Watching the Garden Grow

I’ve realized I’ve done a terrible job with garden updates this year!  But hold onto your seats, cause if you’ll stick with me, I’m gonna catch you up!  (and please excuse my poor excuse for photography.  It seems I only take photos with my phone these days).  Ready?  Here goes…

This summer has been crazy busy and it’s flying by!  But the garden actually got a pretty slow start in the beginning with all the cool weather we had around here in the early summer months.  Progress seemed to drag it’s feet a little.

But before I could even plant anything, there was a LOT of hard work I had to do to get the garden ready for sowing.  There were so many weeds that had sprung up in the early spring weeks, and once they start they were viscous!

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I mostly planted everything in late April (thinking I’d get a head start and hopefully we’d eat watermelon and cantaloupe earlier this year!).  But that cool weather just halted any early growth, so a lot of things just kinda sat dormant for a few weeks.  The onions I actually planted in early/mid April, because they can be planted within a few weeks prior to the last frost.  You can read all about that post here: Gardening Kickoff.  About a week later is when I bought most of my seedlings.Apr13-garden (28)

seedlingsSome things I bought the same as last year- like the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, watermelon and cantaloupe (although I did buy a different variety of watermelon this year, and I made sure to buy “pickling” and “bush variety” cucumbers since the ones last year were SO HUGE).  They were great, but I thought I would try a smaller variety this year.  I also branched out and bought banana peppers and jalapeno peppers (since they will go in my salsa recipe).  And the onions were new this year.  I got all these plants into the ground by late April.veggiebabiesmelonsMom and Dwayne gave me some seedlings they grew themselves from seeds.  They are Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and Rudgers heirloom tomatoes. I had to be very gentle with them in the beginning.  They were so delicate and easily damaged by hash sun and rain, I had to keep them in smaller pots on the porch until they grew bigger and stronger to tolerate being out in the garden.April25Here are the bell peppers and Roma tomatoes in the garden bed behind the house, and in the background you can see the little cucumber and zucchini seedlings I planted in front of some wood trellises (so the vines can have vertical space to grow this year!).  And the grapes (that I planted last year) had started to fruit by early May.April29You still with me?? You’re doing great 🙂

Everything just slowly started to grow through the month of May.  My strawberries from last year just went dormant through the winter then came back this spring.  So during the months of May and June I was able to pick some strawberries.  They still don’t impress me that much.  There was certainly more fruit on the plants this year than last year, but they are still pretty small.  And they don’t last very long.  We figured out if you don’t eat them the day you pick them they pretty much just turn to mush.  Maybe strawberries aren’t my specialty.  But they are nice to have in the garden for snacking on.strawberries1 strawberries2Here’s how everything looked at the end of May.  The top left picture are the seedlings from Dwayne that were growing big and sturdy.  I transplanted them into the raised garden bed shortly after this picture was taken.  The grapes were still pretty tiny at this point.  The pear tree had just started to fruit, and the cucumbers and melons were starting to stretch their vines.May25-garden11May25-garden (10) May25-garden (8)

As June flew by, the garden just continued to grow.  Besides the onions, nothing really produced anything significant enough to harvest.  I was able to pick 1 jalapeno pepper around mid-June, which I used in some salsa that I canned.  (I had to go buy tomatoes though cause none of mine were ready for picking yet.)  The cucumber vines were getting pretty big though!  And I had tons of green tomatoes on some of the plants.  The 2 tomato plants I bought from Lowe’s had lots of green tomatoes on them, but the Rutgers and Cherries have yet to bloom (since they were started from seeds at home, they have some catching up to do with the big box-store seedlings).  And the melon vines are stretching farther and farther by the day!June15-garden (4)June15-garden (8) June15-garden (6)June15-garden (9) June15-garden (12)June15-garden (3) June15-garden (14)

I harvested about half of the onions around the 3rd week of June.  (I’ll do a detailed post on that process later!)  I laid them out to start curing on the swing on our porch.  Once they dried for another week or so, I strung those babies up!  I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself 🙂  And the best part is, we went on our mountain trip right after I had harvested all those onions, and our friend that vacationed with us gave us an awesome potato/onion storage unit that he built and brought to us!!  It’s perfect and now I have a great place to store all my onions (and potatoes!).

June17 (3)June24-garden (3)We’re almost there!

