Building Joel’s Raised Herb Garden

If you follow my articles, you will remember Joel, who is one of the most dedicated hobby gardeners I ever met. But he didn’t have an herb garden. Joel wanted an herb garden—and since he is a good man and treats people well we set out to fulfill his wishes before Christmas.  Here is the starting location after we removed several large rosemary bushes.

Joel has been saving this site for an herb garden but we had to figure out what an herb garden would look like

Joel has been saving this site for an herb garden but we had to figure out what an herb garden would look like

The picture below shows a 12 x 20 foot piece of nursery ground cover fabric. It is a little different from the landscape fabric found in box stores and it is a bit more hard to find. You could use one product or the other.  I like the nursery fabric because it gives me an instant square and straight lines to follow. I laid out the fabric and set out a few landscape timbers so that I could get a mental image of the overall design for the finished product.

We start the herb garden project with a large piece of nursery ground covering and a whole lot of pondering.

We start the herb garden project with a large piece of nursery ground covering and a whole lot of pondering.

I surmised that a well-designed, raised herb garden would be easily tended from all sides and that the gardener would not have to step inside the beds. I settled for a U shape design, two timbers high. I’ve been working with landscape timbers for years and I learned that cutting pieces with a 22 ½ degree setting on a good miter saw is a good way to add class and character to the project. A pick up truck tailgate makes a rather good saw horse.

A miter saw makes precision cuts an easy process.

A miter saw makes precision cuts an easy process.

I lay out the overall design for the timber work,  experimenting with different cuts. When I get the basic lay out right, I can use each piece for a pattern and quickly cut all of the pieces I need without having to measure over and over.

Moving things around to get "just the right shape" for the raised beds

Moving things around to get “just the right shape” for the raised beds

Down here in Georgia they don’t call the tool I am using a “drill” or a “screw-driver”, they call it a “De Walt.” In sort of the same way, people will refer to a Pepsi Cola as a “Coke”—as in, “If you ain’t got a real coke, a Pepsi coke will be ok.” But back to the project: there are several kinds of self-threading screws that may be used for a timber project. Special screws are made for treated lumber and you should be sure that you get the right kind.

Three and a half inch deck screws are used to fit and fasten the pieces

Three and a half inch deck screws are used to fit and fasten the pieces

After the timbers are in place and screwed together, I like to go around the project and tap a piece here or move a piece there to make sure that all is lined up properly. After small adjustments we use screws to fasten the top to the bottom. Note the white pipe at the left rear of the project. This is for drainage at the lowest level. We don’t want any puddles, do we?

Adjusting and getting everything just right before adding the compost

Adjusting and getting everything just right before adding the compost

And here is the finished garden. We used my magic compost mix to fill the beds and then raked in cypress mulch for the walkway and edges.  Joel can do a much better job of planting and maintaining it than I can so I’ll leave that to him.

The completed bed for the herb garden with compost and cypress mulch. Ready to plant

The completed bed for the herb garden with compost and cypress mulch. Ready to plant

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the Plant Man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure. Check it out, buy a copy, and tell ALL your friends about it.

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D’Ann’s Garden—Raised beds with brick borders to grow perennials

My friend D’Ann loves gardening. She is good at it too, and she doesn’t mind getting a little dirt under her fingernails. I had built some raised beds for her back yard a few years ago and was impressed with the way in which she planted them and kept them up. Her front yard needed help, though.

Before--D'Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

Before–D’Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

When D’Ann asked me to build some distinctive yet workable planting beds in her front yard I knew that I would have to be rather particular and produce something that looked right and that would give her a base for growing some healthy and vigorous perennials. I started a drawing and things just didn’t work out that way, so we removed and saved the collection of plants and I took a roll of twine, some stakes, and my paint gun to do a careful layout. ( I love using orange marking paint on a layout)

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

I think raised compost beds with brick borders are really classy but the big thing about these beds is that they really work. I also like the look and workability of brick borders and pea gravel pathways so that’s where I was going. (By the way, if you go to buy bricks for something like this, ask for ‘pavers’ because they don’t have holes in them). I had spent a lot of time getting the twine in just the right place and that helped the job to get off to a good start.

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Mike Hutchins produces certified compost up in Menlo, Georgia and he brings it to me in ten cubic yard loads. I stockpile it at my stockpiling place and then haul it to the job with a pickup truck. Sometimes we can dump a load on the job but in an uptown city yard like this one I don’t want the clean up job that would go with that. We wheelbarrow the compost into the beds and rake it out carefully. When the job is finished the compost and pea gravel will team up to hold the bricks firmly in place.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

To get ready for the gravel walkways, I used a flat shovel to turn the existing walkway into an efficient border.

