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One trellis! Ah ah ah!

One trellis is finally done:

Trellis

Since I did end up deciding to plant an Opalka tomato after all (because I went to the Sheep & Wool festival, and someone there sells seedlings), I really did need to get on the ball about finishing at least the trellis that's in that bed.

As I previously posted, my beds are 3x8 ft. The trellis is placed one foot in, so something can be planted on both sides, and then there's 1ft left for non-climbing plants.

Here's how I made the trellis:

Requirements:

  • 5 pieces of 1/2" electrical conduit (or "EMT") (this is usually 10ft long)
  • 4 1/2" 90º connectors for conduit
  • 4 pieces 2ft 1/2" rebar
  • 16ft of 4ft high welded wire fencing
  • Garden wire / long twist ties / cable ties / heavy wire

Steps:

  1. Cut 4 of the pieces of conduit to 8ft long.
  2. Hammer rebar into the ground so 1ft remains above ground. You want one at each end of the bed, and then 2 centered with ~1/4" gap between them.
  3. Measure the distance from the inside of one rebar to the inside of the next. It's not exactly 4ft.
  4. Cut the last piece of conduit so you have 2 pieces, each the length of the rebar gap.
  5. Put a corner piece on each long piece of conduit.
  6. Put a short piece of conduit between so you end up with two very large squared off U's
  7. If you got the kind of connector where you tighten down a screw to keep it all together, tighten nice and good
  8. Carefully lift one of your 4ft-wide sections and slide the tall conduit legs down over the rebar. Do the other.
  9. Cut 2 8ft long sections of welded wire fencing.
  10. Use your wire to attach one section of the fencing along the top rod of the trellis and down the sides.
  11. Place the other section of fencing against the bottoms of the legs, and wire it to the sides.
  12. Wire the top and bottom sections of fencing to each other.
  13. In the center, wrap your wire around both uprights and the fencing to add stability.

You could probably attach the fending to the frame before standing it up, but I did the frame like two months ago. You'd still want to lash the two uprights that are next to each other to each other.

Why two 4ft wide sections? I didn't trust an 8ft horizontal run without support. And why 8ft tall? Opalka tomato is an indeterminate variety, meaning the vine just keeps growing until winter kills it. Consequently, it very much outgrew my 5ft tomato cages before, and I wasn't too sanguine about 6ft being enough height either.

And in other news, we've started picking up 1ft square pavers to redo the paths around the beds, because the mulch paths are full of dandelions. The car can't handle the weight of bringing home enough for the entire garden at once, so the plan is to just pick up a handful on each trip to the garden center. Please ignore all the weeds in this photo. My plan for this year is to work on pavers / building beds / double digging the permaculture food forest, etc. Heavy labor more than actual plants.

pavers

Peach blossoms! (photo inside)

Ok, I'm late on posting this because I didn't think about it at the time, but remember how I planted 4 fruit trees and a nut tree in fall 2014? Well, they're not supposed to bear fruit for 2-4 years depending on variety. So I was surprised to see that this year, the peach actually blossomed!

peach blossoms

Tiny house + house plants?

I have an itty bitty house. It's about 650 square feet, and equator-facing windows are:

  1. over my bed
  2. inside my shower
  3. actually double-doors that open inward into the kitchen and anyway anything in front of them would block the fridge and the dishwasher

There are two sunset-facing windows:

  1. over the kitchen sink
  2. over the couch / anything on the floor there would block the basement stairs

There are no window sills.

I intend to put a shelf over the sink for some herbs, but it'd be really nice to be able to have bunching onions, shallots, and garlic in the house. Any ideas for getting away with trying to grow these in the house? The bunching onions probably don't need much sun, but anything making bulb needs some. Would "well, it's in the house, and some sun comes through the windows" be enough?

