This Old Fixer Upper, part 3: Garden and Landscaping

With nothing but grass growing in the 1/3-acre yard - and massive amounts of perrenial flowers surrounding the house that we had no idea about until spring - we had a big canvas to do whatever we wanted with. I wanted lots of trees! And a big garden! No, bigger than a garden. A food forest! At least that was the plan. 

The very first the we did was install a stone path leading from the back of the house to the garden and to a fire pit. We did this is January and/or February on nicer days. I got all the stones for free from Craigslist.

Then I began planting the trees.

Here's the Purple Rob black locust (Prince) I planted a few months ago. It has these purple flowers and there's even more now, in May, than when I took this photo in April.

I also convinced the city to plant two maples for free as part of their Street Tree program (had to call the Parks and Rec department and ask to be forwarded to the Foresty division). One is a Norway maple cultivare (Karl) and the other is a "Hot Wings" Maple (Buffallo Bob) that is supposed to have bright red helicopter-seeds in summer.

The other "tree" out front is a dward Japanese black pine (Spike Lee) that I planted in a large planter made from an old whiskey barrel. Actually it never held any whiskey, I picked it up from Menards and it was probably made in China just for this purpose. However, they didn't treat the wood at all so I gave two coats of Total Wood Protection inside and out and then coated the inside with Flex Seal spray-on rubber stuff to ensure that moisture won't prematurely root the wood. I think it will work well. 

It's kind of an experiment. It might be kind of like a very large bonsai thing. Though I wouldn't bonsai it but I might style it a little. Hopefully in a couple of years I'll have to transplant it to a larger pot or just in the ground. I didn't want to plant anything in the ground right there because 1) the sewer runs right below it, though small pines are known for having shallow root balls, 2) I might want to move it to the right or to the left, and 3) if we move and leave this house then I can pick it up and move it with me :). Though it would be very heavy...

I also did the same wood treatment to another wiskey barrel half that we planted little dwarf evergreens and grown cover plants in, to make a neat little garden scene. 

The last thing we did in the front landscaping area was plant Bruce the Spruce, a dwarf Colorado Spruce. Added a little driftwood, two junipers, a bunch of mulch and some little solar-powered lights. Front landscaping done!

The food garden, however, was just getting started...

I'm fortunate enough to live in a community that processes it's own compost and mulch/wood chips. I bought two huuuuuuuge piles of compost and mulch each. My friend used his dump truck to dump it right where I wanted the garden to be so all we had to do was spread it out. (Before we done it, the piles where about twice as large as they are in the pic below). Payed $60 for all, including delivery.

The plan to convert the solid grass lawn to garden, without tilling and without chemicals, was to kill the sod by blocking light and air to it. This is accomplished by laying a layer of cardboard and/or newspaper, nabbed from recycled bins, over the turf; then a thick layer of compost; followed last by a layer of mulch. A heavy duty dump wagon and a pitch fork helped tremendously with this task.

Next I started the process of dividing up the garden beds and designating walkways. To do this, I went down to the Kansas river and nabbed a whole bunch of dirftwood. Free! Then I layed them out the way I wanted, and then coated them in Total Wood Protection (TWP) so they last a few more years. 

Next, I built a compost bin by taking some pressure-treated 2x4s, cutting one end with a chop saw at 45 degree angles to make it pointy, then hammered them into the ground with a sledge hammer. It helps that I have soft sandy ground. Then I took some plastic trellis material (reclaimed from the patio), nailed it to the 2x4s like so, and then finally strenthened it with reclaimed 1x4 trim boards pulled out of the upstairs. 

Grow littled dudes!! We planted watermelon, zuccini, tomatoes, bell and jalapano peppers, a heatless cultivare of habinaro called habinada, pole beans, spinach, asian micro greens, and basil. I tried to research and idenfity mutual relationships between all the veggie plants so they could be paired up, but the best I could come up with was mutual relationship between basil and virtually every other plant (they keeps bugs away) so I simply planted the basil in the middle of each garden bed.

Last but not least, the fruit trees. We planted three apple trees and a peach tree. One apple tree died and one is really really small. I want to plant more I just don't have the time!

Unfortunitally I couldn't cover the ENTIRE yard with mulch, haha, so I went out and bought a used lawn tractor. The craftsman lawn tractator that came with the house has a carborator problem that I'll deal with as soon as this old piece of junk stops mowing. [Update: the old piece of the junk stopped mowing. Cam shaft jumped a tooth. I took the carb from that one, put it on the good Craftsman one, probabl solved.] Rare photo of (alsmost) all my 2- and 4-wheeled toys in one shot:

In total, we planted 10 trees. Two died, and one is in a container. But I'm not done yet!

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Here's a mid-summer pic of the garden:

You can see I had to add a huge plastic sheet to the top of the compost and mulch mounds that I never was able to use up. Crab grass completely took over everything. It was bad. The clear plastic sheet was intended to get really hot under there and kill the crab grass. Everywhere else I had to use a weed wacker. So it was like a mixture of a garden and a lawn lol. 

Here's the only pic I can find showing the crab grass overtaking the mulch and compost mounds (and also my cute fiance holding a cute, injured bird). 

At any rate...

The pole beans did alright, the bell peppers where all really small for some reason, the zuccini were huge MONSTERS, the tomattos wouldn't turn red until late summer/early fall, the jalopenos did pretty good, the habanadas grew extremly well but didn't have as much flavor as promised (and were totally heatless as promised, like a bell pepper), and the banana pepper plant got killed by the weedwacker on accident.



Anybody need any zuccini or habanero? They won't stop growing

A post shared by Danny Mantyla (@mannydantyla) on

One last picture, because there needs to be a picture of me enjoying my own yard I spend so much time on...

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