First Home & Garden from Scratch |Susan Snyder & Mark Hathaway |Central Texas Gardener

First Home & Garden from Scratch |Susan Snyder & Mark Hathaway |Central Texas Gardener


– [Narrator] Sun and space for gardens, those
were tops on Susan Snyder and Mark Hathaway’s list when they went house hunting in 2014
after years of renting. We wanted to come in and have a blank slate
to create gardens. And sometimes when you’re looking for houses,
there’s already a lot of landscaping that has been put in place. So when we found this, we were so excited. – The first straight bed that we put in with
cinder blocks and we decided to inset it in the ground because the previous, the previous
gardens we had, the water would run off. We could put them sunk in cinder blocks, we
could water and not have runoff. And then we could use the side holes to plant
plants. So I bought a bunch of cinder blocks and then
in July I thought it’d be a great idea to start digging. I was so defeated after six cinder blocks. It was very gratifying to finally get it in
but it was a lot of work at first. We actually had someone help us and install
cedar fence posts into the ground and concrete. And then we had a cattle panel put on that. – [Narrator] Its airy frame harbors seasonal
climbing crops like peas, beans, cucumbers, and even morning glories. While renting, Susan had learned the basics
at a community center vegetable gardening class. – I went home and we had our little four by
four square foot garden that we built. And so it’s just kind of literally blossomed
from there, you know, just learning as we go. – We’re both from the Northeast and so there’s
one season, only one season. And my parents had a garden growing up. My grandparents had a garden growing up. I send pictures to my relatives up north and
they’re jealous in the snow and the mud. – [Narrator] To round out the garden, they
arranged limestone beds with a centerpiece of flowers and water for wildlife. They chose limestone, like the cinder blocks,
for long-lasting durability. – [Susan] And then we played around with different
designs for the limestone beds to see what would work. And we wanted to be able to walk around and
you know, make it easy to plant things and reach across the bed. – [Narrator] The design allows them to circulate
crops every year. Pine straw mulch protects plants from splashing
soil but doesn’t clump and allows rainfall to easily meet the soil. This year, statuesque onions frame the outer
borders. – We just mostly have Texas sweet white onions
and I have 75 in the ground. And these go in the ground really before the
first of the year. They’re usually in by the end of December
or first week of January. And then we’re usually able to harvest them
by mid-May. And so when we harvest them, we’ll keep some
out on the counter to use, but then we usually chop the rest up and freeze them. And we have them pretty much all year. And we do the same thing with the tomatoes
’cause we have 13 tomato plants in the ground. – My grandmother, Depression era taught me
how to cut the tomatoes in half and you put them on wax paper in the freezer on like a
cookie sheet. And then when they freeze, you pull them out
and put them in Ziploc bags. And you just keep freezing them, putting them
in there, so we end up with all these huge Ziploc bags full of frozen tomatoes. So then you can take those out whenever you
want them. My Grandmother Rosemarie Bernardi Hathaway,
she had a garden in Massachusetts where we grew up. And the story that it was always something
that was amazing that there was cucumber salads and the cookouts that our house in the summer
were spectacular. And the stories that I hear is my great grandfather
who was from Italy he would come out for the summer and he would go through that garden
and even at the end of the season he could pluck things out of there and make minestrone
soup or anything out of it. I got really into pickling about 10 years
ago and she sent me all of her handwritten notes. – [Narrator] They renovated an existing bed
that had been edged with composite landscape timbers. – We spent a couple of days just clearing
out the whole bed. It was pretty overgrown. And so over the past few years we decided
to turn it into a rose bed. We’ve got Belinda’s Dream and Cecile Bruner
and Grandma’s Yellow and just a bunch of miniature roses. – There was originally a lattice screen with
the roses that we had there that was attached to the fence. Well, we know it’s our neighbor’s fence and
so we figured if they have to replace that fence, they’re gonna have to tear the whole
thing down. I built it out of cedar lattice so it wouldn’t
rot and I framed it with cedar fence pickets and I kind of sandwiched them. What I did was I took a eight-foot rebar and
I just drove it into the ground so it’s standing on the rebar kind of the sandwich sitting
