Deuce Cities Henhouse

It’s the Little Things


Hey, Guys! Hope you all enjoyed a happy and safe Memorial day weekend. We totally chilled, hard. We spent nearly every day in our backyard or front porch, leaving the house only to go out to breakfast and maybe a liquor store run. It felt really good.

I’ve been keeping myself busy the last few weeks painting all the doors a dark brownish gray to match the storm windows (It’s called Sealskin by Sherwin Williams). I’ve also replaced the old dated light fixtures on our garage. Replacing the fixtures was kind of a pain because our old lights were motion sensor activated. I don’t know if you have ever experienced finding and purchasing motion sensor outdoor wall lights before, but you pretty much have about five options. Apparently this is only a market in which old grandmas are purchasing old grandma lights. I guess the motion sensors are good for keeping the bad guys away.

We had three motion sensor lights that needed to be replaced, one next to the entry door of the garage, and two which flank the big garage door. After lots of searching I was able to find a few decent wall mounted light fixtures over at Lowes. They are black which I like very much, and semi nautical-industrial looking. They work, and the price was right. Beggars can’t be choosers, am I right? Those old ones looked gross, these are much better. Simple.


Here they are out on the garage. Now we have cool alley curb appeal too.


The back screen door also got painted. I would really like to eventually replace this backdoor with petit french doors that open onto a fancy new deck, but obviously that’s not happening anytime soon. Paint always works well as a good stop gap. Speaking of paint, I should probably consider giving those back steps some love.


While I had the paint out I decided the front screen door needed some freshening up as well. Out here I’d like to someday replace the screen door with a wooden one. The stairs are a mess and have needed to be torn out and replaced for years. Concrete steps are way expensive and we keep avoiding this project like the plague. Since we don’t know where we stand with the steps, it wouldn’t make any sense to invest in a new screen door without knowing what the big plan was. Maybe someday it will all come together but for now, paint saves the day.
 

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Our New Japanese Maple

Japanese Bloodgood Maple
Hey Guys! Thanks for all your suggestions for trees and bushes for the backyard last week. For those of you considering a tree or bush for your yard you should really check the comments from the “Ornamental Trees post” as there are a lot of knowledgeable gardner types out there who added a lot of good content to it.

Last Saturday we went to the local nursery with the intention of coming home with something to create separation between the backyard concrete kid space and the main (much prettier) part of our backyard. We had a few trees and shrubs that were at the top of our list, but we weren’t sure exactly what we wanted. We had talked about a Japanese Maple but were cautiously hesitant about purchasing one, we had fears (and still do) that it won’t survive a Minnesota winter.

We walked up and down the lot at the nursery, gathering information on all the trees that we thought had potential, including the Japanese Maple. We were able to talk to a tree expert at the nursery who told us that if we were willing to put in the work to protect it in the fall, that we most likely have success with the tree. There is always that chance that it would be so cold, (like it was this winter) that we would lose it. We decided to take a chance, because it was so perfect for us – head and shoulders above other options we were considering. I’m totally determined to do whatever it takes in the fall to protect that tree!

Before the first frost we were advised to wrap it the branches in burlap and protect the base of the trunk with leaves and a deep mulch to work as insulation for the winter months. I will be following these rules to-a-T and I’ll even say a little prayer for it every day, because I LOVE this tree.

This is a Japanese Bloodgood Maple and will grow to a height of 15 feet with a spread of 10 to 15 feet. It’s the absolute perfect size and spread for this area, and the rich red foliage adds so much to our yard. It’s pretty much the missing piece to the backyard puzzle. I’ve already been caught endlessly gazing at it.

Adjusting the Border on the Flower Bed
I had to make some adjustments to the flower bed to allow space for the new tree. It involved removing the bricks and edging, arching the border out to make it more rounded. I also had to dig up a few perennials and relocate them – no biggie though. I added the perennials to the edge of this garden space, and now the kids really won’t be running through the flower bed.

Adjusting the Border and Digging a Hole for our Japanese Maple
As always with tree planting, there was a big hole that needed to be dug. This is the third tree I’ve planted in the yard. The rule of thumb is to dig a hole one and a half times as wide and deep as the root ball. Then layer the bottom of the hole with a good compost mix, put the tree in the hole, backfill and compress the soil and then water the crap out of it.

