Another weekend has gone by with nothing planted in the garden. It’s a long story (Craigslist people flaking out, hose spigot breaking, and quotes from guys to repave our driveway that mentioned cutting into one of our garden beds to widen the driveway), but suffice it to say, a number of (frustrating) factors are preventing us from finishing the outside job.
So this weekend we turned our attention back to the inside, and have started working on the living room. Finally! It’s the front room on our house and is open to the foyer, so all the junk, million paint swatches, and general crappiness greets you the minute you walk in the door. Not a good look.
This is what the living room looked like at the end of moving weekend, and it hasn’t changed much since. Except we added about 10 more paint swatches and moved the junk to the sides of the room instead of the middle.
First on the docket? A new sofa. One of the reasons the living room has been our junk room is because it literally has zero furniture — in all of our previous apartments, we only had one living room, so now that our house has a living room and a family room, our “living room” furniture is in the family room where we spend most of our time. That means that the actual living room is now a completely blank slate as far as furniture and decor goes.
We are pretty much cheapskates when it comes to furniture. Ultimately we’d rather put our money towards other things (savings, vacations, life in general), so we are not designer shoppers. I briefly entertained the thought of spending $2,000+ on a Pottery Barn/Crate & Barrel/West Elm-type sofa, but at the end of the day, we would get no joy out of spending that much on furniture. So despite the fact that we’re “grown ups” with a “real house” now, and “grown ups” are supposed to buy “real furniture”, we still want to work within a comfortable (read: low) budget when it comes to furnishing our house, without sacrificing quality or comfort.
That said, we really wanted to find a new sofa for under $1,000. We wanted something with a classic shape, in a light color, that wasn’t rock hard, but also wasn’t so soft that you disappear into it and can’t get back up.
There are three in particular that we had our eye on: the Springfield II from Value City Furniture, the Alton from Pier 1, and the Ektorp from Ikea.
Each of these sofas fit our criteria, and were well within our price range — the most expensive one being the Alton sofa at $699 on sale (which it currently is). This past weekend we went on our semi-bi-monthly pilgrimage to Ikea to pick up some new curtains for our bedroom and browse a few other things, and while we were out we checked out our three sofa choices in person.
First, the Springfield II from Value City. I had never been in a Value City Furniture store before, and was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of their furniture looks pretty nice, even up close in person. But the sofas? Felt like sitting on styrofoam. The fabric felt cheap, the seat cushions were rock hard, and the back cushions sounded and felt exactly like the sound of styrofoam packing material rubbing together. I know I shouldn’t have expected much from a $549 sofa at a store with the word “value” in its name, but I didn’t think it would be quite that uncomfortable. So that crossed that one off our list.
Next stop was Pier 1, where we tried out the Alton sofa. We had sat on this in the store many other times, and it was always very comfortable and the fabric felt nice, not to mention that it looked pretty darn nice too. This was definitely the top choice on our list, and given that it’s on sale right now, we were almost positive we were going to go with this one.
However, something about the trusty old Ektorp kept calling our names. We have one in the family room and we’ve loved it since the day we got it. We’ve had it for about four years and it’s moved with us three times, and it has yet to disappoint. It’s a workhorse. It does need fluffed occasionally, but other than that, it’s been a perfect sofa for us. And at $399, it’s definitely the lowest priced sofa on our list. But did we really want another Ikea sofa in our house?
After thinking it over for a while, we decided that yes, we really did want another Ikea sofa in our house. The Ektorp is higher quality than the Value City sofa, and to be honest, we ultimately like it better than the one from Pier 1. But the number one thing that decided it for us was the machine washable slipcovers. We eat on the sofa all the time, drink tea/coffee/wine/juice there, and we want guests to feel comfortable in our house and not afraid to plop down on the sofa to snack during a gathering. Plus, with two kitties now, who knows what potential pet stains or scratches might happen on the furniture — changing out a slipcover is much easier and cheaper than having the whole thing reupholstered. I just don’t want to have to be paranoid about our furniture; I want to live in our house, and I want our furniture to fit into that. The thing that would have prevented me from getting another Ikea sofa in the past is that I don’t want our house to look like we furnished it with a one-stop shop at Ikea, but with things like Comfort Works out there and the option to customize your Ikea furniture to take away the “Ikea Look”, there’s no reason we shouldn’t get another Ektorp.
