Small space gardening

Archive for the ‘Creating a beautiful back yard’ Category

Morning Glories Planted From Seed

Ahhhhh, Morning Glories! One of the most beautiful and fastest growing annual vines in zone 5. They’re practical too if you’re landscaping for privacy. If you happen to live in zone 5, now is the time to start them from seed indoors.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I’m a proponent of growing plants from seed whenever possible, because it stretches your budget in a big, big way. The seeds I’m using now are three years old, which means I’ve gotten three years worth of morning glories for about $2.00. Based on how many of the three-year-old seeds germinated when I planted some last week, I’d say the germination rate was 90% or better.

I used to try starting plants indoors by putting a pot on my kitchen table in front of a south-facing window. Even with southern exposure, my seedlings were always tall and lanky, and the first time I put them outside on a windy day…well…there were few survivors.

So here’s what I’ve learned. To avoid raising weak plants, I move the pots outside on decent days (over 60 degrees), and then bring them in at night. That way, they get the sun they need, but don’t freeze to death at night. This makes a significant difference on the thickness and strength of the stems.

Seeds can be started indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date, which for zone 5 is May 15. To plant Morning Glories, soak the seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. The outer shell on a Morning Glory seed is built like a tank, and it helps the seed to germinate more quickly if it’s soaked first.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I re-use my potting soil every year, but add some sort of compost/fertilizer to the old soil. This year, I’m adding worm castings from my worm bin. I plant several seeds in one pot by making a ring about a half of an inch deep in the dirt, and plant the seeds in a circle.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I add my seeds.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I cover the seeds with dirt, and lightly press the soil down so that I have good soil to seed contact. Then I water. I add a small trellis to this pot to give the vines something to climb onto. This was a pot I saved from a plant I bought last year, and it’s perfect for starting my vines.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After a week, the seedlings are about two inches tall already! Since so many of the seeds germinated, I’ll probably move half of the seedlings to another pot. If I plant this many vines in this small of a space, I’ll be left with a nightmarish tangle of unhealthy vines.

After re-potting half of the seedlings, I’ll keep an eye on the remaining half, and before they get too wrapped around the trellis, I’ll probably whittle the remaining ones down to about three or four survivors. (Looks like the little guy in the front left is taking a bow!)

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

When I plant the Morning Glories outside after all danger of frost has passed, I’ll remove the soil, vines and trellis from the pot in one, big bunch, and plant the whole shebang in front of another trellis that they can latch onto.

I’m happy to report that last spring, I had some Morning Glories that re-seeded on their own. Not only did I have an unexpected Morning Glory explosion, I had blooms that were a color I didn’t plant. I always plant Heavenly Blue, which is shown in the first photo posted, but they came up purple last year. I’m not talking a bluish purple, I’m talking in-your-face, Barney-the-dinosaur purple.

I’ve read that a change in the pH of soil can change the color, but I noticed a lot of purple Morning Glories in my city, and no blue ones, so I’m thinking some other environmental factor may have come into play. I was a little disappointed because I love, love, love the blue ones.

Since too much nitrogen will stimulate the foliage, but will stifle flower production, you’ll want to forgo the fertilizer. Other than the worm castings I put in my pot to get them off to a good start, they won’t get anything more to eat at my house once they’re in the ground. They thrive in bad soil.

You can also plant Morning Glories in a large pot with a trellis. I pulled these vines out of the ground last spring when they were little and put them in a pot.

 Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Nothing against Barney, but I sure hope I get my Heavenly Blue ones back this year!

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld

Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I would like to introduce you to my very good friend, Mr. JB Weld. If you’re a DIYer, or a person who likes to restore broken treasures, you must meet JB. He’s been around for 40 years, but I just discovered him a couple years ago. JB Weld is a cold-weld, steel-reinforced epoxy that has a strength of 3960 PSI. Move over, Popeye! It’s just what I need for my latest “rescue”.

Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

As I was walking my dog not long ago, I noticed a pile of treasures on a curb that included a beautiful bird bath. Beautiful and broken, that is. Initially, I was going to take only the base of the birdbath (which was in perfect condition), because the basin was broken into three pieces. I knew I could find a pretty plate or bowl or gazing ball to put on top of the base.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

But at the last second, I decided to go for “broke” (funny), and snatch the pieces of the broken basin too, to see if it could be fixed. I searched high and low for my Gorilla Glue, which I’ve found works pretty well on smaller items. I must admit I was leery about using it on this project though, because the ceramic pieces I needed to glue together were thick and heavy, and the glue would be exposed to water. Thank goodness I didn’t find the Gorilla Glue, because I decided to try the JB Weld that I had on hand instead.

I was introduced to this product by a friend when my apple corer broke. I used my brand new corer once, and when I put it back in the box to store it, I somehow managed to break the handle right in the middle of the metal. I used JB Weld, highly doubting it would work, but it was the most amazing thing ever! I’ve since used my apple slicer/corer to make some crazy-good apple pastries, and it works like a champ.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

My next experience with JB was on one of these super-cool metal pumpkins I purchased at a garage sale. One of the pieces of iron had broken loose at the weld. I slapped some JB on it, clamped it, and it was good as new.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

So here’s the skinny on JB Weld. It’s a two-part epoxy that comes in two toothpaste-like tubes. One tube is actually steel paste, and the other is hardener. All you do is mix equal parts of the two tubes together, and apply the concoction to your item. I wasn’t so sure about using it at first because this bird bath is going to be full of water, but on the package it says JB Weld can be used for marine repairs, so I should be good to go. It can be used on metal, wood, plastic, tile, pvc, ceramic, fiberglass, concrete and Lord knows what else.

Here’s the whole, simple process. First I brush the rough edges of the three broken pieces to get rid of any crumbs.

Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I make sure I have some pieces of wood ready to use as supports while my pieces are drying. Because of the angle of the basin, there’s no way to use c-clamps to hold the drying pieces together.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I squeeze out equal parts of the hardener and the steel on a throw-away lid. (Foil works fine too.)

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I mix the two parts together with a toothpick until it turns a medium gray color.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I apply a generous amount to my first broken piece.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I hold the piece for a minute, and then push the wooden wedges underneath to help hold the piece in place.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I wipe off with a damp rag, any excess goo that squashes out. I left the excess on the apple corer and the pumpkin hoping it would add strength to those items, and appearance wasn’t an issue for either of those.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I was only planning to glue one piece, let it dry a few hours, and then glue the second piece. But it adheres quickly and firmly enough that I’m able to epoxy one right after the other.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After I feel the pieces are secure, I use the JB Weld to fill in any chipped areas near the cracks where little pieces of ceramic are missing. I find a close match of red paint from my stash, and I paint the tiny areas that I fill in since the JB Weld remains gray in color after it dries. My paint seems to adhere just fine to those areas. If I inspect the basin closely, I can slightly see the crack on one of the pieces, but the other crack disappeared completely. And guess what–the birds aren’t going to care about a hairline crack while they’re tending to their hygiene issues!

And here’s my gorgeous bird bath, rescued from the landfill! The iron “Peace” garden stake with the red, glass ball behind the bird bath in this photo was “saved” from the same curb pile as the bird bath. I scored a two-fer!

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’ll be several months before I can report back as to how well my restored bird bath full of water survives in the summer heat. I’ve brought all my “yardifacts” in for the winter that’s just around the corner here in Central Illinois. I’ll try to publish an update at the end of next summer. But my feathered friends and I will be happy if we can enjoy it even for a summer. It was free after all!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

Simply My Backyard

It’s the dead of the winter here in Central Illinois, we’re in the process of getting several inches of snow and I’ve been reading gardening magazines all evening. I bought about fifty magazines at a yard sale this summer from some homeowners whose yard should have been on the cover of one of them. Those beautiful souls allowed me, a total stranger, to walk around in their private back yard garden that was one of the most amazing that I’ve seen. (Thank you, wherever you are!) I purposely stayed away from the magazines until now, because I knew I was going to need a “fix” sometime when summer seemed light years away.

I’m not so sure treating myself to the articles and gorgeous photos was such a great idea. Now I’m feeling anxious to get my hands in the dirt, and a little sad that I won’t be getting any yard “therapy” for a few more months. I’m thinking of all those outdoor projects that are patiently waiting for me–my wood fence that needs attention, my lovely stamped concrete patio that needs to be sealed and all those plants that need to be divided that, like my children, grew bigger and faster than I imagined.

I found some treasures for my yard at the end of the summer that never had a chance to shine, and were banished to an empty shelf in my garage. I made a cute, rustic potting bench from curbside finds at the end of the summer that no pot ever sat on. I refurbished a beautiful bird bath, also found on a curb last fall, that I’m anxious to place in the perfect spot in my yard (see it here!). My mind has been hopelessly stimulated now by all these dreamlike thoughts, and it’s 1:00 a.m.

So, my therapy substitute in an attempt to quiet my thoughts is going to be sharing back yard pictures from this past summer through this post. If you’ve never visited my blog before, here’s a quick history. I live in the city in a subdivision where the yards are tiny, and neighbors are on top of each other. (I love my neighbors, by the way.) My actual yard space, not including my patio, measures 14′ x 34′. When I moved here, the green in my back yard consisted of a lawn full of clover and some weeds around the deck. Not one tree, not one bush, nothing. I tore off the deck, and some very talented young men replaced it with a poured stamped-concrete patio. Then, I planted…and planted.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any pictures of the section of my back yard that is dedicated to vegetables only, but for the record, I did manage some bang up veggies this past summer. I also developed my side yard for veggies, but that’s a whole different adventure. The following pictures are exclusively from my tiny back yard after only four years. I would also like to mention that I purchase only small (young) plants in order to keep costs down, so this gives you an idea of how quickly small plants can grow in a short amount of time.

(For more photos and specifics of how I transformed my tiny yard, refer to my previous post, “ My Tiny City Garden—In the Beginning“.)

Before…

Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After…

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I hope this will add a little “spring” to your step, and give you a little taste of summer here on my blog. (Sigh)

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in Redesign, please feel free to check her other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence

I have the world’s smallest yard, and am always looking for ways to grow more veggies using every square inch. Here’s a great way to grow vining vegetables or flowers using a privacy fence, wire, string and some screw eyes.

Being a garage sale addict has its advantages. Last year I bought these nifty thing-a-majigs thinking they’d come in handy some day. And they certainly did! I’m not exactly sure what they were designed for–something to do with tv cables or some such thing. By the packaging, they appear to be from an era long before the invention of the television, but I’m sure if you look around at the hardware store you can find something similar. For five packages at 25 cents a piece, I paid a whopping $1.25 for the bunch. Not bad. I like these because they’re 7 1/2″ long, and will keep my vines away from my fence so they have good air circulation. We gardeners know that good air circulation means fewer diseases.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Also purchased at garage sales, is my stash of wires and strings that I can use for my fence “trellis”. My personal favorite is fishing line. I always pick up fishing line at garage sales, and I always run out of it. Oddly enough, I don’t fish, but I use it like most people use duck tape. For this project, I decided to use wire for the horizontal lines, and fishing line for the vertical ones.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I made my trellis for green beans, because you can’t have a garden without green beans. You just can’t. Beans come in bush and pole varieties, so be sure to read the package to make sure you get pole beans if that’s your veggie of choice for your trellis. You’ll be highly disappointed if you purchase bush beans because they will show no interest whatsoever in your trellis, and they’ll just hang out happily on the ground.

