Of 2021 spring gardening and renovating the Back Lawn Bar!

This has been the longest winter ever, or maybe it just felt like that because we’ve all been inside for the last year. Thank God I have my next Moderna shot in a couple weeks. I spent a lot of my pandemic time thinking about how I can maximize my indoor and outdoor space. I’m working at home now, and for the foreseeable future, and I also plan to do a lot more entertaining at home. This past year has shown me that take-out with friends is just as much fun, if not more so, as sitting in a restaraunt with friends.

I’ve also spent some time thinking about my garden layout, which surprises exactly none of you. I’m getting older, and I find that having everything spread all over the place is kind of a nuisance to keep up right now. To that end, I’ve made some changes that I think will really help me enjoy my gardening on a whole new level.

The first thing I did was have my lawn team cut down my front bed. I had already moved the comfrey, the marsh mallow, the blueberries, and the garlic over the course of last summer with an eye to clearing that area out. I think my guys were thrilled to take that overgrown area down after trimming around it all these years. I kept three Rose of Sharons and a lilac. That’s it. It’s a very big change, and Gadegetron and the BSE were floored, for sure! My plan for this year is to put down various blends of flower seeds that contain annual and perennial types of flowers. I want to keep that area friendly to the birds and my native pollinators. The long term plan is flowering and/or fruiting shrubs that do their thing over the different seasons. I don’t plan to actually harvest anything, it will be more for the benefit of the aforemention birds and bees and the other wildlife with whom I peacefully co-exist, for the most part. I’m putting bright and colorful sunflowers in the big apple box in the front yard. My street is trending young families and I think they’ll enjoy that as they bike, skate, and toddle past.

I replaced my roof last summer and the crew trimmed the maple in my front yard back pretty hard. Now I have full sun in a great deal of that area, so I moved my grow bags from along the garden to my front yard.

Right off my front porch in full sun!

I like that I can step right off the porch and have those there. My plan is to put one tomato plant in each pot, and I think having them in the front yard will keep the deer predation down. That said, I found hoof prints on my front walk and steps this winter, so who knows, they may think I’m providing curbside service, as is the trend these days.

I also moved my rain barrel from my herb beds to the front yard. I think this is a better use of that barrel, taking advantage of the rainfall from the roof. I’ll be putting in a new diverter next week and thus take advantage of the spring rains. Here’s a look at the whole setup from the driveway.

The Future Site of Tomatoland!

I’ve started seeds a few weeks back and the broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts have germinated. I have lettuce, basil, parsley, and cilantro in the pots on my porch steps.

Arty photo of my seed tray.

I am using up all of my seeds this year, I have some that are several years old and I want to use them up and restock fresh with what I truly want. You know how you put in certain things because you think it’s a good idea? For me, that’s carrots and cauliflower. I could take or leave either of those vegetables, but you know, spring vegetables, gotta plant them, that’s what we do. Yeah, that’s coming to a crashing halt. I sowed the last of the carrot seed this morning, along with using up the seed for parsnips, red onion, and kale.

I was pleased to see that last fall’s kale and spinach are coming back, as well as, get this, last spring’s Brussels sprouts! Because I am a #lazygardener I didn’t pull up the plants when they were done. As I was sowing seed this morning I noticed the plants were coming back! I’m pretty happy about that and I’m looking forward to some small sprouts.

The Zombie Brussels Sprouts!

I also did my first sowing of Mardi Gras Peas! You all remember the Mardi Gras Beans from last summer, which will be making a repeat appearance as I use up the seed for purple, yellow, and green beans. I found purple, yellow, and green-podded snow peas at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I love this company as it is employee owned and they are generously priced. They cater to the market gardener and the home gardener as well. Their blog is also quite informative and I’ve picked up a lot of good information there.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about my backyard and how under-utilized it is, particularly since I’m working at home and the wi-fi is strong out there. Last fall I was perusing Facebook Marketplace when I saw a gorgeous Pier One patio set. It’s brown wicker, with a 3′ x 5′ table and four chairs with teal cushions and it was priced to move, for sure, since that set was a few hundred bucks new. I messaged the seller to see where they lived so I could come check it out, and hey, they live across the street. For another $20 they hauled it up my driveway and set it in the backyard for me! The existing patio setup I got it free 20 year ago has been a great place to stage the birdfeeders and that’s about it. I gave it to a creative friend and I am excited to see what she’s going to do with it, because she will for sure make something gorgeous of it.

