Tag Archives: brick

Side Garden {herbs & more}


So what with all the chicken/barn madness, you wouldn’t think we would have time for any other projects, right?  Well WRONG.  In between working on that stuff, we have also been busy with a lot of gardening.

Originally, my plan was just to focus on the side garden right outside the kitchen door.  I really wanted to make this a happy little herb garden, and maybe, at some point, put in a little water garden as well.  Back in April, I posted some pictures of my initial clean-up work in that area.  Tom was also installing some of the cutest little brick paths you could ever hope to see in your life.


I have always wanted a little garden with brick paths!!!

At first, things were going as scheduled.  I got a bunch of herbs and planted them…  and then we started to get a little out of control…  again.  😀

Honestly, I don’t even know exactly where to start, so I’ll just start posting pictures and telling you what we did, and you can decide for yourselves when/if we crossed the line from “normal amount of things to accomplish in one year” to “what?!”


Five of my favorite basil varieties.

So the reason that I wanted to plant herbs is because I love them.  I love that they are useful for different things, and I love that they smell wonderful.  A lot of herbs are perennials, and that was my main focus this year.  However, my favorite herb is an annual – basil.

One of the things I love about basil is that it comes in lots of different types.  I prefer some of the milder flavors (not a huge fan of thai basil, for example).  This year, I got variegated, purple, lemon, sweet, and African blue.  They each have their own distinctive flavor, and are pretty much my favorite thing for cooking everything.  Also, I learned this summer that rubbing a fresh basil leaf (well, the oil from the a fresh basil leaf) on a mosquito bite will stop the itching entirely almost immediately.  Brilliant.

The washtub is one I have had for years, and I wish that I had about a dozen more.  It’s sturdy, and the handles make it fairly easy to move about, even when it is full of dirt and heavy.

Because I was planting a fairly shallow-rooted plant in the tub, I filled about half of it with straw, and then put dirt on top of that.  You can also use old leaves or lawn clippings.  Basil roots aren’t going to grow much past the halfway point of the pot depth anyway, so there is no sense using all that extra soil when a different filler will work just as well.  Plus, you’re already composting for next year!


Why does this alligator consistently make me smile??

I bought Tom this awesome alligator at a local greenhouse.  It’s moved around the garden quite a bit (in true alligator fashion) and for some reason just makes me happy every time I see it.

Because the side garden is fenced in and right outside our kitchen door, it turns out that that is where it’s easiest to take Waylon out.  We have a small area at the bottom of the garden where he goes to relieve  himself, but he frolics throughout the whole area, artlessly smashing all sorts of plants, and attempting to eat whatever he hasn’t smashed.  (He actually loves basil – he doesn’t just chew on it, he actually eats it – by the mouthful!)


That thing is HEAVY.


Where the hosta used to be… it was actually interfering with the Japanese maple!

The point is, hostas are pretty toxic, and Waylon found the big, floppy leaves of this one completely irresistible.  Plus, if I’m honest, it was just a bit in the way.  It was an inherited plant, and while a beautiful one, didn’t really fit with everything else that was going on in the garden.  So, we dug it up and moved it down under the mulberry tree where it has reestablished itself and is doing quite well.


Hours of pulling up plants were involved in the making of this picture.

We had some really, really nice weekends throughout May and early June, so we were able to get tons of stuff done.  Here, we moved the picnic table from its winter shelter on the front porch to the flat area in the side garden.  The kitchen door is to my left as I am taking the picture.  Beyond the table is Waylon’s little private area behind the hibiscus bushes.


This is like one of those “I Spy” pictures.

Underneath the front of the garden is an old cistern.  It’s actually pretty big, and our eventual hope is to have a pump in it so we can use the water for plants and whatnot around the house.  Our roof runoff drains into it.  This is the before picture – Tom tore off the old decking you can see here and replaced it with treated lumber in preparation for eventually building an upper platform with a pump.  The old wood was getting quite rotten and was a little scary, especially since the cistern is rather deep.

Also pictured: the water garden, which will be the subject of its own post; Waylon, thinking about digging again; my basil garden; our bright blue rock that we can’t get the paint off of (although we have diminished its brilliance with diligent sanding); and the alligator, looking as though its head has been severed by my trowel.


Although the decking was getting rotten, the actual underneath support is still in good shape.

While replacing the decking on the cistern, we made sure Waylon was locked securely in the house.  That dog would have fallen in for sure.