I planted my beans on the north side of my fence, and was concerned about whether or not they would grow since the fence will shade them all morning. So I actually planted my beans, and made sure they looked like they were going to grow before I went to the trouble of making a trellis. A benefit, I discovered, in planting on the north side of a fence is that the shade helps keep the soil moist longer. Here are my little babies.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

On the left in the photo below is bok choy which was temporarily sharing the space with my green beans. It’s a cool-weather crop here in zone 5, and was harvested throughout the spring and early summer, and then the green beans got the space all to themselves.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And this little guy is searching for his trellis!

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Once I was confident that beans would grow in this location, I decided how I wanted to space my screws to make a top row, a middle row and a bottom row. Then, I found a drill bit that was a tad smaller than my screws so I could pre-drill all my holes.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I made sure I placed the screw eyes so they would go through the 1 x 6 fence board as well as the 2 x 4 brace. I placed them about two feet apart.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They’re difficult to see, but this picture shows all my screw eyes installed. They’re easier to screw into the fence if you stick a screwdriver into the circle once you get them started. Then you just crank that screwdriver like nobody’s business, and you’re done in no time.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Then it was time to install the horizontal wires through the screw eyes. This process would’ve been much faster if I had just woven my wire into one screw and out into the next one. But I wanted to be sure that if I had a wire malfunction, I wouldn’t lose the whole trellis. So I tied my wire to each screw eye individually, cut it, and started a new wire in between each screw eye. This way, if my wire were to break, I would only have to replace one small section.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Then I checked my green bean package to find out what the spacing should be between plants so I would know how far apart to put my vertical fishing lines. I spaced mine about 6 to 8 inches apart. I would recommend not putting them any closer together than six inches because you want good air flow, you don’t want a tangled mess and you’ll have an easier time seeing the beans when it’s time to pick them.

I tied my fishing line to the top wire, looped it around the middle wire, and then tied it to the bottom wire. I must admit, while I was tying knot after endless knot, I was thinking there were many activities I’d have found more enjoyable, but we reap what we sow, right? And I was wanting to reap lots of green beans so I sucked it up buttercup, and “sowed” a bazillion knots. Finally, my trellis was ready for plants. I had more plants than wires in the beginning, but thinned them out so that each vine matched up with a string.

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 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Some plants latched on and wrapped around on their own.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Some plants needed some loving guidance.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

As the vines started to reach the fishing lines, I had to keep an eye on them so that each plant twined around the string that was meant for it to climb. Once they grabbed on, I didn’t have to watch them quite so closely.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The vines even grew through and over my fence, and I was picking green beans from both sides! Next year, I’ll know that once the vines reach the top of the fence, I need to flip them over to the other side. Some didn’t make it over, resulting in some tangles which makes it more difficult to see the green beans hiding in the mess. Here’s the back side of my fence which faces my side yard.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I had a bumper crop of green beans this year, and gave away several bags of beans to my neighbors. And most of the green beans came from a row that was only 10 feet long. It worked out great because the area really was too narrow and shady to grow much of anything else.

Here’s a picture of an A-frame trellis I made a couple of years ago that I also grew green beans on. I love this one too, but the fence trellis is easier to harvest from. The trellis pictured below is a great alternative if you don’t have a fence. Refer to my post “How to Build a Simple Trellis for Your Veggies and Flowers” for instructions showing how to build one for your garden.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer is now coming to a close (sigh), and I’m happy to report that the wires and strings held up very well–not a single break in the wires or the fishing lines. And as is the case with most of my projects, I wish I would have done this sooner!

If you have an interest in home decorating, organization and spruce ups for your home on a budget, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and a Journeyman Painter in the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

Small Space Gardening–End of Summer Photos

This is a long overdue end-of-summer photo-post showing the transformation of my small space garden areas including my new side yard beds. I’m finally getting these photos together in the month of February following the growing season that ended months ago here in Central Illinois. Ironically enough, we had a blizzard last night, and everything is covered in about seven inches of snow. I guess this record-setting, very long, hellashusly (no help from spellcheck on that one) snowy winter has me dreaming of my summer garden! So here are my results.

(For details on the sizes of the planting areas, what was planted and how crops were rotated, refer to my post, “Small Space Gardening–Utilize Your Sideyard”. You’ll be surprised at how small some of these spaces are.)

Spring

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasisg

Spring

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer

Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Spring

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasisg

Summer

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Spring

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer – To see how to build a trellis on your fence to grow your vegetables vertically, click here.

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Spring

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer – This trellis was simple to build. To see how, click here.

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasisg

The following three photos are of the planting bed near my front door that has both flowers and vegetables in it. Spring, early summer and late summer. From now on, I will always plant veggies in this flower bed!

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Front and center is a volunteer mini pumpkin plant that I moved into my front flower bed from my back yard vegetable garden.

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And here are some pictures just for fun of plants that did well.

Here you can see my herb garden area before the dill seed took over!

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And here’s after the dill seed took over.

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Small Space Gardening--End of Summer Photos / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Again, most of the planting beds pictured in this post are tiny. My hope is that those of you who wish to grow flowers and vegetables, but have limited planting space will see that it’s possible, and will give it a try.

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and a Journeyman Painter servicing the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

If you have an interest in Redesign, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Tips for Landscape Design in a Tiny Yard

If you have a tiny back yard with nothing in it, there’s no reason why you can’t create a beautiful, serene oasis. This post can point you in the right direction as far as creating a landscape design if you don’t know where to begin. Trust me, you can do this!

Here’s a peek through my garden gate. Come on in.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’s really not that difficult to create a landscape design, regardless of the size of your yard. In past homes that I’ve owned, and even some yards I’ve done for friends and family, I’ve created everything from a tiny flower bed design outside a friend’s front door, to a large, expansive landscape that took several seasons to complete.