But here’s where the switcheroo comes in. We decided to move the current family room sofa into the living room, and buy a new Ektorp with chaise for the family room. Since that room is our “relax” room, we’d really love to have a chaise where we can cuddle up together while catching up on our DVR or watching a movie. And at only $100 more than the regular Ektorp ($499 as opposed to $399), it’s a no-brainer to go with the chaise version for the family room.
We’ll get new slipcovers from Comfort Works for both sofas, so the total price for sofa with chaise + two slipcovers will break the $1000 mark, but in my mind we’re getting two new sofas (old sofa + new slipcover = new sofa, to me), so that’s still a pretty darn good deal.
So what do you think of Ikea sofas — love them? Hate them? Indifferent? Do tell.
Because of the weather delays we’ve had with this landscaping project (though it’s supposed to be nice again this weekend, so maybe, just maybe, we’ll get some things in the ground…?), we’ve had plenty of time to research and plan what we want to plant and where. Neither of us are expert gardeners by any means, so we’ve done a lot of research to learn the best plants for our needs, our garden’s conditions, and the look we want to achieve.
The first step in this process was to observe the sun/shade patterns in our yard. We live on the sunny side of the street, but much of our yard is in shade or partial shade because of all the trees surrounding it. Here’s a totally-not-to-scale “map” of our yard, and the sun/shade patterns we have.
Clearly we have a lot of different light situations to deal with. And if you remember from a while ago, some of our stipulations for new plants in our yard were that they be low-maintenance, deer-proof, and evergreen. I’ve relaxed on the “evergreen” requirement just a bit, because some things I want to plant are not evergreens, but for the most part I still want things that will be green all year. This is partially due to the fact that I hate winter in general, and hate when plants lose their leaves in winter, which makes them look scraggly and adds to my hate for the season, and also partially due to the fact that I have always wanted hedges to put Christmas lights on. Seems silly, maybe, but I’ve always dreamt of having evergreen bushes out front to drape with lights during the holidays, and in all the houses we’ve lived thus far, I’ve never had that opportunity. So I’ll be darned if I don’t make it happen at the house we own. (Remember, you’re talking to the person who told her realtor it was a requirement in our future home for there to be an exterior electrical outlet on the front of the house for Christmas lights. I may hate winter but I do love Christmas!)
Anyway. Soil pH testing is another item on many garden prep lists, but I’m not going to bother testing ours. Given the jungle of happy, huge plants the previous owners left us, I’m guessing the soil is pretty healthy. It’s also full of earthworms (I swear I dig up at least five every time I’m working out there), which is another sign of healthy soil. So I’m not too worried about that. If the new plants fail to thrive then I’ll look into it, but I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. (Famous last words?)
So with those things in mind, and after spending a lot of time looking up info online and perusing local garden centers for ideas, I think we’ve finalized our plant list and general layout.
Boxwoods. I love boxwoods. They’re deer-resistant. They look good either trimmed or wild. They’re evergreens. They’ll be the perfect foundation shrub for below the living room window, and the perfect place to put my Christmas lights. And the dwarf boxwoods will be the perfect liner for the walkway. Boxwoods are partial-sun plants, but they’re pretty adaptable, so the different light conditions in these areas should be okay by them.
Rhododendron. I also love rhododendrons. They’re not deer-resistant, but everyone on our street has one and the deer seem to leave them alone. Here’s hoping that’s the case for ours. I chose this corner to plant ours because the yard starts to slope down towards the driveway, and I want the rhody to grow up tall and bushy to cover that whole corner of the house. Rhododendrons are also partial sun plants, so they should be happy in that corner.