Around the last week of June, I noticed we had some hefty cucumbers on the vines!  Those suckers grow fast once they get going.  I mean, a week can make a huge difference with this guys.  I was able to pick about 15 cucumbers that week. Since I was leaving for our girls’ beach trip that weekend, I gave a few away to a friend.  cukesBut when I got back from that trip and checked on the garden, I had about 8 more cucumbers I could pick, and I noticed the hot peppers were making some progress! And the melons in the garden are seriously getting out of control now. They are running out of room!cukesandpeppersJuly4-garden (6)July7-gardenAnd that brings us up to speed on the garden for this year!! Whew, did you make it to the end?  That was a marathon of a post!  Thanks for being a trooper!  Stay tuned for some new recipes and how-to’s of pickling.  I couldn’t let all those cucumbers go to waste! 😉

Tulips Are My Favorite

I love a lot of flowers, but tulips are probably one of my favorites.  I don’t know what it is about them, but I just think they are so pretty.  And maybe part of the reason I love them so much is they are one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring.  After a long, cold, bland winter, tulips are often some of the first flowers you see peeking up through the ground as the weather begins to warm up.  You know spring is here when you see tulips and daffodils popping up everywhere.

Typically you plant tulip bulbs in the winter before the ground freezes and then they pop up in the spring.  Well, I had a bundle of bulbs that I never got around to planting so I kept them in the fridge all winter.  Then sometime in late February I planted them in the ground and hoped they would still bloom.  And luckily they had no trouble!  They just bloomed a few weeks after most other tulips I saw around town.  Here are my tulip babies as they started breaking through the surface.apr1-tulipsAnd now they are in full bloom and I love them!  I’m hoping they stay this way for a while. 🙂

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Gardening kickoff

Today I decided it was time to get the garden going again for this year.  For the most part I think I’ll do much of the same things as last year, but I did want to try at least one thing new this year.  I read about growing onions and garlic over the winter, but unfortunately now is not the time to plant garlic, from what I understand.  Apparently you plant that in the fall and then it sprouts in the spring. But onions do well this time of year.  So I decided to start planting those today.  Although, I’m a little worried I actually waited too late even for onions.  I read you can start planting them as early as 30 days before the last frost of the year, and then one chart said Mar 15 is the cutoff date for Alabama.  But the garden shops are still selling onion bulbs right now, so it was worth a shot.  For $3.75 for a bundle of about 30 onion bulbs I haven’t broken the bank if they don’t grow.Apr13-garden (4)So I headed out to the garden to investigate where to plant my onion babies.  I bought Georgia sweet onions which are “short-day” growers.  So they don’t need sun all day long, but ideally at least 6 hours of sunlight.  Since I’ll be planting tomatoes and peppers in the raised bed again soon, I left that area open.  And the far side of the garden will get cantaloup and watermelons in another month or so (and it’s the sunniest spot of the garden.)  So then I have an area next to the raised bed that I never planted anything in last year because it doesn’t get the best sunlight (the pear tree blocks all morning sun).  But I noticed today that by 1:30pm. sunlight was starting to hit this section, so I decided to make it home for my little onion patch.Apr13-garden (5)So I pulled back the weed block, got my garden rake and began tilling the soil.  Once I loosened it up really nicely, I went and filled the wheelbarrow up with a few shovel-fulls of compost from my compost bin.  I add kitchen goodies to it from time to time throughout the year, so it’s nice when I have it ready to use in the springtime.  You can read how I made it HERE.  Then I also had some organic potting soil that I bought last summer and never used, so I added that to my compost as well.  Then I mixed all that good soil in with the dirt in the garden.Apr13-garden (8) Apr13-garden (12) Apr13-garden (14)Apr13-garden (17)As you can see in the picture above, there’s a lot more richness to the compost dirt as opposed to the dirt from the garden.  But even the garden dirt had some good worms in it which is always a good sign.  Once the dirt was mixed, I smoothed it out and then made two raised rows.  Having never grown onions before, I searched for whatever tips I could find and one gardening website recommended these rows.Apr13-garden (18) Apr13-garden (20)But since you plant onions just barely below the surface, you have to pack the soil down to help hold them in place.  So you’ll see in the pictures that the row on the left is already packed down and the one on the right is not.  Then I just laid out my bulbs to make sure I had room, and then I planted them into the ground.  They are spaced about 4 inches apart and the rows are about 1 ft apart.  The bulb itself is buried so that only about 1/3 of the bulb is in the ground, and the roots are totally underground.  Although on some of the smaller ones it was hard to really tell where the top of the bulb started, since they weren’t quite as round as some of the bigger ones.Apr13-garden (23) Apr13-garden (24) Apr13-garden (27) Apr13-garden (28)Now we just wait and see how they grow.  I need to read again on what the time frame for harvesting these babies is.  Not sure if I should be checking on them in a few weeks or a month or so.  But at least they’re in the ground and ready to grow!