Since my blog is geared towards tiny urban yards, I suppose I’d better stick to a post addressing landscape design for just such a garden.

If you’re not up to reading an entire post, and want to get right to the point, here’s the condensed version of how to create a design for your tiny yard.

1. Make a list of your desires/purposes for your yard in order of priority.
2. Call the utility companies (or JULIE) to locate any underground lines.
3. Research the types of plantings you want, to be sure they’ll grow in your conditions and planting zone.
4. Decide upon placement of your anchor bushes or trees.
5. Decide placement of your other “must have” items.
6. Plant temporary “filler” items until your main landscape fills in.
7. Enjoy!

Ok, so maybe it’s not quite as easy as all that, but I believe if you follow the ideas listed above, you can design your own landscape. Allow me to go into a bit more detail.

It’s a good idea in the early stages to write down your desires for your yard. If you have several, you need to prioritize since you’re dealing with a confined space, and may not be able to fit all your wants into the plan.

For example, in my tiny yard, my first priority is privacy. I’m betting if you have a tiny yard in the city, your property is smooshed up against your neighbor’s, and I would be willing to bet both you and your neighbor would like to have some privacy. You may have heard the expression that fences make great neighbors. I couldn’t agree more. If you can’t afford a fence or if fences aren’t allowed in your neighborhood, there are other options that I’ll introduce throughout this post.

I was fortunate enough to have a neighbor who agreed to split the cost of installing and sharing our privacy fence, which gave us both a great beginning. Unfortunately, since our yards slope, our six-foot fence appeared to shrink after installation since it’s placed at the lowest point in our yards. Our six-foot fence now appears to be a four-foot fence, and we still look directly into each other’s patio windows. What that means is I still have work to do as far as creating privacy. See how there’s an unobstructed view into my neighbor’s windows? Stay tuned.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

A close second for me as far as my wants for my yard is a space where I can grow as many vegetables as possible. Another desire for me is serenity—green space with lots of textures—very “Zen”. I don’t want lots of flashy flowers in this area. (I save color for my front and side yards.)

My favorite all-time bush is a lilac, so a dwarf is a must in my yard. I’ve never had a Japanese Maple so that’s another must. I need a boxwood—love those. And I brought a Clematis vine with me from my last house that needs a spot, and I must have a trellis for a Morning Glory vine. I would also love some ornamental grass since I’ve never grown that before. Next is a water feature. Another desire is different levels in my yard for interest. Another is attracting birds, butterflies, praying mantis, etc… Yet another is winter interest. Yada, yada, yada… Hopefully, you don’t have quite that long of a list. That’s a lot of stuff to put into a tiny yard, but I somehow managed!

I’ve often read that in a tiny yard, you should stick to two or three types of plants, and repeat them so the space is less chaotic, but I don’t believe that necessarily has to be the case. There are too many plants I’m wanting, to just choose between a couple different ones. Check out these photos. There are different plants packed into small areas, and I think they’re beautiful. Nothing chaotic about these!

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you don’t know much about plants, and don’t have obvious favorites like I do, never fear, my friend. Spend some time taking a stroll through a local nursery, and see what catches your eye. Or take pictures of plants you see when you’re out driving or walking in your neighborhood. Look at gardening magazines that are relevant to your planting zone. Take pictures to a nursery to find out the names of the plants you discovered. Then research any plants of interest to see if they’ll work in your growing conditions.

Another option would be to go to Google (my very good friend), search the type of growing conditions you have, and see what plants are best suited for your environment. For example, if your area is windy, wet, prone to drought, teeming with deer, sunny, shady, etc…, do a search for the appropriate types of plants, and see what shows up. You want to read as much as you can about plants that interest you, and go from there. Some plants are beautiful, but are invasive. Some are the right size for a tiny yard, but have thorns or drop messy seeds or berries that you might not want. It’s not a quick process to be sure, but you’re much better off taking the time to gather information rather than having to rip out plants that become a nuisance, die or grow too big for your space.

As far as resale value goes, great landscaping is only going to increase the value of your property. I don’t have a problem tearing out all of the sod in my back yard, and replacing it with plantings since my 14 foot by 34 foot grassy area isn’t suited for a swing set or any other type of yard activity. Once landscaping is established, replacing my sod with plantings and stepping-stones is easier to maintain than mowing. It’s also much more interesting to look at in our zone 5 winters. And after the first year of pampering, you just get to relax and watch nature do its thing. If you purchase plantings that are the correct size for their chosen areas, there’s also no trimming involved. Low maintenance is always a bonus. What home buyer wouldn’t be interested in all that!

You’ll need to call your utilities to find out where your cables are buried (JULIE is who we call here in Central Illinois). You need to do this before you start planning your placement of items because your buried lines may just put the kibosh on certain aspects of your design. For example, you wouldn’t want to get all pumped about digging a small water feature in that incredibly perfect spot only to find out your cable line runs through that area. Cable or water feature, let’s see…

After you locate your utilities, you’re ready to plan. You can use graph paper to attempt an overall plan (subject to change, of course) for your yard if you like. First you need to pick your most desired feature or most important item, and plant or install it where it needs to go. If this item is a tree or bush–we’ll call it your “anchor” plant. Sometimes I wait until I have my anchor plants in, and then use graph paper to plan out the rest.

