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A few months ago, I was asked by the people of Troy-Bilt if I’d like to review something this season. Last year I won a cordless trimmer in a contest and reviewed that on the blog (though I didn’t have to). Um, heck yes!

Hubby and I went back and forth trying to decide whether to get a tiller or a pressure washer. Both are things we could definitely use. We borrow a tiller from either my or his parents at least once a year to till up a spot to fix grass seed or build a new garden. Both sets of parents also have pressure washers, but we hadn’t borrowed one of those since moving in (to clean the deck). In the end, we decided on the Troy-Bilt 2700 PSI 2.3 GPM Gas Pressure Washer. Though we’d get use out of a tiller, we figured we’d get more use from the pressure washer: deck, cars, siding, driveway, sheds, etc.

We got it in a while back – I was disturbed to find a giant box that said, more or less “Big Expensive Thing You Can Steal!” sitting on my front stoop one day after work. Way to go, FedEx man! (The mail lady and UPS guy know to leave stuff, especially stuff like that, on the back deck.) I dragged it in the house and it sat there until hubby very quickly put it together when we were cleaning up before going on vacation a couple weeks ago (assembly was very easy, according to hubs). He broke it out this weekend to use it.

First of all, let me just say that you seriously never know how many plants and things you have on your deck until you have to take them off one-by-one after getting home from work.

Anyway…deck before and afters! We’re pretty sure this deck was never sealed or anything (built by previous owners), and we would like to eventually do a bigger one ourselves, so we aren’t going to seal it and all that since it will likely be coming down in a few years anyway (we’ll see). It’s kind of weirdly shaped and not built great anyway. Power washing makes it look a TON better, though. There were tons of gross green spots and darkened spots from having plants and stuff on there. They are pretty much all gone and the whole deck looks WAY better. For some reason you can’t tell as much of a difference in the first set of pics (may be a lighting thing), but I assure you that our deck is a different color now.

Hubby also did the driveway (nice long cord and hose…it allllmost reached to the end of the driveway). He also did the siding. The siding really needed it. It was gross. This is the original 1979 siding (thank god they picked white back then), and most likely it has never been washed. He bought a big siding brush and some (garden safe!) siding cleaning solution and went to town. Now granted, we have a VERY small one-story house, but he got it all done in a few hours (with the help of a ladder – which the hose did not encumber him from using) in one night. Pretty good in my book! He even did a quick spray-off of the cars.

We’re very happy with this and will definitely be using it a lot. Now that we have it, we’ll probably pressure wash the deck each year and the siding every few years. It’ll be used to especially grimy car days as well. Probably its next big project will be when we repaint the old shed that came with the house (from the icky color gray it is now, to taupe and maroon to match the other shed and what we’d eventually like for the house). We’ll use the pressure washer to clean off the old paint and get a nice clean surface for the new paint. Many projects to come!

Disclaimer: I received this item from Troy-Bilt to review, good or bad. I receive nothing in return for posting a good review versus a bad one – these opinions are my own and are an honest review of the product mentioned above. I read reviews extensively before purchasing almost anything, so I’m happy to review things so others can do the same. Let me know if you find this review helpful!

Additional note: Allergies have been KICKING MY ASS all day long. Leaky faucet nose all day. It’s one of those days where you just say “eff it” and do this:

I HIGHLY, highly recommend any tissue with menthol in it. Whenever I find them in the store I buy a bunch of boxes because it’s hard to find. It’s never good news when I have to break it out. It has finally calmed down a bit though (gah as soon as I typed that I sneezed, though), and I am drinking my second cup of pineapple mint and (an eensy bit of) stevia tea from the garden. Very nice! (And I keep on not doing the Herbal Almanac thing. I’ll feel motivated to do it eventually).

So when I bought these when I moved in, I thought it was a “plant” and not a “bush.” Live, learn, etc.

I prune them pretty heavily throughout the year, and though they do bloom most of the year (pink blooms), I’m just not that crazy about them. And they’re getting huge despite trimming. And they are covering up the shrubs I DO like – the wiegela that was in front of the house (planted waaaay too close to the house) when we moved in, that I thought I DIDN’T like so I gave a bunch of it away. Again, live learn etc. Oh well.

So anyway, I need to move these suckers. I am thinking I’m going to dig them up and plant them to the left perpendicular of the old veggie garden, bordering the last bit of driveway with garden and hopefully stopping some weed encroachment in that area. I feel like they’re going to be a biotch to dig up, though. And they’ll need big holes for replanting. There are 3 of them.

What will I plant where they were? I have decided there are TOO MANY DAYLILIES in the triangle garden, and the coreopsis there are planted too close to the house. And I might want to add one euonymous there to carry around the theme from the front of the house. So I can plant some of the daylilies I will be moving where the spireas were. They’ll be very happy there, since there are other daylilies in that garden as well.

