Sunday, June 24, 2012

Perpetual Prairie Projects

I have not had many posts lately because I have been busy trying to complete several projects before summer really heats up. Triple digit temperatures are expected this weekend, so my time may be up.

It is not easy to see my unfinished projects in pictures like this. (And I still have not run the sprinklers since last September.) It is more obvious when you zoom out and look at the edges of my prairie.

Last October, I removed the last strip of grass in the former front yard. I added some edging along the property line to keep the neighbor's grass out. The edging is actually two inches inside the property line. That means I have a two inch wide lawn that I trim along the edging. The plan is to create a decomposed granite pathway that will connect the public sidewalk with my existing decomposed granite pathway that runs across the front of the prairie. This area of decomposed granite will also serve as a buffer zone between my prairie plants and the neighbor's use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

This part of the project grew a little bit because I needed to relay the drainage line and relocate a few sprinkler heads. The drainage work is now complete. I have not added decomposed granite yet because I am making a similar pathway on the opposite side of the prairie and want to match the color of the decomposed granite.

I have a rain garden by the sidewalk on the opposite side of the prairie. This is a low spot on the prairie where I divert rain water from two gutter downspouts. The rain garden was nondescript, so I began adding large rocks around the edge a couple of weeks ago. The rocks help define the area and add a little structure. A couple of neighbors have already commented on how much they like the rocks. I am not sure if they really like the rocks or if they like that I removed my wildlife habitat signs so I could place the rocks.

This is the side yard of the vacant house next door and the rickety fence encloses my backyard. This house has been vacant for almost two years and was finally taken over by a bank a couple of months ago. 
I will be advertising for a prairie neighbor when the house goes on the market. My dream is to get a good neighbor that will maintain the house, remove all of the invasive plants in the yard, and build a native garden.

Now that the uncooperative woman that lived there is out of the picture, I am taking the opportunity to replace my fence. I usually like to perform any work that I am capable of doing myself, but this time I am going to pay a professional to install the fence. They will do in a week what would take months (years?) to do myself. The elevation of my property is over two feet higher than my neighbor's so in preparation for the fence work, I removed the slope and leveled the neighbor's property. This will improve drainage on the neighbor's property and allow my fence posts to be in more solid ground. The fence installers will include a wood retaining wall at the bottom of the fence to support the soil on my side of the fence. In this photo, I am about 1/3 of the way completed. I forgot to take a before picture.

It took a couple of weekends of hard labor to remove the dirt by hand. I piled up the excavated dirt near the alley and put "Free Dirt" posts on Craig's List. It was amazing how quickly the dirt disappeared. People will take almost anything if it is free.

I have some more work to do in the backyard before the fence is installed. Several plants are growing against the fence and they will need to be trimmed away from the fence to give the installers space to work.

There are also several small plants that will need protection from the workers. I have wire tomato cages and plant supports that should do the job. They can step on the horsemint if they need to. It should be finished blooming soon. I hope the workers are not afraid of bees because they love horsemint.

Speaking of tomato cages, I tried making tomato supports from rebar a couple of years ago. That idea did not work out well so I moved the structures to the center of the backyard prairie.

Since I call my garden a prairie, I refer to the three rebar structures as tipis (teepees). I used 15 pieces of 10 foot rebar to make three different sizes of tipis. I think I cut off about 12 inches for the medium tipi and 24 inches for the smaller tipi. The rebar was hammered into the soil and the top was wrapped with the wire that is used with rebar for concrete reinforcement. This project is not quite finished either because I am still working on the most aesthetic spacing of each leg of the tipi. I like the spacing of the pictured tipi. The other two are spaced a little too far apart.

More on tomato cages. I built these large cages from cattle panel. I cut sections of hog panel and assembled the sections using hog rings, which are used with chain link fencing. The hog ring construction allows the cages to be folded flat when they are no longer needed. I added another section to the top of the cage on the right and it is now over six feet tall. It looks like I need to add another section to the other cage.

One drawback of my design is that the plants slide down inside of the cage when they are weighed down with fruit. I added a couple of sections of rebar to support the vines and keep the fruit off the ground. Next year, I will try weaving a few vines in and out of the cage for support.

That is just the short list of projects that I worked on over the last few of months. There are several others, but I am tired just thinking about these. I also used up my 1GB of free photo storage space on my Google account with this post. I will have to figure out how to use Flikr for photo posting now. Well, that is another project for my list.

So many projects. So few weekends.


  1. Hopefully you'll get a good neighbor. And having lots of pots of natives to give as a welcoming gift is also a sneaky way to recruit native growers.

    I even used to make cuttings when I trimmed Lantana and other shrubs in the summer. Then whenever someone admired something, I gave them a start.

    1. That is a good idea, Marilyn. Anytime someone expresses an interest in my plants, I always tell them that I will dig up a few for them when the temperature cools down. I potted a couple of Gregg's mistflower for a neighbor with two children that like to catch the butterflies in my garden. I would prefer no one harass my butterflies, so I am giving them the opportunity to attract their own.

  2. The prairie is looking good these days. Those projects will reap long-term rewards at the prairie. Sometimes things just have to get messy before they get better. It seems we are out of time here in Texas except for early morning and late evening. The season goes so fast.

    My picasa storage has also maxed out and I will need to figure something else out. I think the fee is nominal so if nothing else works I'll do that. I used photobucket for a slideshow on my last post.

    I can see new neighbor ad: "Won't you be my neighbor?"

    Wouldn't that be great to get a neighbor you can work with?

    1. Shirley, I have to avoid the mornings and evenings because the mosquitoes are looking for a feast. A few of the neighbors have swamps (neglected swimming pools) that are mosquito breeding grounds.

      I am going to try Flickr for my photos. I did a test and it seemed to work.

      Whoever ends up in the house next door will have their work cut out for them. I will be standing by willing to offer plants and advice--if wanted. I won't force it on anyone.

  3. Tomato cages didn't protect my little plants from the fence installers' feet. I think they moved the cage because it didn't appear to be protecting anything (the plant was really small). Make sure your installers know not to move anything.

    P.S. I really enjoy your blog.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Anonymous. I made sure that the owner of the fence company understands that ALL of the plants in my backyard are important. Even if some are damaged a little, I don't think it will be too bad. I plan to be around to supervise at least part of the installation.

  4. HAVE been busy! I have to admit, it's true what they say "good fences make good neighbors". I love the boulders too...though not for the same reason as your neighbors ;-)

    1. Scott, when you live in close quarters, fences are a necessity and sometimes even a fence is not enough. Too bad you can’t pick your neighbors. I am lucky not to have a two story house next door like you. Have. I should stop calling them rocks. They really are boulders. In fact, they were sold as two man boulders. I could have used an extra man when I was moving them around. I used a dolly instead. Thanks for the comments.

  5. I am impressed with all of your hard work. This is a wonderful place that you have created. I really enjoy looking at your blog. A yard like this is my dream.

    1. Thanks Audrey. I appreciate the comments. Check back again.

  6. I love your rebar tepees! The rocks are very nice too -- you have a good touch for rock placement. You've been very busy lately.

  7. Thanks Pam. One day, I will finish my current projects. I have to finish them before I start the new ones that I keep thinking of. Now I am keeping a list of the new projects I "think" I need to do. They may not seem as important when I finally have the time to start them.


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