I have three sets of anchor plants in my yard. Remember, privacy is my number one desire, so I’m starting there. I plant three upright Junipers so when I look out my sliding door, they are centered directly in my line of vision. I choose Junipers that will eventually grow to block the view into my neighbor’s sliding door, and I plant them so that they’ll be touching each other when they’re full grown. In a tiny yard it’s a good idea to choose plantings that are columnar in habit as opposed to big, spreading bushes that will take up precious yard space. Tall ornamental grasses are also a good choice for privacy in a small yard, and would have worked well in this spot. Here’s another picture of my Junipers from inside my house.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I contemplate planting some type of small, ornamental tree to solve the privacy issue, but I want privacy year-round. Here in zone 5, you can kiss your privacy good-bye in the fall and winter if you go the deciduous route. Another issue of a tree in a tiny yard becomes encroachment on your neighbor’s yard as the tree grows. Also, a very small tree will not have a skirt that will be high enough for you to walk under, and may end up overpowering your yard if it’s an itsy-bitsy yard like mine. And in my case, I don’t want shade to be creeping into my veggie garden. (Veggies need at least 6 hours of full sun per day.) So I nix the ornamental tree idea.

If what you desire for your yard is a shady retreat with refuge from the sun, then a larger bush that can be trimmed up so it’s woody on the bottom might be a nice way to go if you don’t care about privacy in the winter months. It will form a shady canopy, and you may have a better selection in bushes for a small space than you would for a tree for a small space.

Tip–Generally speaking, in zone 5 you’ll want to plant deciduous trees and bushes (assuming you have room) on the south and/or west sides of your house so that the plantings will block the sun from your house in the summer. Then the leaves drop in the winter, allowing the sun to warm your house.

Yet Another Tip—Be sure to space your plants taking their full-grown size into consideration!!! I often see bushes and trees planted too close to houses, and too close together. I must admit I still struggle with this. Most of us gardeners as beginners have made that mistake thinking nothing will ever grow that big, and then 5 years down the road we’re kicking ourselves in the hind-end for planting too close. If you can’t stand how barren your new landscape looks with all that empty waiting-to-grow space, you can fill in with temporary plantings. More about filler plants later in this post.

You also want to be aware of low areas in your yard that may stay soggy for some length of time after it rains, so you can choose plantings that can handle wet areas. This means being very familiar with your yard before you begin your project. Many landscapers suggest living in a property for a year before landscaping so you can become familiar with your yard’s quirks. If you have a low area in your yard that holds water, you can bring in soil and create a raised berm to plant on for interest. A berm added to a low area would allow you to have a broader selection of plants to choose from—not just ones who like to swim.

So back to my other anchor bushes which are Sky Pencil Japanese Hollies that only get about a foot to a foot and a half wide and about 5 to 6 feet tall. Here’s a picture of those. Unfortunately, they’re slow growers. In the two years I’ve had them, in fact, I don’t think they’ve grown more than an inch. Maybe not such a great choice if you’re in a hurry, but I’ve got nothing but time. Still, be warned that if a tag on a plant says it’s a slow grower, it means it’s a slooooooooowwwwwwwww grower.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

My last set of anchor bushes is three Buckthorn bushes that get about two feet wide and maybe a foot or so taller than my fence. I love their soft, feathery look. (Unfortunately, the Japanese Beetles love their flavor.) The purpose of planting these bushes as well as the hollies is to give additional privacy where you can see through the slats of my privacy fence. Not a big issue, but one of my goals is also to have a wall of green so eventually you won’t be able to see my fence at all.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If budget is an issue, you could stop here. Just get your anchor plants in the ground, and wait to add more items from your list next year. At least you would have a great start on your masterpiece! I always try to do everything at once if my budget allows so I only have to pamper my yard for the first year or so, and then I can relax and enjoy it all. Another budget stretcher is to buy small if you can stand it. I’m the Budget Queen, so I almost always buy small. Don’t be afraid to consider bare-root plants. They look absolutely ridiculous when you buy them, but they’re a lot easier to plant than trees and bushes that come balled and burlaped or in a big pot of dirt. (Just be careful when you mow!) You’ll be surprised at how quickly plants can grow and fill in.

Tip—If you plan to make plant purchases at a “non-nursery”, you need to know what you’re planting! I would advise if you find plants you would like to buy at a non-nursery, write down the names of what you see that are of interest to you, and then Google them to be certain they will grow in your planting zone. Just because they sell them in your area, doesn’t mean they’ll survive your climate. I found that out the hard way. Also, they may sell plants marked as perennials that are, in fact, perennials–in Brazil. I got burned on that one too.

Also, when looking at trees, I’ve noticed most of them in the box stores have their header branch missing or damaged. That would be the main trunk that grows straight upwards, and is the main branch that all others grow out of. A tree with its header missing or damaged will not grow properly, and will have a not-so-lovely shape. I say shame on those stores for selling them to unsuspecting customers. Buyer beware!

So once I get my anchor bushes planted, I decide on placement of stepping-stones, location of my other must-have bushes, water-feature size and so on. I find places on my graph paper for my Japanese Maple, dwarf lilac, Morning Glory trellis and my Clematis. I make up little “vignettes” of plants in my yard, generally with the tallest plants in the back, and the shorter plants in the foreground. Here are a couple of those areas.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After creating a few different designs on my graph paper, I decide which one I like best, and install my stepping-stones and water feature so I can plant around them.

I left about a third of my yard open for my vegetable garden. I sink 4 x 4 posts and string wire fencing between them to grow my pole beans and pickling cucumbers on. It’s a nice space saver, and since I made these taller than my privacy fence, I have a little more privacy from other neighbors when my plants are up and growing. You can see the four 4 x 4 posts in the background. The whole back area that you see in the photo will be a complete wall of green once my plants are up and leafing out. This set up is a must for a tiny yard. (See photos in my previous post, “In the Beginning” to see end-of-the-year pictures where my fence “disappears”.)

