All the Dirt Learn, plant, grow!


July out front

Finally, the large bed next to the driveway — as we imaginatively call it, the Driveway Bed — is finally starting to take shape and make its way out to the south end of the yard. Hurrah!

This is a close-up of the cluster of zinnias just south of the Color Guard yucca. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the sizzling-hot, tall, orange zinnias!!

And here is a shot of it from the back, or looking at it from the house, at the bottom of the steps…

Here is our gorgeous, trailing lavender lantana. Not only is it beautiful, it smells amazing. I’m so happy I planted it right next to the front door. AND, I’m so happy that it’s happy there!

We’ve gained momentum in the Viburnum Bed, too. This is where our 1 year old Blackhaw Viburnum is planted. That’s it just behind the orange marigolds in the lower right of the picture. Right now, it’s only about a foot tall. But, it’s a terrific, native, seldom-used, large shrub/small tree and it’s perfect for the southwest corner of our house.

In about 3 years, we’ll have a small tree that’s about 8′ tall — plenty of height to give us some good shade in the late afternoon on that part of the house. At maturity — about 5 years — it will be 12′-15′ tall and have a spread of about 8′. The Blackhaw is deciduous, so it will drop its leaves for the winter, giving us sun on the house when the temperature is cooler.



A walk through the garden with Corbin

Here’s my adorable Corbin — or Corbie, as I usually call him — ready to go with me on a walk through the garden.

After making our way around to the front yard, and checking out a lizard on the way, we stopped at the catnip planted by the front door.

Corbin LOVES the catnip and guards it fiercely. He’s usually very camera-shy, but this time I caught him enjoying his treat…

After checking out the new stuff at the curb and scanning the south property line for weeds, we went to the back yard to see how everything’s growing back there.

At this point, we’d been walking around for 15 or 20 minutes, and Corb was thirsty. He has his own water dish. The birds probably don’t like it much but it’s just too bad. When you’re this tall, you do what you want…

One day when I was talking with our neighbor, Corbin was drinking and she saw it and exclaimed, “That’s SO cute! He looks like a little man in a tuxedo.” Which, to me, was totally hilarious because I’ve always thought so, too. :o)



Starting to take shape

Now that we’ve been at it for several years, the design is finally starting to emerge. I wish I could work on it full time and get it done, but patience is a virtue, right??

Here’s a shot from the northwest corner of the yard that shows a new planting bed.

The picture below is a shot from the south property line that shows off another view of the curving west side of the path that will eventually wind its way from the south side of the house (bottom right of this picture) to the northwest corner of the front yard (top left).

Still LOTS of grass to remove, but we’re getting there. I can hardly wait to be rid of bermuda grass forever!!

Did you know that it is a Texas invasive species? It crowds out other vegetation, creates huge underground root systems, and uses an incredible amount of water. If you live in Texas, check out before you buy plants for your yard. You’ll be amazed how many plants are invasives in our state, yet routinely planted without question. Nandina (heavenly bamboo) and bermuda are just two of the surprises you will find there.




Early last month, I finally got to do some beautifying right by the front door. Although this landscaping is temporary, it turned out to be very pretty and did very nicely while we worked on other things.

The improvements included additional stepping stones so the mail carrier has safe (and clearly marked) footing as he or she crosses the yard…

As well as expanding the large bed which will run from the driveway to the center of the yard… eventually. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.

Corbin, as always, is nearby (above) when the work is going on. He’s chosen a good spot to stop and decide whether he likes the positioning of the purple mum in the pot on the porch. He’ll definitely let me know if he’s displeased…



So what’s David doing while you’re working out front?

Planting!! Hurrah!

Here’s some pictures of his handiwork that I took this spring:

We had 2 varieties of yellow squash — Early Prolific and Crookneck — and, near the top left of the picture, you can see the pink petunias that were planted among them.

Above is more yellow squash, onions (in the foreground), swiss chard (at right) and, at the very top of the picture, kale.

We have a great division of labor: I don’t like to plant seeds (just transplants) and David really enjoys it. In fact, he says it’s his favorite thing and the most important thing you can do when you garden. I agree with that, but I still don’t enjoy it. So I am often the one who gets the soil or bed all ready to go, and then he plants. :o)

This is some of my handiwork, and his, in the side yard. The squares are 6′ x 6′ and we planted Cocozelle zucchini squash in those beds, and the long row at the left of picture was where we planted two of our many rows of bush green beans.

David also likes to harvest, and I don’t care much for it. So, he harvests and I put it up. Yum. This is just 3 pounds of the nearly 200 pounds of squash we ended up with over the spring and summer.

We also planted 3 “test” squash in late July, to see (1) if they would grow well into the fall; (2) how they would do if we grew them up, instead of out, using tomato cages; and (3) whether we could even get them to germinate in Texas in July.

They were a roaring success. David just pulled them up the other day because they’re not getting enough sun, but we got somewhere between 40 and 50 pounds more from just those 3 plants!



Out front looking pretty good — side yard needs help!

I almost hate to put several of these pictures on here, but I’m going to do it since I really want to capture the transformation of our yard from a grass and weed covered water guzzler to a native habitat that’s water-wise and beautiful.

