Giving the Neighbors a Reason to Talk Since 2011 (Adventures in Garden Design)

Several years ago, we had some extensive sewer work done that tore up the front yard. In one part of a front bed, it left us with kind of an eight-inch cliff where the grass stopped and the front bed started. Not an ideal element for garden design. Here’s an old picture that kinda shows it:

garden design

It’s hard to see. But, anyway, because our house and yard sit up off the street, you can imagine a wee little cliff as the first thing people see when they walk by. Not pretty.

I could have just brought in a bunch of top soil, but the bed is edged by a retaining wall, and I’d have to grade carefully so the soil didn’t just wash away over the wall. I’m not sure I would make the grade (pun!) because maybe you’ve learned by now that “careful” isn’t one of my best qualities in terms of garden design. While I’m very thoughtful and careful at work (hi, Boss Lady!), I’m more of a “big picture” person when it comes to the yard.

So, when I saw an idea on Pinterest for a border made of wine bottles, I think I literally shouted, “Bingo!” and probably scared/scarred the dog a little bit.

It was a perfect solution to hide our cliff and add some pizazz to the garden design.

Initially I thought I’d just collect wine bottles as we … emptied them. A hitch to that plan, though, is we tend to drink boxed wine mostly. Yep, you read right. We actually really like a few boxed wines, with Black Box Merlot topping our list. We’ve tried some of the other Black Box varieties and are not as woo-hoo about them, but we also like the Bota Box Merlot and the Big House Red in a pinch. So there you have it: Proof from a real-live fancy pants chef that boxed wine is A-OK. Life is too short, man. Drink what you like.

Moving on. I reached out to friends and fam and while they were happy, as always, to help with my crazy plans, I calculated I needed approximately 80 bottles. Whoa! It soon became clear I’d need another bottle source if I wanted this done before 2018. Enter EDWINS Restaurant and the good folks there who saved bottles for me! (Thank you, Tashika!!!!)

I thought about just “planting” the bottles as-is with the labels, but I suspected they would get pretty groady before long, so I opted to remove the labels. The first step was soaking the bottles. I just put them in the kitchen sink, but any big container filled with water would work. I also filled the bottles up with water to weigh them down and keep them submerged. You’ll need to soak the bottles at least an hour, though longer is better – even overnight if you can.

garden design

Yep, that’s a snowman soap dispenser. Yep, it’s August. Keepin’ Christmas alive.

After soaking, some of the labels just unpeeled themselves, earning them a spot as my favorite wines. Shout out to the awesome vinters of Chateau Gonin Bordeaux 2010, Weinkelter Riesling Kabinett 2012, Joseph Drouhin Meursault Perrieres Premier Cru, and Sean Minor Caneros Pinot Noir 2012. I am sure your wine is outstanding, and your easy-peel labels are THE BEST.

Removing the labels from the rest of the bottles involved a little manual labor, but some of the bottles came with a handy tool that made it pretty easy: a screw cap! Yes! After wasting time with a metal scrubbie (technical term), I channeled my ancestral ape and used the screw cap as a scraper. It worked beautifully!

Some of the bottles still had glue residue; that’s when I found the metal scrubbie and some dish soap did the trick to take off that glue lickety split. You could certainly use something like Goof Off, but these are going near edible plants, so I wanted to keep it clean.

So, bottles in hand, I just stuck them in the ground and gave the neighbors a green light to speculate how we procured that many bottles.


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That’s it, really. I did have to do a little digging to get some bottles in, as the soil is pretty clay-y, but it was pretty easy to zen out with this garden design project. I have one side/one bed done and am slowly working on the second side (the bed where the green beans live). I’ve already gotten tons of compliments on it from passersby, and I refer them (and you!) to Pinterest to check out the original posts I used for inspiration.

This blog offers up a thoughtful review and some points to consider before using wine bottles in your garden design, and I should note this is not a long-term solution for me, either. Next year, I plan to dig up, divide and likely rehome the perennial lilies and irises that live in these beds. I’ll probably decrease the size of the beds and keep things more manageable by by planting grass. Or maybe not.

I keep toying with the idea of tilling up all the grass in the front yard and going full-on, gratuitous, unapologetic cottage garden up in this mug. We’ll see how it shakes out, but for now I really like the look of the wine bottle border.

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Don’t Forget the Crumpets and Jam: How to Make Compost Tea

I was able to sift another batch of compost from one of my tumblers, and while most of it went back into the Three Sisters bed and the former potato bed, I thought I’d reserve a bit and give a recipe on how to make compost tea a try. I once thought compost tea was some kind of super complicated, labor intensive recipe but turns out that when you’re trying to figure out how to make compost tea, it’s just mixing some compost and water. Who knew?

Here’s what you need:

  • some compost (store bought or homemade)
  • a container with a lid
  • water

I reviewed a couple of recipes for how to make compost tea, and most said to use something like a “shovelful” of compost. I don’t know how much that is, but I had an empty gallon pot handy, so I filled that halfway full and used that as my measuring cup.

how to make compost teaDump the compost into a five-gallon bucket or other big container:

how to make compost teaAdd some water:

how to make compost tea

Snap on a lid, set in a sunny spot and let it sit for a few days.

how to make compost teaNow, some folks will tell you to add sugar or molasses. Some folks will tell you to add seaweed. Some folks will tell you to add fish emulsion. Some folks will tell you to aerate it.  Sure! Why not? Go for it. All good stuff. But I’m taking shortcuts.

Case in point: Most of the directions said to strain off the solids and then pour the liquid compost around base of the plant, but it seems silly to me to go that extra step, so I’m just going to dump the compost tea in my watering can, compost and all.  By my calculations, it should be ready by Tuesday. Now you know how to make compost tea, so go enjoy a nice cuppa.

 

Dog Days Postcards

Teeny

It is dog breath hot right now and I don’t feel like doing much. Plus, I’ve been on the road for work this week, and away from my yarden, so let’s look at some recent pictures shall we?!

I had occasion to recently find myself camping next to a field of soybeans. That probably sounds very ‘Ohio’ to some of yins across the country, but joke’s on you: I was in Pennsylvania!

ohio garden

ohio garden

I planted some Chianti sunflowers last year, and, while I didn’t have much luck with them at the time, one came back this year as  a surprise. And I captured a bee on it!

ohio garden

The hydrangea I worried over so last year survived another gnarly winter. Now it has the most lush foliage I’ve ever seen on it, but just one purple blossom, so progress, I guess?

growing hydrangeous

growing hydrangeas

Can’t wait to head northward and start putting another round of veggies in my empty potato bed!