If you’re not into planting veggies, you can plant annual or perennial vines up on fences, which is what I did after the planting season was over last year. I would much rather look at a beautiful vine than a fence. What you see growing up on the fences here is a Paniculata Clematis. Sounds like a disease of some sort, doesn’t it? This is the most hardy and fast-growing of any Clematis I’ve seen, and has beautiful white flowers that bloom in the fall when everything else is starting to die off. My friend, Cinny, also gave me some starts of raspberry plants that I planted to grow up the fence, but they’re too small to see in the photo.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I’m a vine lover, and believe they have a purpose in every yard—especially tiny yards. They’re good for creating privacy because you can place a trellis wherever you need a view obstructed. Vines take up very little ground space, and make a beautiful backdrop for plants placed in front of them. Morning Glories (Heavenly Blue) have been a staple in my yard for years, and are quick to cover my home-made bamboo trellis. I leave my spent vines on my trellises for the winter. The birds love them, and they’re beautiful in the snow. Here’s a picture of my naked bamboo trellis.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s the same trellis fully clothed in a Heavenly Blue Morning Glory. This vine is an annual in zone 5, but grows rapidly, and will completely cover the trellis within a few weeks of my planting the seeds.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The people who bought my old house, allowed me to take my rusty ladder that I had my Clematis growing on because it had sentimental value to me. To them it was a rusty ladder. To me it was a lovely gift from my son. As a teenager, my oldest son, Brandon (aka Mr. Wilderness) was always bringing home…well…things when he would go fishing or exploring. Some things living and breathing, some things not. (We once had a snake loose in our basement for months that escaped his clutches.)

One day he brought home a rusty, old ladder that he found in a creek for me to use in my garden, and I love it. I set it in concrete, so that meant when my home buyers were gracious enough to let me take it to my new house, I transported it–concrete and all. Dang, I wish I owned a truck. My point here is you can use found objects to use for trellises, and there’s no need to spend lots of money on them since they’ll likely be completely covered with plants at some point anyway. The bird houses look a little cluttered in this photo, but when the vine fills in around them, they look right at home. So here’s my precious rusty ladder trellis.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tip-Be sure to purchase the correct type of vine for the type of support you have. There are three types of vines. Some vines, such as Boston Ivy, have little suction-cup feet that allow them to stick to surfaces. You wouldn’t want to put this on a trellis because it needs a flat surface like a wall or fence to suction-cup onto. If you have a trellis, you need a vine like a Clematis or Morning Glory whose stem wraps itself around the spindles. The third type of vine has tendrils that are like little curly arms that grow off the main stem, and can grab onto a trellis. Cucumber and pumpkin vines have tendrils.

Caution–Many vines like Wisteria and Trumpet Vine grow to be very heavy, and develop large woody stems over time requiring heavy-duty supports. A small metal trellis would be eaten alive by these types of vines. Talk to your local nursery about what type of trellis you would like to use, and they can suggest a vine that would be appropriate for your situation.

So I’ve got my anchor bushes in, my water feature, stepping-stones and two trellises. I plant my lilac at the base of my rusty clematis ladder because although Clematis love and need full sun, they like their roots to be shaded. Perfect. I fill in with my other must haves as placed on my graph paper.

Tip—Plantings are more visually appealing if planted in odd numbers. Don’t ask me why, it’s just that way, and is true in interior design as well.

Now I just add what I refer to as “fillers” so my yard doesn’t look too sparse since I spaced my anchor bushes based on their full-grown size. I like to see green, not ground. My filler plants are planted with the idea that they will be dug up, and given away as my main bushes grow and take over the space. The filler plants consist of hostas, sedum, salvia, strawberry plants, fescue grass, iris, peony, lambs ear, scallions and fern. Annuals and garden veggies if you have enough sun would be good choices for fillers too. I even planted some daffodil bulbs as fillers that someone threw away (pot and all) in the empty lot across the street from me.

All of these plants, except the fescue, were given to me by friends or brought with me from my previous home so I don’t feel bad letting someone else adopt them when the time comes. I’ve already had to dig some of these up over the past two years and give them away as my “important” plants have grown, and crowded them out. That is the purpose of the filler plants after all.

Finally, my wish to draw birds and butterflies into my yard is accomplished by my mini bird bath that I picked up at a garage sale, and spray-painted brown. If you have too many of these yard “chachkies” in a small space, they’ll look like clutter, but I’ve only got two, and one of them is sort of tucked down in the plants. Believe it or not, birds actually do come and bathe in this tiny little bath that probably holds only about 6 oz. of water, and butterflies actually drink from it too.

I see a handful of praying mantis in my yard every year too, but don’t exactly know what I’ve got that they like. I sure love those little guys. You can never have too many praying people or insects around, I say. I also have my water feature to attract birds, but it’s not up and running yet. (It resembles pea soup at the moment since it’s only April, and has been sitting stagnant all winter.)

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I also have bird feeders, and plant sunflowers that attract yellow finches and cardinals into my yard. But be careful where you plant sunflowers, and place feeders with sunflower seeds in them, because sunflower hulls are poisonous to some plants, and you may kill plants that are trying to grow under your feeders. Sunflowers work great for a privacy screen in small yards as well, but may need to be staked. I tie mine to my fence with twine when they get tall so they don’t blow over.

I have a few bird houses, but unfortunately no one has moved into them in the two summers I’ve had them out. At my last home, as soon as I would put out a bird house of any shape, size, color or height, I’d have a new tenant. According to Google, it might be that my birdhouses are in the hot sun as opposed to shade or that they’re too close to the bird feeders. Tenant or not, I still think they’re a nice addition to any yard, and vines can be planted to grow up a bird house pole which will also create some privacy if strategically placed.

