Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My backyard and building a wine barrel garden!

This post is going to be picture heavy because it's a lot easier to post a bunch of pictures!

A few months ago my side yard looked like this:

There were a lot of tarps up because we discovered this winter that the french drain was no longer working and anytime there was a downpour my apartment would flood. This first started a week or so before Thanksgiving and happened about 4 more times. The last time was the worst though because we had removed the tarps and started to clear out the yard and we had a big thunder/lightening storm and downpour. We never get thunder and lightening so it was exciting! Well, everything except the water filling up in my window-well and then draining into my bedroom!

My room is wool carpeting and I do have a dehumidifier, however this past time I think may have been too much water and I need to talk to my landlord about the musty smell. I think we need to replace some carpet padding and shampoo the carpets in part of my room. I have had some allergy symptoms and have been sleeping poorly, so it seems like there might be a cause for concern! Very much a bummer!

My landlord hired some people to come out and re-dig the french drain though so I was really happy about that. It was an interesting process and I took some pictures.

First they dug a huge trench:

Then they put down some plastic looking piping with holes in it and some gauze looking stuff. I really don't know what these things were. Finally they laid a bed of river rock on top.

Martha, my landlord, had gotten some really nice, fine soil delivered to put over top of the river rock but she decided not to cover it. She said that it will get better drainage this way. The side yard is a bit barren, but it looks a lot better than it did before and she is going to be planting grass seed.

A few weeks before she had the french drain done she had the same people come in and tear out the garden beds in the back yard and put in a pond. There are too many trees in the backyard and not enough light for any gardening. Martha made a really neat swing for the kids too. I think it looks really nice and I spend a lot more time in my back yard now!

I took this picture for Kim! We have a garden gnome that watches over the pond. There are some goldfish in there but I couldn't get a good picture of them. They're still tiny. I sit on this bench and eat dinner sometimes because it's tucked away in the back of the yard and peaceful.

This weekend I finally set up my garden! Back in March I found some halved wine barrels from someone off Craigslist and bought 4 of them. They were stained a very beautiful red from the wine and smelled pretty divine when I brought them home. I will admit that time got away from me and I didn't get to setting these up nearly as soon as I wanted, but it was pretty important to get the french drain stuff settled first, since those barrels weren't going anywhere once they were filled!

Over the couple months the barrels lost a bit of their color, as expected, but they are in great shape for planting. I read up a lot about wine barrel gardens and my biggest concern was the cost of all the soil. I found out that at a minimum I would need about 3 cubic feet of soil for each barrel. The most important thing for plants is good soil so I wasn't going to skimp on that expense, as I want some healthy plants. I'm not growing 100% organic, but I'll be using compost and compost tea instead of things like miracle grow.

I bought 6 bags of 2 cubic feet each worth of soil, 1 bag of cheap, 1 cu ft soil, 2 bags of pebble river rocks, a drill bit to drill bigger drainage holes, 12 bricks and a bunch of starter plants. I had a coupon to a local garden store for 20% off and managed to buy all my soil and starters for $77, which I think is pretty awesome! I got a gallon of compost tea for free from a local garden shop.

I had never used a drill before and felt like I needed to take a cool picture of me with it for proof that I did, indeed, use a power tool and didn't hurt myself!

After drilling the holes I set the barrels up on the bricks. I added the pebbles, a little bit of the cheap soil and then a lot of the good soil.

I was pretty happy once I was done because wine barrels are very heavy, about 60lbs each. The bags of soil felt heavier and I proudly lifted/transported all of them, plus the rocks myself. I'll tell you that putting together this garden wiped me out a lot more than my run on Saturday!

I planted: broccoli, swiss chard, collards, 1 yellow pear tomato plant, a slicing cucumber, yellow squash, dill, cilantro, thyme, chives, and then a barrel full of romaine, mixed greens and spinach. I have some radish and carrot seeds that I'm going to start inside and toss in between some of the spaces since they grow pretty fast. I really wanted to buy some more herbs but I was trying to be realistic on what I would use. I love rosemary but there are bushes everywhere around here. I want to get spearmint and oregano to complete that barrel and then I think I'm done.

Happy little plants! I poured the compost tea over the plants after I transplanted them and some of them grew a lot overnight! They seem to be taking well and look great.

Building the wine barrel garden was pricey and it took a lot of work, but hopefully I will have some delicious veggies in a month! The initial cost is high but maintaining this type of garden is not that expensive and it will be so nice to not have to buy nearly as much lettuce and spinach.

In other news, I've been talking to Anise quite a bit. She's been messaging me and calling during the day so it's been so nice to hear from her. I can tell she is a little lonely during the day so I'm putting together a care package to send her with some of her favorite things and a bunch of pictures of my garden and kitties. She tells me she misses me a lot and I certainly miss her too! 2 more months and I'm counting down the days!

This is me after I finished my garden! I was sweaty and very happy to be done. I was also happy because I had been invited to a co-worker/friends house for a graduation BBQ and I was able to spend time with friends and have a tasty meal. Yum. It was a good weekend!


  1. Love the shot with the drill. Your pots look great. Too bad you have to cover up their beautiful red wine-smelling insides. I've thought about getting one to put in our bed. I could prop it on its side and put my pillow in it. It's amazing how much dirt things take.

    I'm envious of your swiss chard (beets?). We might have to extend our new bed to plant some chard, or maybe some will go where our lettuce currently as we harvest it. Need to buy some seeds.

  2. Yes it is swiss chard! I am so sad too because I have 2 extra plants/starters and I have to compost them. I always feel bad composting healthy baby plants.

    It will be interesting when the plants grow bigger to see how much I can fit in that one barrel as broccoli plants, collards and chard all get pretty big!

  3. Haha. I was totally going to say that I love the drill shot but Cliff beat me to it! And oh man, you guys have a really cute gnome. I would eat dinner on that bench. It looks lovely. Keep us posted on the garden. I'm really jealous about the broccoli. That sounds like something we will need to try in the future.