zone 5 Signs of Spring in Michiana

As the snow melts and the garden once again becomes visible, a few signs of Spring begin to emerge, giving the gardener hope for the season. 
This winter was particularly harsh, not only the amount of snowfall, but the number of below zero days and the dark skies that hung over much if January and February. 




Saturday, May 18, 2013

pathway flow and planning

After demolishing the old, decaying ramp style stairs we added a pathway from the garage to the back deck. There had not been any pathway connecting the sidewalk along the yard to the back driveway, or the deck stairs. This view shows the old patio space, which was also pulled out and salvaged. 
We used sand from the old patio to level the new pathway.
And I chose a broad 2 ft square river rock paver to set the pathway. The style blends well with river rock areas for transition.
Salvaged brick was used for setting the step down.
The photo above shows the transition connecting the driveway entrance to the back deck entry to the house, the sidewalk and the new patio space.

The pavers were set and sanded in before the last of the patio space was removed.
Next, the patio space was converted to garden space. The new kitchen garden was placed in the area with the most traffic flow to the kitchen.
Topsoil and compost was brought in to build up the beds.

Above is a view from the driveway.
A oomplete transformation from an unused patio space to usable garden space.


This final picture shows the transition space between the back deck, patio and kitchen garden. The area now flows from both the back driveway and the pathway along the house.

Monday, April 8, 2013

kitchen garden

"Oak eat-in kitchen," it really is as hideous as it sounds, and I haven't even told you about the counter tops.

So, where does this connect to a garden journal. Well, most garden harvest first enters through the kitchen, whether it be edible or decorative.

I would like better access directly into the kitchen. There is a kitchen door to the east side of the house, but there is little to no yard on that side. The kitchen garden is on the west side and entry is through the mudroom.

When I zoned the garden I plotted the kitchen garden closest to the main pathway to the house and the closest entry to the kitchen.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Edible Garden, Bed Preparation

Last weekend I prepared the edible garden beds for planting. I extended the current beds to double the row space, and moved the blue berry bushes.

We are awaiting a bid for a garden fence. I am quite excited for the project. The local Lowe's store sent out a project specialist to pull together all of our ideas. The full project will include a small deck, privacy fencing, a pergola and and arbor gate. Having a useable outdoor living space is a priority for us.

Our lot is long and narrow, but very usable. The kitchen garden is off the back door near the kitchen, and the patio and fire pit areas work with the dining room and living room. Similar to our first garden project, this plan will break the space down into "rooms."

This year I set up potato cages, rather than putting potato in a row. I have also rotated the crops in the garden plan following the leaf-root-flower-fruit method. There are still a few items that will wait for later, asparagus and the home orchard. We have an area cleared by the tree removal last spring that will become the home orchard area.

Now, we wait for the weather to signal a go!





Zone 5 Blues

I am feeling the zone 5 blues today. I miss my gardens and plants from zone 8, some of my favorites will not make it here in Michiana.

I have spent many an hour paging through seed, perennial and native plant catalogs trying to wrap my brain around this new zone challenge. Just a few hours south and Indianspolis can brag zone 6. What a difference a zone makes.

Coming from an area rich with nurseries my first challenge was to locate a good nursery. Unfortunately, I have watched several independent nurseries close their doors since we landed here in Northern Indiana. I have had good luck with Bluestone Perennials and I plan to try Prairie Nursery this year for natives. Both involve shipping plants, something very new to me.

Spring is late this year, night time temperatures are still dipping into the 20s. This weekend teases days creeping toward the 60s and night time temps hovering around 40. A month tardy the crocus and daffodils are pushing through, with tulips not far behind.






Saturday, February 2, 2013

Zone Challenged: When a Zone 8 Native moves to Zone 5

My internal gardening calendar is all out of whack.

I am really struggling with planning for this garden, the climate and timeline that I am finding are so different from what I am use to, and on top of it I am starting completely over.