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

We raked out the compost, spread pine straw for mulch, and raked all of the trash out of the walkway beds before moving in the pea gravel. This was a job performed carefully with a wheelbarrow and a rake.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Here’s a picture of the finished beds ready to plant.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

As the planting proceeds the plan is to put climbing roses on portions of he fence and to use such perennials as lantanas, daisies, yarrow, and others for accents. Lots of bulbs, from daffodils to amaryllis and a few paint strokes of annual flowers will keep things interesting. And remember, there will be no grass to cut in this front yard.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the plant man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure.

A nice landscape garden and dealing with the stump from a large uprooted tree

A garden visit and Dealing with a stump from a blown over tree  “Oh, My God, the wind is doing something weird. The trees are dancing through the sky, There comes a tree top into the middle of the back yard. This is scary!!!” It was April 27, 2011, a little after eight in the morning. I was at my office and Dekie had just called me. A tornado had gone through the Summerville Park subdivision in the middle of our conversation.  The winds went away quickly, though, leaving quite a number of the stately trees on and around Oakwood  Street down in yards, across the road, and on top of houses. Fortunately, no one was injured. By the time I could get there to look at it, the streets were blocked with trees and workers with chain saws.  Ken Nance lives in a beautiful house across the street and down a bit from our house. He called me a few days after the basic rubble had been cleaned up. My brother and I had both done some work for Ken about twenty years ago and he wanted me to look at a stump that was left in his yard after the winds. The tree had been laid neatly out across the road, missing Ken’s house and a decorative fence. When the tree was cut away from the stump it almost righted itself but was left partly out of the ground. There was a big air pocket full of water and old roots beneath it. The question was “how to handle it”

dealing with the stump from an uprooted tree presents problems

dealing with the stump from an uprooted tree presents problems

I looked at the stump and thought about it. It seemed that no matter what we did, there would still be a problem with the area under the stump. Grinding it would leave us with a lot of wood chips and we would still have a hole under it. If we left the base of the stump, we would still have a problem with the water and a big air pocket. Anything we did on top would slowly sink, too, as the wood rotted underneath. I had to think about it. I was very busy with spring plantings and getting ready for a wedding to be followed by a two week trip. I told Ken to be patient and that we would fix the problem in June.  I got back from my trip and started on a hectic schedule trying to take care of neglected customers. Every day, though, I had a small stress attack as I drove by Ken’s house and looked at that sideways stump. Finally, it hit me. “I’ll have to call Lee,” I told myself. I was lucky, too, in that I ran into Lee Bagley, owner of Maloney’s Tree Service, in the Home Depot parking lot. We made a plan for Monday, June 27. I left the conversation grinning. My assignment was to move all of the nice plants out of an area that was ten to twelve feet from the stump. I called Mike Hutchins and scheduled a delivery of a load of compost for 1:30 that same afternoon. It was a tight schedule, but I wanted to make a show.

digging up good plants to save them for the replanting after stump removal

digging up good plants to save them for the replanting after stump removal

We showed up on Monday morning and started digging plants. There as a number of nice nandinas among other plants. We dug a good root ball and set the plants to the side to be used after we took care of the stump. I told Ken that the tree service would show up between 11:30 and 12.             Ken asked, “Will he bring his machine?             I said, “Yes, he will.”             “A large stump grinder?”             “No. You’ll see.” And right on time, Lee showed up with his machine. I could see Ken’s face light up. Lee backed in the driveway and Lee proceeded to unload a digger that was equipped with rubber tracks.

A cost effective way to take care of a stump from a blown over tree

A cost effective way to take care of a stump from a blown over tree

All of the plants had been removed and the site was prepared for the stump to be dealt with.

plants have been moved out for a problem free stump dig

plants have been moved out for a problem free stump dig

Lee operated the back hoe with skill and confidence. He began by wiggling the tree back and forth to break loose any tenuous roots. I was reminded of a dentist pulling a tooth.

Lee Bagley, owner, Maloney's Tree Service, Rome, Ga.

Lee Bagley, owner, Maloney’s Tree Service, Rome, Ga.

Lee carefully explored the area all around the trunk, gently cutting and digging. Several times he put so much pressure on the dig that the entire machine looked like it would tip over. I wondered if the idea would work.

wiggling the stump kind of like a dentist works on pulling a tooth.

wiggling the stump kind of like a dentist works on pulling a tooth.

After a while the stump came out of the ground. Lee’s helper was standing there with a chain, but we didn’t think the machine would lift it. I wondered what would happen next.

pulling out a stump from a blown over tree

pulling out a stump from a blown over tree

And then Lee pulled one of the slickest moves I’ve ever seen. He used the back hoe shovel to pull the stump over to the top of the blade which had been lowered to the driveway. Next, holding the stump firmly against the blade, he raised the blade and the stump came up off the ground.

A slick move. A good tree man understands leverage

A slick move. A good tree man understands leverage

  Everybody grinned. The stump pulled the backs of the treads off the drive now and then as Lee slowly moved the stump toward his trailer. Watching the back hoe move up the trailer was tense, too, as the back treads wiggled off the ground and the entire machine was perched precariously on the ramps. I looked at Ken and said, “Tight, ain’t it?”

