Herb Garden at the Quirky Old Home

A little more than a year ago we downsized into a much older home in the historic district of a small city.

We now have a much smaller yard with a fenced in back yard. This is our first home with a fenced yard.

We have a detached garage and an alley in back of our new older home. This is our first home with a detached garage with an alley in back.

Our Moline House 2007

This is a picture from a few years ago of my second childhood home which was also an older home with a detached garage and alley in back. I lived in this house some 50 years ago.

I remember one winter when my mom and us kids built a LARGE snow man and placed it directly in front of the garage door. When my dad came home from work, he could not park the car in the garage. Somehow, my mom and the next door neighbor, Gus, got the local newspaper to come by. They published a picture of him scratching his head in front of the snow man and wrote an article about it. I can still visualize the picture and article, and I wish I had a copy of it.

Houston planting bed before

This is a real estate picture of the back patio when we bought our quirky old home. The overgrown yews were home to rabbit burrows. Apparently, many many many rabbit burrows.

Remember the rabbits in The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Yes. Those rabbits.

The rabbits living under these yews were like those rabbits. They were eating everything in sight. Including the woody parts of the plants in the yard. They ate an entire holly bush and three knockout rose bushes down to the ground. These were rabbits to be feared.

One rabbit lived under our sunroom for the entire winter, and they have taken to chewing large holes in the lattice-work around the porches of our quirky old home.

Those wascally wabbits.

The yews had to go. And the red mulch. And the 23 weird rocks strewn throughout the landscape.

See the pretty water fountain? The previous homeowners left it, and I love it as well as the butterfly bush behind it which really does attract the butterflies.

Unfortunately, in order for the water fountain to function it has to be plugged in. In order to plug it in, the previous homeowner snaked the electric cord that was plugged into an extension cord under the soil and along the side of the house into the basement window and hung from the low ceiling by an outlet where you could plug it in (and out) by descending into the cellar. Really.

There are absolutely NO electric lights or outlets or lighting in the backyard space other than an overhead fan in the overhang by the door to the detached garage.

There is no lighting by the back door so when you come in at night you have to fumble to unlock the door and let yourself in.

Getting this rectified is on the list. The list of homeowner projects that is never-ending.

Houston planting bed cleaned up

This is a picture of the patio earlier this spring. We removed the yews during one of the few warm spells in late winter. We removed the funky rocks and are slowly finding new homes for them. We fixed the edging that needed to be straightened and raised. We scraped up the red mulch from all of the planting beds and replaced it with black mulch.

The house next door, which had been vacant for a few years is being renovated and a lot of the overgrown trees and weeds in that yard have also been removed.

Houston fence with rabbit barrier

The rabbit burrows were gone, but the rabbits were used to feasting on all of the plants in our yard. I knew that I would not be able to add any new plants including herbs and vegetables so long as they were around. And I needed solutions that would be safe to use with the dogs and around plants that would end up in our food.

Some other friends in our new neighborhood have resorted to installing rabbit fencing onto existing fencing. So that is what we did, too.

The first time the dogs chased a rabbit and one ran into the fence and couldn’t get out, it was actually funny. They do have an uncanny ability to find ways in and out, however, so although we have significantly slowed them down, but they have not been eliminated. We have slowed them down enough for us to be able to start adding new plants though.

Houston herb garden side 1

The L-shaped planting bed around the patio has now become my herb garden. This side includes English lavender, Italian parsley, leeks, basil, and dill.

Houston herb garden side 2

This side includes rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, and marjoram. You can see the butterfly bush and water fountain, too. When we worked on the edging, we uncovered edging around the water fountain and added some rock around the base.

Houston Herb Garden 2014

I love my new herb garden. I have mint and chives in pots and a “mosquito pot” with catnip, lemon marigolds, lemon grass, and lemon thyme which is a natural way to keep away mosquitoes from the area.

The back fence still needs work including the addition of rabbit fencing. It is a shady area that becomes a mud pit when it rains. For some reason, it’s the first place the dogs go when it’s wet resulting in muddy footprints tracking into the house.

My plan is to have a mulched bed along that fence which is also the home for my new compost bin, the miscellaneous weird rocks, and the leftover wood from the large tree limb that fell in the yard last fall after a storm. Later in the season, we’ll work on rearranging the plants in the back bed by the garage wall.

We didn’t have time to put in raised beds this year so we have tomato plants in pots, too. We’ll add raised beds later this fall or next year. I would also love to have some berry bushes and strawberry beds, too.

Gardening and creating our outdoor space will always be a work in progress, but next spring will start the first full season where all of the work of moving plants and adding new plants and splitting bulbs and making the garden spaces and planting beds and yard and patios our own.

I’m enjoying our new yard, and I’m looking forward to seeing it as each new season progresses!

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