I hope this post gives you some design ideas for your tiny yard. The key is to recognize and prioritize your goals, do some research and then go for it. Every year it amazes me how my yard comes to life all by itself. Once you get your plants in the first year, and give them some time and attention, it just gets easier from there. Before you know it, you can have a yard that you simply just watch grow and enjoy. Here’s a picture of how my yard looked last year at the end of the growing season.

Landscape Design for a Tiny Yard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you have an interest in home decorating, painting and sprucing up your home on a budget, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner (Home Staging Resource at http://www.HomeStagingResource.com) and a Journeyman Painter (Local 209) in the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

My Tiny City Garden–In the Beginning…

Welcome to my blog about the challenges of a tiny city garden. And when I say tiny, I’m not kidding. My back yard after subtracting my patio space, measures 14 feet by 34 feet. Those of us in the neighborhood joke about our “postage-stamp” sized yards.

This post is an introduction to my yard’s DIY-friendly transformation that took place over two summers. Posts to follow will track the current year from spring to fall, and will show how I use every inch of my tiny yard and the amazing changes it goes through. I hope you’ll stick with this post until the end because the metamorphosis is quite beautiful.

I have been an avid gardener ever since I planted my first garden over 30 years ago. I was hooked with the bite of my first tomato. I moved to my current home three years ago and have transformed my yard in the past two growing seasons into an oasis. And its a productive oasis if there is such a thing, and it yields enough in the way of veggies to keep me (and some neighbors) happy throughout the growing season. This year I was still harvesting lettuce, chives and onions in December because of the unusually mild winter we had here in Central Illinois.

After I moved here, I tore out the existing deck one board at a time. It probably measured about 10 feet by 10 feet so it wasn’t that big of a deal really. I didn’t like the idea that when I looked out my sliding patio door, all I saw was a railing blocking my view to the yard.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I single-handedly wheelbarrowed in 5 tons of dirt because my yard sloped too much, and I constructed a small retaining wall to hold the dirt in place. I carried many a retaining wall block and must admit I hope I never have another project like that again! The back three feet of my yard that runs along my fence is like a waterway when it rains and all the water from our block runs through our yards there, making it unusable–unless I want to start an alligator habitat. In a 14 foot yard, three feet is a good chunk of yard. This was even more motivation to bring in dirt and raise up the area. I left about six inches between my fence and the retaining wall so the water that runs through the backyards on my block can still make its way to the street. I didn’t think my neighbors would appreciate my turning their yards into swamps.

Here are some before pictures of my yard. Pretty run-of-the-mill.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The first thing I did was put up a privacy fence. Next I had my darling son, Brandon, pour a concrete slab for my hot tub and a slab for my little shed that holds my gardening necessities. Since my shed isn’t the most attractive item to look at, I took my fence past the side of my house so that it’s tucked back in a corner. Thanks to those handy-dandy, flexible, connectable downspouts, I re-routed mine thru a spot in the fence I cut out (and put back on with hinges–just in case), and it now empties near a tree who loves the extra water. Here you can see the beginnings of my dirt hauling extravaganza for my retaining wall. Baby steps!

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Next I had Harper Masonry pour a raised, stamped concrete patio after my son did all the prep work and framing. Harper Masonry (HarperMasonry1@yahoo.com) services the Central Illinois area and does incredible work. I would highly recommend them if you live in the area, and are in need of concrete work, brickwork, block or stone.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Once that was finished, I helped build a pergola-type cover over my patio that didn’t turn out to be the most attractive structure, but it’s functional, and my Boston Ivy is well on its way to covering it. A lot of people don’t like ivy creeping up the sides of their house, but I love it. I understand all the negatives, but I plan to confine it to my patio cover only. I dug up my Boston Ivy from my old house and brought it with me. Here’s my patio cover. Bare with me, it’ll be beautiful in another year when it’s covered in green.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Next on the agenda was making different levels to the yard with some 4 x 4 posts used as a retaining wall for different planting areas. I then added some stepping stone squares that I ran from the patio to my gate and then made a path to my shed.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Every yard needs a water feature so I dug a postage-stamp sized pond to go in my postage-stamp sized yard. My other son, Ross, ran power to the pond area for a light and a pump. (There sure are times when children come in handy!) The pond needs some revamping this year as you can see by the photo, but that’ll be another post. Keep in mind, this photo was taken in the spring and the pond has been sitting with dirty water all winter. That’s my dog, Buster, on the right. He likes to “play” with the fish. They like to come up and nibble on his feet when they dangle over the edge and into the water.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I planted my Junipers so that they’re what you see when you look directly out my sliding glass door. They’re centered appropriately and fully visible from all my main living areas. It’s beautiful at night. Especially when the pond lights are on. And of course the pond is also visible from my main living areas as it’s located in front of my lighted Junipers. I made certain to include evergreens in my landscaping for year-round privacy (once they’ve grown tall enough), and so my landscaping won’t “disappear” in the winter.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I brought plants with me from my old house when I moved, and was given plants by my friends so I only bought a few anchor bushes, some of which I planted for privacy. Those would include Japanese Skypencil Holly, Buckthorn, Upright Junipers, Lilac, Japanese Maple, Cypress and Boxwood. None of these grow very wide, and some will grow up to block the view of my neighbor’s windows (someday!). In the mean time, I grow sunflowers to help obscure the view in the summertime. Grow, Junipers, grow!!

I purposely chose plants that Japanese Beetles stay away from since I landscaped my yard after their hideous invasion here in Illinois. My backyard leans a bit towards the Japanese Garden style, a preference of my daughter, Sophie, who loves everything Japan. Plants that are typically grown in a Japanese garden are not desired by Japanese beetles. How ironic. I want that zen-like tranquility in my back yard so there’s nothing too flashy as far as color other than a couple of patio pots with flowers. I would never have guessed that a green-only yard would be so soothing. I save the colorful flowers for my postage-stamp front yard because I do enjoy having cut flowers to bring inside in the spring and summer.