 

Spring is here!

It’s official. Spring is here. You can tell by the layer of yellow dusted over everything in sight.  Pollen is in the air, on the ground, covering my car, and making such a mess.  I’m grateful I don’t have allergies to pollen, cause I can’t imagine how miserable that must feel this time of year.  But I’m glad for the changing seasons.  There’s not much I like about winter.  I’m not a fan of the cold or the dreary deadness of winter.  I love flowers and green leafy trees.  I like being outside with the warm sun on my shoulders.  Now, also with the loveliness of spring comes something dreaded.  WEEDS!  Just as the grass grows taller and greener, so do those pesky weeds.  Well, since you can’t ignore them or they’ll only get worse, I decided to tackle them yesterday.  Greg (with the help of some buddies) got to working on the laundry room renovations, and I went to work in the yard.  Here’s a glimpse of what I was up against…

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Although it may look pretty with those lavender and yellow blooms, our yard is covered in weeds!!  Part of the problem is our lawn mower doesn’t have a bag on it. So every time Greg cuts the grass, the weeds don’t get picked up.  They just get cut into little pieces and spread across the yard.  The other problem is we haven’t ever done a good round of weed killer in the yard.  So yesterday, not only did I pull up a bunch of weeds (mainly all in the garden area, and in the pine straw area by the porch), but I bought some Scott’s Turf Builder with weed control.  I walked with a spreader all around the back yard, and hopefully it will start killing off all those weeds and help the grass grow better.  After a few hours of weeding and spreading and tidying up in the garden, the yard looks a little bit better.  It’ll look a whole lot better when all those weeds die, but that’ll take some time. Apr6-Weeding (2) Apr6-Weeding (13) Apr6-Weeding (23)

My battle wounds 🙁Apr6-Weeding (12)The strawberries have spread their runners into the pebbles.  I’ll have to transplant those at some point.  (They’re kinda hard to see, the pear tree casts a bunch of shadows).Apr6-Weeding (7) Apr6-Weeding (8)Lily was a lot of help, as usual 😉Apr6-Weeding (14)The grape vines are starting to bloom!  I really have no idea how the success of these will turn out. I’ve never grown grapes before. But they bear fruit on the previous years’ growth, so I’m hoping for at least a grape or two! 🙂Apr6-Weeding (27)And the pear tree is looking good. We trimmed it up this year (last year we just let it grow wild).  So we’re hoping for bigger fruit this year.  Apr6-Weeding (28)And I can’t wait for these beauties to bloom by the mailbox.  Tulips are my favorite 🙂Apr7-tulips

When it rains, it POURS!

If you live in the Birmingham area today, I’m sure your house was drenched with rain like ours was.  I was out driving in it for a while, which was not so fun, and everywhere I looked there were rivers and lakes forming in places they should not have been.  The park by our house was probably 75% standing water, all the roadside drain systems were overflowing as gushes of water were trying to filter through the system.  It was one of those days were you understand where the term “flash flood” comes from.  There was just too much rain in too short of time for any natural or man-made drain system to handle.

That included our recently renovated backyard drain system.  I knew it was bad when I pulled in the driveway and saw this in our front yard…

Feb10-rain-001Yep!  That spot I mentioned in the last post that usually backs up with water at the corner of our house.  This is it and it was bigger than ever!  And I’ve drawn out in yellow where our pipes lies underground.  It runs right into the “lake,”  and when Greg came outside to investigate and pull back some the the dirt, we could see that it WAS draining…but again, God gave us a LOT of rain today.  So the load was just too great.

I then decided to walk around with my phone and document the rest of the rain and drain situation out back.  Forgive the lack of quality in these photos, but they were taken on my phone and I was getting rained on the whole time.  The front screen on my phone was drizzled with raindrops!

Feb10-rain6Feb10-rain8Feb10-rain3Here’s a top view of the drain in action!  So we know it works at least…

Feb10-rain7And here’s a shot of another “lake” in our neighbors’ yard that drains into the back corner of our yard and down into the drainage creek behind the house.  This is honestly the highest I’ve seen it get, but Greg says it happens quite a lot when we get lots of rain.