Headed for the city compost pile

Headed for the city compost pile

Lee drove off to take the stump to the city compost area. We cleaned all of the left over roots out of the gaping hole and had time for a short lunch break before the next delivery.  At exactly 1:30, just as scheduled, Mike Hutchins showed up with a ten cubic yard load of his wonderful compost. I don’t think I could run my business without this stuff.

Mike Hutchins brings me the finest compost I've ever found. This stuff will grow anything.

Mike Hutchins brings me the finest compost I’ve ever found. This stuff will grow anything.

In between the stump removal and the compost, we decided that we needed to run a pipe out from the downspout so that was hooked up before we started finishing the contour of the bed. We planned to make a mound of the compost to compensate for any future settling. We packed it firmly as we put it in the hole and on the surrounding garden area.

Spreading compost and building a mound. Note drain pipe from downspout

Spreading compost and building a mound. Note drain pipe from downspout

One spot in the undamaged part of the garden was crying for flowers, so we use some left over compost to create a raised bed.

flower bed preparation with mounded compost

flower bed preparation with mounded compost

The next day, Mary worked with me on the plant layout. She loves the nandinas for their ease of maintenance as well as for the free and open multi colored leaves and the berries in winter. We moved some azaleas and other plants around to create a natural looking “woods floor” motif. We used a palmatum Japanese maple for height and accent pretty close to where the stump had been. For the “forest floor we use plum yew (cephalotaxus), lenten roses (helleborus), and lily of the valley. I also found one plant of Solomon’s seal for the back entrance. This garden will show off every day of the year. I made Ken one of my WONDERFUL SPRINKLERS He loved it and asked me to build another one. I showed up a few days later and got this picture of Ken and Mary admiring their new garden

Ken and Mary Nance admire their redesigned garden. The ugly stump is history

Ken and Mary Nance admire their redesigned garden. The ugly stump is history

I stood back and took a picture of the finished garden

A beautiful new garden instead of a tree stump. Fair exchange?

A beautiful new garden instead of a tree stump. Fair exchange?

I decided that I needed to take a short walk to the Nance’s delightful back yard. I entered through the neat arbor that my brother TOM SCHULZ, ARTIST had built a number of years ago. I really like the meditation bench that he worked in to the left side.

A beautiful entry arbor. Note the meditation bench to the left

A beautiful entry arbor. Note the meditation bench to the left

I admired the comfortable looking series of walkways and sitting areas.  The entire area brought a feeling of peace and relaxation. I enjoyed looking at Mary’s sculptured container plantings. The facade of the old garage with ivy on it really makes a good backdrop.

Peace and serenity abound in this beautiful and relaxing back yard garden

Peace and serenity abound in this beautiful and relaxing back yard garden

Ken and Mary enjoy their garden, their morning coffee, and a bit of a reading break in the garden. Ken has just started Mike Ragland’s new book, Bertha

Mary and Kenneth Nance enjoy a morning cup of coffee in their lovely back yard garden.

Mary and Kenneth Nance enjoy a morning cup of coffee in their lovely back yard garden.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what? ******

Planting a flower bed with leftovers, or, “Happy wife, happy life”

Planting a flower bed with leftovers, or, “Happy wife, happy life”

 She said, “I want my yard to look like a landscaper lives here.”

I replied, “It does look like a landscaper lives here. Remember the cobbler’s shoes.”

 I plant a lot of flowers every spring.  Actually, I plant a lot of truckloads of flowers every spring.  This year was rather hectic because I had to plant flowers for all of my clients before our May 14 wedding which was followed by a two week honeymoon trip. When you consider the fact that I can’t really start planting until April 15, it looks like an impossible task.  I did it, though-mostly. Before leaving for two weeks, I placed all of my leftover plants in what I call my “hospital” and left instructions with my neighbor, Marilyn, to keep them watered.

 There is a flower bed in Dekie’s back yard that is in just the right place, separating the patio area from the rest of the yard. It was ugly, though, and grown over with all manner of iris, daylilies, poison ivy, and all manner of other stuff, including one calla lily plant which is a treasure. We dug out everything but the calla lily and mounded up lots of compost that I get from Mike Hutchins in Menlo, Ga. It looked like this:

Re working a flower bed with compost and an eclectic mixed border

Re working a flower bed with compost and an eclectic mixed border

The house was probably built during the late 1920s or 30s and has obviously been inhabited by numerous gardeners. Dekie said that when she moved in, she found rocks and bricks everywhere she looked or tried to dig. We decided that we would keep the tradition of the yard and use bricks and rocks that she had found for the borders. I had packed the back of the mini van with flowers and it looked like this:

Leftover plants in the white Dodge mini van

Leftover plants in the white Dodge mini van

I use the mounded compost for almost every flower bed installation.  It is quick, easy, and it “really, really works.” There’s just something about growing in a raised bed that I like. After the compost is piled up, the earthworms go to work, tilling the good dirt way down into the existing ground. I tell people they can stick pencils in this stuff and grow erasers. It is wonderful.