The cistern itself appears to be in good shape and is completely full of water, probably because it hasn’t been used in years.  Our roof catches quite a lot of water – one whole side of the roof drains into this cistern.


“After” pictures are so satisfying.


Here is the view from the front of the garden looking back. The decking is much sturdier now.

Here is the same area after a weekend of very hard work – new decking, new path, and freshly weeded!


No, of course that isn’t a crazy gazing ball in the background. Why would I have a crazy gazing ball?? ::shifty eyes::

When hiking in areas where blazes aren’t used, rock cairns are common trail markers.  Tom and I built our own home cairn, since all our trails lead here.  🙂

Incidentally, we need to practice, as our cairn has fallen over several times.  😀


We planted these before I got around to painting the container. Oh well, there’s always next year!

We have tried planting watermelons several times, but they are a favorite of marauding groundhogs and rabbits.  This year, we decided to put them in a large tub and keep them in our fenced-in garden.  Of course, now we have to worry about crazy Waylon nomming them instead.


Here is my basil garden … again

Oh wait, did I already mention that basil is my favorite?  As you can see, it’s growing quite well.

Believe it or not, I actually did plant a lot of other herbs…  I just don’t seem to photograph them as regularly!  I have several varieties of sage and thyme, plus oregano, winter savory, rue, parsley, lavender, bee balm, and rosemary.  There are also coneflowers, daisies, nasturtiums, violets, baby’s breath, and lamb’s ear, plus other odds and ends that I have picked up off the clearance rack at Lowe’s!

Overall, everything is doing pretty well.  As of today (6/27/15), we have gotten about 6-10″ of rain in the last two weeks.  Honestly, the garden is a bit out of control – everything is growing like crazy, and it’s hard to find time to weed between the rain showers!


The new water garden is to the right of where I’m standing for this picture.

Here is the garden in pretty decent shape before the monsoon started.  I love everything about this garden.  You have no idea.

While it has been a lot of work to get stuff in the ground, and it definitely is going to need some maintenance as well, I am overall just super pleased with what is happening in this side yard, especially compared to what it looked like when we moved in – full of ugly shrubs and cat poop.

Almost everything I have planted this year is a perennial, so hopefully at least some of it will get well enough established to overwinter and reappear next year.  We’ll see what happens!!!




SPRING!!! {no sense of restraint}


Yes, so, as soon as it started getting warm around here, Tom and I forgot every single well-meaning resolution we had made concerning the importance of pacing ourselves with landscaping/planting gardens.  WE LOVE GARDEN CENTERS and we’ve planted an orchard and are working diligently to make the side garden happy as well.  There are just so many awesome things we can do outside that we can hardly wait to get into them!!!

HOWEVER, before we get into all that, an update on the kitchen!  Because it’s really finished now, except for some bits of trim here and there.  Pop  installed our new stove hood and redid the wall behind the oven and fridge, so everything looks super happy!



So apparently I don’t have a good “before” picture of the fridge/oven wall (surprise, surprise), but you can see a bit of it here.  Basically, we had some ugly cabinets over the top of the fridge, plus a weird fake board thing above the cabinets that makes it look like it’s holding up the ceiling or doing something useful, except it’s not.

Behind the oven, which you can’t see from here, the wall was partially tiled with white squares, several of which were missing and/or had never been there to begin with.

The stove hood was stainless steel, old, ugly, and recirculated air (through a filter) rather than actually venting it out of the kitchen.  It also sounded like a jet engine when it was running.



Day One involved, of course, demolition.  When we got home from work, the cabinets, tile, hood, and weird board were all missing.  It immediately felt like the kitchen was taller!

In case you’ve forgotten, this house has ludicrously low ceilings.  It boggles my mind  how so much of the stuff we’ve replaced were things like low-hanging lights or stuff up against the ceiling – things that made the house feel even more cave-like.







By the end of Day Two, the paneling behind the refrigerator was up.  This is actually the same beadboard that we used on the backs of the cabinets and for the kickboard in front of the bar stools.  We thought about getting a sheet of regular paneling, which is what is on most of the walls, and then painting it the blue of the rest of the walls, but that all just seemed like a lot of hassle, especially when we already had the beadboard leftover!







