Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Yard: We Went Out Fighting

Unfortunately, we were forced to move out of our beloved apartment this summer. That's the main reason for my absence, as most of my time was filled with moving-related issues. We hoped to call that apartment home for many years, and we invested so much - both emotional and physical energy as well as money - into the yard.

Yet, within a couple weeks, we had to dismantle everything. The chiminea for enjoying warm fires, the rubber patio tiles - purchased to extend the awkward sized patio, the indoor-outdoor hose system, the push lawn mower, the broom, shovel and rake, the dozens of pots, the outdoor lights and candles, the tables and chairs, the mosquito repellent accoutrements. It all had to go to new homes, since our new apartment has just a fire escape. We wanted to move everything, out of spite, but sadly ended up behind leaving the slate stepping stones that we foraged from Evan's farm, as well as the table repurposed from a concrete door.

Ultimately, it's okay that we no longer have that yard, since we felt like we were constantly fighting with it.

From June to October, it was plagued with tropics-level mosquitos that swarmed in the daytime heat and nibbled more discreetly in the dark. We tried many different approaches, none of which worked, but which deserve a post of their own. Because of the bugs, we couldn't lounge outside with a book and a hammock, and we never did host dinner parties around that concrete table.

DIY table and deer antlers

The actual ground was contaminated with high levels of lead, which is a health hazard that also deserves its own post.

the meager vegetable container garden

Since we couldn't use the yard for leisure, we thought we could use it to grow things, but that didn't go so well. Our summer growing season went much like our first failed fall growing season. We accumulated many more pots, I developed an addiction to buying seed packets, started seeds inside to transplant, started some outside and bought some starts. It looks like it's off to a decent start in the photos, but most of the baby plants never grew any bigger. I attribute it to both bad soil and lack of light.

overly ambitious seed collection

windowsill seed growing set up

For convenience sake, I picked up lots of Miracle Grow Organic Soil from Home Depot while getting a bunch of other stuff there in early spring. I think their soil has too many chunks of wood and isn't fine enough for seedlings. We later got some quality organic soil from our local garden store and saw a marked difference wherein tomatoes grown in the new soil grew tall and tomatoes grown in the old soil were stunted and yellow. Meanwhile, many of the plants that did grow were eaten by insects. The kale was riddled with holes from some cabbage beetle, and our lush herbs like the lemon balm below were taken out in the blink of an eye by Japanese beetles.

lemon balm later eaten by japanese beetles

Despite an afternoon where my dad helped Evan take down some branches on high with a rope saw, our yard was probably too shady for most plants. The tomatoes actually grew too tall, as they stretched ever higher looking for light. We later learned you're supposed to pinch them back to keep that from happening. We sold the tomato plants before any of them ripened. What did we harvest from our yard? A handful of green beans. A handful of kale. We planted garlic last fall, from which we harvested a handful of scapes and about $2 worth of garlic. Each clove only doubled, that was all.

garlic scapes

We hoped to amend the purchased soil with our own compost, but our compost bin didn't work either. We DIY'd compost bins out of two round plastic garbage cans with holes drilled into them. Once a week or so, we'd add new scraps and roll the bins around, but that apparently didn't aerate them enough. Scraps collected last summer/fall still hadn't broken down finely enough by the time we left in July. I guess next time, I'd splurge on bins designed specifically for composting with a crank for aerating. We left the compost bins behind too. Maybe someday they'll turn into compost that someone else there can use.

unfinished compost

I did leave behind a nice legacy of perennial flowers, coming up in the next post.


  1. Dang, girl. You just haven't had luck with nesting in the last few years. I hope you get settled somewhere. I hate that you had to lose so much in the process.

  2. oh that is sad! I have had similar terrible luck with gardening and i feel your pain. also- boo having to move every year! that would be so exhausting! hopefully you have found a more "forever" home this time around!

  3. So sorry to hear that! :( I am about to move, myself, so I can relate. I long for the time when I will own a home and be able to really put down roots!

  4. Miz November - thanks, it's been such a string of bad luck. luckily renter's insurance paid for us to replace some things.

    Lisa - forever homes are magical unicorns in new york. when we first moved in, i liked that the flexible space and good location could allow us to stay here several years. but now we're considering leaving the city sooner than that. so we'll see.

    yancy - i really feel you about longing to own a home! good luck with your move.