A flower bed prepared with a mound of compost

A flower bed prepared with a mound of compost

Dekie and Speck, the coon dog checked out all of the plants as they were unloaded. Speck had a wonderful time sniffing the fertilizer.

Dekie and the coon dog check out the flowers and fertilizer

Dekie and the coon dog check out the flowers and fertilizer

Around the end of June, it is sometimes hard to find the material that you want for a flower bed. I was rather fortunate the day before to have a client complain that the dragon wing begonias in her window boxes were getting too big, so I took them out and replaced them with smaller plants.  I had cut the tops out of the dragon wings and they were ready to go into the bed for the background. I love dragon wing begonias. They are, in my opinion, one of the finest flowering plants to come along in a long time.

Dragon wing begonia pruned and ready to plant

Dragon wing begonia pruned and ready to plant

Since the plants had been sitting around for well over a month, they had grown sort of tall and leggy. Dekie took on the careful task of pruning each plant so that it could branch out and strut its stuff.

Prune the leggy plants before planting even if it means losing a few flowers. You will be rewarded with many more.

Prune the leggy plants before planting even if it means losing a few flowers. You will be rewarded with many more.

When we cleaned out the bed, we were very careful to avoid disturbing the calla lily.  My mother taught me about callas and they are one of my favorite plants.

I love the way calla lilies grow and form clumps

I love the way calla lilies grow and form clumps

We laid the dragon wing begonias out and tried to be very particular because they grow rapidly and become rather large. They will make a wonderful background for the bed.

I like to lay out the background first. Dragon wing begonias will do fine.

I like to lay out the background first. Dragon wing begonias will do fine.

I had saved a few plants of white and purple angelonia.  We thought that they would go well between the dragon wings and the fibrous rooted begonias. This will make a terraced effect that is so nice to have. Since the plants had been in their containers for so long, we had to break up the roots so they will spread.

Break up the root balls to provide for better root development and, therefore, better plants.

Break up the root balls to provide for better root development and, therefore, better plants.

We set up an assembly line. I would dig the holes (which ain’t much trouble in that wonderful compost), Dekie would then drop in the time release fertilizer, and I would finish the planting. We were finished in very little time.

I always use time release fertilizer when planting

I always use time release fertilizer when planting

The planting was finished and my sweet wife was grinning. I will probably go back and mulch the bed with either cypress chips or pine straw, whichever gets left over first.

The flowers are planted. My new father in law said, "Happy wife, Happy life" I'm listening

The flowers are planted. My new father in law said, “Happy wife, Happy life” I’m listening

 It was time to clean up the pots for recycling and then to water the plants in. I planned to use my syphonex (which is a wonderful way to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose), but I thought this may just be a job for Sunday. I like to use liquid fertilizer along with the time release to “fine tune” the plants. I think I will introduce you to the syphonex next week. It is one of the best gardening tools I know of.

The syphonex is the best, easiest, and most accurate way I've found to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose.

The syphonex is the best, easiest, and most accurate way I’ve found to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose.

We set up the wonderful flower bed sprinkler. It is built out of pvc pipe with rain bird irrigation nozzles. If you want one, you can read about how to build it here

a handy home made sprinkler with pvc pipe and rain bird irrigation nozzles from Home Depot.

a handy home made sprinkler with pvc pipe and rain bird irrigation nozzles from Home Depot.

I’m learning about this married life. I liked the flower bed all right, but more than that, I really liked the smile on Sweetie’s face as she said, “Well, that’s a start”

********

You may also wish to check my article which tells about what happens when you prune a plant. See “The basics of pruning”

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Bubba’s 2010 Christmas letter

Bubba’s 2010 Christmas Letter.

My friend Bubba wrote another Christmas letter and he asked me to include it in the johntheplantman blog so everybody could see it.  Heeeeere’s Bubba:

 Hey, this here’s Bubba writing.

Well here it is and it’s been another year done gone by and it’s Christmas again.  It’s been a really good year but it’s been hard on a lot of people who done lost their job. Now Bev—she’s my wife, but you probly know that—Bev cleans up offices at night for some lawyers and she’s been ok with her job.  She told me that most of her customers were “bankrupt” lawyers and they was doing fine so she don’t have to worry about no job.

 But for me, I got laid off at the carpet mill last January.  They gave me two weeks pay and told me I was the best hyster driver they ever had but their wasn’t nothing there to hyst no more.  (In case you don’t know, some people call a hyster a fork lift.).

I weren’t too worried until I found out that none of the other factories had anything to hyst neither.  My friends told me to sign up for unemployment, but I ain’t never took something for nothing, so I didn’t go.  I decided to go out to the shop and organize my tools and be a mechanic.