Planting outdoors & fruit trees

Today I transplanted the cabbage and onion seedlings outside and planted seeds for: arugula, garlic (well, cloves, not seeds--forced in the fridge), mesclun salad mix, kale, cauliflower, and beets. Some of these (cauliflower, beets, mesclun) will have later succession plantings.

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You can just slightly see the cabbage seedlings at the far end of the left bed and the onions in the middle of the edge of the far right bed.

Also, I checked on the fruit trees. The apple trees are starting to wake up! They have little green shoots starting at their bud points.

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The cherry are getting ready to blossom. Well, the ornamental already has, but the fruiting cherries haven't yet.

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We were really worried that the peach tree might not have survived the winter due to a rabbit gnawing on it, but I did a little scratch test toward the top of the trunk, and it's green in there! (That means it's still alive) Since peach and almond (and plum? not sure) have a warmer range than apples do, I'm not concerned that they're not putting out new shoots yet.

Seedlings, bed prep, pink blueberries

Most of the seeds I started a couple weeks ago have sprouted and gotten going. It looks like I will need to pick up one black beauty eggplant, one butternut squash, and one basil plant. And maybe oregano if I still don't get around to starting those (I didn't have the seeds on hand like I thought I did).

As of two days ago, the seedlings were looking like this!

Baby plants

As of this morning, the squash (the things with huge cotyledons in front) have started putting on true leaves too.

Also this weekend, in my backyard beds I prepared the bed I built last fall for planting. I dug it up and broke up the clay and mixed some leaf mulch I had leftover in, and some coir I had left from the seed starting, and the leftovers from seed starting mix (it was coir, compost, and perlite) into the clay as I did so. Then I added two bags of garden soil. Then I dug some of the more broken-down compost out of the compost heap and spread that around. It was still chunky, but some matted grass bits and still-solid leaf bits won't hurt anything. They'll just break down in the ground. Then I put two more bags of garden soil on top of that. I'm going to grab some more garden soil and try to dig more of the done-ish (it spent enough time at temperature, it just isn't "finished" in that the worms haven't finished their cold process afterward yet) compost out of the heap to fill up the other two beds better. They're low because they originally were just a couple inches of dirt on top of the ground with no frames, then I added 6 inch frames around them.

But anyway, here's how the new bed looks

Filled garden bed

I also stopped by the garden center on Sunday and picked up 4 more bushes. Two are for my front garden landscaping project (another Rhododendron periclymenoides (pinxterbloom azalea) and another Viburnum dentatum (arrowwod viburnum--already had a "Chicago lustre" variety, this is a "blue muffin") and two are blueberries for the food forest. I picked up one lowbush blueberry and one pink lemonade blueberry which is a variety of rabbiteye blueberry.

Seeds started!

Today I started seeds for the backyard beds

Seed starting

The onions are started in peat pellets, and I did that two weeks ago. I had the peat pellets left over from before I learned that peat is not a renewable resource.

The rest are done using home-made seed starting mix in cow pots. At the recommendation of an employee at my local nursery who has tried it and had success, I used:

  • 2/3 coir (rehydrated and squeezed out)
  • 1/3 perlite
  • big handful of compost (I held both hands together around it)

I used Leafgro, a bagged compost made locally here in Maryland from municipally collected leaves. I was using a 4-cup measuring cup to scoop, so that tells you how much of the other stuff there was to the compost.

Almost ready to start seeds

Today I went down to my local garden center, having measured the little closet that houses my sump pump, to get seed-starting supplies. I got two "Jump Start" T5 lighting rigs. I also picked up a Jump Start heat mat for seedlings to add to the one I already had. Add some trays and one new plastic dome and one older one, and all I've got left to do is wait for the coir seed starter to arrive.

Why coir seed starter? Peat isn't sustainable in the volumes it's used. It's basically a fossil fuel. Peat bogs grow at a rate of ~1mm/yr, and gardeners use a LOT more than that. Wetland habitat destruction! So I'm avoiding purchasing any peat going forward, though I do have some peat-based seed starting medium from before I learned how bad it was environmentally.

