Monday, February 27, 2012

Waiting on Spring

The first daffodil of the season
brings a smile to my face
But also finds me wishing
that spring would pick up the pace

Yes, spring's the time we so long for
after winter's dormant state
Anticipation grows with each new day
I just hope it won't be late

Awaiting spring's arrival
the time just seems to creep
I'm waiting for perennials
that slept and crept.... to leap!

Bulbs that lie beneath the soil
are sending up some green
but blooms of blue and yellow, too
are waiting to be seen

Soon temps will rise and soil will warm
from shining rays of sun
this gardener will rejoice in spring
'cause the waiting will be done

By Toni @ Signature Gardens

Hoping your wait will be short...

Toni :-)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Potting in DIY Style

I have been wanting a potting bench for quite some time.  After all, I am a gardener, and don't we all NEED a handy place to play with dirt in pots?   Yes, of course, we do!

Every time I saw a potting bench, I would look at it longingly, but for one reason or another, I just never seemed to be able to find the perfect one.

A few years ago while touring a garden in our area,  I saw a bench that I really liked that was made by the homeowner's son.   This young man was kind enough to give me construction instructions and a picture.  It went in my "garden ideas" file for "someday."   Here's a picture of that bench (sorry for the poor quality - it's a scan of a photocopy).

Recently I was at a client's yard, and I noticed that she had a potting bench.  She told me that her husband had built it for her, and that got me to thinking...I wonder if maybe I could build one.

I had the potting bench bug -- and bad!  I came home and started researching on the internet for DIY potting benches.  Lo and behold, I found this great website called Thrifty Decor Chick, and she had a post on building a potting bench with very detailed instructions.    I liked the basic construction of her bench, but I wanted to make mine a two-tier bench with decorative cast iron brackets like the one that I had seen on the garden tour earlier.  Here's a picture of TDC's potting bench.

I decided that my potting bench would work great on my side yard right across the walkway from my greenhouse.    Here's a view of my side yard.   I am not sure I have ever shown this part of my yard before, basically because it's pretty nondescript.   This is where I have a rain barrel, my greenhouse, and a small square foot garden area for veggies.

TDC's bench was larger than my space allowed, so I started calculating the measurements for my side yard space and drawing a plan, and measuring some more, and thinking and dreaming, and checking the measurements just one more time ( least 10 more times!) until I finally came up with a plan that is basically a marriage of the two benches.

I took all of my measurements down to the local Lowe's, and the nice guy in the lumber department cut all of the cedar lumber to my precise details.

A couple boxes of screws, a drill and countersink drill bit, tape measure, my pile of precisely cut lumber, a couple cool wooden finials and decorative cast iron brackets, a few prayers, and we were ready to go.

After I hurt my arm last year and became the Gimpy Gardner for a time, one of the lessons I learned was that it is best to ask (or beg) for help rather than to try and overdo it (besides, I need to save myself for diggin' in the dirt!).

So...enter Handy Husband.  Well, actually, he's not so handy with construction tools, but he's got Popeye forearms, and all I needed was someone to drill a bunch of holes and screw in some screws.    How hard could that be, right?      Well,  I am very picky and want everything done perfectly, and my husband is sort of a "just get 'er done" kind of guy.   He had to keep reminding me that we were building a potting bench, not a nuclear bomb, so we could probably give the picky perfect precision thing a little rest.

So we got to work.  It started coming together little by little.   I could see it taking shape before my eyes!   It was so exciting!!

And without further ado (drum roll, please) here is the finished product!  

Is this awesome, or what?!!!   I absolutely LOVE it!!!!   I still cannot believe that we actually built this with our own hands from scratch!   One of the biggest thrills for me in doing a landscape design is seeing what I have in my mind and drawn on a piece of paper actually come to life.  That is exactly what happened with the potting bench.

The detail on the upper back of the bench is a piece of old decorative iron that I have had for years.  I don't remember where I got it, but I just thought it was beautiful and figured I'd find a place for it at some point.   The cross bars on it used to protrude through the top and bottom of the piece at varying heights.   We used a metal cutting blade on our angle grinder and cut those pieces off.  And after grinding down the bumps of the screws a little bit, it fit perfectly in the space between the cross braces.  I think it adds so much character (and a little bling) to the bench and makes it one of a kind.

If you'd like the details of how we constructed the bench, keep reading.   
If not, then I'll catch you next time.

