Garden Round Up 4/30/13

Grace in the garden

wilted seedlings
I won’t get into the how or why, but every one of our seedlings succumbed to too much sunshine and wilted into nothing this week.

I could have cried.

Funny that I didn’t. I think the new dress I got that day saved me from devastation. Even a girl that doesn’t care for shopping can enjoy a new dress. It *is* wedding season, after all.

I was sad about the seedlings. Every day I had visited them, marveled at their potential and tended to their needs. I was a little angry, too. That was a lot of work put into something that wouldn’t (successfully) see the light of day.

Then, I was shown grace and encouragement in a few tiny pea pods. After that, I played in the dirt and planted more cucumber seeds. OUTSIDE.

pea trellis and pots

So here’s the rest of what’s going on in the garden this month…

After I watched the vines growing up the pea trellises, I added some thread (criss-crossed around the bamboo) for the peas to grab a hold of. Their little tendrils seem to prefer skinny supports. I’m loving what the peas in the barrel are doing and can’t wait for them to show pods, since they are supposed to be BLUE and YELLOW!

But other stuff has happened, too. If you look close at the pea pictures you might see some of our “new” mulch. I keep all of our paper grocery bags (mostly because I feel bad for always forgetting to take the reusable ones to the store) and finally found a great use for them! I love the new mulch so far, and the kids are very willing to stuff the bags into the shredder for me.

I think it looks awesome (like natural confetti), and I definitely prefer the appearance to that of just opening up the bags and laying them flat. I’ll give an update next month on how it lasts and composts in with the soil.

paper bag mulchThis is how I pre-cut the bags before running them through the shredder. Our shredder can run 7 sheets of regular paper at a time, so the bags weren’t tough on the motor. I saved the handles for the compost pile.
pre-cutting paper bag for mulch

potato mulched with hayonions mulched with hay
In other mulch news, I used old hay from the barn to mulch around the onions and fill in around the potato plants in the towers.

The hay I used was no longer safe for the horses and hasn’t tempted the yard critters, either. After putting it all out I worried about attracting the wild bunnies. They haven’t even sniffed at it.

Our very first corn crop is growing with companion pole beans in a repurposed leaky water trough…

corn in a trough
I’ll give this experiment a post of its own if it actually bears corn. I’d seen a few mentions of corn in water troughs but never saw any pictures of actual corn on the stalks.

The companion beans are part of a traditional Native American planting plan which also includes squash underneath. The beans are supposed to grow up the corn stalks and the squash plant as a ground cover and mulch. Since there isn’t much room, I’ll just mulch with compost and paper strips once the beans germinate.

My Mama said that’s how her Daddy planted corn and beans. This pleased me!

I’m pretty excited about these beans starting their trip up the recycled chain link gate trellis…
new bean

If this looks half as awesome in real life as it does in my head, it’ll be a win. 

I’m always amazed at how well the older and wilder plants do in our yard without a bit of attention from me. The rose bushes are huge and full of blooms!

One day I suppose I’ll learn how to prune them, but not today. Today I’ll just admire the fragrant beauties nestled amongst the thorns.

There’s some more grace for you. Gifts of roses to a plant full of thorns.

rose

And it wouldn’t be spring in Georgia without the wisteria. This stuff is on its way to every tree surrounding our property. The blossoms fell like snow on windy days. Mostly from this ancient oak. 

wisteria on oak*atchoo*

What gifts did you find in your garden this month?

Garden Round Up 3/24/13

                         flowers and dog                phonto

Our vegetable garden is 3 years old. This is the beginning of year 4 and I’ve already spent more time in the yard than I did the entire first Spring.

This past month I’ve replaced yoga time with garden time, and I’m okay with that! This is the set-up for the whole season!
(I also like to think that where I’m lacking in caloric burn, I’m gaining in potential vegetable consumption)

I’ve got three years of (mostly successful) tomatoes under my belt and I’m ready for garden expansion. Go big or stay inside.
My regular anxiety has been replaced with garden anxiety (did I plant those seeds too early? too late? will the wind knock over my bean trellis? will the rain last all day or can I get outside and plant the onion sets?)
So when the rain subsided after lunch today, we did a few projects and I took a photo walk to document the work we’ve done in the past month. Spring has only just begun and we’ve done so much more than ever before!

