He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Backyard Gardening Phase 1

If you know me, it's no secret that I love the great outdoors, and the lack of green in this part of the world has been one of my biggest adjustments.  I posted HERE several years ago about making our balconies a green haven at least as much as I could.  Don't get me wrong, this is a beautiful part of the world with it's own unique beauty (check out my post HERE about our camping trip in the desert last year), but as far as just walking out your front door and having green around you, that doesn't happen quite as much.  I am so amazingly thankful for the yard space we have in our new apartment and the opportunity it has provided to put a little green right out our front and back doors.  The space out our front door was already pretty well established so we really didn't have to do a whole lot.  When you come in our front gate, there is a little walkway down to the side with rosebushes, jasmine, fresh mint and aloe plants already well established.  Growing up, way gave my mom a new rosebush for her garden every year on Mother's Day so I got my first Mother's Day rose bush this year!

Here's the front gate (we did plant new potted flowers- lots of purple- but you really can't see them very well)

and here's the little walkway that goes down the side...

and another angle

and here's this little knobby kneed angel waiting to greet Daddy when he gets home from work...

Anyway, the backyard area was definitely the bigger challenge and has honestly taken us a good year to get started and we are still just getting going.  Gardening has been in my blood for a long time.  Here is me and my Grandaddy back in the day ready to work in his backyard garden.  Memommy even sewed him a matching orange snail onto his khaki pants to match mine (I'm sure he was thrilled!!).  I remember so vividly helping him in his backyard and the minute I smelled my tomato plants I was taken back 30 years to his garden. 

All of the girls love to be outside, but Maddie is definitely a gardener at heart too.  We're thankful that Papa and Nana (Jason's parents) now have a farm with a garden so we've been able to get our gardening fill every time we're in the states.  Maddie always wants to know if our US trips will coincide with any work to be done in the garden. 

Here are some pics of Maddie in Papa and Nana's garden...

So, our backyard presenting some unique challenges as far as gardening.  Wasn't nearly as easy as just going and picking out what we wanted to plant and going for it.  First of all, we have this lovely screened in porch.  

It really IS nice, but at the same time it is a total dust trap.  Combine the fine dust of desert living with the construction site next door and it makes it nearly impossible to keep clean, therefore it's really not a space that we use much.  AND going back and forth out into the yard area becomes a pretty messy process, especially with a toddler.  

But oh how the toddler loves to help clean!

Anyway, so first challenge is keeping the screened in porch cleaned, or even accessible- we're talking about glassing it in, but that's a project for another day.  Next challenge, is getting the yard ready for planting.  

First there was a lot of weeding to do....

We weeded last year when we first moved in when I hoped we might get around to planting last summer (we didn't).  

And then we weeded again this year...

(obviously I had lots of good help!)

Once we got all the weeds out, there was the challenge of bringing in more dirt.  Yes, we already had dirt, but it had settled a good bit and we needed to bring in more so that we could actually plant stuff. It's hard to explain, but our yard is only accessible through the guest room in the back of the house (this leads out onto the screened in porch).   Anyway, so our yard area is actually above the parking lot that is under the building.   It's completely walled in and on the other side of the wall is the drop off to the parking lot.  Like I said, hard to explain.  Anyway, we knew it would be a challenge to have dirt brought in because it obviously couldn't be hauled in through the house....

A local friend knows a guy that manages a plant nursery so he contacted him to see how we could deliver the dirt.  He came and checked things out and within an hour brought a truckload of dirt.  

He negotiated with the adjacent building because it had to be dumped in their parking lot.

From their, we negotiated to pay our building guard and the one from the adjacent building to use the ladder pictured above and haul the dirt paint can by paint can (the big ones) up and over the wall into our yard.  I took the below picture from inside the house because I wasn't sure they'd want their pictures taken...
(you can barely see him coming over the wall in the back)

This whole process took about 4-5 hours.  I delivered them 3 rounds of chai (strong tea with lots of sugar) and attempted to keep Anabelle out of the way.  Ahmed (our building guard) is one of her biggest buddies and she was extremely curious to see what he was doing!

So if you haven't been able to tell, our backyard area is essentially the large screen porch and then 3 separate areas of dirt with a marble sidewalk that goes around the porch and between the 3 areas.    The first area when you walk out the porch door, has a trellis installed and for phase 2 (or 3) of our gardening efforts, we hope to put in grapevines and maybe rose bushes to grow up and over it.

For now I just have cherry tomato plants (against the back wall) and a flowering ground cover (about mid way down on the right- this was about 6 weeks ago and it's more than doubled the area it covers but I still need to get some more of it.  Against the left wall are the zucchini seeds we planted that are beginning to sprout.   I also want to plant an olive tree in this area, more ground cover and then cover the extra dirt with pretty rocks from the Dead Sea area and make a walkway of sorts surrounded by the ground cover.  We've talked about maybe putting a bench under the trellis.  For now though, it served as our experiment area for the seeds Maddie wanted to plant!  

Moving around from this first area is a longer narrow area of dirt in the space behind the screened in porch.  This will probably be the area each year that we use for just planting fruits and veggies.  Maddie had claimed it as "hers" to experiment with and I'm fine with that.    Here you can see the cherry tomato plants along the back.  The middle row is beans and peas.  There are strawberry plants in the front and a few cucumber plants (that didn't make it).  

You walk around past this area, to the third area that is the biggest.  It already had a lemon tree right in the middle so we left that.   We planted tomato plants along the edges and flowering seeds (sunflowers and zinnias) behind the tomatoes.  We put an apricot tree in the far right corner and there are geraniums along the right side that I moved from the front when I bought new plants for that area.  

Oh and I planed more seeds around the lemon tree- chamomile and some yellow flowers that Maddie picked out.   Now, trouble is, I'm not entirely sure which things are weeds (in the middle) and which we planted on purpose.  A lot of the weeds here are still really pretty and flowering so until I determine what's what, I'll leave then for now.  

Also in this area, we're eventually going to plant another olive tree (back left corner) and another one of my favorites in this area of the world that I'm pretty sure I've identified as a Jacaranda.  They were everywhere in Lebanon and here and in the spring their purple flowers are beautiful and leave a covering of purple all over the ground.  Also in this area I'll need to plant some sort of ground cover and also get some rocks to fill in the brown spaces.  We just don't have enough water to plant and maintain grass so we need ground cover that can tolerate the dry, hot summers.  

Here is how it all was looking as of last week...

 (the peas ALL came up which I didn't expect- should I thin them out?)

Also, here, I didn't expect these all to come up..

Anyway, we're having lots of fun watching our garden grow.  Hopefully will soon post pics of phase 2 as I've put in my order with our friend for 2 olive trees, some grapevines and a few more shrubs and flowers!  

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