Project Garden: Greenhouse Time!

If this was a TV show then this episode would begin with a string of clips from previous episodes to keep you up to speed on events. There might even be a voice-over saying “previously on Smitetheewithapples”.


When I purchased my home in November 2014, one side of the garden was an Eyesore. Dirt patch, oversized shed that was a dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish, and we-don’t-know-what-we’re-doing paving. Early last year I removed the paving (it wasn’t hard – it was as if they just plonked the pavers on the ground and thought that was sufficient) and cleared away all the rubbish, with the plan of laying down the paving on the shed site and turning the ex-paving into lawn.

Clearing the area was nearly complete when Lo! My pipes were damaged by roots and needed replacing. A mountain of soil was dumped on the ex-shed site and I was advised not to touch the ex-paving site for four months whilst the earth settled (turns out I should have waited longer…). Makes you want to cry.

pavingAlmost a year later, I finally have my paving! On my recent Getting Things Done week my parents came over multiple times to help put in my paving. Well, my stepdad put in the paving and I did the easy tasks. Mum mainly supervised and passed judgement. And gave me cookies. The neighbourhood cats helped out by pooping in my excess sand.

The paving doesn’t look professional but it looks heaps better than I hoped for and I’m super please with the results. What would I do without my stepdad? Recycling the materials also made it really cheap. All I needed was sand, paving cement, and a few wooden stakes so the whole thing was done for under $50! Means more money for other things 🙂


All of this hard work has been leading to one thing: greenhouse!

Adventure Time font by Ask-Angelo
Adventure Time font by Ask-Angelo. Awesome show. Go watch now.

That fucker was a nightmare to assemble. Only slightly less painful than attending a monthly meeting at work.

I ran out of money (new carpet!) so right now I have four pots sitting on the ground. I’ve planted broccoli, snow peas, spring onions, and garlic chives. Here’s hoping they survive…

food · garden

Getting Things Done

I can’t believe I’ve been a home owner for a year now! It hasn’t all been rainbows and unicorns but on the whole I’m loving being a home owner.

To celebrate, I took some annual leave. Otherwise known as Getting Things Done Week. I have been working on the same art and garden projects for months and it’s about time I get them finished.

Half my time was spent in the garden, clearing away gravel and poop and ripping out weed mats for a garden bed. I’m really starting to hate weed mats.

Not only have I been covered head to toe in dirt but I’ve been listening to my new neighbour. She’s very loud. All the time. And apparently angry that Possum Lady (previously named Problem Neighbour) has been moving her recycling bin. I didn’t know people still used the insult cocksucker but now I know better. I have named my new neighbour Vocal Bogan.

The majority of my garden beds have been lined with rocks and I’ve been discovering that it is difficult to weed around them without also ripping out the loosely-placed rocks and having garden bed spill out. Is it naive of me to think that wooden edging will solve this problem?


I don’t know what I’m doing…

The edging isn’t level but looks so much better than those rocks.
There’s still a lot to do but I’m out of time and money. Silly me decided to dip into me savings and buy a new computer. I regret nothing. The mulch will have to wait a while. Until then, I forsee a lot of cat poop.

While I’m worried my lemon tree hasn’t bloomed, I’m getting very excited by my apple tree. There are lots of little apples growing. I see a future of apple crumble, muffins, pancakes, dumplings, juice…

Yum yum 🙂

Project Garden – Gravel and Poop

With the weather starting to warm up, I’ve returned to Project Garden in full force.

I am really pleased with how the grass is doing (although it looks like some of the grass isn’t doing too well…) in the area that used to be gravel. It looks so vibrant now.

Not all the seeds sprouted but I did scatter the seeds when the ground temperature was lower than recommended so it could have been much worse. It’s been growing like crazy the past month and jams my mower every second step.

I admit, I was lazy with watering and the rain didn’t reach the edge of the house so I have a nice strip of dirt. The neighborhood cats love pooping there. It stinks! I tried deterring the cats by placing rocks there but no luck. You win this round, cats.

I can’t wait until it warms up enough to scatter some more seeds.


The other side of the house is much less attractive. When my pipes were replaced in May, I was left with a large clay mound on the spot I was digging up in order to lay out paving. The soil above my pipes have been compacting and I’ve been topping it up with my mound of clay. That clay is horrible so I’ve also covered the area with topsoil. That still leaves me with a small clay mound to deal with before I can think about paving.

My effort with the big dirt patch has been unsuccessful. I did sprinkle some seeds in autumn but the grass died off after a month or two (but the weeds are doing well, despite the presence of a weed mat).
That got me thinking – do I want more lawn? How about turning the space into one big garden bed?

Where did my grass go? And what’s that smell…?