This past Saturday my mom and I went to one plant sale/exchange and another plant sale. Both at local historical plantation/mansions (one right down the street from me!). I had been planning to participate this year, so I started extra veggies ans divided some perennials. Some of the perennials I gave to a friend who just bought a new house and is working on “curb appeal,” but some I kept for the exchange.

For the friend:

  • 3 daylilies
  • bee balm
  • hosta
  • black-eyed susan
  • mini hollyhock
  • also some tomatoes and a pepper from the exchange (I got 6-packs)

What I took to the exchange:

  • oregano
  • maxibel bush bean
  • lemon cucumber
  • sungold tomato (I took the SMALL ones for some reason. I had bigger ones I should have taken)
  • lemon and lime basil
  • broccoli
  • white hot habanero

A lot of this stuff is smaller than I’d hoped it would be. And I have more (I have some really nice looking sungold tomatoes that I felt the need to keep even though I have nowhere to put them…?) that I still need to share.

What I got (traded unless otherwise indicated – some given away before photo…and I only spent $11.50 for purchases!):

  • chocolate mint (purchased)
  • 6 marconi peppers
  • 1 fish pepper (purchased – 50¢)
  • 4 chili peppers
  • 6 eva purple ball tomatoes
  • mystery threadleaf coreopsis
  • 2 mouse ear hostas
  • 3 emerald hostas
  • marjoram IN TERRA COTTA POT!! (with a slight crack)
  • cuban oregano (purchased)
  • creeping jenny (purchased)
  • bright green sedum (purchased)

It’s funny because at the exchange, they always say “people aren’t taking enough!”. I hope all my stuff that I brought found a home. I know several things had been taken when we left. I could have taken more, and next year I will keep that in mind. Though I glanced at things last year and was invited to take stuff even though I didn’t bring any trades, I didn’t look too hard. They have things divided up pretty well (veggies and herbs, perennials, annuals, trees). I had to ask about the marjoram in the pot because I couldn’t believe I could take both, but they said it was a donation.

When we were getting to the end of the line, a woman pulled up with a wheelbarrow of hostas and my mom’s eyes lit up! 🙂 She had been wanting some, so she took several. I took a mouse ear hosta and I had to give it back for a second because the lady didn’t want to donate the pot it was in. My mom didn’t know that they brought it to me a second later, so she grabbed me another one and now we both have one! Mine is living happily in a pot on top of the rain barrel. I got some black tomatoes (Eva Purple Ball) to replace some of the black ones that I lost during the Great Plant Fry. They had a ton of tomatoes. Some just germinated, some large like the ones I got. And all for free! Such a great deal. I’ll definitely be participating again next year and leaving some more garden space for tomatoes (lots of cool kinds too, not just all Better Boy!).

I’m actually future-posting all this week, because I’m not at home, I’m on Hatteras Island! My garden is in the capable hands of my aunt for part of the week and my parents for the end of the week. Hopefully some goodies will be ready for me when I get back! (hint: see this week’s Wordless Wednesday)

We’re on our way to Hatteras Island, NC as this Bloom Day is posting. I snapped a few pics today (Friday) before packing up and future posted this for bloom day. Just a taste of what’s blooming in the garden. I didn’t get any shots of the bean blooms or lots of other things. And my camera is still doing the weird thing where it flips the image the wrong way, so these aren’t as great as I want them to be. Might be time for a new camera 😦

sweet potato vine flowers

radishes! I took these with us for vacation salads and grilling.

Is it too late to sow more? I actually temporarily put some tomatoes in where these were anyway, as they needed to be in the ground while we're away.

daisy

coreopsis that needs to be moved. Going to rearrange the triangle garden when I get back. Got 2 of these on clearance last year!

overwintered dianthus aka pinks

dianthus aka carnations

ice plant. Looks like it should be on Mars!

peony and dutch? or japanese? iris. Both done blooming now, but brightened my desk at work all week.

#wordlesswednesday

I am SO UPSET. We’ve had several very cold nights and days lately, so I had most of my seedlings outside on the deck, stashed under clear plastic storage bins turned upside-down (very effective and easy cold frames, FYI!). Well right now it’s 83° F…and I didn’t even THINK about that until I got home today (a bit early, at least).

I lost a lot of seedlings. LIke 3 cake tins (my seed trays) worth. Some still seem OK, albeit a bit worse for the wear. Casualties include a lot of the “fun” things I was most excited about: all of the lovage, all but one Japanese Black Trifele tomato (which is questionable), all but one Black from Tula tomato (also meh – and OMG this super upsets me), almost all of my peppers – serrano and black pearl especially, lots of my rainbow cherry tomatoes, almost all of my speckled roman tomatoes. SO UPSET. The cucumbers and luffa were planted already, so they’re OK.

