Adventures in gardening!

I moved into my house two years ago, and at the time, the front yard was literally a junk heap.  Weeds, trash, bits of rubber, metal, plastic and PVC…the place was a mess.  But I had a vision for it.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  It was just a matter of time.  First of all, I couldn’t do anything with it until my roommates with dogs who would potty in the front yard were gone.  Then, I buried my compost for a year to get the soil prepped.  I also had to clean out the soil, because as I dug it up, I found an ungodly amount of bullet shell casings, broken glass, bits of plastic and rubber, candy wrappers, and any number of other unidentifiable bits of rubbish.

Finally, this past November, the yard was ready for its transformation.  I put in a vegetable garden on one side, then divided the other side into three parts: a flower/plant garden, another area to bury compost so that I can alternate veggie gardens and compost yards each year, and finally the area that I wanted to put in a pond, both for the fun of it, but also to catch run-off rain water and protect the rest of the garden.  The gardens took up most of my time from November until now, but finally, two weeks ago tomorrow, I started work on the pond I’ve been dreaming of ever since I moved in.  Here’s what it looked like Tuesday before last when I started:

This was after I spent an afternoon pulling up weeds.  It then took about a week of digging for an hour or two at a time, whenever I got a chance, to get it to this point:

This was a proud moment for me.  I had about a fourth of the hole left when it started raining and I was slopping around in the mud, but the rain made it so much easier to dig up the soil that it was actually a blessing.  I was covered in mud, though!  I hadn’t been that muddy since the mud fights we used to have at camp when I was in high school.  I took a picture of myself, but it was so humid that it fogged up the lens:


I posted this photo on Facebook and said, “I dig in the mud.  Hardcore.”  To which a friend of mine replied, “Mudcore.”  Mudcore, indeed!

I even took video footage of it, to commemorate this fine moment in my life (because that’s what nerds do):


Then it was time to lay down the pond liner, line it with rocks, and trim the liner down to size.  Chuck took a picture of me, super muddy, with my liner and rocks down.  I felt like the Queen of Pondmaking.

So muddy, so proud.

I thought I had gotten enough rocks to line the whole pond, but alas!  I ran out right at the end.

So close, but so far.

By this point, though, it was late, I was tired, and I just wanted to be done with it.  The liner at that part of the pond isn’t crucial to its overall well-being, so I just decided to proceed and try to find a solution later.  So I filled the pond, then put my banana and plumeria cuttings next to the pond, so that as they grow, they will provide shade and protection for the pond, and the pond will provide humidity for them.  Hooray, symbiosis!

I also took video at this point (because, as I said, that’s what nerds do):


The next day, my friend JoDee and I went to Hill Country Water Gardens and Nursery to bring life to my pond.  We were seriously giddy like schoolgirls, and I’m pretty sure the staff thought we were nuts, but I was in a state of absolute bliss.  I wanted to get some pond plants, fish, tadpoles, and mosquito eaters, but that was about all I knew.  I had no idea WHAT plants to get, and although I love koi, I thought that goldfish would be the only critters in my budget.  But whatever the case, I was excited as shit!

We started looking at the lily pads and lotus.  I saw some pink and yellow beauties that initially appealed to me, but then I saw these critters and fell instantly, madly in love:

You know that Kristen Wiig skit on SNL where she’s insanely excited about a surprise party?  Yeah, that was pretty much me when I saw this lotus.  I was like:


I think my exact words to the employee were, “EMILY MUST HAVE!!!”  But then he told me they were $90 each, and my dreams were shattered.  That was almost my whole budget for the entire pond.  For one plant.  So…no.  But, I at least have the photo, and will be able to stare, and drool, and dream.  Someday maybe I’ll even be able to have them in my pond.  But for now, the lovely pink-and-yellow guys that originally appealed to me were a very reasonable $36, so I went with those instead.

Next, the employee informed me that I needed a “bog plant”, one which grows in the marshy shallows of my pond and will spread and provide shelter for the fish.  They had what seemed like acres of bog plants of every kind you could possibly imagine.  On the other side of the display ponds, though, I saw one which immediately caught my eye.  That was the one for me.  I was completely enthralled by it.  Can you imagine my surprise, then, when I saw what this particular bog plant was called?

It's like it KNOWS me.

How did it know that I’m a crazy parrot lady?  Clearly, it was calling out to me from across the pond.  It knew.  Somehow, it knew.  So of course I took it home with me.

Also in the bog plant section were some stunning irises, of that same deep violet-and-yellow color of the $90 Pipe Dream Lotus that I had wanted so badly.  The guy recommended I get some irises, too, since ideally the pond should have about 80% plant coverage.  But JoDee told me she had a ton of them at her house, and had to split them anyway, so she’d just give me the splittings.  (God bless you, JoDee!)

So then it was time to move on to the animal critters.  Sadly, I didn’t think to take any photos, but I got 5 mosquito eaters (one pregnant one, so I’m about to have some babies!), 2 tadpoles (with cute little legs!), and 4 koi.  Yes, I said koi. Because even though the adults are crazy expensive, the babies are only $8 each, whereas the goldfish were $6 each.  WHAAA???  So I went with the koi.  I don’t understand why anyone would pay that much for adults when half the fun of having a garden is watching things grow up?  So I picked out my new koi babies: a yellow-and-white one, an orange-and-white one, and two blue-and-white ones, both with black spots on their bodies, and one of which has an orange spot on his head and the other has an orange spot on his tail.  I’m naming the two blue ones Yin and Yang, but I haven’t decided what to name the other two, or what to name the frogs.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  I thought about naming the frogs Chicken and Fish, since those are the two things people say frog legs taste like, but I’m not sure about it yet.

So anyway, we came home with our spoils (and I stayed within my budget! Yippee!), and I set up my pond like so:

After scoping out their new home, the fish and tadpoles immediately found hiding places among the rocks (curse me for thoughtfully creating crags and caves among the rocks when I built the pond; they work too well!) and I’ve seen only the briefest glimpses of my babies since then, but I’ve read and been told that koi can get to know people and are trainable, so I’m going to let them settle in and then train them to come up to the surface so I can take pictures of them.  Someday.

Then finally, the last, missing piece of my little pond puzzle fell into place this morning: JoDee brought me plenty of irises, so I planted one in the pond itself, then cut away the remaining exposed pond liner and planted the rest of them along that part of the pond.  They will help keep the soil in place and will funnel the run-off water into the pond, drinking up whatever water remains.  It’s an elegant solution to my not-enough-rocks problem, and looks very lovely to boot!

So that’s my story of how, in one day short of two weeks, that piece of my yard went from a trash-filled weed patch to this:

And now I will leave you with pictures of other pretties from my garden:

Iris bloom (and they smell as pretty as they look!)

Lotus bloom (came up the day after I put it in the pond!)

Baby mantis (I raised them from the ootheca, so I always love finding one in my garden and watching them grow up!)

Squash flowers


Dwarf Grey Sugar Snap Peas

My vine cages

Morning Glory cage

Honeysuckle and Passion Vine cages

morning glory


passion vine flower


Converting Plastic Back to Oil

Hey there, blog!  Long time no see!  I just came by to post this interesting little tidbit from the internet.  I had heard about this a couple of years ago, but just googled it.  This was the first result I found:

Things like this give me hope for the future…