 And that’s when I figgered out that when I used to be a pretty good mechanic was when I was really good at adjusting carburetors.  The first car that came in woke me up to that.  I looked under the hood and realized that there ain’t no more carburetors. Well, I knew where one mechanikin’ job that I could do and so I went out and got my John Deere tractor out from the shed and got it running.  It’s a good one, too.  It’s got a front end loader on it and all kind of stuff and power steering.  It warn’t long till I had it running like a top.  That was when I decided that a tractor warn’t much different from a hyster and so I got to be a tractor driver.

 I did a little tractor work in people’s yards, but I warn’t making much money and then this guy that raises chickens ast me if I could clean out his chicken houses when they were empty.  I done traded around and swapped my old pick up truck for a 1978 dump truck and I taken the John Deere over to the chicken houses and scraped out one of them chicken houses.  It was full of chicken do do and wood shavings.  I loaded the truck and ast the man where to dump it.  He kind of looked at me funny and said, “Well, Bubba, that there’s your problem.”

 I didn’t worry none, though, ‘cause I got 4 acres behind the double wide and so I taken the stuff and dumped it out back.  Bev and the neighbors complained a bit about the smell but it went away pretty fast.  And, my business grew and I had all these people paying me to clean out chicken houses and haul off all that stuff. 

 Well, the next thing I knew was that this here cotton gin business over in Alabama wanted me to clean up the cotton seed waste that was piled up all over about 3 acres.  So I done started hauling that and then I had a problem.  I went to see my friend John the Plant Man and told him about the problem.  I said, “John, I ain’t got enough land to put all this stuff.”  He thought about it and said, “mix it together and pile it up.”

So, I did and the smell went away and it got hot and John told me to turn it over and I did and it cooled off and then John said, “This here stuff now has a new name.  It is called ‘compost”.  And so now I am in the compost business. People pay me to haul it off and John got me some customers and now other people pay me to deliver it to them.  And it’s good stuff, too.  We even had to add in wood chips from the tree man to make it not be so powerful.

 Here is a picture of my garden.  I built it up with cross ties and filled it in with compost and planted lots of stuff last spring. 

 

Here's part of my garden growing in that there compost.

Here’s part of my garden growing in that there compost.

 

 

 And here’s a picture of all the stuff that Bev has put up in mason jars.  Since we ain’t got much money this year, we are going to wrap up jars of food and give presents to everybody we know. Some of our friends still ain’t got jobs.

 

Here's some of what Bev put up in Mason jars

Here’s some of what Bev put up in Mason jars

 

 

 And, I got my house all decorated for Christmas, too.  The kids love it.

 It has been a very good year. The only thing is we lost our health insurance that I had with the carpet mill.  The kids are ok because the state has a program for them, but I don’t know what me and Bev are gonna do if we get sick.  I’m gonna figure that out next year.

 Anyhow, I’m thankful that I learnt all about chicken manure.

Here’s a picture my friend John gave me of a flower bed he is making with my compost. John said if you want me to bring you some of this compost email him here

 

This here's my beautiful compost

This here’s my beautiful compost

 

 

 Merry Christmas

Bubba

You may wish to read Bubba’s Christmas letter from last year.  Click here

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Will Goldin’s Eagle Scout landscaping project. People helping people.

People helping people on many levels—an Eagle Scout community service landscaping project

Will Goldin is a very nice, intelligent, and rather reserved young man who asked me for some advice on his Eagle Scout project a few months ago. I have always liked the fact that the Boy Scout program requires a community service project from those who wish to attain this distinguished achievement.  After some exploration, Will talked with Bill Davies who is probably the greatest advocate for the homeless in the Rome, Ga. area.  Bill has been working on a warehouse to be used for the distribution of food to the homeless and needy.  Will asked if he could do the landscaping in front of the building and Bill Davies was delighted.  The project commenced.  Here is the ‘before’ picture:

Before picture--Will Goldin's Eagle project.

Before picture–Will Goldin’s Eagle project.

I had given Will an architect scale, some graph paper, and a few directions.  He did some research and came up with a scaled landscape drawing and proposal which he presented to Bill Davies at the site.  An agreement was made.  Will decided to use Knockout roses for color, crape myrtle for a tall accent as well as for shade over a sitting bench, and to fill in with ‘firepower’ dwarf nandinas.  A border of liriope (we call it ‘monkey grass’) would act as a picture frame for the landscaped area.  The plant selections were made on the basis of hardiness, low maintenance, and the desire for an abundance of color.  Will chose ‘Muscogee’ crape myrtles because he really liked the lavender color.

We sprayed and killed all of the grassy weeds two weeks before the planned installation date.

Will and Bill Davies discuss the project

Will and Bill Davies discuss the project

Will solicited donations for the cost of the project, made arrangements for the purchase and delivery of all materials, and enlisted other boy scouts for help with the installation. That’s not bad for a 15 year old.  On Saturday morning, September 18, the boys showed up at 8 a.m. to work on the project.  They were greeted by a huge pile of compost that had been delivered the day before.