Peonies. One of my very favorite flowers is the peony. Next year I plan to fill the bed on the side of the house with them, but I can’t resist having a few in the front of the house too. This spot is perfect for them because they’ll get plenty of sun in the morning and early afternoon but be shaded during the hottest part of the day.
Lily of the valley. I hope that the lily of the valley that I just transplanted fills in and spreads to cover that entire patch of ground underneath the Japanese maple. One day I would like to get one of those engraved boulders with our last name or house number or “Welcome” on it and put it in that area too.
Creeping juniper, phlox, etc. That hillside bed that slopes towards the driveway was another mystery, but I’d love to fill it in with creeping, mounding plants that will cover the hillside without adding too much height. I may also intersperse it with some flat landscaping rocks to add some interest. I’ll have to check at the garden center for creeping plants that don’t mind partial shade.
?????. We honestly have no idea what to do with that front corner bed. I either want to remove the mulch, level it, and fill it in with grass, or maybe plant a small flowering tree in the center and fill the rest with groundcover. That bed may stay empty this year while we brainstorm what to do with it. (Sorry neighbors.)
This fall I’ll plant hyacinth bulbs along the borders of the beds, and I’m thinking of ordering some specialty daffodil bulbs online as well (I don’t really like yellow daffodils, but I love the specialty “double” daffodils in pink). Those bulbs should come up next spring and add color early in the season. I’m still sad we can’t grow tulips because the deer just eat them all the instant the leaves start to poke up from the ground.
What are your favorite plants?
Well, the weather this past weekend was a joke — rain, wind…we even had a frost advisory at night…what the heck?! — so I never got to try the vinegar weed killer (it would have just gotten blown and/or rained away before it had a chance to do its job). Possibly this evening though, as it’s actually supposed to be sunny today and tomorrow!
Despite the strong wind and chilly air (52°F as the forecast high, and I don’t think it ever got above 50), on Sunday I did manage to get outside and finally transplant the lily of the valley. This was a big item on my to-do list, and one that I was kind of dreading because we have so much of it. But this yard project is taking much longer than I wanted it to, and I’m getting really tired of it and ready to turn our attention back to interior projects. I didn’t want to waste another weekend, so I bundled up and braved the cold wind gusts and got to work.
Lily of the valley grows in “strings” — one long shoot underground with little nubs called pips every couple of inches where the roots grow and flowers come up from. At first, I was trying to delicately dig every stem up individually with a trowel, but when it took me 30 minutes to dig up and plant, like, three flowers that way, I quickly gave that method up.
I found that the best method was to use a regular shovel to get underneath and loosen up a bunch of roots at once, then pull them up from the bottom with my hands. Alternately, I found that a lot of ours weren’t very deeply rooted, and the soil was pretty loose, so I was able to grab a handful of stems at the base and tug gently until they loosened up without even shoveling first. I had some casualties that way with flowers breaking off above the roots, but I was still able to dig up their roots and re-plant them, and those should sprout new flowers next year.
I dug up and re-planted one large handful at a time instead of digging it all up at once and then planting it all at once — lily of the valley doesn’t like to be dry, so I didn’t want their roots to be out in the cold wind getting dried out while waiting for me to re-plant them. I dug up only as much as I could re-plant in 10 minutes or so, so that nothing was above ground for too long. I suppose I could have dug it up all at once and periodically hosed it down to keep the roots moist, but that seemed like too much of a production to me.
To plant them in the new area, I first turned and loosened the top couple inches of soil over the entire area with a hard rake. Then, I used a hand trowel to dig a hole to the same depth that the plant used to be planted at, and a little wider than the root ball.
Then, I’d try to find a chunk of roots that wanted to break free naturally from the bunch I dug up, and pulled those lilies apart from the others. I then put them in the hole…
…filled it with the dirt that I dug out of the hole, and patted it down firmly to get rid of any air pockets.
Voilà! A transplanted lily of the valley.
Then it was simply a matter of repeating that process until I got all the lily transplanted. Typically after you transplant plants you should give them a good watering, but we had rain in the forecast last night so I didn’t. If it doesn’t rain today I’ll go out after work and give them a nice long drink.
