My Failed Attempt at Revitalizing Our Raised Garden Beds

Do you see that large white flag being waved from our house?  That’s me, surrendering to the raised garden beds that came with the house.  After spending countless hours of pulling 10 foot weed roots with no end in sight, I’ve decided to call it quits on cleaning them up.  I wrote a post a few weeks ago how I was attempting to deal with the massive weeds in the beds.  I thought I had done a pretty good job weeding each box and solarizing it to kill any weed seeds:

Six weeks later, the beds now look like this:

Notice how the black weed-shielding fabric is puffed up in the middle?  That’s because ridiculous monster-sized weeds are growing under the fabric and a layer of newspapers.  I spent about an hour trying to re-weed this box with no end in sight.  That’s when I decided all my earlier hours spent cleaning it out were a sunk cost.  To keep going forward with these raised beds, I would constantly be battling these weeds.  We had a garden consultant stop by last week for an hour to help us i.d. some plants and figure out which plants were mature and needed to be transplanted.  She said that the weeds in the raised beds were not anywhere else in the area so it’s likely they were brought in with the original soil.

At this point, I think it might be easier to demolish these boxes and build new raised beds somewhere else in our yard.  I feel a little defeated because I spent so much time trying to clean out these beds, but I’m excited for a fresh start where I won’t be constantly battling the weed problem.  Have you ever started a project around your house or yard, and then realized it just wasn’t going to work out?

Recipe Ideas for Chives

I took a look outside this morning and noticed the inevitable first sign of spring- my chives have returned!  I by no means would say I have a green thumb, but my chives return to this container every spring.  I planted these chives by seeds about five years and every spring they pop up in the same container.  I would definitely recommend them for a novice gardener- they require virtually no care and are a very versatile ingredient that can be used in a number of dishes.

Here are some 15 recipe ideas for chives:

-Pretty much any type of egg dish- scrambled, sunny-side up, omelettes, quiche, etc.
-Baked Potatoes
-Broiled Tilapia with Mustard Chive Sauce
-Buttermilk Chive Biscuits
-Chive Goat Cheese Spread
-Corn and Zucchini Salad with Chives
-Corn, Buttermilk and Chive Popovers
-Fresh Chive Vinaigrette
-Homemade Ranch Dressing
-Lobster Nachos
-Mascarpone Chive Mashed Potatoes
-Risotto
-Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Chive Sauce
-Teriyaki Salmon- I’m planning on making this dish on Friday!
-White Bean Dip with Garlic and Chives

You can also throw the purple flowers into a simple green salad for an added burst of color (they are edible!)  What are some of your favorite uses for chives?

Dealing with Overgrown Raised Garden Beds

The weather in the Boston area (as well as most of the Northeast) has been unbelievable mild this winter.  It is still technically winter today and I am sitting here typing this in a sleeveless tank top with all the windows open.  Insane.  According to my Mac weather widget, it’s going to be 80 degrees on Thursday.  I’m not complaining a bit, but it is a bit bizarre.

With all this nice weather lately, I have spent some time gardening while baby boy naps.  When we moved to our new house last fall, we inherited three large raised garden beds in our backyard.  I was thrilled as one of our criteria in looking for a house was space in the yard to have a garden.  The only problem is that these raised beds had not been touched in years and were seriously overgrown with weeds and vines.  We were so busy with unpacking and planning baby T’s first birthday party, that we did not get a chance to tackle the raised beds last autumn.

That leads us to this spring where we have started to deal with some serious overgrowth.  The one thing that we have noticed about this area is that there are some serious vines everywhere.  These vines pretty much laugh at you when you try to pull them out of the ground.  They also have thorns everywhere which makes the removal process that much trickier.  To give you an idea, here’s what one of the boxes looked like:

Here is what all three raised beds look like together:

I’ve basically just been pulling a rake through and then throwing out the dried out weeds one plant at a time.  Some of the roots are really entrenched and are hard to pull out.  I got as much pulled out as possible and then covered each box with dampened newspapers.  I then laid out black pieces of cloth over the newspapers and staked them so they would remain secured down.

I’m not sure if it will help do anything, but I’ve read this can help kill any remaining weeds in the soil.  In a few weeks, I am going to take off the cover, do some more weeding/root removal, and lay down some more compost before I start planting.

If you have a garden, what kind of spring prep work do you do?

Silver Flower Pot Party Favors

We had T’s baptism and baptism party last weekend and I wanted to give everyone a small favor to thank them for coming.  While planning our wedding, I remember seeing people giving small pots of flowers for wedding or bridal shower favors.  I decided (with my mom’s help) to replicate this for for the baptism.

Materials:
-terra cotta pots
-small flowers
-primer
-metallic paint
-extra soil
-wooden skewers (cut in half)
-colorful paper (to print flags on)
-ribbon to tie around flower pots (optional)

My mom, T, and I headed to a gardening store and picked up some small terra cotta pots.  We also picked up some small perennials already planted in plastic containers.  We scrubbed the labels off the pots and soaked them in water to allow the air pockets in the terra cotta to saturate.  Then, we dried them off for a few hours before painting them:

Next,  we laid out newspaper in an open area and spray-painted primer on both sides of the pots:

Once the primer was dry, we brushed on silver paint to each pot:

When the silver layer of paint was dry, we then started the process of planting the flowers.  We first took broken terra cotta chips to put in the base to help with drainage.  Then, we transferred the flowers from the plastic pots and added a bit more soil on top:

I created tiny flags that read “Thank you for coming!” using PowerPoint word art.  I cut out each flag and sister C helped glue gun each flag to a small stick (1/2 of a wooden skewer).  We then stuck a flag in each flower pot:

At the baptism, I made a tiny sign telling people to take a flower on their way out and left paper bags for them to carry the pots in:

It was a fun project and brought a little bit of  early spring to the party!

-m

Roof Deck Garden

We have lived in our condo coming up on 4 years. Whenever my husband and I discuss this, we are always amazed at this number…4 years- that is the entire duration we spent in college. Needless to say, time has certainly flown by. Since we closed on our condo in September of 2006, we have had three seasons to enjoy our roof deck. The first summer, we had our wedding and since I was pretty much tied up planning that, having the wedding, and then going on our honeymoon, I did not get a chance to do much with the deck. The past two seasons, I have attempted to plant flowers and trees to make it the perfect city oasis. Something like this roof deck we went to in Madrid should suffice:

Our deck somehow never seems to turn out like this. Each year, the plants die off one by one in the harsh conditions (full sun, constant wind from the harbor), and I sadly begin to throw out each plant that I painstakingly carried up 4 flights of stairs. Two summers ago, I eagerly planted cherry tomatoes and hot peppers. Coming home from work each day, I would race up to the deck to water and admire my beautiful vegetable plants. A most perfect tomato or pepper would start growing and I would wait for it to reach the perfect size before picking it. When that day would arrive, I would go to the plant to find that the perfectly ripe tomato was gone….nowhere in sight. Because you know what birds like, perfect little morsels for food grown for them in their airspace….grrr! All I can say, is that I hope those birds got their payback when they ate my habanero peppers.

Last summer, after a particularly hot and dry August (when I happened to be at that above roof deck in Spain and not home watering my plants), even my tough as nails pine trees bit the dust. Which leads me to this summer…a summer where I don’t even have a pine tree to start with. However, I do have my chives. I planted these chives by seed about three seasons ago and they always come back to me early each spring. They are pretty much my only redeeming gardening skill.

Well, I am going to attempt it again this year. We went to the nursery this past weekend and bought some new pine trees and plants. I’ll post pictures this weekend with the results.

Do you have any urban/container gardening tips?

-m

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