Japanese Bloodgood Maple
See how it creates that definition between the concrete pad and the rest of the backyard? It’s so GD good!

Child Laborer
Of course I had a hole digger helper.

Japanese Bloodgood Maple
We are seriously so in love, and I hope that I can do whatever it takes to get this baby through our cold winters.
 

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Gardening Basics : Planting a Window Box

How to Plant Window Box & Container Gardens
Yo, whats up gardening friends? I am so excited that a few of you expressed interest in gardening posts! Nobody said “NO,” so to me that means I can talk about gardening all day long! You had your chance to tell me you couldn’t stand all these gardening posts, it’s on you now. ;)

I learned a new term recently when I was trying to express my affection for gardening to my friends, it’s “bricoler autour de la maison” – it’s super french if you didn’t notice. It means that I like to putter around the house, which I do like to do, very much. I especially like to putter in my garden, I can’t resist. I hope my puttering can translate into some useful knowledge that I can drop on you guys. I’d like to share with you my fly-by-the-seat of my pants gardening methods. Today we’re gonna talk about planting yer very own window box or container garden. The formula works both ways, buddies.

You need good drainage. That’s right. Drainage. Make sure that whatever container you are using for your garden has drainage, this might involve getting a drill out and making holes in the bottom of your pot. Do it. Good drainage is key to a healthy window box or container garden. If you are planting in a wood vessel consider lining it to prevent rot. I used a plastic liner in the bottom of my boxes, but you could also line it with a plastic wrap.

How to Plant Window Box & Container Gardens
So you have your container… your gonna wanna empty that bad boy out. Yeah, that soil you had in there last year was cool and all, but your plants aren’t gonna be impressed with it this year. Invest in some good soil and get rid of that old stuff. Your plants will thank you by being beautiful and awesome. I like to use Miracle Gro Potting Mix. Potting mix is fluffy allowing for good drainage. It helps to prevent the soil from compacting around the roots of plants. Look for these ingredients when purchasing potting soil; perlite, vermiculite, lime, and peat moss. The Miracle Gro mix has fertilizer that will release for 6 months, here in Minnesota thats longer than our growing season. Fill your pots of window boxes with new soil up to an inch of the top of the container. If you are filling a deep container go ahead and fill the bottom with rocks, pebbles, stones, or broken up clay pots to reduce the amount of soil needed, this will also help with drainage, and depending on what you use will reduce the weight of your pot. My window boxes are shallow so I will skip this, but my deeper containers mos def have a layer of rocks on the bottom.

Tip Check to see if your city allows soil to be composted and reused.

 

How to Plant Window Box & Container Gardens

Your gonna need some plants for this most awesome container garden you’re planting. There is a little rule of thumb often used, and it rhymes. Thriller. Filler. Spiller. I don’t generally like rhymes like this, but it does help when choosing plants. Basically you want some pretty things (aka thriller), some flowers that will fill in the box and give height (aka filler) and a few that drape over the edge of your container (aka spiller). Before you start choosing plants pay attention to the type of light your container garden will be getting. If it’s sunny, head to the sunny, typically uncovered section of your garden center, this is where you will find the sun loving plants. If your container will be receiving partial or full shade you’ll want to shop in the covered interior section of the garden center, this is where you will find plants who enjoy being well shaded.

Consider the foliage of your plants as well. There are so many flowering annuals with interesting leafs, it can add a lot of cool texture to your container, and it should not be overlooked when coming up with your annual combinaish.

Tip When you are at the “flower store” look at the pre-designed hanging planters and potted plants for inspiration in your own garden. They often list the plants used in the arrangement and typically pots are either sun or shade friendly – find the individual plants and purchase them for your container. You’ll be guaranteed to buy things that look pretty and require the same amount of light.

 

Don’t forget about repetition. It might sound fun to buy a little of everything, but it’s just not a good idea. I usually I stick to 3-4 plants and then repeat them throughout my window boxes and yard. Almost every year I pick an entire new look, this year I’m hooked on coral and lime green contrasting it with the deep teal blue of my house. Repeating colors and textures will help to give your entire yard a cohesive look. For this year’s window boxes I used; Betty White Bacopa, Rocky Mountain Salmon Geranium, Sweet Caroline Light Green Potato Vine, & Salmon Petunias.

