Project Green Thumbs Season III: Kicking my yard’s butt front and back

Project Green Thumbs Season III kicks off in the 4×8 planter box made by Mr. T

Gardening and I have a dubious history. Namely, I kill things. Typically favorite prey include azaleas, dahlias, all manner of houseplants and ivy (I know!). For some reason a few years ago, I thought I’d take up gardening… full-on vegetable gardening. Mostly, I wanted tomatoes and partly I needed to get back to nature (as much as tending garden boxes in suburbia is nature anyway). The result? A veritable veggie obsession.

In my first year, my poor Facebook friends had to endure scads of produce pictures (see here for an abbreviated version) marking every phase of gardening from soil tending, to planting, to sprouts and mature plants, and finally harvest. It was riveting, let me tell you. What I learned? If I can do it, anyone can. And besides, it’s a tasty and soul-satisfying hobby.

Last year’s oregano now lives in a pot near the lavender. I learned early that lavender brings bees, and bees pollinate the tomatoes, and tomatoes make me the happiest. It’s a winning formula. Plus lavender smells delightful.


Starter tomatoes courtesy of my mother-in-law, M-5’s green house!


Cucumbers that promised not to get aphid-infested like last year. (Rigggght?)
A new addition: Mint! (Planted separately from the garden box to prevent takeover, of course)


SPROUTS! Seeing green shoot up from the soil never fails to make me smile (unless it’s weeds, but that’s a different story). You’re looking at Day 2 radish sprouts.

Now in my third year as a green-thumber, I thought why stop at (one sliver of) the Back 40? Why not attempt to keep up with the Joneses and do something about our horrific front planters? (I might exaggerate a titch about the ugliness of our front foliage, but living across from three sets of retirees with immaculate yards can wear on a person). So I got out my shovel and my hand-tiller. I bought bags of amendment for our 100% clay soil. I hauled more mulch than I could have possibly imagined and 40-ish hours and 25 wheel-barrows full of dirt, I have prevailed. Behold, the progression:

Note the bare dirt and visible irrigation hoses. My attempt at beautification: Potted lavender.


Sad sad gardenia bush.


My planting buddy Goliath. And by buddy, I mean the puffball who barked at me the entire time I worked out front.


Yard beautification products.
Planted a couple new shrubs–the itty bitty barberry bush (second from right) and a “creeping” rose bush (fourth from right)
Another sad gardenia and a needed-to-be-in-the-ground-yesterday-but-it-wouldn’t-stop-raining barberry.


After hours and hours of digging, pouring amendments, tilling, and digging… two lavender plants now live in the ground.




I soon learned why the far left plant was so dinky. It lived six inches above a gigantic pipe overlaid with gravel.


Practically hard pan, but I had grand plans…
Planted a formerly potted camellia (official flower of Sacramento, by the way) and put in another rose bush.
Such a difference a little bark makes. (Okay, not a little. 13+ bags and counting)
In the winter, bright pink camellia blooms will cover this thing. (Note the new hose from Lowe’s. If you want cheap commercial grade hoses, go to COSTCO. Ah hem.)
Believe it or not, the shrubbery here (lavender not withstanding) is almost a decade old. Thank you clay soil for keeping things from flourishing.
I realize now, with the 75th picture that I’m going a little overboard.
But I can’t help myself. Fingers crossed that the gardenia fills in.
Remember my grand plan above? A mini herb garden! Two thymes and an oregano. (Never enough thyme, right?)
And finally, a lily that my mom gave me a few years ago. All of the flowers on our front porch seem to turn pink after awhile.

As I type this missive, thunder and lightning pound outside, and I just read a tornado warning for Sacramento. Ugh. Stay tuned for my new workout plan: Aerobic gardening. (If I have a garden left after this storm that is!)



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