Monday, November 5, 2012

summer projects, fall canning and winter reflection


Well, the first hard frost has come and gone. The morning temps have dipped below freezing and the garden beds are put down for the winter.

The tomatoes have been sauced and canned, soups have been made and squash, potatoes and onions overflow their baskets in the kitchen pantry.

It is time to return to blogging and free the summer projects and photos from draft. It has been an exciting first year here in Michiana and I have had my share of learning experiences moving from Zone 8 to Zone 5.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May Day blooms








demolition, salvage and hauling


There was quite a bit of demolition when we started. We cleared old rotted timbers, decaying decking, and reoriented the garden flow to the patio and other spaces to open up the garden and make it flow to and from the house as an extension of the living space.
The photo above shows the old rotting decking that we removed, as well as the new pathway being set between the driveway and deck stairs and garden path.
Here are a few photos of the demolition. The rotted items above were hauled off, but the items below were salvaged and put out for upcycling. In just a few days someone reclaimed the materials for reuse!
There was a bit of heavy digging and reclaiming of space.
And, of course, for those of you who have followed me for a few years and though other properties...grass removal :)
We extended the beds in front of the house, not only to reclaim habitat but also to create a buffer zone from a busy street. You can see the faint lines that I drew using upside-down spray paint to outline new beds. We used cardboard and compost to build up the beds.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

alternate pathways, tree roots and looking up

front walkway through vegetable beds integrated among perennials

backyard pathway leading to wooded area and driveway

pathway along side of house and cutting garden

grass pathway between edible garden beds
In the past I had always used permeable pathways. When I began designing this house my husband quickly pointed out that it would be quite difficult to shovel cedar chips or lawn. Because of the snow in this area I had to choose a pathway material that could be shoveled. If you do not live in an area with snow I encourage you to select pathway materials that are permeable. If you do live in an area with snow consider alternate and coordinating materials for areas that are used in the winter and those that are not used until spring and summer.

gravel pathway

flagstone pathways and patio
If you have been reading along you will remember that we will be removing two large trees this month. Both trees were damaged by concrete. The root crowns were made susceptible to fungal rot from compaction and  girdling. When you look down to plan, do not forget to look up. The roots of a tree extend just beyond the canopy over your head. If you are working below that canopy consider the impact of pathways and patios. Initially the canopy was a consideration when we chose to move our patio, unfortunately the driveway poured over the root system had already damaged the tree beyond repair.

patio and pathway areas

patio and pathways staked off and borders set - this curve is an important transition point 
reclaiming sand and pavers from old patio area
sand moved to new location
leveling of sand
setting 24" pavers
10' x 10' patio space
patio set and canopy frame in place

There are a lot of how to websites out there to help you set a patio, so I will not be focusing on the HOW TO here. I will discuss the materials and design.

I chose a Lake Michigan 24' paver, which then matched the stone in the gravel we used from a local quarry. I am extremely pleased with the finished look. We also used the Lake Michigan circular stepping stones in the gravel areas intended for walking.

We reclaimed the sand from the old patio, and stacked the old pavers for reuse in other areas. The old patio was located away from all living areas and did not flow as an additional "room" from the house. I believe that outdoor spaces need to flow from indoor spaces, both visually and in a manner that makes them feel as if they extend from the house. The new patio is visible through the bay window upon entering the living room reception area and from the dining room. If you enter the garden from the front gate you approach the patio as a destination, and if you exit from the back door you step down to the pathway to the patio. All of the flows from the house lead to the patio.

the old patio was located in the back corner of this garden space, which is now divided by a new walkway that leads to the sidewalk and patio area
Additionally, we reoriented the approach from the driveway off the back alley. Originally the pathway took you directly to the back door and we wanted to discourage visitors, many who had been trained in the past to enter this way, from coming to the back door which opens to the laundry area. The new pathway, also in Lake Michigan 24' pavers, leads straight to the sidewalk along the garden and on to the front of the house, and past the patio. The garden space reclaimed from the old patio will become the kitchen garden.