How to Plant Window Box & Container Gardens
So you need to actually plant your flowers now. Using your hand or a 4” gardening shovel dig a small hole in your newly placed soil. Then you’ll need to remove the plants from the plastic nursery containers. It’s super easy to do this, just tip the pot upside down and squeeze from the side, gently pulling the plant out from it’s base. With the plant removed from the pot, begin to break up the root ball, loosening it gently with your hands. This will create a strong root system and encourage new growth. Place your plant in the hole and push the potting soil around it. I enjoy a full planter box so I typically plant 4-5 plants per 24”. Plants will increase in size so if you don’t need to cram them in, spread them out and by the end of the season you will have window boxes and containers brimming with beautifulness.

How to Plant Window Box & Container Gardens
Once your plants are planted snuggly in the garden soil go ahead and give them a healthy watering. If you are not using a soil that already contains a fertilizer consider using PHC all-purpose organic fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the produce for application procedures.

Water your window boxes and potted plants, you guys! In the summertime you can’t water them enough. If you can get in a daily watering, GREAT, if not, you better be watering your potted plants every other day and even more when it’s super hot. They need your love!

Here’s a list of common annuals that you can use when creating your own window boxes and container gardens. I hope this helps some of you. To all you long-time gardeners out there, feel free to add on in the comments if I’m forgetting a crucial step or if you have a great tip.

How to Plant Window Box & Container Gardens

Sun Annuals
1
Petunia
1
Verbena
1
Marigold
1
Zinnia
1
Nasturtium
1
Snap Dragons
1
Alyssum
1
Stock
1
Geranium
1
Potato Vine
1
Bacopa

 

Shade Annuals
1
Begonia
1
Caladium
1
Fuchsia
1
Impatiens
1
Ivy
1
Coleus
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Using Landscaping to Create “Zones”

Landscaping in Need of Zones Using Natural Elements
Hey Guys! We are loving the new fence! As our gardens begin to fill in we are more and more enamored with the way everything is coming together. The parking pad space is being used daily as a fully functioning kid zone – it’s been really great to have. That parking pad (turned place space) is going to stay as a kid zone for the next few years, it’s so important that the kids have a safe place to play. Eventually (a few years from now) I envision us turning the space into another patio area.

The play-space butts up against our flower gardens, which borders our fire pit area. Before we had the fence I rounded the garden in the yard as a way to envelop the fire pit space and nestle it into the corner of the yard. The gardens give the fire pit area a pretty backdrop and make it feel cozy and serene. Recently, we briefly considered removing this part of the garden and laying down sod so that the kids could run freely from the play zone to the yard, but later decided this flower bed was really important to this corner of the yard. It grounds the fire pit area, and we would really like to have it stay.

The problem is that the kids are running through garden, I mean why would they use the stone pathway right next to it? Not only that, that kid zone is kind of an eye sore. I’m glad the kids have a safe place to play and are enjoying their backyard, but us grown ups get to see all those brightly colored plastic toys whenever we try and relax. We need to make a natural screen that doesn’t enclose the space but still makes a pretty lush barrier between the two spaces. Eventually when the time comes to turn this parking pad into a patio the plantings will help to give a natural backdrop to the concrete and white siding that resides there now.

I’ve come up with a list of small bushes and trees that we are considering to fill in the space. My main concerns are finding a tree or bush that has pretty foliage or flowers, interesting shape, and fills the space without over-powering it. The top runners are the Japanese Maple (which I am concerned will get to big and won’t survive a Minnesota winter), the Pee Gee Hydrangea, and the Purple Leaf Sand Cherry. Please chime in if you have experience with any of these, or have suggestions of trees or bushes I may be forgetting. I’d be curious to hear how you’ve created natural zones in your own yard, or how any of the above bushes or trees have worked for you :)

Ornamental Trees for Landscaping
 

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Deuce Cities Henhouse - Gardening Basics, Flower Beds
Hey Guys, I thought I’d do a few “gardening 101″ posts as it seems like I have been getting a lot of comments from those of you who are newer to gardening or trying it out for the first time. I am by no means an expert but I do feel that I have learned a lot since starting my own gardens five seasons ago. My mom is a really good gardener and I’ve been able to learn a lot watching her over the years.