A pile of compost greeted the workers

A pile of compost greeted the workers

People helping people—Will had made arrangements with a family friend to ‘thin out’ a massive planting of liriope.  The scouts dug a trench around the perimeter of the area to be used for planting the liriope border.  Other scouts teamed up to clean the area along the curb and to spread out the compost for the garden bed.  It started taking shape

Raked out compost and planted liriope border

Raked out compost and planted liriope border

I think Bill Davies was as excited as anyone on the project.  At least he was excited enough to pick up a shovel.

A happy Bill Davies

A happy Bill Davies

After spreading the compost, cleaning the curb, and planting the liriope, it was time to slow down and set the containerized plants exactly where Will wanted them.  This involved discussion as well as careful measurement and deliberate placement.

Plants laid out and ready for installation

Plants laid out and ready for installation

The plants were carefully installed.  The scouts were sure to break up the root balls and to install the plants at the proper depth.  A ‘collar’ for water retention was built around each of the plants and they were individually watered.

building a "water collar" around the plants

building a “water collar” around the plants

Everyone enjoyed a gourmet lunch of Domino’s Pizza and Zaxby’s chicken fingers which were washed down with copious amounts of Coca cola.  I was able to get this picture of some of the scouts just before they began putting down the mulch to finish the planting.  Pictured, right to left, are Will Goldin, John Goldin, Steven Dean, Sam Megginson, and an excited and fun loving Bill Davies.  Not pictured were Nicholas Burgess and the indomitable Travis Miller.  Travis helped to clean up the curb and moved out14 wheelbarrow loads of weeds, dirt, and trash.  What a guy!

The landscaping crew: Will Golden, John Goldin, Steven Dean, Sam Megginson.  Not pictured, Nicholas Burgess and Travis Miller

The landscaping crew: Will Golden, John Goldin, Steven Dean, Sam Megginson. Not pictured, Nicholas Burgess and Travis Miller

A very nice sitting bench was installed so that it will eventually be shaded by the crape myrtle.  The legs were drilled and anchors added to be set in cement.  Here’s a picture of Steven finishing up that project.

Steven trowels in the cement around the garden bench

Steven trowels in the cement around the garden bench

A soaker hose was installed for watering, cypress mulch was spread for looks, erosion control, and water retention.  Pieces of flagstone were set carefully to the front of the garden bench.

Flagstone in front of the garden bench

Flagstone in front of the garden bench

People helping people.  Bill Davies took me on a tour of the inside of the warehouse.  He said that all renovations, including doors, walls, and electricity had been performed by volunteers.  Everything was neat and clean and polished.  I was really impressed.  The most impressive part of the tour, however, was the large collection of food items.

Stacks of canned food waiting for distribution

Stacks of canned food waiting for distribution

Bill told me that all of this was surplus food and was bought for 16 cents per pound from a warehouse in Atlanta.  The food is delivered to this warehouse and is then distributed.  I asked,

“Bill, who gets the food?”

He replied, “Anyone who needs it”

“Where do you get the money to buy it?”

He replied, “We are fortunate to have donations from several areas of the community.”

I walked around and saw a tremendous pile of canned goods

For I was hungry, and ye gave me food: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

For I was hungry, and ye gave me food: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

And, then, in another room were bags and bags of groceries ready to go to needy recipients.  You know? It just really made me feel good.

People helping people—I had spent a nice morning with an Eagle Scout candidate who was being helped by other scouts and all of that was going to help an organization that is dedicated to helping other people with the necessities of life.  I really felt honored and humble to have been a part of this chain.  Look at these bags of goodies:

I asked, "who gets the food?" And he answered, "Whoever needs it."

I asked, “who gets the food?” And he answered, “Whoever needs it.”

The property and warehouse belong to Davis Shelters and is leased by Rome Action Ministry.  The ministry has planned “Jesus in the Park” which will be held at Ridge Ferry Park in Rome, Georgia on Sunday, September 26, 2010.  There will be food goods available for all who need them.

Here is Will Goldin’s finished project.

Will Goldin's finished project.  Congratulations, Will!

Will Goldin’s finished project. Congratulations, Will!

To use a phrase from my friend Bubba:

“I bet they was all grinnin’ and wore out.”

I would like to thank Will Goldin, his mother, Nancy, and father, George for allowing me to share a wonderful experience.

People helping people.  People caring.  I was proud to be a part of this project and I am proud of Will Goldin for putting it together. I was proud of Will’s friends and family who helped. I was honored to get to know Bill Davies a bit and I am proud of a community of people who will support projects such as William S. Davies Shelters and Rome Action Ministries.  My thanks to everyone.

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Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard?Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

 

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A grand weeping cherry…and preparing flower beds

Going to see the grandpa weeping cherry …preparing some flower beds

First, the tree:

There’s a big, old weeping cherry tree on top of Mt. Alto.  I’ve been trimming on it and feeding it for over 20 years, and it was big when I got there.  I figured it was time for it to be in bloom so I took my camera and my lady to go check it out.  As we wound our way up the driveway, the tree dominated the top of the hill. I really couldn’t get a picture to do it justice.