Getting ready for spring!

I've got seeds either on-hand or ordered for just about everything I'm starting from seed this year. I've been working out what I want to plant, and this is the plan I've come up with for the 72 square feet of my backyard raised beds:

garden plan

Key:

Beets are fast enough (only 2 months) that I figure I can safely interplant them with the squashes.

I also picked up some chamomile seeds yesterday. I like chamomile tea, and it'll help attract pollinators. I have what I intend to be a food forest further back in my yard, past the raised beds, and I think it can go in there, around the berry bushes I intend to plant this spring.

Brickwork!

Surprise! I got home from work yesterday and discovered my husband had finished the brickwork around the veggie garden. He says he'd started moving the bricks from their pile to get them off the driveway, and well the logical place to put them was where they belong, and then halfway through he realized this wasn't the task he'd intended, and then he figured "well, I can surprise maco with it being done!"

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4 cubic yards of mulch will be dumped on my driveway tomorrow afternoon, and the orchard trees should arrive this weekend.

Fall bed prep

ARGH I got logged out while writing this post, and there was so much, and now I have to type it all again :(

In my area, spring only lasts about 2 weeks. It goes from too cold to be outside to over 80F in about that time, so as soon as you can be outside, it's time to have the plants in the ground, which leaves no time to build beds.

When last I posted about making the veggie garden a bit neater, I had just put edgers around the beds, to try to hold back the weeds and slow erosion.

Brick-edged beds

But I realized I needed to get the lawn/weeds out of the paths in the garden, since I can't lift the lawn mower over the chicken wire that keeps out rabbits, and I didn't want to use the string trimmer so close to my stuff. So, I had a fall project!

25 October

I went down to the tool rental place and picked up a manual sod cutter. This is the kind you kick, not the gas guzzler kind. I had it for the weekend for less than $20. The guy at the counter chuckled a bit, telling me it's hard work. I said I could use the exercise.

I pulled up the chicken wire, moved the edgers, dug up the sweet potatoes, mowed the grass low, and got to work.

Starting to cut sod

I couldn't carry rolls of sod by themselves. They're too heavy and fall apart-y. Happy I had picked up a large tubtrug, I shoved the roll of sod sideways into the top of it (with it on its side), and used the handles to get the sod to the compost heap. Back and forth, lots of stopping to pant and chug water. I got paths around the tomato bed and cleared space to add another bed. Newspaper hadn't been enough to stop the old sod coming up on the other beds.

Cleared for new bed

Around sunset, I went to Home Depot to get wood to edge the beds and for building a new one. I got rebar and conduit for eventual trellises. They were sold out of 1/2" 90° corners for conduit though. When I got home, I cut the wood and tried to eat enough food to make up for the day's work.

26 October

My grandmother's (now-late) sister went into the hospital the Sunday prior (get your flu shot! Pneumonia is bad shit!), so I decided I needed to go see her after Meeting for Worship. I got up extra early Sunday to get some more sod cutting done. After the hospital visit, I assembled the beds. I put on just two short sides and one long, leaving one long edge open so I could cajole the wood into place around the misshapen beds before screwing the last side in.

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Then there was some more work with the sod cutter to make sure the paths were wide enough, including the brick edging.

When I returned the sod cutter the next morning, the guy at the counter goes "see, it was hard work, eh?" and I agreed that it was, and showed him what I'd done. He seemed pretty surprised and commented on the "tree" in one bed. He meant my tomato plants.

2 November

This Sunday I put down landscape fabric in the paths to keep them weed-free and started arranging bricks, but it hurt. Somehow in the weekend's activities (went to an SCA event Saturday), I got gamekeeper's thumb. Oops. Home Depot was sold out on garden staples, so I had to lay edgers down to keep the wind from moving the landscape fabric. Mulch would hold it fine, I just didn't have any yet, and couldn't pour it in until the bricks are in place anyway, which means moving them out of where they're holding... I needed garden staples.