And I’m also pissed that it doesn’t seem like ANY of the carrot seeds I direct sowed a few weeks ago have sprouted (though the ones in the large container have). I’m not sure whether I should bother sowing more of these cool season crops, since here in Southern Maryland we seem to always go quickly from spring weather to 80-90 degree days. I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Thoughts?

So, yet again, the seedlings that look the best are the “sacrifice seedlings” that I put out much earlier than all the rest and didn’t bother hardening off or anything. Perhaps I should just do that from now on? 2 years in a row the sacrifices have been the best off (by far – maybe I’ll post a pic comparison when I get over the loss).

Anyway – no pics right now. It’s too sad. AND I WAS GOING TO PLANT THEM ALL TOMORROW ANYWAY!!!

SO UPSET. Soooo upset. Please console me.

It’s been really nice to have my Aunt Debra in North Carolina as one of my blog readers. She’s always had a gorgeous yard (I’ve always loved the NC pine needles as mulch thing!), and she’s shared lots of great stories about my grandparents since she learned that I’m a gardener now. I unfortunately never got the chance to meet my Grandaddy Batts, a career Navy man. I lost my Granny Batts to Alzheimer’s when I was in 9th grade.

Batts

Grandaddy Batts and Granny on his last day in the Navy

My dad’s side of the family is fun for me, because I have lots of cousins my age. Actually, 4 of us were all born within a few months of each other in the summer of 1983 – my Granny always said it must have been one cold winter 🙂

mommies

Aunt Deb, my (beautiful!) mommy, Aunt Tereca, Aunt Kathy


1983 babies

I'm the big fatty!

So anyway…Aunt Deb has been sharing garden stories with me, and I love it! Since I lost all of my grandparents young, I love hearing the stories about them that I missed when I was younger and not concerned with it.

Over email, I was talking with her about “heirloom plants” – ones that have been passed down from family members over the years. I have some lemon balm that belonged to my Mom Mom (my mother’s mother). I remember she had it planted by their garden shed, and I used to love to pick leaves from it and crush them between my fingers to smell the lemon. I thought it was such a cool plant, and was glad that my mom had some of it still that she could share with me. I also have lots of daylilies from my mom and several irises that came from a friend of my mom’s who recently passed away.

I also have some Lily of the Valley that came from my Granny. My mom and aunt both have some of this. I’ve tried to take seedlings of the cypress vine/hummingbird plant that belonged to her as well – but mine never seem to work! (I’m going to try to start it from seed this year.) My mom has shared seedlings of that plant with her sister though, so it’s a cross-family plant!

Apparently my Grandaddy was a gardener. My aunt shared:

“Your Granddaddy Batts loved a good garden and would be so proud that you are planting “veggies”. He would be very impressed and would say, “pretty work”. I may have told you before that I used to think it so strange when a rain would come along and he would open the den door and sit a lawn chair in the doorway, beer in hand, and watch it rain. It wasn’t until I got much older that I realized he was doing this after a really dry spell and I guess it was so refreshing to watch the earth come back to life. I guess he was “watching his garden grow”.

I’m glad to keep the green thumb going. My Mom Mom and Pop Pop were both gardeners (I’ll have to share some stories about them as well), so I think of them a lot when I’m in the garden.

Aunt Deb shared this story about a Gardenia when I was having trouble with having pruned mine at the wrong time last year. (With her wonderful dog Scout, who we lost last year, pictured – click to see it bigger.)

scout-gardenia

My great grandmother's gardenia at my aunt's house

Aunt Paulette [my dad’s eldest sister] was here one summer and we went over to visit an aunt and decided to go by our Mom’s homeplace. This would have been your Great-Granny Smith. It is very overgrown there but we talked about the gardenia bushes that Granny had close to her living room window so that it would smell good coming in the house on a summer day.  We crawled all around just to check and see if it could possibly still be there.  Lo, and behold, there was a sprig of it still there.  The ground was very, very dry and we did not have anything to dig it up with.  We found a little stick and starting trying to dig.  Their roots are pretty much on top of the ground; another reason I was surprised that it was still living since the ground was so dry.  Anyway, we got the sprig up and I planted it close to my back door.  And it has flourished!  It did not bloom much last year, but I had cut it way back at one point.  I’m sure you have learned and could tell me a thing or two about when trimming a flowering bush back that you usually cut off the blooms for the next season.  Anyway, I hope it will bloom better next summer.  It smells good enough to eat!!  And it reminds me of being at my Granny’s. My sweet Scout used to love to lay under this bush on a really hot day.  It was close to the house and the pine straw kept the soil cool.  She would dig around it a bit and take a good nap.  The stuff in front is lemon balm. [Hey! Lemon balm!]

Hopefully I will get a chance to visit the NC family this summer. With all of us grown up now, we just don’t get down there as often as we’d like. I also want to meet Aunt Deb’s new puppy, Joy, who was recently named “Pet of the Week” at the prestigious local newspaper, compliments of the adorable photo below!