The Man finally broke ground on the hugelkultur I’ve been plotting for months.
It’s affectionately known as “The Garden-in-A-tor”. (Yes, that’s a Phineas & Ferb reference)

hugelkultur goes here

 
The girls did some home improvements, adding curb appeal to the playhouse. The new flower beds have been seeded with marigolds. I did the grunt work digging up the turf. The girls little shovel just couldn’t break through. So they said.

          wonder dog                     curb appeal 

We have baby pea plants! Peas are the only seeds we’ve planted outside so far, not counting the marigolds. It’s still pretty chilly out.

I planted peas along the bean trellis, too, but they haven’t emerged yet.

             baby peas               more baby peas

There are things growing inside the house as well. I love watching the seedlings in their little greenhouses. Check out this cucumber seedling trying to shed the shell of its seed!

        cuke seed                cuke seedlings

The Man has been busy, too. Besides clearing out the snakey wood for the hugelkultur, he also started pressure washing the house and driveway and he planted stones in the muddy track that Alice the Wonder Dog takes to reach the front yard. When The Man got creative with the power washer, the girls requested that their initials stick around. A lasting piece of art in driveway grime.

       under pressure                 planting a stone path

I revisited the bamboo trellis and made a tripod for the non-bushy cucumbers (when they are ready). I used zip ties under the twine on the top, and also to attach the horizontal braces on the sides. The edging around the cucumber bed is the same stone The Man used for Alice’s path. They were found objects in the backyard from the previous owners. The cages will contain potatoes. I hope.

                bamboo cucumber trellis                 stone garden edging

I tackled a couple of things I saw on Pinterest. The Man got me some gutters to plant lettuce. He installed them on the north side of our backyard fence.
 
gutter planter

And in a “let’s see if this works” moment. I made a stack of tipsy pots. I may have used pots that were a little large for this, but it sure looks cool! The girls helped me out by painting the pots. (I think I have an aversion to terra cotta at the moment) The clay pots are easy on the wallet, especially when they are on sale at Hobby Lobby. I’m not sure what we’ll plant in them. Something colorful or with bright leafy greens that will reflect the light.

Oh yeah.

 

Two words of warning.

 

Don’t blink.

 
                 phonto               tipsy pots

I found tipsy pot tutorials here and here.

Make A Bamboo Trellis

(for beans, and peas, and cucumbers, and sweet potatoes, and peppers and…)

 Bamboo Bean Trellis

It used to be, that when I wanted to do something in my yard (usually once or twice a year), I would take a trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot and buy whatever it was that was supposed to be amazingly beautiful and come home and stick it in the yard.

Nowadays, things are different.

Yard beautification just isn’t in the budget. But food production is!

I see the yard in a whole new way. I don’t get sucked in by the commercials suggesting I “play in the dirt” and go buy shrubs, flowery things, fancy hose reels, and weed killers.

Now, I share seeds with friends and find old pots to grow our vegetables in. Now, I take over the decorative trellis by the street with colorful climbing peas instead of clematis vines. Now, I make every effort to use what we have before running out to buy the newest doodads and whatnots I saw in a tv commercial.

Go Big Or Go… to the farmer’s market?

(prepping the garden for Spring)

The last couple days I’ve been busy getting the garden ready for Spring planting. Now that I have learned a few different methods of preserving, I am not afraid to plant more than we can eat. In fact, I’m trying to plant even more than I will preserve for ourselves, just to share with others. So this year I’m not restricting myself to the established garden area. I’m using whatever sunny space I can find around the yard to plant our veggies. 

Dirt BuggyI took a trip to Lowe’s for some organic soil to start pots and freshen up our garden. We established our main plot a few years ago with composted horse manure. That stuff is delightfully free for us, and the family barn is just a couple blocks away. While at the store, I also grabbed a couple cheap clay pots for the girls to paint. One of those is already painted and planted with marigold seeds my sister saved form last year.
I try to shop at our local hardware store as much as possible, but unfortunately they aren’t stocked on what I needed this time.

One great way to save garden space is to grow up instead of out.

The other item of business this week has been planning the trellises for the climbing peas, beans and also the cucumbers that I started indoors last week (using this method). I may get into The Man’s metal shop to make a steel trellis if he finds some material for me to use. But today was all about the bamboo.

Today’s trellis is for peas and/or beans in a flower bed at the front of our home. I wanted it short and long, and I will plant seeds on either side of it. I haven’t had any success with beans or peas in the backyard, because the wild rabbits get them every time. But I never see rabbits in the front yard.