There weren't many bricks yet. I can only push a cart of about 30, and that makes slow going.

Starting to lay bricks

7 November

I came up with a brilliant plan. I ordered 175 bricks from Home Depot for in-store pickup (they don't deliver bricks). They had me pull my car right up in the garden center, and loaded my trunk from a pallet on a fork lift. Thankfully, my thumb was feeling better at this point.

9 November

I laid bricks around about half the bed, then determined I both needed more edgers and needed to be able to use the ones that were holding the fabric down. I also found I hadn't removed sod far enough out from the beds for the paths on all sides. It takes 34" to fit 24" of path, 2" of edger, and 8" of paver. I used the shovel to do a little more sod removal as I laid bricks, measuring each one's placement.

Then I visited a garden center that's only 5 minutes from my house, that I saw on a listing of places to go for native plants. I'd never been there. I didn't know if I'd find anything useful, but they had two packages of garden staples left!

Starting to lay bricks

I went over to Home Depot to get the remaining edger bricks and see what it'd take to cut them for where the corners needed only 4" and not their full 12" length.

Here's what happened:

Me goes to Tools department What do I use to cut this? Hoping one of the saws I've already got'll work

Guy 1 what do you have?

Me Sawzall, track saw, mitre saw, hack saw...

Guy 1 to Guy 2 mitre?

Guy 2 7.25 or 10 inch blade?

Me 10 I think

Guy 1 know what? Check in the Tool Rental department. They know this kind of stuff

Me goes there

Me how do I cut one of these?

Her Sawzall

Me masonry blade?

Her Yep

Me Thanks. Was hoping I wouldn't need to use the hack saw

Her Nah, that'd just make a mess

Me goes back to Tools She said Sawzall

Guy 2 Sawzall?

Me reciprocating saw...

Guy 2 I know what it is

Guy 1 the blade'll just jump around

Me she said to use a masonry blade

Guy 2 but they're only for metal or wood

Guy 1 yeah, there is no masonry blade for Sawzall, see? leads us to the blade display

Me points there's one

Guy 1 well, I'll be damned. I still think it'll jump around.

Me I'm not going to hold it still with my hand! I have C-clamps!

Next

The next thing to do is going to be putting the chicken wire back in place and ordering 4 cubic yards of mulch. Between these paths and my soon-to-exist orchard, I need 2 cubic yards, and I'll need another 2 cubic yards for the front garden and on top of the veggie beds come spring, so I might as well take advantage of the $18/cu-yd sale the local place is having and only pay one shipping fee, then keep the extra wrapped in a tarp on the driveway.

Adding edging to garden beds

I finally got sick of the way the weeds are sending runners into my garden beds and I can't use the string trimmer around them for fear of hitting my plants. So I went to Home Depot to get some 4x4 to lay down the sides. And they told me they can't cut 4x4. I'm pretty sure this is wrong and that I've had them do it before, but whatever.

So I went to the garden section and picked up enough edger bricks to do one bed. I don't think I could've moved the cart if I had enough edger bricks for both beds.

Right now, the beds look like they're recessed instead of raised due to the jungle growing around them (I haven't mowed near the beds either, because I can't lift my 100lb lawn mower over the low fence we put in to keep the rabbits out of the garden), but soon I'll be able to fix that with the string trimmer. These added edgers should help prevent topsoil erosion and make it easier for me to pile in compost and mix it around with topsoil, since it'll be all nicely contained. There'll probably be bricks next to the edgers by the end of the year too, to help keep them from falling over without the weeds to support them, and maybe to make a walking path between the beds too.

Edging

I also decided that I'm going to do build conduit trellises on the west bed next year, nice and tall (a bit over 2m?), for the vining plants. Right now those are in the west bed already because the majority of the sun the beds get is from the east (there are large trees, including chestnut, to the west), and I don't want the trellises to shade other stuff out.