over the rebar. I did attach a couple of little pickets to
the fence to hold it in place, but if the neighbor ever replaces the fence, I’ll just
be able to cut it free. – [Narrator] Young evergreen star jasmine
and crossvine, along with summertime passion vine, have plans to fill the frame. The first year, they thought they’d nailed
this garden thing. But it was spring 2015 with historic rainfall. – And so we thought, oh my gosh, we just have
the magic touch. And then we realized the following year when
we were in drought and it wasn’t so easy. But I think that first year really is kind
of what hooked us. And since then we’ve learned that, you know,
Texas can be a tough, tough place at times to garden. – [Mark] So that’s for us is getting a large
rain tank and we’re trying to use as much rain water as possible. The one in the backyard here is 1,500 gallons
and then we have a 90 gallon in the front and a 65 gallon in the back. – [Narrator] But they don’t use their reserves
on the lawn. – Every February get a couple truckloads of
compost, spread it out, and then let it fend for itself. – [Susan] I’m shocked at how much compost
makes a difference. – I used to do the compost pile more out in
the open and we realized we had this special spot hidden behind the bushes back in the
corner. So we have named it compost corner and back
there we can hide the neighbors’ leaves off the street and all the bags of leaves. Nothing goes in the trash and of our scraps
though everything. So it’s nice ’cause we could have two piles,
one resting, one working, and plenty of room to flip it. The pond was a project that had a good start
and like I couldn’t figure out how to finish it. – [Narrator] The heavy clay meant backbreaking
work, but they wanted National Wildlife Federation Certified Backyard Habitat status, which requires
a water source. – [Mark] Could have done it a little bigger
now in retrospect, but I really like it. It’s a sound and, and just building up, so
to look like a spring coming out of the bamboo there. – [Narrator] Nearby, they defined a patio
with flagstones and a cinder block wall topped with container plants. For a distinctive table, Susan created a mosaic
top with discarded tiles. She repurposed its base from a rotted out
fire pit. – [Susan] There’s actually another mosaic
table back there that I made. I’d found that table at Goodwill and it’s
all sort of wrought iron and I found this glass plate at a thrift store for $4. It’s fun to do that stuff, when you can be
creative with secondhand things. – That little bench, 20 plus years ago, a
neighbor, my next door neighbor, he was a stone mason and he was helping build the Bob
Bullock, Texas State History Museum. And so they let all the workers take home
the little scraps of stone from the facade. And so finally they all, there you go. Let’s make a little, little bench out of it. – [Narrator] They turned a back corner into
an outdoor kitchen with project workspace and storage. To give this new room a colorful wall, they
turned once again to cinder blocks, colorized with liquid iron sulfate and a paintbrush. – [Susan] Keep in mind though is you don’t
want to do it over any, you know, concrete, driveway or anything like that that you don’t
want to turn orange. – [Narrator] Since most of the garden’s in
sun, here’s where they stage colorful shade lovers in containers. They jazzed up the screened-in porch as another
living room, including for their cats. – We want to bring wildlife into this yard
and we have a lot of different songbirds. And, we have all kinds of lizards and toads
and just all kinds of wildlife. So we, we don’t want them out here, you know,
interfering with all of that. The porch was here when we moved in. But it wasn’t really used very much. And so it had been painted sort of a very
dark, dark, dark olive green. I actually grew up on a street in upstate
New York called Morningside. And our house was this color and it was my
mom’s favorite color. And so we looked for the same shade of yellow. So we had taken a course with a guy named
Dan Phillips at the Phoenix Commotion several years ago out in Huntsville and he’s amazing
and he’s doing all of this incredible work with building houses for low income people,
using pretty much all recycled materials. And so we had learned mosaic making from him. – [Narrator] From around town, they collected
discarded and demo tile. Over several learning curve weekends, they
designed a tree that unites their growing philosophy indoors and out. – Austin is such an amazing place to garden
because there are so many knowledgeable people and experts who are willing to share their
inspiration and their knowledge. So we’ve just learned by talking to lots of
people and experimenting and seeing what works and trying new stuff next year.

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