The trellis I made today was completely free.

FREE BAMBOO – Our church has a massive bamboo forest that we scoured for fallen, dry stalks last week.
FREE TWINE – Those horses that provide us with compost eat lots of hay, and hay is bound with twine. I re-used the hay twine to bind the bamboo together.
I did a google search for techniques on binding the bamboo together (there are links at the bottom of this post), but I didn’t take a second look at them when the time came. I relied on memory of what I read, so I don’t know how strong my lashing technique is. Alas, it’s just peas. They can’t weigh that much, can they?

Stuff I used:

  • fallen bamboo (look for good strong pieces, not brittle ones)
  • hay twine
  • a hack saw
  • scissors
  • a hammer
  • a lighter to melt the knots on the man-made plastic product that the hay twine is made of

(Our hay used to be bound with natural sisal-like twine, but I guess that stuff is being used to make expensive scratchy rugs nowadays)

hacksaw

I used a hack saw to cut the bamboo to the correct lengths.

 

 

 

 

 
joint

If you cut just above the joints, the pieces will be solid at the top instead of hollow, so water won’t pool up in them.

 

 

 

 

layout

 
I set the poles out the way I wanted them…

 

 

 

 

 

tied upAnd tied them together in a probably-not-that-secure way.

 

 

 

 

 

meltingI trimmed the twine and melted the ends a bit with a lighter so they’d be less likely to come unraveled.

 

 

 

 

Last, I tapped the poles into the soft ground with a hammer.

bean trellis

I’ll be planting beans or peas on either side of the trellis. Here’s hoping the lashes hold. My knots seem pretty secure, but I’ll be sure to recheck a tying tutorial before making something for the heavy cucumbers! Here’s a few articles that might be helpful if you’re interested in different bamboo trellis techniques:

-If I had a wider bed for this trellis, I may have used a style like this one. The spiffy waxed twine the author found is cool, too.

-The tripod method at Organic Gardening uses zip ties! I may strengthen my lashes with those if they don’t hold.

               (I did make one of these tripod trellises later. You can view it here)

-There are oodles of tying techniques grouped together at WonderHowTo.

What methods do you use to save space in the garden?

Drinking Green and Starting Seeds

The Man makes frightening concoctions in our blender twice a day. Spinach, ice, chocolate whey protein powder, agave nectar, and some water or coffee. He calls them smoothies. That is not a smoothie.starting seeds title

This offers two truths about our family:

We buy a lot of spinach.

We also use the restroom a lot.

These truths came in handy when it was time to start the seeds for our backyard garden. All that spinach comes in lots of packaging, since we haven’t found a regular local producer to satisfy Popeye.

This is the first year I’ve started the seeds myself. We are fairly new to gardening, and I’ve been purchasing more established plants at Whole Foods or the hardware store for the last couple years.

After scouring the internet (okay, Pinterest) for ideas, I settled on a blend of  ideas using stuff we already have. There were lots of ideas for seed starting using the tubes and plastic containers. I’ve also saved several egg cartons. It didn’t dawn on me until today that all those nifty clementine boxes from winter would have been helpful. *doh*

Anyway. Let’s hope this one works.

I poked some holes in the bottom of a large plastic lettuce container with a skewer,

assuming any standing water would get pretty rank.

poking holes

Then I placed a paper bag in the bottom.

This was really just to help hold the dirt in the…

brown bagging it

Toilet paper tubes! (and also a few cut up paper towel tubes)

I placed the container on the porch and waited for the child labor to get home from school.

starting seeds

They filled the tubes with teaspoons because I didn’t want dirt all over the inside of the container,

and they didn’t know I was being irrationally anal.

I added dirt around all the tubes later.

It turns out the exposed wet tubes can grow lots of hairy stuff.

adding soil

I added seeds after the girls got bored, and topped with another spoonful of soil.

planting seeds

Labelled each tube, while thinking about tomato sauce and tomato sandwiches…

labeling seeds

Watered from a spice jar (perhaps we will get a sprinkling can this year)

spice jar watering can

And topped with another spinach container (with more air holes),

taped one side with masking tape for a hinge,

and placed a lid underneath to catch any leaked water.

indoor greenhouse

Tada! An indoor greenhouse!

I placed the greenhouse in a well-lit spot and we’ll see how things grow. I’ve got more seeds on the way from a very kind friend. Now please excuse me while I go blow my nose on some toilet paper.