Here's a video I found on how to do that:

Conduit trellis how-to video

Tomato: Late blight?

I just pulled this from my "patio" tomato plant (which is actually in-ground). I'm suspecting late blight. It poured rain all of last week.

So, for those with more experience...is this late blight?

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Composting

I started a compost pile almost a year ago when I got the house. The county gives out these plastic rings to compost inside of (county green initiatives to save the bay include getting people to compost and use that instead of inorganic fertilizer). I got two because with the size of my yard, the first was quickly filled. Except compost shrinks. So for most of this time, I've had two not very large piles. I have also not gotten any good compost from them. It's all wet leafy bits and matted grass.

Finally, last week I decided to get serious. I bought a 20" long thermometer to measure the temperature inside. It arrived yesterday (Saturday). Meanwhile, on Thursday my other half moved one bin a few feet it get it out of the way of a trench he was digging. So I measured that one, and it was 115°F/46°C (the other was 80°F/25°C). So, turning means rebuilding, not just moving it around a bit when I add stuff? Oh.

The books I have say larger piles get hotter, so yesterday I decided I must be shooting myself in the foot by having two small piles. I combined them. Today, it measured in at 140°F/60°C!

Here's how big it is now:

And here's the thermometer:

Finally planting things!

When I bought the house last year, the date I took ownership was pushed back about a month due to paperwork red tape. Consequently, everything died waiting for transplant from little seedling cups to big dirt.

Over the winter, my back yard was driven over by a large truck when the old shed was demolished and replaced. In the barren spot that used to be lawn / clover / violets, I've been using the garden fork to loosen the soil, then putting down newspaper, soil, and compost. So far, I've got tomatoes, potatoes, and some onions planted. I have seeds for the three sisters (corn, pole beans, and squash), and seedlings for squash, zucchini, eggplant, strawberries, and sweet potatoes.

I see ratatouille in the future.

I also just picked up seeds for Romanesco broccoli, cabbage, and beets, but those will be fall crops in my region.

The squash seeds I have are kind of a mystery. There's a pack of butternut and a container in which I put seeds from...something. It was either more butternut or acorn squash. I don't think it was pumpkin.

A cement mixing tray I filled with dirt and compost last year for the ill-fated seedlings will be getting chocolate mint. The driveway is bordered in spearmint already. I'm also looking at putting two basils with the tomatoes. I have seeds for Genovese and Greek Yevani.

Overgrown rhubarb

There's a plant next to my driveway that a friend says is rhubarb. He says it's normal that if you let it overgrow, the stalks go brown instead of bright red. It's about as tall as me at this point. Can I still cook the stalks, even though they're far past ripe? Do I just cut back the rhubarb to grow again next year? Not really sure what to do with it.

Watering

So, um, watering's important. Yep. Very important.

Well, what with moving into the house and all THAT entails...my plants are looking the worse for wear. They haven't gotten enough water. The oregano is dead. The basil and chives are just hanging on. The tomatoes have sort of purple leaves. Seeing that the roots were all growing out of the bottom of the pots, I finally went and got soil to fill the basins I have for the tomatoes and spent the money on proper (much larger) pots for the herbs.

At Home Depot, it turned out that 7.5" pots that are glazed inside and out (to prevent wicking & evaporation of water -- the problem my tomatoes were hitting with the teensy clay pots) were $10 for the pot and $5 for the saucer. Or there are 7.25" self-watering pots for $15. So my herbs are now in self-watering pots where they should be able to survive Pennsic without me. I got a new oregano plant too.

self-watering herbs

The tomatoes are now in large plastic bins full of dirt/compost, where their roots can spread out. Turns out clay pots in weather that is always over 80, usually over 90, and hitting over 100 (celcius people, read those as 26, 32, 38) means you need to water at least daily, probably a couple times a day, to keep the plants happy.

tomatoes in plastic cement mixing tubs

After taking that photo, I put some egg shells (since I hardboiled some eggs today for pickling) in the dirt around them and added stakes.