A few weeks ago I set out to remove the shallow weed mat and start preparing the area using the sheet mulching method. Alas, I discovered that the “soil” above the weed mat was actually sandy soil mixed with a lot of gravel. Guess I should have checked that earlier in the year. It’s also a treasure trove of cat poop! I have a kitty litter box right in front of my bedroom window! I have started the process of sifting the soil from the gravel and poop. It’s a slow process but also quite soothing.

I would love to know what the previous owner was thinking when she decided to put gravel all over the place (I’d also like to know how much it cost her). That dirt patch is so ugly. Surely that wasn’t what she had in mind?

One day my garden will be beautiful.


Project Garden: North side

I’ve already posted about redeveloping the south side of my yard. Now it’s time for the north side.

The north side was pretty terrible, aside from the collapsing fence. Uneven paving, ugly shed, dirt patch with a few year’s supply of leaf litter (and broken bricks). Not what I would describe as an ideal garden.

Who doesn’t love a great big dirt patch?

My parents removed the shed at the start of the year. Why would you need such a big shed for such a small yard? Then the fence collapsed and I left the yard alone for six weeks while I waited for my new fence and privacy.

I started clearing the ex-shed floor after the fence was put in. Gravel, rusted metal, mouldy carpet, rotting wood, crumbling plaster, broken tiles, dodgy home-made cement, other random bits of broken things…there even appeared to be some decaying paintings and spine bones in there. I spent weeks filling my bin with crap and there’s still heaps of rubbish that I moved to the garage. Seriously, why the hell did the previous owner use the shed as a dumping ground? What’s wrong with putting broken things in the bin?

February: After I had already cleared a lot of crap
March: Almost cleared!

My plan was also to remove the poorly laid paving and lay it out on the ex-shed site. My stepdad agreed to help out by compacting the earth for the paving. I did debate hiring a professional but in the end I decided to save money. Plus, it can’t be any worse than what the previous owner had done.

Not hiring someone turned out to be a good thing.

My drains were blocked. When the plumber came in April, he found that tree roots had broken my pipes and they needed to be replaced. Not only would it cost thousands of dollars but they would have to take down part of my brand new fence. Why couldn’t the drains have been blocked before the fence went up?

They came and spent almost seven hours replacing my pipes. The area that was dug up needs to be left alone over the next four months while the soil settles. Meanwhile, I have a mound of soil sitting on my excavated paving site…*sigh* At least they took care of my newly planted orange tree. Hopefully it doesn’t die.

May: Pipes replaced but my hard work undone

I’m not sure what to do now. I’m exhausted from digging up the south side of my garden so I think I’ll leave this alone for a month while I figure out a battle plan.


Project Garden: South side

My yard forms a narrow U-shape around the house. While the main side (east) doesn’t require much beyond planting pretty shrubs and sprinkling some grass seeds to fill the gaps, the other two sides require a lot of work. I’m not a gardener and have no idea what I’m doing. But I try not to let silly details like that stand in the way of my large ambitions.

If I wasn’t over-ambitious, the south side side would have been fine with a few more plants in the gardenbed. Not for me though. I decided to declare war on the gravel.

South Side

It wasn’t that I thought the gravel looked bad, it was just that I like grass. Both the look and feel of it. And I’m worried that Future Dog wont like gravel (or worse, might be one of those dogs that eats gravel). I remember Lexie would go out of her way to walk on the small exposed garage floor instead of the gravel driveway. Who would want to walk on gravel when they can walk on lovely soft grass? If Future Dog didn’t like gravel then that effectively reduced weekday area by a third.The gravel had to go.

Of course, if I had known how much work was involved, I would have left the gravel alone.

March: Barely scratched the surface

I started clearning the space after the new fence went up, with the help of my parents who shoveled the gravel into their ute and took them away. When I started, I assumed that the space was just a thin layer of decorative gravel followed by soil and would only take a few weekends. What I found was thin decorative layer, followed by 10cm of red gravel mixed with soil, weedmat, horrible small grey gravel, weedmat, compacted ground with tree roots throughout and drainage pipes which I suspect aren’t deep enough. Yep, should have left the gravel alone. Too late now.

Also discovered a cat pooping ground. I can’t believe how much it smells! And found half a possum the other day.

It’s taken months to clear the space of the offending gravel. The ending of daylight savings time slowed me down (the sun would set just as I got home from work. Who wants to work in the dark?).

Start of May: the final push

With a week off work and the dedication of my mum, we’ve finally finished! Most of the gravel is gone and I’ve decompacted some of that horrid clay soil. I’m exhausted, my back hurts and I’m sick of damn gravel.

Next weekend I’ll have some topsoil delivered and will sprinkle my grass seeds. I’m a few months too late for grass seeds (too cold) but maybe some seeds will sprout? I’d rather not wait four months for spring.

garden · issues

The Fence Saga: Part 3

Part 1 / Part 2

It’s taken three months but fence saga is finally over!

Tree removal was very painless. I came home one day to find my trees gone. Came home a few days later to find the stumps ground down to the driveway.

