2023 Project recap

Last year, I felt I was in a rut garden-wise. I’ve had a lot of long-standing, unfinished ideas for improving the garden, but I’ve never gotten around to actually doing any of them because most of my time seems to be spent running from one urgent garden chore to the next (weeding, watering etc.). I felt trapped in an endless, anxiety-inducing cycle leading nowhere. It was time to try a different approach. So, last year I decided to stop running and set myself three project goals. As a reminder, those were:

  1. Finish the deer fence in the backyard, including building and installing three gates.
  2. Install five fence panels in the front yard.
  3. Replace the weedy gravel path between the raised beds and the rock garden.

Today, we review those projects to see how I (we!) did.

Goal 1: Finish the deer fence, including installation of three gates

This project was finished late last summer and I’ve already posted about two of the garden gates here.

However, I haven’t shown the third gate, which is the one I am most proud of. For this gate, I incorporated two old wine barrel rings into the design, one on the top and one on the bottom, and then wove patterns with with garden twine. Stylistically, I find the symmetry very pleasing and it was satisfying to finally use those rings that had been lying around for years. I’m leaving the wood unstained to weather naturally. The only thing I am uncertain of is how long the twine will last. I did try wire, but couldn’t maintain enough tension to make it work. And, technically, I still need to make latches for each gate. I’ve got an idea in mind that I hope to finish yet this winter.

A handmade gate using wood, barrel rings, and a woven garden twine design
Completed design
A handmade gate using wood, barrel rings, and a woven garden twine design
After hanging
A handmade gate using wood, barrel rings, and a woven garden twine design
Forest gate in the late summer sun

Goal 2: Install five fence panels in front yard

Finished with the invaluable help of L as this was a two person project. I’ll just show the three panels on the north side of the bridge. The south side looks similar.

Goal 3: Install pavers to replace weedy, gravel path

This was showcased in my last post (here), but I’ll repost a picture I took a few weeks ago. Excuse the messiness. The late winter cleanup hasn’t begun yet.

Bonus! There were three other garden projects last year too. Let’s take a quick look at them.

Bonus project 1: Finish steps for north rock garden

The concrete steps in the back rock garden (a project from winter 2022) were finally completed and sealed. Previously, this was a steep bit of lawn that I decided to replace after I accidentally slipped partially underneath the lawnmower while mowing one day. No injuries, but it was a wake-up call to reinvent the area. I replaced the grass with a rock garden and put in steps filled with packed, crushed basalt rock. Unfortunately, those steps quickly became (surprise, surprise) a weedy mess. So, I replaced the gravel with concrete and embedded some basalt gravel to give a similar look. Now they are sealed too. It’s nice not to have to weed these anymore.

Bonus project 2: Hybrid microsprinkler/drip irrigation installed

This was a bonus project that L took on as a favor for me. I’ve struggled to keep up with maintenance watering during our increasingly common summer droughts (almost 4 months without any rain last year). And, although we have a lot of drought tolerant plants, some plants are more sensitive than others. We also traveled more than usual last year and I hate wondering whether everything will dry out and die while I am gone. So, L installed a hybrid microsprinkler/drip irrigation system with the idea that we can program it to water deeply every other week or so. I am hoping this will save time, water, and worry in the long run. Three areas have been completed, but we’ve got two or three more to work on for 2024.

Microsprinkler irrigation head
Now, to cover the exposed lines with mulch!

Bonus project 3: New greenhouse benches

Also documented earlier, one set of our metal greenhouse benches collapsed in June 2023 (here), so I went ahead and replaced all of them with some wood benches I made last fall/early winter (here).


So, there you have it. Despite a somewhat chaotic year, we made progress on several projects that should make my life easier as a gardener. I am still a little exhausted by it all and wish I had a little more time before things began growing again. But, the weather is warming up, the weeds aren’t waiting, and I’m already considering my goals for 2024.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. tracy

    You have been incredibly busy! I love the new gate. I didn’t know you slipped partway under the lawn mower, that is SCARY! The tables and new concrete are nice to look at but also such a functioning improvement . Nicely done.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It’s a relief to have them done! Nice to have a more functional garden overall.

  2. Martine

    So impressed with the gate, it is wonderful, and very jealous of your greenhouse, that is about the same size as my entire yard

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Oh wow, that is a very small backyard! It was always a childhood dream to have a greenhouse, so I am very fortunate to have one.

  3. Kris P

    I hope you feel a lot less stressed, Jerry. You certainly completed a LOT of projects, none of which look at all simple to me. From the new gate to the paver installation to the greenhouse upgrade, all look very professional!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I do feel less stressed,. But, looking back I see my perfectionist streak kicked in and I went a little overboard trying to make up for lost time. I want to take it a little easier this year and also make sure I have time to actually ENJOY the garden and not just spend my whole time doing major projects and minor chores.

  4. Tamara - Chickadee Gardens

    Oooh, love a good project! Especially when complete and all of these look amazing and will bring you a lot of pleasure for years to come. And be safer. Bravo! I love the gates – the design is very cool. This was a lot to accomplish especially when you are so very busy.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It was a lot. Too much, upon reflection, but I am glad it is done. As someone wise pointed out, there was no reason that all of that had to be accomplished in one year.

  5. Anna K

    I remember when your greenhouse benches collapsed and you built the new ones. Not at all what you needed or wanted at that point… That, and all the others are all the kinds of projects that I spend a lot of time dreading to take on, because they require so much muscle power. I commend you for getting them all done in a single year – well done! It all looks great! I especially like your creative use of the old barrel rings, and that pathway looks damn near perfect. It’s hard to lay rock and get a perfectly smooth, trip-free finish. I failed miserably at it and continuously have to adjust the worst trip hazards.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I should have mentioned how intimidating it was to take some of these on, especially for things I didn’t have much (or any!) experience doing. It helped to break things down into smaller, accomplishable chunks. Looking back, I think I put a little too much pressure on myself to get them done. Although I did have a lot of fun with the concrete flagstone project too. A more relaxed attitude maybe could have still propelled the garden forward without making me anxious about completing everything.

  6. Beth@PlantPostings

    Beautiful work! And it looks like you were successful, too. The pavers, deer fence, and gate (and everything else) are impressive.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      The deer fence was by far the best thing we’ve done for the garden. It’s nice to see the fruits of our labor!

  7. Chavli

    Making a list, checking it twice… excellent tool in reducing anxiety, and best of all, it made you twice as productive.
    Love the gate design. I hope the twine lasts.

  8. danger garden

    That gate design is fantastic! Your “rock” work (stairs and pathway) are such project wins in my book, well done! I’m jealous of your microsprinkler/drip irrigation project completion. I have nothing in the way of watering here and thus whenever we travel in the summertime I have to hire someone to come water. Finally, a question. The fence panels in the front (which look fabulous btw), are those strictly a visual enclosure? Or do they connect to a fence beyond?

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      The fence panels connect to a very decrepit length of black plastic deer fence/mesh that has been slowly falling apart over the last few years. We’re currently evaluating whether we will continue the fence panels along the front. It will be tough, though, because the fenceline runs along a very rocky section of the creek and digging a hole for each post will be a LOT of backbreaking work.

  9. hb

    You did good. Doesn’t it feel great? 🙂 Nothing like action–any positive action, no matter how small, to ease worry and anxiety. I know this from experience. Best wishes for successful projects in ’24!

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It does feel good! I feel like last year made up for 5 years of spinning my wheels.

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