Feb10-rain5Feb10-rain4Feb10-rain2Too bad it wasn’t warm today.  We totally could have gone tubing at our house! 😉  Guess we’ll be doing some tweaks to the drainage system to see if we can improve it a bit.

Dig it!

While we’ve been in a kick to clean-up and spruce up the backyard, we needed to address another water issue.  See, there’s this nice little patch off the right front corner of our house that also puddles really bad when it rains.  Grass has a hard time growing here partially due to the lack of drainage, and nobody likes a giant puddle in their yard, so we knew we had to deal with it at some point.  And since we just knocked out building a drainage system for the backyard, Greg decided he wanted to tackle this front area and try to solve that problem.  So far the back draining system seems to be working really well.  Greg captured this picture on his phone one day last week when it had been raining all day…feb1-drain

Look at all that rainwater rushing out the pipe into the drainage creek behind out house!  We were pretty thrilled it worked!  So, while mom and Dwayne were at our house helping with the first drain system, we talked it out and came up with a plan on how we could tie in more drain pipes leading all along the side of the house to the puddle area in the front.  That way it would drain water all the way to the back of the house and out the garden.  Since it seemed to be working so far, we went with it!

So Saturday morning Greg got started digging yet another ditch along the side of our house.  Our previous pipe system ended at the bottom of the deck stairs right by the pond.

Feb2-drain7So we lifted up the stones at the end of the path, dug a trench that squeezed between the steps and the pond and connected our new pipe to the end of the previous one.  You can’t see the pipes cause I snapped this picture after we had piled the dirt back on, but it just cuts through that corner and starts heading up the side of the house.  You can see below where the pipe ends at this point right in front of the rain barrel…

Feb2-drain3I don’t know which was harder… digging the first trench when the ground was SO muddy from a week’s worth of rain, or digging this time through SO MANY STINKIN’ tree roots!  The process this time was much quicker than the first time since we weren’t laying any sort of path down…but boy, it was back breaking work!

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We told Jack he needed to stop staring at us and pick up a shovel and make himself useful.  I guess the lack of opposable thumbs is a good enough excuse 😉

Feb2-drain5Towards the end of the pipe system where the puddle problem begins, we added some gravel around the pipes to increase it’s drainage capacity.  Some rainclouds rolled through before we finished, so we had to resume our work Sunday afternoon.  But we finally got it all done and laid some pine-straw down to clean it up.  Now we just wait for another rainstorm to pass through to truly put it to the test again.  Fingers crossed!!

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Sprucing up the Backyard

Today we made huge progress on the backyard!  Dwayne and I got started nice and early.  First we had to keep digging the trench for the rest of the pipe to run along the length of the path.  He also worked on clearing out these two overgrown areas along the wall of the house.  Here’s what it looked like yesterday…

Jan22-backyard (5)One giant dead bush and one terribly crooked gardenia bush filled this space.  Well yesterday Greg and Dwayne tried hooking a chain up to the truck and pulling the bushes out.  But the ground was still too wet, and Greg’s truck kept getting stuck.  So today Dwayne did some digging and took an axe to them, and eventually we got the space cleared out.

Jan22-backyard (9) Jan23-backyard path (2) Jan23-backyard path (5)Mom and Greg came out to help us a little later, and we got weed blocked laid out where the path would go, and edging put in place to define the path.  We made sure to do lots of leveling yesterday to make sure our pipe will funnel any water out of the yard and through the garden.  Let’s just hope it actually works!

Jan23-backyard path (3) Jan23-backyard path (7)The hardest part was that the ground and dirt still wasn’t 100% dry, so all the dirt we kept having to dig through and move around was pretty heavy.  It was exhausting!  We also trimmed up the pear tree some more.  There were a lot of branches either already broken or badly bent, and the whole tree was just too crowded.  We needed to get rid of a good portion of them so that it would produce fewer but bigger pears this summer.  Too many branches and it will just produce a bunch of smaller pears.  But anyways, back to the path.  The next step was to fill the path with mulch Greg picked up this morning.

Jan23-backyard path (8) Jan23-backyard path (9)Next we laid the stones in place!  It looks soooo good!!!!  And then we added mulch around the base of the pear tree (which I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of).  But check it out!  Our beautiful backyard!