A grand old weeping cherry.  The owners refer to it as "THE tree"

A grand old weeping cherry. The owners refer to it as “THE tree”

I think that my favorite view of the tree (either with blooms, with leaves, or bare) is from the top of the upper terrace.  It’s like looking through the top of a living sculpture into the valley below. This tree is on its own roots—not a graft—and it’s the biggest weeping cherry I have ever seen.

Looking through the tree into the valley below is a treat.

Looking through the tree into the valley below is a treat.

I walked around to look at everything and stopped to admire the Lenten roses which framed the shady flagstone walkway.

I love the lenten roses.  They brighten up a shady corner for Easter.

I love the lenten roses. They brighten up a shady corner for Easter.

I enjoyed seeing the bonsai tree sitting on the table creating a concept of a “mountain on a mountain”– macrocosm vs. microcosm.

The bonsai is in a hand made "hypertuffa" concrete dish.

The bonsai is in a hand made “hypertuffa” concrete dish.

We’ll probably have to make another trip in a week or so.  The flower buds on the magnificent old wisteria are getting ready to show off big time.

The wisteria will be covered with beautiful blue flowers soon.

The wisteria will be covered with beautiful blue flowers soon.

It’s funny, but for a long time this wisteria wouldn’t bloom.  Some old people told me to hit it with a sledge hammer.  I didn’t do that, but we pruned it quite a bit this past year.  Maybe that’s why it’s going to bloom so heavily.

I turned and noticed a stem of cherry blossoms hanging over Dekie’s head just asking for this picture. It was a delightful trip to the mountain top.

Walking through the cherry tree blooms.

Walking through the cherry tree blooms.

And on to prepare flower beds at another site:

A well thought out garden needs a touch of johntheplantman

A well thought out garden needs a touch of johntheplantman

On the other side of the county from the weeping cherry is a wonderful, secluded yard on the river.  The overall landscape has been well thought out and nestled appropriately into the environment.  But the flower beds have not been performing well.  After digging around a bit, I figured that flowers just weren’t ever going to be happy in unprepared clay.

On the upper gardens, we piled and shaped compost to form a mounded flower bed from the entrance of the yard down the steps to the lower level and the lake.  There is just something about a truckload of compost that I love.  The flowers will perform well the first year in this medium and the earth worms will churn the compost and mix it in with the clay, causing the bed to get better and better.

I tell people you can stick a pencil in this soil and grow erasers.

I tell people you can stick a pencil in this soil and grow erasers.

For the lower rock gardens, we carefully removed the plants-or what was left of them- and dug out the existing dirt about 8 inches deep.

Sometimes it is best to just get rid of the old dirt and start over.  We will pile it high with good stuff.

Sometimes it is best to just get rid of the old dirt and start over. We will pile it high with good stuff.

We pulled back the pine straw, replaced the dirt, and then put the straw back.  It looked a lot better even without the plants.

Rock garden ready for planting in a week or two.

Rock garden ready for planting in a week or two.

In a few days, according to the weather, we will return to the site and plant it with hostas, ferns, impatiens, and a number of perennial plants.  I love me some compost.  This mix is produced by Fineview Soils in Menlo, Ga.  Mike mixes cottonseed waste, manure, and other organics, turning it until it “cures”.  Before delivery, he has to add wood chips to keep the mix from being too rich.  It is wonderful. I will go back and take photos for this blog in a couple of months to show just how well this method of bed preparation works.

The benefits of my job as a “landscape artist” include meeting and getting to know some wonderful people who are talented in their own areas.  This time, I was able to tour the pottery studio operated by Julie Windler.  She makes beautiful and distinctive pottery and really loves her work.  You may wish to visit her website at The Riverside Potter

Julie Windler, The Riverside Potter. Look closely and you will see a picture of her from sometime back. (Woodstock days?)

Julie Windler, The Riverside Potter. Look closely and you will see a picture of her from sometime back. (Woodstock days?)

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man here:

For the ebook edition: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

Raised beds for a vegetable garden

Building a raised vegetable garden

I have a jar of peppers on my table that makes my eyes water even though I haven’t opened it yet. I’m going to tell you about raised vegetable gardening and a wonderful project on Maple Street. You’ll find out about the peppers at the end of the article.

A packed turnip patch in a raised bed –almost ready to harvest.

We are coming up on the perfect time of the year to get your vegetable garden ready for next spring.  Over the years of building gardens for myself and others, I have found that the very best way to grow things is in raised beds.  My feelings were reinforced this past spring when we helped the Three Rivers Garden Club build a vegetable garden for one of the Boys and Girls clubs in Rome, Georgia. You may use these tips for your own garden.

