Friday, September 5, 2014

Backyard Gardener Contributor

I was the Official Backyard Gardener Contributor on Squidoo! The JOY of seeing something grow from seed ... Ah! You know, I wasn't born with a green thumb, but found I had a passion for gardening as a child.

autumn beauty sunflowers in a laurel burch cat vase
Growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, we had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with our grandparents. From my maternal grandfather, I learned to appreciate the satisfaction of tending a beautiful flower garden and the necessity of maintaining a vegetable garden.

We always had a nicely manicured yard with an array of flowers and usually a vegetable garden in the backyard.

In my adult life, I didn't always find the time to manage a backyard garden as I had a professional marketing career all my adult life.

Then, I moved to Jacksonville Florida in the early 90s. Things changed for me as we seriously have more months of nice garden weather than Ohio! I became rather an expert at backyard gardening.

All photos and content copyright JaguarJulie.

Gardening Expertise Poll - We asked our readers previously to rate themselves from newbie to moderately talented to expert. Like stairsteps!

Ah, the JOY of Gardening!
jaguarjulie glamorous photo
Where do I begin? You know, I always appreciated flowers and blossoms but really never thought about growing them for myself. Then, when I moved to Jacksonville, Florida in the early 90s, I bought a small 1460 sq. ft. townhouse. It had a one-car garage and a little patch of grass in the front and back yards. That was when I first tried my creative hand at exterior yard design.

The backyard design started off with a small privacy shadowbox fence and then a 10 ft. square wooden platform deck. I then painted the concrete slab a teal blue color and erected a spruce green and white striped canopy over the deck. Next, I began digging up the little bit of exposed grass, putting down concrete stepping stones and white stones. Lastly, I added Oleander bushes and a variety of flowers.

After I finished in the backyard, I came to the front yard. I painted the sidewalk teal blue and planted a variety of flowers and plants down the side of the house. At the curb, I put in a colorful floral triangular garden with wooden edging. The flowering crepe myrtle in the little front yard was the show piece.

That was yesterday, so to speak. Now that I have a much larger yard, over 12,000 sq. ft., I have become a bit of a professional at backyard gardening. You can call me the Blonde Backyard Gardener! By the way! I bet you didn’t know that I also am one of the Blondes that DIY! #blondesthatdiy <---- hashtag!

Gardening for Geeks: DIY Tests, Gadgets, and Techniques That Utilize Microbiology, Mathematics, and Ecology to Exponentially Maximize the Yield of Your Garden - Gee, this is a book that seriously appeals to my scientific side!

You know, if I wanted to take my gardening up a notch, it would be with a book like this!

Consider what you learn about : DIY Tests, Gadgets, and Techniques That Utilize Microbiology, Mathematics, and Ecology to Exponentially Maximize the Yield of Your Garden!

Wow, this book will help you work together with Mother Nature to achieve the backyard garden of your dreams!

Have you ever thought about "analyzing meteorological patterns in order to plan productive beds?" I haven't really although I do plan my Scott's Bonus S application around the forecast.

My Backyard & Frontyard Gardening Projects

My Backyard & Frontyard Gardening Projects
Allow me to share with you photos of some of the work that I have done. You know a photo is worth a thousand words at the very least and maybe two thousand in my case. You see, I couldn't contain myself in only the backyard(s)!

My Townhouse Backyard Garden - The first larger scale backyard project!

My Townhouse Backyard Garden
Here is that project I just told you about. In this photo, you get a view of a good part of the townhouse backyard. The oleander were relatively young along with the other flowers and plants. This design looked like it came out of Better Homes & Gardens! I designed it from scratch without using any magazine designs. Once I finished with the yard work, I added a wooden table and chairs to the platform deck.

My Townhouse Backyard Garden With Lights! I always wondered what this looked liked from overhead.

My Townhouse Backyard Garden With Lights
You know, it used to feel like a got a lot of small planes and helicopters buzzing over head, particularly at night when I lit up the lights. The lighting really helped to make my design a bit of a showpiece.

The Front Yard of My Townhouse - View looking out from the front door.

The Front Yard of My Townhouse
I personally love painting or staining the concrete walkways! Since this townhouse was done in a Jacksonville Jaguars color scheme, I picked teal blue for the front walkway. I added lots of plants and shrubbery to the left and right along with white decorative edging, concrete stepping stones, and mulch. Notice the crepe myrtle in the front yard. At the front curb, in the upper right of the photo, I had the triangle garden area with decorative wooden edging. Talk about curb appeal; this place had loads of it!