Joy

Joy

Thanks so much for sharing, Aunt Deb! Sending some “sugar” your way 🙂

I scanned through some more recent photos, but I couldn’t find an that exemplified the “green world” theme for this month’s GGW contest better than this photo of a seedling that I featured on St. Patrick’s Day.

bean seedling

I really like the way this bean seedling turned out, with the slight blur of the front of the peat pot showing. One of my commenters when it was first posted noted that it looked “Hurculean” lifting up all that dirt, and I have to agree. Seems to be a photo of the green of the world prevailing over all the brown.

This bean seedling is now planted outside with all the others. The cucumbers and squash I finally put outside on the deck yesterday to begin my rather harsh hardening off process (meaning there is no process – I generally just put them out, water them well, and hope they make it!). Today those are looking a bit worse for the wear, probably because they’re in peat pots and just not staying warm enough. I think I’ll either bring them back in or go ahead and plant them when it warms up a little more today (it’s only 60° and overcast – too cold for me!).

Yesterday I cultivated all my raised beds into rows. I kind of love it – it looks so much neater. In the past I’ve not done rows, because I had to cram stuff where it would fit in my one bed. But rows are better for keeping track of seedlings sown, plus it just looks nice. I’ll have some pics of that one my just-sown carrot, spinach, and mesclun mix seedlings start to emerge. Among the things already planted, the peas are doing great and just about to start climbing their trellises, and the beans look respectable.

The broccoli and brussels sprouts are still small (pictured below – those were winter down starting in late Jan/early February – the milk jug/orange juice cloches are off now), but look very happy. The soaker hose on a timer waters them all at 6AM and 6PM – seems to be working great.

L-R: peas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, beans

Herb AlmanacAPRIL 18: Make a borage salad to encourage good spirits and courage. Use the new borage seedlings, violet flowers, dandelion leaves, and new lettuce.

[I’m only growing lovage, not borage, but that actually sounds pretty good!]

Lots of photos, a few words.

early stardrift - tiny!

crocus and phlox

I love the colors of these violas. Perking back up after the winter.

Alice investigates the seedlings.

almost full (THANKS, MOM!!)

side garden + old veggie garden (in foreground)

Quince

Props to my hubby for the cute paths between the raised beds. The bamboo in this pic came from friends who have a ton of it growing behind their house. Bad for them, good for me!

paths

Very disappointed in my tulips this year. Only 4 from the 20 I planted in the fall came up (wtf?!). And all of them (those and my old ones) have only really lasted a day or two because it was hot when they bloomed. Lame. I need better tulips that will do better for me year after year. Suggestions?

tip toe through the tulips

candytuft and 2 types of creeping phlox - also a reseeded dianthus/pinks

flowering dogwood at the edge of our property

…more to come on my winter sowing efforts and some mystery seedlings in my raised beds.

Herb AlmanacAPRIL 11: Predict the weather by emerging new leaves: Oak before Ask/We’ll have a splash/Ash before Oak we’re in for a soak.”

Thanks to my hubby building them and my mom helping me fill them with topsoil and compost, I now have 4 gorgeous raised beds. We even had plenty of dirt left over for hubby to fix some spots that needed grass seed from delivering the shed and running electric to it. Planted in the raised beds so far:
-spinach (doesn’t seem to be doing much)
-carrots (beside the bed in a pot, actually)
-beets
-radishes
-wando and little wonder peas (growing on trellises and 2 upside-down tomato cages with the points turned under)
-broccoli
-brussels sprouts
-dragon tongue, maxibel bush, and gold rush bush beans that have been outside for a few weeks anyway (they were too big for the indoor grow lights – I hope I haven’t planted them too close together)

The broccoli and brussels I winter sowed back in late Feb/early March when I started my seeds. They are both cool season crops so I figured they’d be good for winter sowing. It seemed to work well, so I plan on doing more of that next year. I have them all planted out now, but still covered in cloches made from the jugs they were in (for now).

Incidentally, has anyone ever tried getting the big dollar store glass vases and such to use as cloches? Actual cloches are SO expensive and milk jug ones are not that attractive in a front yard garden – just considering possibilities.

Today (Sunday), along with some painting (we got new windows! so we’re touching up trim and some other paint in the house), I hope to get the soaker hoses buried. I obviously should have done that BEFORE planting stuff, but…I didn’t. Oops.

PROBLEM: So there are a ton of little seedlings growing in the raised bed dirt. Argh. I assume they’re probably evil, so I am pulling them out. A few of my marigold seeds from last year have pulled through in the old garden which is fine (plus maybe a few tomatoes – we used the dirt we bought to top off that bed, too), but this is not that. Any ideas?

mystery seedling 1

mystery seedling 2

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