When last we checked in with the Brooklynites who’d bought an adorable bungalow between Woodstock and Saugterties, they were nearly done with some absolutely gorgeous renovations. Now, they’re posting again, this time about landscaping for weekenders, something many of our readers have asked us about. If you’re renovating a space upstate and are interested in featuring it here, drop us a line.
We always thought fall was the best season in the Catskills. But this spring, our first as upstaters, has introduced a spectacular competitor for the title. Each weekend delivered a new discovery: the nesting wrens; the rising of the tulip bulbs, strong as soldiers; the bursting blooms on flowering trees we didn’t even know we had; a Lily of the Valley carpet emerging in an unlikely patch of our gravel driveway. For any city slickers looking to reconnect with nature — spring delivers!
In our last Bungalow Byliner, we chronicled some of our interior renovation projects and hinted that we would next turn to the landscape, so here goes the spring-scaping update. Before we dig in, we have to take a moment to plug how much we love the Upstater community. You were not only generous in commentary, but a lovely couple — Aaron and Melissa — who live near us in Brooklyn, volunteered to give advice on some of our landscaping challenges in exchange for recommendations on navigating the upstate real estate search. Not only are they both super cool, they’ve also provided invaluable advice on our four big outdoor projects: the mini orchard, grotto, veggie plots and garden beds.
After the jump: mini-orchards, outdoor movie nights, garden and veggie beds, and more!
We have a borderline obsession with Northern Spy apples and were excited that we didn’t need to look far when we stumbled across a couple trees while cruising Adams in Kingston. Melissa informed us that when planting a small orchard, you need at least a couple of one type and at least one cross-pollinator, so we also bought a Golden Delicious. The nursery delivered the trees to our house and we (or I should more accurately say my hearty husband) dug all the holes for the trees, stakes and fence posts to keep the deer away. He made the fencing from some of the fallen pine tree trunks found in the woody area adjacent to our meadow – nice DIY reuse and cost saver. The posts went in quicker than anticipated with the borrowing of a post-hole digger from our neighbor. Worthy investment if you want to get 12 posts in rocky ground in an afternoon. We also learned that in addition to protecting young trees with deer fencing, you should also place breathable trunk guards to protect them from rabbits who like to nibble on young bark. Check back with us in a few years and we’ll let you know if all these strategies translated into a bumper apple crop.
One of the most alluring features that attracted us to the property is the grotto – the ruins of a dairy barn’s stone and concrete foundation that sits adjacent to the bungalow. It serves as our front deck and outdoor living space with enough room for a BBQ area, fire pit, dining area, lounge and outdoor movie room. The vista from the bungalow through the grotto features a dappled view of Overlook Mountain in fall/winter and a green grove of maple trees during spring/summer. From the grotto, the land slopes gently uphill to our 200 square foot guesthouse – we’re told it’s a converted sawmill – that we affectionately call the doghouse because of its lack of indoor plumbing (more on that renovation in a future post). The first grotto project was to rebuild the stone stairs leading out of the grotto and create a path to the doghouse. We also wanted to enliven the weed-scape with some shade-friendly plants. Melissa recommended sweet woodruff as a groundcover and my sister in-law generously donated a bunch of transplanted lilies and hostas from her property in Syracuse. We’d love to transform the area between the grotto and doghouse from a web of weeds into field of ferns, which will most likely be a multi-year project. Other mini projects in the grotto include building a fire pit and lounge area for outdoor movie night. One of the best investments we’ve made is on a used Epson Moviemate projector with built in DVD player and speakers. Thanks, eBay! For folks like us with no cable, wireless or satellite, it really kicks out an impressive set up for in- and outdoor movie action.
The previous owner established a 10×10 plot on the side of the bungalow that gets strong sun until lunchtime. We’ll keep using it, but mostly for herbs and greens. We pulled all the weeds, gave the soil a couple good turns, added some compost and started planting this past weekend. We also built a separate 4×8 raised garden bed with drip irrigation (from Drip Depot) in an area of the yard that gets sun until late afternoon. Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening has been a great resource for how to create an efficient raised bed plan and all the local nurseries have contributed to the plant and seed stock: Gallo’s on 212 in Woodstock, Adams on 9W in Kingston, Boice Farm in Saugerties on 31.
Next, we want to tackle the incredibly rocky garden bed that rings the bungalow overlooking the meadow. I’ve probably spent 30 hours clearing it of a nasty collection of invasive weeds — they nearly frustrated me to death with their prickers and tubular roots that went on forever. I’m now left with a sad bed of rocks and dirt. Ideally, we want to plant something tall enough to block the space under the deck, but it needs to be hearty and work with rocky soil. Shrubs? Grasses? Wild flowers? Truck in some dirt? Work with the soil we have? We’re eager for advice, Upstaters, if you have recommendations to share. In the meantime, enjoy the last weeks of spring. She’s a real contender!