So, here’s the side yard:

That doesn’t look so bad, just bare. I had just finished readying the beds for zucchini to be planted. By the way, if you want to plant zucchini that tastes fabulous, look for “Botanical Interests” seed and buy the “Cocozelle” variety. “Black Beauty” is the common, dark green/black zucchini that’s routinely sold in the store. I’ve never liked store-bought zucchini because it always tastes bitter to me.

Cocozelle, however, is absolutely delicious! The first year we grew it, David missed one and we didn’t see it until it was at least 5″ in diameter and was almost a foot and a half long! I started to cut it up and just put it straight in the compost, but I decided to taste it first. It wasn’t the slightest bit bitter! So, we ate it. :o)  All 2 or 3 pounds of it. Ha!

Now, this next picture is a different story… it’s driving me crazy that I can’t get the front and side yard finished. David and I work so hard and it just seems like it ought to be DONE. Oh well… it will be. Sometime…

Anyway, here’s our corner of shame.

And our gate and walkway that still needs attention.

AND our south property line bed which still isn’t finished.  :o(

The only thing that makes me happy about this picture is that Corbie’s in it. Meow!



More progress out front

The goal is to make the front yard beautiful with drought-tolerant, native perennials, which will also be attractive to many beneficial insects. Creating established plantings provides habitat for many small creatures like lizards, toads, birds, praying mantids, and more.

We’re starting at the edges of our property, to establish boundaries, and give the neighbors and passers-by a beautiful view. As we beautify the edges, we plan to also move inward, creating planting beds where we can grow more veggies. We will also companion plant to keep things beautiful and not looking shabby or neglected. My main concern is making sure we do not lose our “curb appeal” when we start mixing in veggies. Some veggies, of course, are beautiful in their own right, but veggies gardens don’t always look attractive — in the heat of summer, at planting time, or at the end of the growing season. My hope is that the beauty at the edges will detract from any excavations going on in the middle of the yard.

We also have to consider our clients with the tutoring business. So our path to the front door is a major consideration and it always needs to look nice. Before I made it look like it does in the pictures below, there was just a solid hedge across the front of the house — almost 6′ tall! — and patchy grass struggling to grow amid the litter of crushed acorns. We cut down the oak tree in the front as well, since it was growing right on top of our sewer line. :o(

This is what it looked like when I finished in late March:

Before, these bushes (which should be kept small & naturally shaped) were as high as the top of the mailbox!

Eventually (hopefully this year), this bed will be expanded into the middle of the front yard. I have a “Peace” rose to transplant as a specimen, and this upcoming bed will also be another place to grow veggies.

The stepping stones are mainly for the mail carrier, but we use this pathway, too. I have since removed the brick walkway at the bottom left of the picture (which was here when we bought the house) in favor of having more planting area.

This is not chronological but, since I mentioned my Peace rose, here are a few closeups I took earlier this month:

Most of the blossoms are 4″ – 5″ diameter & the scent is true rose. Wonderful! Right now, my bush isn’t very tall (only about 2-1/2′) but it doesn’t stop me from getting down on the ground and “stopping to smell the roses”. :o)

The buds are usually gorgeous, too. This one was especially lovely, I thought. Especially with the late afternoon sun glowing on it’s petals and foliage.

Experiencing success with this rose, as well as with a Knockout rose I bought on clearance, has made we want more roses! But more about that in a future post…



Ok… time to start out front!

We have been gardening at this house since 2008 and have doubled the back yard garden since we began. Because we want to grow as much food as possible, and have plans to sell (as Burk’s Fresh Produce) at some point in the future, we need to establish good land management practices now.

To do that, we’ve decided to garden everywhere in our yard that we possibly can. We started out back, then came out in the side yard, and now it’s time to start out front.

This is what it looked like before I made the first new beds early this year:

LOTS of horrible, iunvasive bermuda grass! …and grass burrs  :o(

Unfortunately, I don’t have a shot of the southwest corner of the yard (right of the cat, in the pic above), but here’s what it looked like at the end of March, after I finished digging out all the grass, building this landscape bricked bed, planting it, and adding mulch all around:

Here are additional shots of the plantings, the beds, and the sideyard:

Facing East at Sunset
Salvias and Blackfoot Daisy (a lovely, drought-tolerant Texas native)

Petunias — (which really stood up to our Texas heat — and Marigolds
The space in the foreground — now blanketed in mulch — was formerly planted with bermuda grass and LOTS of grass burrs and other weeds. The distance from the curb to the bed is about 6 feet and the overall width from the white post in the corner to the edge of the bed (left in the picture) is nearly 9 feet. Did it all in less than 2 weeks. Whew!

The bed stands just over 1 foot tall. I wanted it to be a focal point, but not to overwhelm the house, or the rest of the yard.
New bed at the south property line (running along the R side of the pic) from the landscape brick bed all the way back to the fence & gate — a total of 40+ feet in length and almost 3 feet wide. I dug it, and removed all the grass by hand, in just a little over a week. In fact, I did most of it — about 20 feet — on just one full Saturday work day. Lots of work, but we know we don’t want the bermuda grass at all. It’s invasive and is, in fact, on the list of Texas Invasives. Yet it remains, for many, the grass of choice in this area and throughout the State. Go figure.

The boss, Corbin the Wonder Cat, on his rounds, making sure all is done properly. Here, we find him pointing out the leaves at the curb that need to be cleaned up for the job to be done in spic and span fashion. Cats… always fastidious. *rolls eyes*

      Yep, I’ll get right on that, boss!