Day Three was the big change – the new hood was in!!  Even though the fan wasn’t connected yet, the lights worked and Pop had started to install the stone.  It’s the same as we used for the backsplash for the kitchen sink, and has a lot of grays, so it matches our color scheme really nicely.  We wanted something that would contrast since we have two white appliances and a white hood and one sheet of white paneling all right together.








One of the reasons Tom chose this particular hood was  because it has two 40-watt bulbs.  80 extra watts of light in the kitchen really makes a big difference.  While we love having the kitchen in the center of the house, and while removing the walls has definitely lightened things up considerably, it can still be rather dim in there, especially on cloudy days.  I am very pro-lots-of-lights anyway.

This brought us to the end of the week.  On Saturday, Tom and I went to Cleveland to visit our new puppy – we’re getting a border collie in May!!  Super stoked!!

Along the way, we stopped at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  It was a very warm and pleasant day, and hiked about five miles to see Brandywine Falls.  (As an aside, you don’t have to hike five miles in order to see the falls…  they’re actually probably  200-yard walk from the parking lot. We just took a more scenic route.  :-D)




Much of the park follows the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal; the old tow path is now a hiking/biking trail.  There are a couple of museums and whatnot as well – it’s a park I think we’ll try to visit again sometime.

I did find myself thinking that I wouldn’t want to be there during mosquito season, though.






Brandwine Falls are pretty nifty, actually.  It’s hard to believe that you’re actually practically in Cleveland.



























When we got home, Pop was cleaning out the “other” side of the barn.  The left (main) side of the barn is the side I’ve posted pictures of before – concrete floor, and Tom’s work area.  The loft, which is slowly becoming a nifty rec room, is over the entire barn.  The Other Side is a long, narrow room that runs along the alley-side of the barn – basically, it’s only as wide as the doorway pictured.  This side has been full of random junk for many years.  Most of this stuff, including an old boat, actually belongs to Pop – the old owner of our house was letting him store stuff in there.

I’ve been really wanting chickens, though, and they’re going to go in the back of the barn.  We were thinking of waiting until next year for this project (let’s be honest, I think Tom was hoping that this project would be next year’s), but lo and behold, Pop was working like a man with a mission to get that thing cleaned out.  So that ended up being the rest of the weekend.



There’s actually quite a lot of space without the boat!

The chickens are going to go in the back (Val used to keep them there, too, as you can see on the door!).  We’ll cut a doorway to the outside, where Tom is building a chicken run, put in some windows, and frame in a wall to keep the chickens towards the rear of the building.

Mom is getting chickens, too, so she and I ordered them together from Mt. Healthy.  You can purchase just one pullet of each breed from there, which was exactly what we wanted – who wants all their chickens to look the same??  I ordered eight and am SO EXCITED.





While the guys were doing their thing, I was working on the side yard.  This is actually a middle-of-the-task picture.  When we moved in last year, this area was wall-to-wall shrubs.  We’ve cleaned out a lot of that, and are not down to a few hibiscus, a burning bush, and a hydrangea.

Last summer, we threw down a bunch of mulch, so I’ve actually been working on clearing that back out so we can plant a lot of stuff in here.  Some of the mulch will probably go back in this garden eventually, and the rest will get used for various other projects.

More on this side yard later…




Even though the kitchen didn’t look a lot different when we got home from work the next day –  just a bit more stone – the biggest difference was in the unseen…  the fan actually vents out through the roof now!

(I’m cooking meatloaf as we speak…  and no smell of gas!  And I can’t even hear the fan running!  SO MUCH WINNING!)







By Thursday, this project was in the bag!  Doesn’t the stone look amazing?!??!  I absolutely love it.  Of course, the ceiling still needs painted, and we’re going to run some trim between the stone and the wood, but overall the kitchen is now pretty well set, and I am a super happy camper!!!


So now we are up to this weekend, and a very busy weekend it has been!  Saturday was perfect weather in every way – topped out in the low 70’s, the sun was shining, a gentle breeze – just perfect.  We knew we wanted to be working out in it, so we hit up Lowe’s and Wilson’s Greenhouse in Newark first thing in the morning.

Back home, we set to work on the side garden yet again.  I continued to work on the mulch/weeding situation, while Tom began to work on setting a couple of small paths through the garden.

Even though this area is on the north side of our house, it’s actually in the sun most of the day.  So much of this garden will hopefully be herbs.  We’re also planning a small pond, and, where you can see the wooden platform in the next picture, a pump.  There’s an old cistern underneath the platform (actually, under about a third of the garden) that is probably there from the days when our barn sat where our house is.  At that time, the barn belonged to the huge brick house on the corner, and the roofs for both buildings drained into the cistern.