Overall, it took me about two hours to do all the transplanting, and when I was done, I had this:
I planted them a little bit sparsely because I’m expecting them to spread and fill in that area over the next few years, and I didn’t want to start out with too much and have an overgrowth on our hands. I also left the edge of the bed next to the pathway empty, because I want to plant some small shrubs there.
We only used about 1/3 of the lily of the valley we had, but I didn’t want to just tear the rest out and trash it to make way for the new plants. So, I posted an ad on Craigslist for free lily of the valley if someone wanted to come dig it out. Overnight I got six emails from people interested in coming to dig some up. Whoa! I definitely didn’t expect that much of a response, but I’m very pleased. Hopefully that means that by the end of this week, all the lily we don’t want will be gone!
Have you transplanted any plants in your garden lately?
One of the main reasons we didn’t hire a professional landscaper to finish the digging-old-stuff-out job for us was because all of the ones we talked to used chemical herbicide spray. This definitely didn’t sit well with me. Not only do I have a bit of a “political” (if you want to call it that) hatred of Monsanto and, therefore, RoundUp products, I’m generally not down with putting unnecessary chemicals into the earth when I can prevent it. We use biodegradable laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, etc. We only clean the house with vinegar. I buy organic food when I can. We use reusable shopping bags everywhere (not just the grocery store). You get the picture. We do our best to reduce our chemical footprint in our everyday lives, so the idea of hiring people to spray who knows what chemicals in our yard kind of gave me the heebie jeebies. (Now excuse me while I go crunch on my granola and burn my bra.)
We did finally manage to dig the rest of that ivy out by hand a couple weeks ago. Now, the side bed looks like this:
Lots of lily of the valley (which I’ll be transplanting elsewhere, as soon as I decide where), and lots of weeds. So many weeds that we’ve been completely ignoring that bed for the past few weeks, simply because we don’t want to think about all the work that has to go into de-weeding it. But with the new porch built, the next step in this landscape overhaul is to plant new plants…and for that to happen, we have to prepare the beds, which means getting down to business and weeding.
We’ve been so overwhelmed by this task, though, that we actually considered using chemical weed killer to do the job for us. It made me feel icky — like, wringing-my-hands-in-the-aisle-at-Lowes icky — but we felt like it was the only way to get this job done thoroughly and without wasting days of our time. However, as I was wringing my hands in that aisle at Lowes, looking at the bottles of RoundUp with contempt and wondering if I could actually bring myself to purchase one, I noticed a friendlier-looking bottle hidden away in the top left corner called Garden Safe, which claimed it was used for organic gardening.
Could it really be? I grabbed it and read the label, and its active ingredient is called “ammoniated soap of fatty acids”. This is still a chemical, but after doing a little reading online, I found that it’s often used as a “safe” alternative to traditional weed killers. The bottle was only around $5, so I figured, why not? Might as well try it. It claimed I’d be able to “see results in 20 minutes!” so I’d know right away if it worked or not.
Color me surprised, but it actually worked. In 20 minutes.
The thing is, the entire bottle only ended up covering about 5 weeds — so that’s basically $1/weed (since the bottle was $5). I dunno about you, but to me that’s kind of expensive. Plus, given that this technically is still a chemical, it still made me feel a little weird putting it in the ground. In other words, despite its effectiveness, it didn’t seem worth it to me to buy another bottle (or two or five) to finish the job. So I was left looking again for another solution to our weed problem.
I ended up googling something like “organic weed killer”, and found that vinegar and boiling water (separately, although I suppose you could use them together too) are both popular options that work well. I like the sounds of these much better because they’re obviously biodegradable, natural, and readily available for very cheap (or free, in the water’s case, unless you count your utility bills for running the water and turning on the stove to boil it). I plan on trying both of them this weekend and seeing which one works better (if either of them even work at all), and I’ll report back here on Monday with whatever I find.
Anyone have any good tips for killing weeds naturally, besides digging them out?
*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post for Garden Safe — they don’t even know I exist.