A Backyard Project With the Hubby. Have you ever done a joint project with your spouse?

Backyard Patio Paver Project With the Hubby
This was the last joint project that I worked on with the hubby before the divorce. After all that work, I felt I had to leave the Deercreek Country Club house to the ex. I didn’t have the heart to make him sell it.

So, in this project, I provided the labor by hauling all the patio stone and materials from the front driveway to the backyard. I was with the hubby as he progressed through the work, offering my artistic eye and snapping lots of photos so that we could do our DIY tutorial. It was a weekend project that came together fairly quickly. Talking with the ex recently, he has acknowledged that his back wouldn’t be up to another project like this one!

That Patio Paver Backyard Project! This was a little job I did with the hubby!

If you have ever contemplated a patio paver project of your own, you will learn all the steps on how to accomplish one. This is the type of weekend job that any homeowner, male or female, can do. You can scale it up or down depending upon how much space you have. What are you waiting for; let's get it started already!!

Another Patio Paver Project. A little less artistic, but very functional.

jaguarjulie backyard Patio Paver Project
Out of necessity, I did a patio of twelve inch red patio stones along with Holland brick pavers to edge it. This was an area in my backyard that didn’t seem to be growing grass very well. When the rain would come off the roof, it would create a marshy area here. Putting down the stones was the best thing I ever did for that area of yard.

Pruning the Nine Crepe Myrtle Trees. Enjoying the changing of the leaves!

changing of leaves on crepe myrtle trees after pruning
In the early Spring of 2012, I started to prune the nine crepe myrtle trees that lined my backyard. Those limbs were from thirty to fifty feet high! Armed with a Corona 18 inch hand saw, I went to work. I started at the left back and worked on just one tree at a time. Each time I brought down one of those massively long limbs, I tried to be as careful as possible not to hurt myself. Then, I would take time to saw the limbs into five foot lengths and then bag the leaves and put the tiny limb pieces into a 55-gallon trash container.

It took me fourteen weeks to complete this job! Each Friday I hauled the cut limbs and leaf debris to my curb for pickup. The yard guys swore that I couldn’t have done it all by myself. How about that?

In the end, I only hurt myself about three or four times. One time, the new saw came off the limb and hit me in my right shin. That was pretty gory … I ran inside, applied pressure, put on a large bandage, and decided to lie down until I stopped feeling dizzy. Then, I came back outside and continued working. Another time, I slammed the nail on my left finger up against a tree when I swung one of the cut limbs, trying to knock over another limb that landed upright in the ground. I was sure I broke it!

Bottomline, I never would have been able to experience the beautiful changing of the leaves if I hadn’t pruned those crepe myrtles in the first place. Now, the job only takes a few hours each year to prune the growth at the end of the year! Who needs a chainsaw and a man???

I Trimmed All Those Crepe Myrtles! One by one by one by one ...

Honestly, there was not motorized equipment used in this project. It was all about the Corona 18 inch hand saw. I was so impressed how this little hand saw, with a bit of girl power from me, handled all those fifty foot limbs on the overgrown crepe myrtles. You'll have to check out my product review to see MORE pictures from my backyard gardening project!! Girl Power!

My Seven-Eight Foot DIY Garden of Sunflowers. What is up with all that red mulch?

You know, it was tough trying to pick just one photo from that first sunflower garden. I opted to use this one because it feels like yesterday when I came home from Lowe’s with several bags of red mulch. What was up with quality control that day back at the mulch factory? I think somebody must have flipped the switch on the dye or got that chemical formula wrong. I couldn’t believe how there were three different colors going on. Anyways, you’ll note that I had three rows of tall sunflower plants. This was obviously near the end of the season for that first crop.

There are lots and lots of photos of the garden, charting its growth and then sharing the rest of the journey through all the lovely and colorful blossoms to actually harvesting the seeds for that second garden of 2014! I did many blog posts … be sure to check those out!

Come along and experience this inspirational journey with me. From start to finish:
My DIY Garden of Sunflowers #1!

It all started with some Burpee Sunflower Seeds and a vision! Whenever I start a project, there has always been a lot of contemplation behind it. With my very first DIY Sunflower Garden, I really wanted to start with a singular plant. That was in the Summer of 2012; however, no plants could be found. I knew that I would have to be patient and wait until the next growing season. August in Jacksonville, Florida is SO HOT and HUMID! Around came February 2013, a piece of land, some seeds and a little muscle. Voila! Sunflowers!!

