HOUSE: New Mexico #2

Getting started in the garden.

Garden updates -

I can’t believe it’s already Friday! This has been a weird week. I had a TON of work to do on Monday and Tuesday, and then suddenly I had six different book covers out waiting for feedback all at once. This pretty much never happens, because I work on simultaneous projects for different publishers at the same time, and there’s always something that needs to be worked on. Not this week, though! Wednesday, Thursday, and now Friday have been unexpected days off from work, and it’s kind of thrown my usual weekly schedule into a bit of a (pleasant) tailspin.

Garden updates -

The weather on Wednesday and Thursday was pretty perfect (mid-60s, sunny), so I decided to try and start tackling the dirthole-with-potential that is my garden. While, of course, resisting sending out any “just checking in to see what the status is on this book cover” emails.

I was planning to take some photos of the whole garden this morning to give a sense of the layout, but today it’s raining and 35ºF (desert weather is so weird), so I’ll just focus on the part that I’ve been working on—this unattractive little strip of dirt and weeds under my bedroom window. Because the garden is mostly dirt right now, wet days are very muddy and dry days are very gritty and unpleasant, especially when it’s windy. If I had a bunch of money and I owned the house it would be great to go full-on gorgeous xeriscape like many of my neighbors have, but with a tiny budget and someone else’s property, I’m happy with cute and cheap and easy.

Garden updates -

After looking at numerous types of decorative grasses, I settled on Sapphire Fountain, a blue oat grass that looks a lot like blue fescue, only bigger. My photos aren’t really capturing the blue tones, but it’s very pretty. These little guys were only about $8 each, and they should at least double in size—so it’s a minimal investment for what should eventually fill out this space nicely.

I also picked up three bags of pond rocks. I kind of prefer the look of pea gravel, but I was concerned about it getting kicked/blown out of the bed too easily, or that it would sink into the earth too much.

Garden updates -

I dug up the weeds, turned over about 6″ of dirt (removing about 1″ to make room for rocks) while working in some compost, and raked the bed level. I had initially thought I’d put in five plants, but aside from being too cramped, I didn’t want to hide the downspout, so I scaled back to three.

Garden updates -

Garden updates -

Yay! Plants in, rocks down! I think I need to add another bag of pond rocks for better coverage, but I’m really happy with how the colors look. I actually think the grayness of pea gravel might have looked too blah next to the warm tones of the house and the walkway, so thumbs up all around.

Also, it’s raining today and there’s no mud running all over the pavers, no I’m calling this both a functional and an aesthetic success.

Garden updates -

Not bad for a few hours of work and $35! I still have a bazillion projects to do in the garden to make it feel like an outdoor room (or at least not a sad dirthole), but it feels really good to have a made a little start. I was hoping to get out there again today to take some measurements and make plans, but the rain and cold are keeping me inside. With no work to do. On a Friday. I have no complaints.

Have a great weekend, friends!

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  • Reply Taste of France April 28, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Great job! There is no point in trying to plant English garden-style vegetation in a desert. Good for you for making do. And it’s a HUGE improvement.

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      You’d be surprised how versatile the climate is here when it comes to landscaping! There are certain things that just aren’t going to work in the newer parts of Albuquerque because the sun is so intense, but I’m in an older neighborhood with mature trees—which means lots of shade and cooler temperatures, fortunately. The dryness is a problem, though, and I don’t want to be running a sprinkler every day. A lot of people do that here, which is a drag. Weird to se golf course-like lawns in the desert. It’s so wasteful!

  • Reply Pat April 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    nice update! I’m in Phoenix and have found that putting cardboard down (like cut up Amazon boxes) helps with weeds. (cut holes for plants; put rocks on top–the layers are dirt; cardboard; rocks. (not sure if this is clear—I talk lots with my hands and feel like I need to gesture the layers…..)

    Hope you get book cover info next week so you can enjoy the weekend (and hope they don’t reply all at once!)

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Pat, that makes sense! Does it matter what kind of cardboard? I wonder if corrugated is a problem because of the glue…hmmm, I’ll look into it. Thanks!

      (And TWO MINUTES after I posted this, I got two emails with revision requests. Haha!! I guess it’s good that it’s raining today.)