Jan23-backyard path (11) Jan23-backyard path (12) Jan23-backyard path (14) I still need to get some bushes planted along the back wall of the house.  And over time the grass will need to grow back in some spots, but hopefully some good weed killer will help with that.  I also did some prepping for spring gardening. I got all my pots on the deck cleared out, pulled all the dead veggies plants up, and trimmed some branches from the tree that grows over the pond.  It was a successful day, and we would have never gotten it done without the help of mom and Dwayne!!  And now I’m laid out on the couch and can’t move.  Work may be rough tomorrow.

Backyardigans

So our backyard has been needing some work lately.  Actually, it’s been needing some work since the first time I laid eyes on it, and we’ve come a long way from the wild and crazy jungle that once grew back there.  But our current project includes taking care of some poor drainage issues.  Any time it rains for more than a day or so, water starts to build up in the yard.  What makes it worse is Lily (one of our dogs) runs a particular path so much that the grass has thinned out.  Then when you have weeks like last week where it rained for over 5 days straight, the main portion of the backyard just turns into a MAJOR mud pit.  It was BAD!  We kept towels at the backdoor for days and constantly had to wipe all three dogs’ paws off when they came into the house.

So last Saturday when the weather was nice, Greg and I decided to start our project of turning the “path” Lily has created into a legit walkway with stepping stones and mulch (since grass won’t grow well there anyways).  It would lead from the back porch to the gate of the garden.  Well, the ground was still waaaay too wet for us to make much progress.  We were slipping and sinking into mud like it was quicksand.  Here’s what it all looked like as of last Saturday.Jan19-backyard path (1) Jan19-backyard path (2) Jan19-backyard path (3)The other area that needs attention is the area along the back wall of the house.  At one point several bushes or trees were planted there, but it’s mostly just stumps left in the ground.  There is one gardenia bush that I would love to keep, but for some reason it grows totally crooked.  I don’t know if something fell on it at some point, or if it just always tried growing towards the sun, but it leans TERRIBLY to the side, so I think we’re just gonna chunk it.  I would like this whole area to get replanted with some hydrangea bushes or maybe some azaleas.  Anything that will flower!  We have no flowering bushes at our house, and I need some pretty flowers!

Jan19-backyard path (5)Well today my mom and Dwayne came over and helped us with our project.  We had already decided we needed a pipe underground to help drain water out of the yard, through the garden walkway, and into the waterway that runs behind our house.  So Dwayne helped us dig a trench for the pipe, and we started making a dent clearing out the “land of stumps.”

Jan22-backyard (4)Jan22-backyard (3) Jan22-backyard (5) Jan22-backyard (6)And since mom and I weren’t much help with the trench digging part, we decided to start pruning the pear tree a little.  And I dug up all the dead tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper plants from the raised garden.  I can’t wait for warm weather and gardening to begin again! 🙂

Jan22-backyard (7)Tomorrow we’ll be back out there working some more.  There’s more pipe to bury and ground to level out.  Hard work will hopefully pay off when we have a pretty backyard to hang out in this summer!

Pear Pickin’

I have the fondest memory of my mom, my sisters and my Nana all going apple picking one August many years ago.  I’m sure I was about 12 years old, and we drove to an orchard outside of town, and filled our garden baskets with as many gala apples as we could hold.  It was so much fun!  Even to this day, I only buy gala apples (first of all, cause they taste better), but partially just because of this childhood memory I have held onto.  Now what does that have to do with pears?  Not really anything (besides the pickin’ part!), I just wanted to share that memory 🙂

But we do have a pear tree in our backyard, and Greg has told me for the past few years that it actually bears fruit.  Well, Greg never bothered picking and eating the pears, but since I’m obviously on a farming kick this summer, I decided we will actually eat some fruit!  Last Friday I put on my gardening boots, grabbed the biggest basket and bowl we have, and started picking.  Some of the pears are still a little small, so I left those on the tree, and tried just picking the bigger ones.  I filled both baskets and then some!  And that was only what I could reach at an arm’s length.  I’ll have to get a big ladder this week to reach some of the higher branches.  All these pears went into a cardboard box, and into a cool spot in the house where they will finish ripening.  I did some pear research, and read that you actually want to pick pears when they are just firm enough on the tree to make a small indention with your thumb.  Then you bring them inside, place them in a cool spot, and let them continue to ripen indoors.