In my opinion, raised beds are the only way to go for a vegetable garden.  There is no need for a tiller, maintenance is relatively easy, and the results are amazing.  Raised beds give you all of this and no mud

I was first asked by the garden club to donate a design for the garden.  After a bit of thought, I drew out a design that consisted of a series of raised beds with gravel walkways that would offer not only a growing system but also a walk-through “meditation garden.”  After designing the garden I was, of course, asked to build it.  I was amazed at the results.

We decided to use treated landscape timbers for the frames.  These timbers are easy to work with, and if you use the right techniques it will look really, really good.

Cutting all angles of the timber with a miter saw to a 22-1/2 degree angle keeps you from having ugly square corners

The first step was to cut 22-1/2 degree angles with an electric miter saw and lay out a pattern for the beds.  The pattern was laid out to check for accuracy.  Notice the corners of the frame-a 2 ft mitered joint gives the impression of roundness.

checking for shape and accuracy

The prototype is laid out. After this comes pre fabricating all of the parts. The grass and weeds have been sprayed with weed killer.

After getting the prototype cut and adjusted to exactly what we were looking for, we prefabricated the rest of the frames, cutting all of the parts to exact dimensions so that the beds would all be the same.  A few beds are smaller to fit the design, but the corners are the same.

The corners are put together in place with the use of an electric drill and “Deck Mate” screws.  This is the easiest and most effective way of putting them together.  We checked to make sure that the frames were level and square.

Putting it together with screws

We put the joints of the timbers together with “Deck Mate” screws using an electric drill

I am fortunate to have found Mike Hutchins from Menlo, Georgia, who makes compost from manure, cottonseed waste, and wood chips. In the picture below the beds have been constructed, filled with compost, and the gravel walkways are under construction.  Note that the pea gravel is being installed to the top of the bottom timber.

Installing gravel walkways

The garden should always be designed to accomodate a wheel barrow

On June 15, the garden was ready to plant. The compost had been raked out and topped with a mulch of cypress chips.

Raised bed ready to plant with walkways and cypress chips

Raised bed ready to plant showing walkways and cypress chips. Note the absence of mud and weeds.

Planting the garden was fun.  We were on a fine time line with this one as it wasn’t finished until June 14, and we had decided that the latest date for planting the summer garden was June 15. Right on schedule, on June 15, Bud Sims came to show the boys and girls how to plant.  They planted tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and other summer garden plants.  A drip irrigation system was installed to allow watering from the soil level and to provide good water conservation.

We bring in my friend Bud Sims for gardening instruction

Bud is a character in “Requiem for a Redneck” and also a wonderful gardener and teacher. He shows the kids what to do as a Rome News photographer records it.

The plants grew rapidly, and here’s what we had a month later on July 15.

One month after planting it is almost time to harvest.

July 15–Organically grown vegetables performing well. This picture is one month after planting

When we started the garden for the Boys and Girls club, I had my doubts as to the effectiveness of the project, but my doubts were proven to be groundless.  In August, I talked with Carrie Edge, the director of the B&G club.  Carrie told me that the kids would go out in groups each morning and each afternoon to harvest.  She showed me boxes and baskets of tomatoes, peppers, and other produce from the garden.

Carrie told me that the garden provided a snack for close to 200 kids every day and that many days the kids had a handful of goodies to take home.  Parents and staff members started noticing the snacks and would bring freshly baked bread or a roast of beef to supplement the meals.  The entire community became involved. The results of my talk with Mrs. Edge made me choke up a bit.  It reminded me of the fable, “Stone Soup” which deals with sharing and has always been one of my favorites.

For the winter garden, the children cleaned out the frost damaged vegetable plants and planted onion, collard and cabbage plants.  Then they planted seed for radishes, turnips, and other greens.

Turnips ready for winter and fall harvest

And now we have a “winter garden” with turnips, onions, cabbage, and collards

All of that brings me to the jar of peppers. The garden club ladies were involved with the project and helped the children preserve part of their produce.  I was presented with a mason jar of pickled peppers that was beautiful, moving, and touching.  Every time I look at it, I get tears in my eyes.

My jar of peppers looks like one of these.  These were entered in the fair exhibitions and won several ribbons.  All done by the children at the Boys and Girls club.  What a learning experience this has been!!

My jar of peppers looks like one of these. These were entered in the fair exhibitions and won several ribbons. All done by the children at the Boys and Girls club. What a learning experience this has been!!

You may not want your personal garden to be quite as large as the one we built, but the principle is a good one.  If you don’t have someone to furnish you with compost as I did, you may make your own by using screened topsoil, peat moss, ground bark, home compost, and such.  If you use a lot of organic material, be sure to add lime. I will write more about composting in an upcoming article.  I love compost.

You can read more from John the plant man in the hilarious and sensitive book REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK. Now available on Kindle.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

p.s.  When we were planting for summer, I asked one of the kids if she had ever planted anything before. She replied, “No, we live in an apartment and there ain’t no dirt around nowhere.”

Happy gardening

John Schulz.

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