When the barn was moved, somehow someone ran the new downspouts from our house into that same cistern.  We’re planning to put in a hand pump and use the water for gardens and whatnot.















The side garden has a lot of ground ivy, aka Creeping Charlie.  I spent a great deal of time digging out the roots yesterday, but I’ve no doubt that much of it will still return.

There have been a lot of challenges surrounding this little area.  In the lefthand side of the picture you can see a couple of evergreen shrubs.  These shrubs were basically the entire garden last year, with some hibiscus thrown in for fun.  At some point in this garden’s lifetime, someone thought it would be a good idea to put down some burlap fabric and then mulch over it.  This would have been find, except that was probably ten years ago, and now there is about 3″ of soil over top of the burlap.  We pulled out yards of it last year, and I’m still digging it out this year.  Good times, good times.



Anyway.  So I really wanted a couple of narrow paths through the garden, both for practical use and aesthetic.  We didn’t have any spare brick laying around, but we did have these square pavers.  I think the previous owners must have gotten a good deal on these pavers, because they are all over the place.  As is, they are bit a larger than what I had in mind for the path (and they don’t do turns very well), but Tom was pretty confident that he could use a chisel and split them into individual bricks – and he did!





Ta-da!  Aren’t they perfect??  To just hold one it’s obvious that it’s not a “real” brick, as they’re someone chipped/irregular along the edges, but in the pathway, with dirt between them, they flow very well and I am super stoked!!!!

And no, to answer your question, we did not install this walkway the “right” way.  No sand, no leveling…  Tom just raked away the loose stuff and stuck them down in there, and then tamped dirt back in between them.  We will probably have to go back and do it a bit better at a later date, but for now they’re there enough that I can plant around them and keep things moving in this area.





















Gah, aren’t they perfect??  I love them!

Where the right-hand path ends is roughly where the little pond will someday end up, so it should tie in with whatever brick/stone ends up around that project.










Our other big project this weekend – installing an orchard!  We bought four trees yesterday and four more today, and we still have room for two more!!

We really wanted to get them planted as it started raining this afternoon and is supposed to keep raining through tomorrow evening, and it’s always nice to give them a good soaking right off the bat.

Tom did most of the heavy work for this project (surprise, surprise), but I’m good at things like holding trees steady while dirt gets shoveled around them.







With all this outdoor activity, I was kind of glad when the rain moved in so I could try to get it all caught up in my gardening journal.  I started this journal the first spring Tom and I were married (2011), which, incidentally, is the first spring I had my own gardens!  I keep the journal in a composition  book – they’re great for projects where you want to tape/glue things to the pages.  Because the pages are sewn together, you can really stuff the books full without them falling apart!

As you can see, I love to keep all the tags from all my plants and put them in the book.  This allows me to reference back to them so I can easily see which plants have died.  (Did I mention that I’m actually a terrible gardener??)


For me, the easiest way is to rough out where things are going, number where stuff is planted, and then number the tags in the book.

Even though I’m the daughter of an engineer, I’m not super good at drawing stuff, but Dad has always told me that any drawing can be considered correct as long as I note that it is “not to scale.”  😀

(Note: the flower tags on this page match numbers for the side garden sketch, not the sketch above, just in case you were trying to put them together!)

Anyway, on the map, numbers 1-10 are our fruit trees (well, 7 and 10 are still just fruit tree slots).  12-17 are still in the planning stages, but will probably be various fruit shrubs (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), and hopefully some hazelnut bushes.  17 will probably be vegetable gardens (although I think we’re legit holding off on veggies until next year… so labor-intensive!), and I think we’re going to try to plant English walnuts behind the chicken yard (13, top of the page).



For now, we’ve planted two pears, two plums, three apples, and one (self-pollinating) peach.  We’ll probably get one more peach and one more apple, but who knows??

We will see what takes…  Lowe’s has a one-year guarantee, and you can bet that this girl is saving her receipts!








We got a few more things planted in the side garden before the rain as well, including this Japanese maple.  Tom really loves these (actually, he bought two, different varieties), so he was really excited about getting them into the landscape.

So that’s the big update – it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and we still have plenty in our heads we’re trying to get done!  I’ll try to keep everyone posted…