With that in mind, I had picked a small batch last week that has been sitting in a large bowl in the laundry nook, so they were nice and ripe on Friday.  I decided with this batch I would attempt to can them.  I LOVE pears, so if I can stock up our pantry full of canned pears for the winter, I will be a happy camper 🙂  Having never canned pears yet, I did a little research and mainly just went by the instructions in the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving that I have. The process itself was really simple, however I grossly underestimated the time it takes to peel and cut pears.  (And keep in mind, this was a small batch of pears).  It took me TWO HOURS to peel and cut those suckers!  I finally just pulled up a stool to the counter to try to get comfy.  Next time, I think I’ll set up shop on the back porch and at least enjoy some fresh air during the process.

 

But anyways, you peel them, cut them into slices and cut out the core.  As you cut them up, drop the slices into a large bowl of anti-browning solution, which consists of:

  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt (I went ahead and used canning salt)
 Once you get all your pears cut up and you have them soaking in anti-browning solution, you’ll need to start heating your clean jars and lids and make your syrup for canning.  You can do a light, medium, or heavy syrup depending on how much sugar you use. Not knowing which would be best, I opted for the medium syrup.  But here’s the breakdown if you want something different.
Sugar Syrup

Syrup Sugar Water Yield
Light 2 cups 6 cups 7 cups
Medium 3 cups 6 cups 6 1/2 cups
Heavy 4 cups 6 cups 7 cups

Begin heating the syrup on the stovetop.  Meanwhile, pour some of the pears into a colander to drain the anti-browning solution, then drop them into the syrup.  Bring syrup to a boil, and cook pears for approx. 10 mins.

Once cooked, fill your heated jars with pear slices, packing them in tight, then pour syrup over to fill the jar to the 1/2inch headspace.

 Remove air bubbles by stirring and pressing against the pairs with a plastic knife.  Then wipe the rim of the jar clean, seal with the lid, and replace jar into the canner over simmering water.



Once all your jars are filled,  bring the water bath to a boil, then lower cans into the canner and process for 20 mins.  Remove from the canner and let them seal!  I haven’t tried any yet, but they sure look good 🙂

 

Fixing the Rain Barrel

Last fall as a wedding gift, someone bought us a rain barrel we were registered for.  I knew it would come in handy during the gardening season, and be a cost-efficient way to water the plants on the deck.  Now, I’ve seen tons of pictures where people hook up their hoses to the rain barrel and water their grass/plants that way.  See…

Well don’t be fooled.  It seems the only way to make this happen is to have a pump installed in the barrel to pump the water out, because no matter how high you raise the rain barrel, you won’t get enough force to actually run the water any distance through a hose.  We tried making that happen with this contraption…
 It failed.  So we moved the barrel back to the side of the house where it would collect water from the roof runoff.  From here I can water all the plants on the deck using a watering can instead of trying to run a hose off the barrel and water the garden out back.  But there was still a problem.  With the barrel sitting on the ground, there isn’t enough room to fit a watering can under the spout.  So, we needed to raise it up.  Here’s where we’ve had our barrel sitting collecting rain water that spills from the roof (notice we don’t have any gutters around the house).
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Actually, let’s rewind for a second.  I thought maybe if we just attach a short hose to the spigot maybe we could still fill a watering can without needing to build a stand.  But no go.  Unless I kept the can tilted, the water stopped running when the hose level got above the spigot.  That was useless.
With some canine assistance, we got to work building a stand.  First we went to Lowe’s and bought 2 cinder blocks (which would hold most of the weight of the barrel) and 16 decorative cement blocks (ya know, for decorative purposes).  Next we leveled out our area.

Pretty level, huh?  Then we placed our decorative blocks around the cinder blocks in a semi-circle, and then unfortunately realized we were a couple of blocks short.  Another quick run to Lowe’s and we were good.  We laid the first layer down, and then the second layer staggered on top like brickwork.  Then we just had to chisel off 2 blocks on the edges to fit against the deck.  I thought maybe a screwdriver would help make more precise cuts, but in the end a good whack with the hammer turned out to work better.  Yes, it was slightly less accurate, but we Greg made it work.

 

We loaded the rain barrel onto the stand, and then filled in the open areas around the cinder blocks with pea gravel.  And again, we were a little short on pea gravel.  A 3rd bag would top us off. So we’ll add that later.  3 trips to Lowe’s in 1 day is just too much!

We didn’t want to rain barrel to hang right off the edge, so we cut the 4ft leader hose I had bought down to just a few inches so it fits right into the watering can.  Ta-da!  I’m so happy how it turned out.  I think it looks great!!  Oh, and did I mention it’s a blazing 103 degrees F outside today!!  Boy do we need some rain to break this heat wave and to refill our rain barrel!