*   *   *

Here are all of the supplies needed and measurements for the potting bench:

Cedar lumber:
2 - 35 1/2 inch 4x4 (front legs)
2 - 57 1/2 inch 4x4 (back legs)
4 - 58 1/4 inch 1x4 (top and bottom braces)
10 - 18 1/2 inch 1x4 (side braces)
8 -  20 inch 1x6 (bottom shelf)
3 - 58 1/4 inch 1x6 (bench table top)
1 - 49 1/4 inch 1x4 (bench table top between 4x4s)
1 - 56 3/4 inch 1x6 (back brace near table top)
1 - 56 3/4 inch 1x4 (back brace near top-tier shelf)
1 - 58 1/4 inch 1x12 (top-tier shelf)

2 decorative cast iron brackets (9 x 6 3/4 inches)
2 wooden finials
cast iron hooks
1 box 3-inch galvanized screws
1 box 1 5/8-inch galvanized screws

The final measurements are 58 1/4 inches wide, 65 1/4 inches tall (at finial height) and 21 inches deep.   The table top is 36 inches tall.

First we attached the top and bottom braces (1x4s) across the front and back legs (4x4s).  The bottom brace is 6 inches from the bottom.  The braces are placed 3/4 inch over the edge of the 4x4 to allow for a side brace to be added later.

Next we attached all of the side braces, top and bottom of the bench.  We put braces on each side of the 4x4 legs and two more across the top of the bench for extra support.


Then we added the bottom shelf which is made up of eight 1x6s laid perpendicular to the shelf with wide spaces (about 3/4 inch)  between each board.

Then we attached the table top boards horizontally across the length of the bench.   The bench table top is made up of three 1x6s and one 1x4 piece.  The 1x6s form the widest part of the table top, and the 1x4 piece fits between the 4x4 legs that go up to form the top tier.  We spaced the boards approximately 1/4 inch apart.

Next we attached the back braces to the 4x4s of the upper tier; a 1x6 near the table top part of the bench, and a 1x4 up at the top where the top-tier shelf rests.   A flat bracket was also attached to the back side for extra stability across the back.

Then we attached the top-tier 1 x 12 shelf, the decorative star brackets, the wooden finials, and the decorative iron piece across the back.

Cast iron hooks were added to the ends of the table top 
for hanging garden tools.

I wanted to keep the bench two-toned cedar, so I stained the legs and finials with Cedar Naturaltone stain, and I sealed the rest of the bench with a clear sealer. 

If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and you'd like us to make a potting bench for you, we are taking orders.  Please email me for pricing.   Or try your own little DIY handiwork.  You might just surprise yourself!

Happy potting...

Toni :-)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Grass Guy

Looking for a fun project to do with your kids 
on a cold (or warm) winter day?

Here's what you need to get started:

Knee-high pantyhose
Rye grass seed
      (about a tablespoon)
Potting soil
      (about a cup)
Tiny rubber bands
Google eyes
Pipe Cleaners
Craft Glue
Mason jar

Step 1:  Put about a tablespoon of rye grass seed in the toe of the knee-high pantyhose (this grass seed becomes the "hair" when it sprouts)

Step 2:  Put about a cup of potting soil into the knee-high on top of the grass seed.   Put in enough soil to form about a softball size "head"

Step 3:  Tie the pantyhose in a knot just below the soil ball.  Leave the long tail (it becomes a wick)

Step 4:  To form ears, pinch a small amount of soil and pantyhose and put a rubber band around it; repeat on other side.   Follow the same step to form a nose.

Step 5:  Glue on google eyes, button for nose, pipe cleaner for a mouth.  Allow glue to dry before proceeding to the next step.

Step 6:  Soak the top of the soil ball (and grass seed) in water for a few minutes until the soil becomes moist.  Then fill the mason jar with water, and put the "tail" of the pantyhose down into the water.   The tail will wick water up into the soil ball keeping it moist.   Refill the jar with water as needed.

Step 7:  Place your Grass Guy in a sunny location, and watch his "hair" grow!

Here's Grass Guy as a "newbie"
Isn't he cute :-)

After about a week, we have "hair"
He's still a cute little "sprout" :-)

Here he is in his adolescent years

They grow up so fast!

Having a bad hair day

Oops, looks like a little MPB is setting in

Time for the compost pile?

"I'm watching you!"

 Have fun!!

Toni :-)