This Is My Second DIY Garden of Sunflowers. The 2014 edition that was a work in progress!

my second diy garden of sunflowers by jaguarjulie
As of May 4, 2014, some of the plants had attained a height surpassing 36 inches! This year’s garden is much more involved than 2013′s in that there are four rows rather than three and there are many more plants. Every single plant has come from seeds harvested from the previous garden! That’s quite something.

This DIY journey is just getting started … here is that journey thus far:

My Mexican Petunia Garden Project #1. A side yard project that still looks fabulous!
My Mexican Petunia Garden Project #1
This was actually the first large gardening project that I undertook in my current home. I had quite a large area that I was digging up and knew that I wanted to plant Mexican Petunias because they grow quite well and are drought-resistant. I was first captured by their beauty with the daily showers of purple flowers. The house across the street from me had a mailbox decorated with these flowers. That was my inspiration!

My Second Mexican Petunia Garden. The neighbors were really talking about this!

My Second Mexican Petunia Garden
Yes indeed … after I finished my first similar project in my side yard to the right of my house, I came to the front of the house, on the left side. To be cool with my next door neighbor, I asked her opinion on what I planned to do. I had some stakes and put them in the ground to consult on the property line. Then, another neighbor came by. Both of those gals were “consulting” on my planned gardening project.

One thing led to another and soon I was digging up the ground. As I went, I made sure to fill in the area with mulch and plants rather than leaving exposed dirt. Before you knew it, I had down patio stones and brick pavers along with red mulch and more Mexican Petunias! I was thrilled with how good this job actually looked and how easy it is to maintain year-to-year.

Then, a neighbor down the street came by, “how much would you charge to do one of those for me?” Thinking it over, I said, “Ah, it all depends …”

A Massive Side Yard Gardening Project. My biggest square footage job yet!

A Massive Side Yard Gardening Project
When I started working on this side yard, the weather was already pretty hot! It was July-August 2013. I had been researching Florida-Friendly Landscaping to get some ideas on how I could make my one side yard more friendly. It was only a couple of days into the project where I was digging with a shovel and then picking out the grass pieces to put in the trash bag. I kept hitting roots from the large water oaks that had been removed from the backyard. The sweat was rolling off me and I was covered in dirt with lots of dirt up my nose. It got to be quite an emotional project and I was having a difficult time seeing its completion.

Blood, sweat and a lot of tears went into this project. And, you have no idea how many trips back and forth to Lowe’s I made on a daily basis with my sports car with the white leather interior! I have no trunk, so everything that you see here was brought home in my front seat.

My Daisy Garden Out Back. Right outside my back door ...

My Daisy Garden Out Back
There have been a lot of different daisies which have cycled through this garden. At the moment, you can see gerbera daisies and some daisy bushes along with gaillardia pulchella. I’ve previously grown echinacea daisies. I’ve kept the color scheme going with the red brick edging and patio stones. Recently, I added some solar patio lights which add a lot of cool touches in the evening and night. I really think it must look pretty special from the sky when all those little planes and helicopters fly over!

jaguarjulie are we done yet
Whew!!! Are We DONE Yet?? You know, I did it all myself. I forgot to mention that I also put down about 80 pieces of sod in the front yard by myself. I hauled every piece of stone, bag of mulch, soil, plants, whatever, in the front seat of my Chrysler Crossfire sports car!

A Helpful How-to Book!

Gardening for Geeks: DIY Tests, Gadgets, and Techniques That Utilize Microbiology, Mathematics, and Ecology to Exponentially Maximize the Yield of Your Garden

Are YOU ready to try your hand at a little backyard gardening? Have you found my article and do it yourself projects inspiring?

We've all got to start some place. For me, I have really been a single gal most of my life. It was out of necessity that I learned how to do these type of DIY projects. I never wanted to burden someone else to help me. Even those times I might have been dating a guy! With the exception of that one backyard paver project with my hubby [now the ex], I did everything by myself. Even to the point that I picked up and delivered all the materials needede for my do-it-yourself projects.

Whew! I think I'm a little tired now ... ah, retirement!

History: I'm the Backyard Gardener Contributor on Squidoo was originally created on Squidoo by JaguarJulie on May 5, 2014 by JaguarJulie. On May 6, 2014 this lens earned the Purple Star Award for quality content.

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