A Nasty Surprise In One Of The Window Boxes

While working on the yard the weekend before last, in between successfully cleaning up one of the overgrown flowerbed areas, I figured I’d get a little head start on one of the garage window boxes in preparation for actually planting some flowers in them this summer. Specifically, this one over here:

Arrow Pointing At Windowbox

We’d had these old red window boxes on the garage ever since we moved in, but never touched them, not even a little bit. This one wasn’t completely empty, though, and had what looked like a desert landscape from the previous owner. There was a succulent plant of some sort, and a couple of flat rocks:

Red Window Box

I guess it made sense, since the overhang of the garage roof would keep it somewhat sheltered in all but the heaviest rain-blowing-sideways kind of rains, and it’s low maintenance — we haven’t touched it once in almost two years, and that succulent thingy hasn’t even died.

But the desert look wasn’t as desirable as the goal of a lovely bed of flowers, even if they’d have to be watered, so I figured I’d get started on cleaning it out.

I pried up the flat rock — and out came ants. Swarms and swarms and swarms of ants. I tried to snap a picture of all the ants, but I don’t think it’s possible to make them out against the specks of dirt and whatnot:

Window Box With Ants

At that point, I got out a bottle of bug spray, sprayed the ants, and then started using a trowel to scoop out the dry, dusty dirt into a yard waste bag. But it wasn’t just a little anthill at the top — each shovelful revealed new swarms of ants, and it turned out to be ants all the way down to the bottom. The whole thing was just one big ant colony.

So in conclusion, I committed a massive ant genocide and emptied the window box of all its contents. This might also be a good time to show a closeup of how old and rotten this window box was:

Rotten Red Window Box

The bright red paint seems to have held up pretty well for the most part, with not too much fading or chipping on the front, so I think it gave the illusion that the box was in better shape than it actually was. The wood was so brittle and rotten that a portion of the side actually started to crack off when I grabbed it, and even with the ants gone, it seemed pretty clear that the window box was past its prime and had to go.

And that’s the story of how it ended up sitting by the trash can:

Red Box In Trash

It turned out to be just sitting on some brackets (which looked like the same variety you’d use for a shelf), and while it was attached to the garage with a couple of long nails, those were loose enough that I was able to easily pull it off without any tools.

The other window box was just as old and rotten (though thankfully ant-free!) so I removed it as well for consistency sake. I’ll spare you guys the closeups of just how much dirt and crud and spider nests had accumulated in the space between the boxes and the wall, and just end with this shot of the garage with the window boxes removed:

Garage Without Window Boxes

I know it doesn’t look so great in the above photo, but things always get worse before they get better, right?

How about you guys? Any stories of stumbling upon an infestation in an unexpected place? In our case I’m guessing that the dry, undisturbed environment created the perfect space for an ant colony to thrive, so that’s something we’ll have to keep in mind for the replacement window boxes (the details of which will be coming to the blog shortly!)

Backyard Progress: Preparing A Flower Bed

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been making some more progress on the backyard — specifically this one little area right by the stairs leading up to the back door, which the previous owners had had bordered off as sort of a flowerbed area.

Somehow, I seem to have missed getting a good straight-on “before” photo of this area (in the state of the backyard post, it got partially cut off in all the photos) but here’s a slightly off-center view:

Before Pic With Overgrown Tumbleweed Plant

As the above photo shows, we had a very overgrown-looking area with a gigantic tumbleweed-looking thing. In previous summers, the tumbleweed thing has greened up into a lovely plant with yellow flowers (you can see it blooming in this post) but it was just getting too big and overgrown, so I trimmed it down some. I may have gone overboard — Joe thinks I killed it, and I worry that he might be right, but I suppose time will tell.

There were a few other issues to be addressed in this little area of the yard, like for instance, this zig-zaggy metal border on the edge along the sidewalk:

Metal Garden Border

It was old and crooked and not really the style we wanted, so I pried it out. I was surprised at how one part of it had actually gotten sunken under a good chunk of the lawn, which ripped out when I removed the border:

Metal Garden Border, Pulled Out

It was easy enough to put the chunk of grass back, though.

So with the tumbleweed bush trimmed and the zig-zag metal border removed, this next photo shows what we were working with (for orientation purposes, the stairs up to the back door would be just beyond the top of this photo):

Overgrown Flower Bed

The front of this area had a piece of very old, very rotten wood as a border, so I scooped that up and removed it. And with both of those old mismatched borders gone, it was just a matter of pulling out various weeds and roots, and then loosening up the soil in preparation to plant some new stuff there.

The fun thing is, Lillian actually kind of helped with this part!

Little Gardener

Since that particular trowel was really rounded and blunt, we didn’t have any misgivings about letting her dig with it, and by all accounts she had a blast shoveling up dirt and grabbing fistfuls of it just for fun. (Working theory: “playing in the dirt” and “doing what the grown-ups are doing” are a toddler’s two favorite things, and an added bonus if you can do them both at once!) Adorably, she also started saying the word “dirt” for the first time during this exercise, pronouncing it “diwt.”

After all the weeding was done and the soil had been loosened into fluffy perfection, this was what the flower bed area looked like:

Flowerbed Progress

A huge improvement from that overgrown mess we started with, right? We still need to put down some mulch, and add some more flowers and such, and hopefully that bush will come back in spite of the severe trimming it got. And the stairs up to the back door could use a bit of work, while I’m listing things off. But at least progress is starting to happen in the backyard.

Oh, and as an added bonus, over on the right side of the photo you can see our daffodils in full bloom:

Daffodils In The Backyard

We first caught a glimpse of these guys back in this post, when they were first sprouting up in a very very overgrown flower bed. What I didn’t know then was that they’re not ordinary daffodils, but actually double daffodils — “the show-offs of the daffodil world” according to Better Homes and Gardens. So they look like daffodils, just much fuller and fluffier:

Looks like a daffodil, but fuller and fluffier.

It was a happy little surprise — especially considering that we somehow didn’t notice these last spring, which was our first spring living in this house.

Anyway, that’s the story of the progress we’ve been making on one small area of the yard so far, and we’ve been slowly trying to stab away at other areas as well — some of which haven’t gone quite as smoothly. Like this past weekend, I thought I’d try to do a little casual work on one of the garage’s window boxes, and it turned into sort of a traumatizing, curl up in a fetal position muttering “I don’t wanna talk about it” ordeal. Sorry for that cryptic bit of suspense, there’ll be a post coming soon with the whole story about that.

In the meantime, have you guys been doing any interesting gardening (or tumbleweed-bush-murdering) lately? What would you plant in this newly cleared flowerbed area? Feel free to share any stories or ideas in the comments!