Cue the sad trombone.

The BSE and Gadgetron have been fully on board with me doing more with that space for quite a while. They were quite pleased when the lawn guys took it all down to the ground last fall, except for my cedar tree. They were shopping at Costco recently and saw these cool rubber tiles that snap together.

The BSE and Gadgetron brought them over, and Big Plans were made. I showed them some tile I had picked out at Lowe’s to cover a small hole in the corner of my table top about $40 worth. The BSE suggested I check out the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Portage first, and I agreed that might be a good idea. Sure enough, they had the PERFECT tiles to cover the table, so I picked them up (plus some extras) for $18.

So pretty, and so useful!

The BSE came over and laid those tiles down in about an hour, and what was formerly a Pretty Sad Space has shaped up to be Pretty Danged Nice.

I’ll be working out here soon!

I stalked that umbrella on Amazon Warehouse for weeks till it hit the price I wanted. It has solar lights on the inside. They’re cute, but not particularly bright. The BSE recommended some solar lanterns they use that crank out some serious lumens, and suggested I use some long S hooks I have for bird feeders to hang them inside the umbrella. Check out the name of said lanterns:


About 15 years ago, Dad and I set some hammock posts in the backyard and I’ve had rope hammocks for years on those posts. I left them outside in all the elements and as a result of my carelessness they didn’t last long. This year was no exception, when I pulled the hammock out of the garage the mice had been at it and chewed on the ropes. Was it usable? I’m a frayed knot. So, again with the stalking at the Amazon Warehouse, I bought a frame hammock. I enlisted the help of another MHS Class of ’85 honey, Ms. Cindy Hampton, to assemble it. Spoiler alert, the frame did not work as well as the existing posts, and I have no idea why I thought it would. We hung it on the posts, and let me tell you, that thing is COMFORTABLE.

I see a nap cloud rolling in!

The pots hanging on the sign were bought years ago and I found the box in the garage recently. I decided to make a bar wall, inspired by my friend Angie Jackson and her Elixir House shenanigans. I ordered herb starts from Ginger’s Greenhouse on Etsy, choosing cocktail herbs that will also go nicely in a pitcher of iced tea. The starts arrived today, and I plan to get up early tomorrow and pot them up. I purchased orange mint, Kentucky Colonel mint, mojito mint, lime mint, sweet lemon mint, sweet pear mint, stevia, and spearmint. I’m starting basil from seed and will transplant one of the plants into one of these pots as well, and have plans to take cuttings of my exisiting chocolate mint and pineapple sage and pot those up as well. Muddle up, folks. MUDDLE UP!

Edited to add: I unboxed and potted up the $4 starts I got from Ginger today. They arrived packaged in paper towel and wrapped tightly in what looks like that sticky Saran Wrap, and covered in shredded paper, still moist. EXCELLENT quality. And really, I would not call these starts, these are healthy, hearty plants. I will definitely be doing more business with her!

Quill is pretty impressed too and apparently reallllllllly likes spearmint, as I had to shoo him away from freshening his breath.

It’s going to be a great summer. What are your plans?

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

5 thoughts

  1. Love the looks of the upgraded space! Can’t wait to hear stories of your yard-en this year.

    I’ll be working my 2 raised beds at the Community Garden and hoping for a better year

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a nice morning to read the AE with my cup of coffee. You’re an inspiration for me to get out and start working in my garden! I love the changes you’ve made and can’t wait to see pictures this summer of how the gardens are doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes!!!! I love the updates! And am totally jealous of the bar garden… I will need to work that inspiration in to my own space. I cannot wait to get my shots and start visiting people again. We will have to have each other over and talk yarden shop!

    Liked by 1 person

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