I noticed a couple days ago on the way to work that there's a place near home called Country Boy Market. Fresh locally grown produce (cheap berries, nom nom), mulch, top soil, compost, and straw bales are all available. Also they deliver mulch & soil. Well then. I know what's happening next spring when I try to build up the rest of the garden.

Plant identification?

I just got a house, and the front garden has a bunch of things that I don't recognize. Since mulberry, grape, and rhubarb have been identified in that bed, I wouldn't be surprised to find these are also edibles. I just don't know what they are. Ideas?

something with a cone shaped top

something tall with lots of narrow leaves

some sort of vine

a big plant with striped leaves

Note in case this helps narrow down: I'm in Maryland, USA.

Clay & cherries

I'll be moving into my house in a week. I've been holding off on transplanting my seedlings, but today I thought I'd move the squash and just put it in the ground rather than wait til we can get raised beds built (decided to go with table-style raised beds, made from cast off pallets, with a plastic lining). Nope! The clay content is way too high. With the difficulty I had with a trowel, there's no way the roots would make it through. So, the container is sitting on the back deck, waiting.

Meanwhile, I pruned the definitely-cherry trees in the front yard (a few weeks ago I saw the flowers and was pretty darned sure they're cherry...today I saw the cherries) that are growing over the driveway and road at annoying-to-get-out-of-the-car height. I think there are two different varieties. One is about 10-15ft tall with 1cm cherries, deep red, and tart. The other is more sparse looking, I think weeping, with 1in cherries higher up, so I don't know how they taste. Skud suggested I post photos, so I'll do that after my next camera-toting visit to the house.

Oh, and discovery as of last week: we definitely have rabbits. And I don't mean that I have acquired (soft, fluffy, lovely) angoras.

ETA: Thanks to the British Natural Museum's cherry identifier I've determined that they are both wild cherry trees. The fruit can range 10-20mm and black or yellow-red. So, there ya go. One is 10mm black and the other is 20mm yellow-red. The yellow-reds are past their prime. They've all split.

Raised bed help

I think it would be nice to have raised beds tall enough to not need to bend over constantly. For building them, I'm thinking about cinder blocks, since they're pretty cheap. Has anyone here done waist-high cinder block raised beds? Did you need to mortar the blocks together, or did you use something else to stabilize them, or did they just stay?

Alternatively, what have you used to make cheap raised beds nice and high up? I don't see a super huge benefit to raised beds that are only raised 8 inches off the ground!

Turnip sprouts

Have you ever sprouted turnips from seed? These seeds are the same size as mustard seeds. I planted them Friday night. I had to take the lid off my tabletop greenhouse today (Monday morning) so they wouldn't hit it! They're 2 inches tall already.

And, shockingly, two tomato plants have sprouted already.

Seeds!

All the seeds I ordered this year have shown up. I've got seeds for 7 kinds of dye plants, though I won't be planting all of those. Some of them get too big for the space I'm allocated.

I got Burpee's heirloom seeds for summer squash, purple-top white globe turnips, chioggia beets, big rainbow tomato, black krim tomato, brandywine pink tomato, and supersteak hybrid tomato. I'm about to start the seeds indoors, but the internet has just informed me that turnips are to be planted either in the fall 2 months before the first frost or in the spring a month before the last frost. They are not summer-weather-type plants. Oops. Well, I've got 3000 turnip seeds. I'll just start a handful and see what happens. The internet also says beets should just be started outside for the same taproot reason as carrots, but soak them for an hour first.

Now um...hmm..which dye plants am I starting?

Crop page suggestions

I only have one for now, but for a bigger mouse target, I think the image, not only the crop name, should be linkified.

Any others?

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