Once the tree task was complete, I debated whether to be a good neighbour (talk to Busybody about fence that night) or a bad neighbour (leave it for the next night).  I confess that I was leaning towards being a bad neighbour. As the intenal debate continued, a car pulled into the driveway. It was the fence man. Who told me he was going to start work the next day.


I’m not particularly knowledgable on the Fences Act but I’m pretty sure that a key part of it is communication and agreement between involved parties. And I distinctly recall asking Busybody to wait a while after tree removal before starting fence job so that I didn’t have too many expences at once I recall her agreeing. I don’t quite recall saying a few weeks or a month but that was I had in mind. I certainly didn’t mean wait one day. Paying for both tree job and fence job in one go was not pleasant. If one of the other neighbours was putting pressure on to get the fence ASAP then it was Busybody’s responsibility to let me know in advance so I could organise my finances. Not leave it to the fence guy to break the news. (I wonder what would have happened if I was a bitch and told him he didn’t have my permission to touch my fences?)

The fence was removed on the Thursday. And then I was told that I had to remove another tree by Tuesday (Monday being a public holiday). The very nectarine tree that I was told was fine when we first got the quote a month ago. AAAAARRRRGGGGG!!!!1!1

I get it. The guy changed his mind. The stupid tree would cause problems years later and needed to be removed now. But this information would really have come in handy before I organised the removal of the driveway fences (yes, Busybody had previously told me the nectarine tree had to go. But do you trust information from the professional or the elderly bully next door?).

I didn’t really want that tree anyway but I freaked out over the short notice and additionl expense. Thankfully, the fence guy knew an arborist who would do the job over the weekend for a good price. Yay!

The tree went down and the fence went up. The fence was a four day job (spanning 7 properties), with a long weekend in-between. That weekend was horrible. I felt so exposed working in my garden. But the new fence is much higher than the old crappy one and I have so much more privacy now. It’s great. The only problem now is that there are gaps under the fence. I need to have that sorted out before I start hunting for Future Dog.

What dog can resist this hole?

Now that Project Fence is over, I’m putting all my energy into Project Garden. I’m already very sore from shoveling pebbles, moving paving, and hacking at compacted soil.

garden · issues

The Fence Saga: Part 2

A month ago I wrote about my fence collapsing and I my frustration while I tried to organise new fencing with the Office of Housing and my many neighbours.

A few days after that post, my busybody neighbour decided that I was too slow or something and organised her own quote while I was away at work. My parents were clearing my pile of chopped branches at the time so at least they were there to tell the fencing guy what I wanted and to send me a warning. I was so annoyed that she didn’t even ask me if she could take over, despite hassling me to get three quotes and despite my telling her that I didn’t have much money and wanted to focus on the collapsed Office of Housing fence first.
Well, fine. She wants to take charge then go for it. Less work for me.

The quote arrived (why did she tell me to get three quotes when she herself is happy with one?) and Busybody came over to demand that I remove the stupid trees in the middle of the driveway fence and the nectarine tree in my yard. I tried to tell her that the fence guy had told my parents that the nectarine tree was fine but she wouldn’t have a bar of it. I’m starting to detect a trend here – she does not listen to a word that I say. Is it because I am young (and look even younger)? So frustrating!

We ended up getting in a very circular arguement. There was much misunderstanding. She thought she was saying “you and -owner of other unit- need to pay for driveway trees to be removed” but I heard “trees are on your side so you must pay. I am on pension, woe is me”. The conversation was getting nowhere and I was getting more and more upset so I closed my door in her face. That was not a good evening. It felt like I would never end up getting a dog.

In the end, mum came over and helped me deal with Busybody. I don’t think we understand each other but there’s enough understanding to move forward. There was some talk of family removing the fence before the job is started to save money. So the quote is actually inaccurate? And my yard will be exposed for who knows how long? Ah fuck it, just do whatever and give me the bill when it’s done.

Quote for tree removal was not nearly as bad as I thought. I was expecting $1k but it’s only a few hundred so I’ll only be slightly over budget. I just need to get the other unit owner to approve and then we can get that out the way and leave Busybody to do whatever it is she’s doing.

Stupid trees

As for the OoH fence, well. I had a month of nothing. No updates or returning my calls. The hole in the fence didn’t face the road but I still felt so exposed. I would walk out to water my plants, only to see my neighbour, which lead to me rushing back inside before she would notice me and call me over to spend 20 minutes talking about fences and Crazy Cat Lady. My poor zucchini plant died from neglect.

I sent an angry email to OoH and lo! A call from fencing people telling me the fence would be replaced in two days time. Talk about short notice. I came home on Tuesday to a lovely new fence. I am so glad that’s over and I have my privacy back. Now I can work on developing that side of the garden while I wait for stupid driveway trees to be removed and the rest of the fencing to be replaced.

Things are looking up.