Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Adventures in Organic Gardening Part 6

Year 2008. The year of the Big Projects.

Since my husband had lost an entire 2 seasons of major projects the year before, he wanted to sit down with me early in the year and discuss just what it was we wanted to accomplish. So, to that effect, in February we got out the notepad, pencil, and ruler and got started.

First, I wanted to say that the year before, it was the first of June that he was injured, so all we managed to accomplish before things went horribly wrong, was putting in the big jacks to straighten the walls of our collapsing garage (it used to be a carriage house a long time ago) and rip out the rotten bottom boards. A friend of ours had helped put up really heavy plastic in late fall so that the wind, ice and snow could not get in over winter.

So... The plans for 2008 was as follows:

1. He wanted to extend the driveway from being just in front of the garage to continuing between the garage and the house and ending behind the garage. Now that would take away about half of my garden (which had been approximately 45 feet by 25 feet). He wanted to put up a retaining wall running from the back wall of the house, and curving around the end of the driveway. Kind of looking like a J with the bottom curve coming towards the back of the garage. This would serve a few purposes. Ice and snow would not have a chance to build up in front and between the garage and house, or collect in the garage. Spring melt would not allow the water to collect there, instead he wanted to have a gentle sloping grade leading towards the garden. The driveway would be built up with gravel.

2. Evesdroughs. Neither the house nor the garage had any. The downspouts would go into a plastic tube that would run underground and end in the garden. This would help keep the garden watered, and as there are always rain storms that are very heavy and quick, this would allow some of the rainwater to still be absorbed by the garden. In addition to this, the plan was to get at least 2 rain barrels for the front flower beds.

3. The garage. We needed to pour concrete footings, and finish fixing the walls. Also the garage needed to be insulated which would be accomplished by using the vermiculite we had removed from the house when the major house renovations had been done a couple years before. He planned on putting up a false ceiling in the garage to add some storage as well.

4. The old entry into the house needed to be removed, as the boards were rotting and there was a fair amount of rotting concrete there. It was a major source of heat loss in winter months, and we wanted to use it as a mudroom. The plan was to remove the old one, dig down deeper (level with basement floor) put in a concrete pad, and walls.

5. Remove the old concrete step by the kitchen door (which was directly in front of an old window with a leak) and put in a new concrete pad there.

6. Extend the narrow flowerbed that ran alongside the walk beside the house, and put up a retaining wall to help avoid loss of topsoil and land erosion. The flowerbed would end up being about 10 feet wide instead of one foot wide.

To make a long story short, all of the above was accomplished (for the most part). The garage was finished except the siding on the walls. The driveway was extended, and gravel added. Probably more would be needed in 2009. The retaining walls for the end of the driveway and for the side flower bed were poured. The evesdroughs were put up, but one more downspout was needed for the one back side (kitchen) and the two downspouts for the garage. The rain barrels were not purchased as of yet. The basement mudroom was poured and roofed. The garden was made into more of a square (pretty much the same size). The compost from the two wire compost bins were used to build up the side flower bed and the garden.

An interesting thing happened while removing the old concrete kitchen doorstep. We found that it was hollow, and cracked around the old basement window. And, there was a very deep cistern under it. So the concrete was broken up and used to fill that cistern and sand was added. We decided to let it settle over winter and spring to see how much more would be needed before building a new one.

Also a small well-like feature was found in the back yard. I am not certain just what it was, but it was lined with brick and there were a couple of really old bottles found in it. So that was also filled in with sand and gravel.

I know that not much of this has anything to do with organic gardening per se, but I do consider it "going green" and recycling of old building materials. Also finding ways to prevent further decay of house, garage and land erosion should count a bit. Plus, with the water being diverted to flower beds and garden helps keep the water use down in the summer months. I rarely had to water the gardens using the township water.

Removing old kitchen step.

Cistern under old step. Really deep!

Old well-like hole in back yard.

Big mess in the backyard.

Old basement entryway.

A Garden Toad!

Flowerbed retaining wall.

Driveway retaining wall.
Also, concrete walls for new basement entry way


  1. Wow jewelz, what a wonderful gardening series, I am enjoying them immensely!
    Thank you!

  2. wow salute-salute... your blog is so good....

  3. Thank You Pegg! I am so glad you are enjoying my series!

  4. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and the lovely compliment Ekoepe!