Although I’ve absorbed tons of gardening tips from the school of mom, I think I learned the most through good ol’ trial and error. The key to being a successful gardner is not being afraid of killing plants. I’ve killed lots and lots of plants, that’s not even an exaggeration. I learn from my mistakes. Killing something makes it easy, you learn right away what species of plant isn’t going to grow in your garden. By no means does it indicate you have a black thumb, you’re just learning! There are always things that will grow well in your yard, you just need to figure out what works best. Sometimes the process of elimination is the best way to figure that out.

Tip: Walk around your neighborhood and see what’s growing in your neighbors yards paying attention to the type of light and time of day. Chances are if it’s growing well down the block, it will probably grow well in your yard too.

 
Over the next few weeks I’d like to share with you guys a few of my basic rules and steps when it comes to gardening. For any of you out there who know more than me, feel free to chime in, and for your newbie gardeners that are looking for advice leave a comment and I’ll try and help you out!

Also, I hope I’m not driving you guys crazy with all of the gardening posts, let me know if I am. I usually do a lot of gardening posts once the spring arrives and take it easy on the interior stuff until the weather gets too hot to handle. As a Minnesotan whos been locked-up indoors for the last 6 months, I need to get outside! Gotta get that fresh air while I can, ya know?

Deuce Cities Henhouse - Gardening Basics, Flower Beds
Today I want to talk to you guys about mulch. The first year of my garden I did not mulch, I just didn’t think it was necessary. I also was on a super tight budget and thought it would be better to spend my cash on plants then on mulch. I also had it in my head that mulch was something meant for more well established perennial gardens, not my puny little hodgepodge that I was trying to call a flower bed. In reality, mulch would have really tied my developing garden together. It was in my second season of gardening that I learned how great mulch was, it gave my gardens have a cohesive and defined look. Not only that, there are lots of added benefits to mulching, it helps the soil retain water on hot days, improves the quality of the soil by breaking up clay, it shades the roots of your perennials from the sun, and my favorite, keeps weeds down.

The most common type of mulch is a shredded hardwood or bark mulch. Shredded hardwood mulch comes in a variety of colors and woods. You local garden center will have tons of different options from cedar to shredded cypress and many of them will come in an expanse of colors. Mulch isn’t just limited to shredded hardwood either, it can be anything from grass clippings, hay or even cocoa hulls. This is my second season mulching with black mulch. I’ve tried natural shredded cyprus in the past because it looked natural and was very inexpensive. It looked good, but then I discovered black mulch. I really, really like the look of black mulch. I’m a sucker for high contrast, and I think it lends itself to a modern aesthetic. I haven’t had problems with it discoloring either, which was my biggest concern. It looked great at the end of the last season, and I was determined to try it again this year.

I spent the weekend mulching – it’s become a mom’s day tradish for me. After raking out my flower beds in the early spring mulching is the next step. It improves the look of the gardens tenfold – you gotta mulch, guys! Mulching in early spring is best, your perennials and annuals will be smaller then allowing you to mulch up close to the stems of the plants. Overtime the plants will grow and spread out and the mulch will look nice and tidy being snug to the base of the plants.

Tip: don’t mulch too early, make sure you have a visual on most of your perennials, you don’t want to cover up those bad boys up, they are dying to get a glimpse of the sun.

 
Deuce Cities Henhouse - Gardening Basics, Flower Beds
Usually around the same time that I mulch I also plant annuals around the borders of my flower beds. My annuals of choice are Impatiens and Alyssum for garden bed borders. You can get a lot of bang for your buck using these inexpensive flowering annuals as border or edging flowers. On average a flat of Impatiens (48 plants) is going to run you around $25 bucks. That’s a whole lot of plants, and over the course of a season they will grown and fill the edging of your garden in nicely. If you are on a budget consider starting Impatiens from seed. I tried this for the first time this year starting my seeds about 10 weeks ago, the results were fantastic. You can plant 48 impatiens for roughly $5. Impatiens are great for the shady spots in your yard but for the more sun soaked areas I like to plant Alyssum, another great annual that is inexpensive and can easily be started from seed. Alyssum fill out nicely, are fragrant, and bloom at least 2-3 times over a season.

If I’ve missed anything or if you guys have other questions or topics you’d like me to go over, leave a comment and let me know! Happy gardening!


 

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