April 23, 2011

The $3.99 Beautification Project (Not)

About a week ago, Michael and I decided that we would look for a bag, box or canister of wild flower seeds and that we would scatter them all over the Secret Garden. We were not sure where exactly, or if they would even germinate; but, thought that it would be a lovely idea. While standing in line at the Grocery Outlet, Michael glanced over and there they were. A large box of mixed wild flower seeds. The box said that the seeds would cover up to 750 square feet. We knew roughly how large an area that would be since our one bedroom apartment is only 540 square feet. That's a lot of wild flowers for only $3.99.

After getting the box home and reading the instructions, we realized that it was not going to be as easy as simply scattering them all around the Secret Garden. The instructions said you must 1) rid the soil of all other vegetation (well that wasn't going to happen); 2) break-up the soil (neither was that); 3) rack the soil (You gotta be kidding me); and, 4)  make sure that the seeds get plenty of water for the first 4 to 5 weeks (Well there is no water source downstairs, so you can image what it would take to keep them watered for 4 to 5 weeks).

 So, we brainstormed alternatives: Perhaps planter boxes lining the creek--but, the watering would be an issue that far from the house. Perhaps clay pots going up the stairs to the apartment--but that would mean that I would have to pass a flurry of bees once the flowers start blooming and that is not a remote possibility as I am allergic to bee stings. This morning, while sitting out on the balcony, Michael came up with a great idea.

Remember the Mulberry Tree that grew along the left side of the balcony?   Click here for history  A crew came out,  this past Fall, with chain saws and cut it down.  All that remains is a stump.  Well, at the base of it is a dirt plot that is edged with a wooden retaining wall (on the backside) and a cement path to our stairway along the front. Michael reasoned that if we could find some lumber to enclose the ends we could fill it with soil and sow the seeds. We discussed the cost and the options. Michael then took a stroll around the Secret Garden and found a pile of discarded construction material, metal flashing's, old roof gutters, and, (you may have guessed it) two 2x8's. He carried them over and we found a way to angle them so that they created a very attractive planter box around the lamp post and the Mulberry Tree stump. See picture below:

We were ready to fill her in!  We calculated that we were dealing with approximately 35 square feet and we certainly did not want to spend a bunch of money on soil in order to sow $3.99 worth of wild flower seeds.  Isn't it always the way it goes.  You start out thinking that you will add a little beauty to your surroundings by making a small purchase, and once you get started on the project, reality smacks you in the face, and you realize that this "cheap, little" project will require several more trips to the hardware store.  UUURRGH.

We asked ourselves, "What might we do to save some money and fill the bottom of this planter box?"   We remembered that the winter storms had exposed a large sand bank on the west side of the creek.  So, with a kitchen scooper and a plastic bucket in hand, we headed down to the creek.  I filled the bucket; Michael carried the full bucket to the plot; and, returned the empty bucket to me for filling once again.  After the 6th (or so) bucket full was delivered, I heard Michael exclaim, "Oh dear!"   As I poked my head up put of the creek bed, Michael was holding the handle if what used to be the bucket.  The entire bucket cracked apart.  (Side note: The draw back to living in an apartment is that you do not have a shop out back or a garden shed to go to when you need a shovel, a wheel barrow,  or another bucket.)

We were bound and determined to complete this phase of our project and so I went up stairs and got two cloth shopping bags.  After filling them 5 or 6 times, we had depleted most of the clean sand and were getting down to some yucky smelling stuff.  However, by this time, we had been able to fill some of the deeper areas and had laid a pretty even base in which to pour the garden soil.  Off to the garden center we went.  We purchased 5 large bags of potting soil (recommended by the lady working in the garden center).  We realized that we would need some way to water this patch once we sowed the seed and we did not have a watering can (by the way, there is no outdoor faucet for a hose in our apartment complex).  We went to a thrift shop as I was hoping for a large galvanized steel watering can with the really large shower type head.  No luck.  We looked online and they want almost $80.00 for that kind of watering can.  See what I mean?  $3.99 worth of wildflower seeds and no watering can.

To make a long story short.  We decided to get home and get the soil into the plot.  We probably could have used another bag or two, but were able to cover the entire area with at least 4 or 5 inches of top soil.  Still the issue of "how are we going to water in the seeds?"  Michael went up stairs and I went to Walmart.  After hunting around, I found large plastic watering cans with medium size shower heads for $4.00 each.  I bought two--less trips up and down the stairs.

After a full day of working on our unplanned project we finally finished.  I had originally hoped to find a decorative garden sign at the garden center to stick in our new raised planter box; but, that would be an additional cost.   I did want a little sign so that people might know that this new dirt was a garden in the making.  So, while Michael was taking a short nap, I grabbed my sharpie's and went downstairs.  Below is what I came up with; and, it didn't cost a penny.  I think I like it better than anything I might have found at the garden center:

  I simply wrote with a black sharpie permanent marker on the stump of the Mulberry Tree.  I also nailed a small rhinestone cross (from one of my charm bracelets) in the upper left hand corner of the stump.  I am not sure how long the permanent marker will last--but I can always re-do it if it fades.  Of course, I could go out and buy a wood burning set with all the different size nibs and burn it in 0 which would be really neat; but, there we go again.   I have always said, "Poverty breeds ingenuity".  Well, we are certainly not in poverty; but, you know what I mean. 

Now begins daily watering!  Up and down the stairs with a full watering can in each hand.   It takes 3 to 4 trips to water the seeded area.  I guess, on the upside, that $3.99 box of wild flower seeds will save us from having to pay for a fitness club membership in order to shed some of our winter poundage!  Just watering them will be a work-out we had not planned for or considered.  And it will cost us nothing.

Now we water and wait.  It is my hope, that in a month or so, I will be posting a photo of our beautiful wildflower garden.  Of course, the wild turkeys might discover it and call "the boys" to a breakfast seed feast or the feral cats might decide to use it as a litter box.  None the less-- 

The day was sweet and right in the middle of our labors, the mallard ducks decided to pay the creek a visit.  Michael ran upstairs to get the camera and was able to catch this guy as he was flying away.  It's a blurry shot; but if you look carefully you can see that he was indeed laughing at us as he flew away!


   



       

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