I left roughly a third of my back yard open for a vegetable garden, and since the area is small, I decided to sink some posts, string up some metal fencing and grow my veggies up. This is quite the space-saver! And since I took the wire fencing up a foot or so past my privacy fence, it gives me some added privacy once the vines are up and growing. I use these fences for green beans and cucumbers, but I may be changing that this year because my fence shades my vines and they don’t produce like they should. More about that in a later post.

And no matter how much planning I do for spacing out my veggies in my little garden plot, I always seem to end up planting overflow crops in my side yard which faces south. Most women have no control in the shoe store. I have no control with garden seeds and transplants. Since I’m on a corner, there’s no house to block the sun there and it’s a prime growing spot–at least until my birch trees grow and shade the area. I’m also a firm believer in planting edibles in with other landscaping plants. Strawberry plants and many herbs are beautiful and look great anywhere you plant them. Here’s my garden plot.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Since I have heavy clay soil, I have added a lot of organic matter. My neighbor warned me about how awful the soil is here, and I’m thinking, “How bad can it be–really. “Oh Lordy Mama it can be bad. I moved here in the summer of 2009, and got out my trusty spade to do some digging shortly after I moved in. I may as well have tried to dig a hole in the sidewalk. I put all my weight on the shovel and jumped. Nothing. I’ve never seen any soil so awful. And it’s full of rocks due to the fact that my subdivision was built where a gravel pit used to be. Not the fertile midwest black earth you often hear about, that’s for sure. That’s another reason I brought in dirt to raise up my yard. The neighbor who told me about the crummy soil uses raised beds as a way around that, and with great success.

So to amend the soil, I get aged horse manure from my brother, Mike. What a honey he is! He tries to humor me, but I can almost hear him laughing as I pull my car up to his house in the boonies with my 5 gallon buckets and their oh-so-necessary lids. He’s laughing because no one in their right mind hauls horse poo in 5 gallon buckets in a tiny economy car. No one but me.

I’m hoping my garden is going to really shine this year because I found an ad in our local paper for $2 bags of rabbit manure, and I’m going to give that a try. My research tells me it’s the best of all the manures. Even better than my brother’s horse manure! It’s very high in nitrogen and won’t burn your plants. I’m hoping for a bumper crop this year as a result of my furry little friends. If you’re just getting started in gardening, don’t forget that even if you have nice black soil, your plants are still going to need food, aka Thumper, Foghorn Leghorn, Daisy or Black Beauty poo. No Lassie or Garfield poo or any other carnivore poo or you may end up very sick!

I also steal leaves from the neighbors in the fall for my garden. It works out well because they don’t have to rake, and I get free compost. I have a leaf vacuum that mulches the leaves for me. Perfect! I also went to Walmart and bought lots of worms my first year, and now my yard is a worm factory! I love those slimy little lovelies adding rich castings to my soil and doing their natural aeration routine.

If you have an interest in vermicomposting (composting indoors with worms) refer to my post, “Indoor Composting With Worms“.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I also do what the experts say not to do, which is to throw kitchen scraps–egg shells, coffee grounds, veggie/fruit scraps–directly into my garden soil. You can see all the egg shells in one of the prior photos if you look closely. I do this only after the growing season is finished. I turn all of it under a couple of times before the ground freezes and again after the ground thaws in the spring. Experts advise against this as they say it draws insects, but I haven’t had any issues.

Last year those totally disgusting Tomato Hornworm Caterpillars ate everyone’s tomatoes. Those distasteful little bugars could eat an entire plant in a day or two, and they’re nearly impossible to see. They grow huge–monstrous–and are slow-moving, but you can look right past them when they’re right in front of your face. I was a soldier waging war against the vile intruders by taking a POW door to door to my neighbors and telling them to smash any that they saw on their plants. My method of destruction was to lift up a stepping stone, place my prisoner underneath it, and I’m sure you can figure out the rest.

Outside of those vile creatures, “recycling” my way hasn’t caused any problems specific to me. I’ll continue on about my merry way, and hope the experts aren’t always right. My soil really needs the help, it’s saving landfill space, and my worm buddies love the scraps. The proper way to go would be to create a compost pile, but my yard is so tiny that I just can’t squeeze one in. I did try a couple years ago to make a compost bin out of a Rubbermaid container as instructed on the internet, but had problems turning the compost and didn’t try it again.

So that brings you up to date in my back yard. The following are pictures from only two years worth of growth. Keep in mind that the yard seems to have exploded with plants but many of the fast growers in these photos are annual vines and garden produce that make it look so lush. So here are pictures that are from before planting anything, from the first planting in 2010 and then the 2011 growing season. My point here is to show what can be done in just two years to a simple back yard. All of the planting, hauling, designing and digging were done myself since I’m always on a budget. And of course always keep in mind that this type of backyard redesign will increase the value of your home, and make it more desirable to prospective buyers. That’s just an added bonus!

Here’s view number one before, 2010 and 2011.

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s another view from before planting, 2010 and then 2011

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Same view from before planting, 2010 and 2011

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Before planting in 2010, after planting 2011

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Full yard view before planting, after planting 2010 and 2011

Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis
Tiny City Garden / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’s a jungle out there!

Photobucket

Although I have made some changes in my front yard and side yard, I don’t have as many progression photos of those areas, but will take some this growing season. My next post will begin with a very “dead” spring yard, and I’ll show you how dramatically a yard can change in just one growing season. Specifically, my next post will tell you when and how to plant early crops when the weather is still cool–yummies like lettuce and spinach. It’s time! Also, I can tell you what I’ve learned about planting garlic in zone 5. I found out by accident how to grow it, and right now everything’s coming up garlic in my yard!

If you have an interest in Redesign, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

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