  • Reply Tricia April 28, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I use old newspapers from my office recycling bin as an underlay under mulch and rocks. If you use 6-9 layers, it will last for years. I water the bed and then lay down the newspapers and just enough mulch or rocks to hold it down. I’ll leave the newspaper for about a week so it kills anything that’s growing underneath. Then, I can go back in, cut an X in the newspaper and pop in my plants. Have you thought about asking the neighbors if you can get cuttings or splits from their plants? Craig’s list might be a good source too.

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Thanks, Tricia, that’s good advice. I abhor those weed barriers people like to put down, but if it’s something totally degradable, I’m all for it.

  • Reply Karen April 28, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    WOW, super impact for little spend. Looks great!

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Thank you, Karen! Most of the investment was in back pain. 😉

  • Reply Ryan April 28, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    I also use newspapers, paper grocery bags or newspaper as a weed barrier under mulch. It works great but if you have a lot of weeds that spread by wind you’ll still need to keep on top of pulling those each year. But they won’t be rooted as deep so they might be easier to pull.

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks, Ryan. The weed situation in my yard doesn’t seem to be to bad, actually, it’s just been neglected for so long. I’m used to weekly weeding—that’s what I did in New York. 🙂

  • Reply Pam April 28, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Looks great!

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks, Pam!

  • Reply Mary Hartley April 28, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Anna,

    I am an Albuquerque Gardener. There is a xeric plant sale today and tomorrow in NE ABQ:
    April 28, 2017, 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm and April 29, 2017, 8:00 am to 12:00 noon
    Xeric Garden Club Plant Sale
    Kitchen Patio at the AGC, 10120 Lomas Blvd NE
    And a plant sale at the Albuquerque Academy Desert Oasis Teaching Gardens:
    Welcome to high desert gardening!

    • Anna @ D16 April 28, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      Mary! Thank you SO much!! I will definitely try to make it there tomorrow morning. 🙂

  • Reply Lisa April 28, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Just full-on excellent!

  • Reply Leslie Burka April 28, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    A charming little spot with it’s blue “letter L'” right-angle downspout looking so modern.

  • Reply gardenbre April 29, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Sore back – epsom salt baths after a bout of gardening – magic in action. I recycle student conte nude figure drawings on newsprint (I retire in June and just realized I might need to draw more) … got to love gardening for so many reasons. Those grasses and pebbles will be and are perfect! Looking forward to seeing if you get anything from the plant sale.

  • Reply Tonia April 29, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    You are the ideal tenant. I mostly lived in newer apartments before we bought our house, but it would never have occurred to me to spend $1 on anything I couldn’t take with me when I left. Now that we have considering maybe buying a rental property in the future, you are the lovely type of person I’d want living there. It looks great.

  • Reply Erin L April 30, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Wow, that’s looking good so far!

  • Reply Helena Korjonen May 1, 2017 at 7:43 am

    We rent also, it’s a beautiful English plain garden, trees, shrubs, grass… but my own I do all in pots. You can move them around, take them with you etc. See my instagram if you want: helenaandlucas

  • Reply MaryMargaret May 2, 2017 at 7:41 am

    This looks amazing — such a simple fix. Sometimes it is hard to get started, but totally worth it in the end. Can’t wait to see the rest of the outdoor space!

  • Reply courtney May 2, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Out of curiosity, because I’ve never rented, do you get a break on your rental fee for fixing up so much?

    • Anna @ D16 May 2, 2017 at 11:19 am

      I’m sure it depends on the situation, but I’ve never asked a landlord for reimbursement. These aren’t things he asked me to do (or that he was planning to do himself), they’re things I want to do for my own wellbeing and happiness. If a landlord were already planning to do something (like paint) before occupancy, I would consider asking to do it myself in exchange for a discount on the rent.

  • Reply Emily May 2, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m in a rental in Tucson with a very similar patch of dirt in the backyard. I assumed filling it with rocks would be too expensive. I’m definitely feeling inspired and will be doing something similar soon. Thank you!

  • Reply Sarah May 6, 2017 at 5:52 am

    That is beautiful Anna! What a difference. So well worth the effort and a bit of a spend. It’s a real transformation. The kind of thing that would lift your spirit every time you walk by. Need to think about tackling my own outdoor space now!

  • Reply Lisa May 12, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    This is the kind of project I feaking love!!! Simple, lovely and so much impact for the price tag.

  • Reply Dee in BC May 21, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    I love the blooming rose by your looks so pretty with the color of your house and trim. I like the pebbles and grass bed too!

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