A Nerd In The Garden: First Fresh Veggies

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms

So i tried to grow my squash up cages to keep them all contained and well behaved. They grew up the cages, oh yes, and then they grew down the other side and started taking over the entire garden space. They look gorgeous and they are setting squash like there is no tomorrow. The squash are growing visibly from day to day. I cut up an old shirt to make little slings to support the squash so that their weight doesn’t damage the vine before they ripen.

Saturday I went out to water and there were all manner of pollinators in the garden just loving all the gorgeous yellow squash blooms. The bumble bee colony that has taken up residence behind my favorite rose bush was well represented as were other species of bumble bees and yes, even honey bees. I was gathering some roses to put in a vase inside and a honey bee, already heavily laden with pollen really wanted one of the roses I had cut. I held it for her and she alighted and gathered even more pollen then flew off.

The cucumbers, likewise, have grown up and out of their cages. Although to be fair I used smaller cages for them. Actually I used a couple of really small, really old tomato cages I had from my long ago garden. Now they are vining up the tomatoes.

Squash

Squash

Speaking of tomatoes, the Vintage Wine is just covered with little green tomatoes. The Yellow Brandywine haven’t set any fruit yet. They are just starting to flower so their tomatoes will come on after the Vintage Wine is slowing down.

There are only a handful of pea plants that have survived the squirrels digging in the garden. They are just starting to flower.

On a whim I picked up a packet of watermelon seeds. Yes it is really too late in the season to plant them but they were on clearance and watermelon is delicious. I put exactly two of the seeds in the ground and they have both come up. Now I’m just hoping for a little bit of an extended growing season. It could happen.

New Leaf on Black Magic

New Leaf on Black Magic

The elephant ear plants have new leaves on them. They were worrying me a bit since they were planted at the height of the heat wave and they hadn’t put out any new leaves for a few weeks, but now they have and I am quite pleased. They are gorgeous plants. I believe I have a Black Magic and an Illustris but I’m just guessing since neither one came with name tags when I got them. To be fair I got them on super close-out sale. I’m hoping that with a heavy mulching I won’t have to dig them up when the cold weather hits.

I also replaced the Gunnera and it is doing well. It was planted at the beginning of the heat wave and lost almost all of its original leaves to sunburn. One leaf survived and the crown has put out almost a dozen new leaves that are on short stems and protect the crown from the sun. it’s looking lush if a bit short. I have high hopes that it will get huge next year if I can get it to winter over. Again I’m looking to mulch it heavily when the cold weather hits.

The hummingbirds are very shy this year. I’ve only seen the mother bird a couple of times and I almost never hear the chicks any more. I only heard them once a couple of weeks ago. The mallow bush and crocosima are still blooming though and I am glad because I know they like to sip nectar from those plants. The little mother hummingbird was also sipping nectar from my clerodendrum which has approximately eleventy-billion flowers on it this year.

Illusins new leaf

Illusins new leaf

the clerodendrum has such a lovely scent when it blooms and it makes the whole yard smell just gorgeous. It has gotten about as large as it is supposed to and it does shade a corner of the yard but I really like it. The only thing is that it does try to propagate underground so I have to keep plucking out the suckers that try to come up. I didn’t know it would do that when I first got it.

A lot of this I’m learning, and figuring out, as I go along. Sure I consult the Google on occasion but mostly I’ve just jumped right in and I’m seeing how it works out. Next year I’m planting the squash away from the main garden so that when they vine all over the place they won’t take over the other vegetables.

squash in slings

squash in slings

The other major thing I’ve learned so far is not to use the cocoa shell mulch in the main garden. Hazelnut shells are better. The cocoa shells mould and get very slippery when they are watered. Also they draw flies.

I will keep updating the growth of the garden and what I learn. By time this season is over I hope to have weekly photos documenting the garden.

A Nerd In The Garden: The Raised Beds Are In

Raised beds

Raised beds

Raised beds

Last time I wrote we had just cleared the space for my raised bed garden. I had calculated the linear feet of lumber I would need and due to pricing had gone with cedar kits which Amazon was kind enough to deliver to my door. I was too busy actually putting the beds together, filling them and planting them to blog. Now that the garden is in, though, I thought I would post about the almost completed project.

There was a minor hiccup with the fill dirt for the beds. I had calculated I would require around 3 cubic yards to fill all of the beds. On the garden site I was checking out they had a free fill dirt calculator and I went ahead and checked myself against their calculator. Their calculator came up with a fraction of what I had calculated and, being an idiot I trusted their number over mine. This was a somewhat costly mistake.

Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required

I purchased the amount of soil they said I needed and it barely filled 1 bed. Ugh. So I ordered the amount I calculated I needed and it was the correct amount. Trust yourself, fellow gardeners.

It took two days to move 4.5 tons of fill dirt. As it turns out a cubic yard of dirt weighs about a ton and a half and I ordered 3 cubic yards. A friend loaned me his wheel barrow–it was very barrowy. That helped a lot. I was using a tote in a wagon assembly that was comprised of items I actually had until he dropped off the wheel barrow.

Assembled

Assembled

Once the beds were in and we had mulched the walkways with cocoa shells and hazelnut shells I planted. I have 8 4X4 beds and in them I planted a variety of squash, including pumpkins and spaghetti squash, a mix of lettuces and spinach, tomatoes and herbs, peas and brussle sprouts, onions and potatoes (in two beds). I top dressed some of the beds with the remaining cocoa shells and intend to top dress the rest of them soon.

I also added a few decorations since I really do enjoy my garden and I want it to be lovely as well as functional. I’m going to clean out the sides and perhaps squeeze in a couple more beds and some more decorations.

A Nerd In The Garden: Designing A Raised Bed Layout & Clearing A Space

After tilling

Sort of Before

Sort of Before

Good day, gentle reader. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks designing and researching a raised bed garden. This has involved measuring the area I will get to use for the garden, compiling a list of vegetables and herbs that we would like to have in our garden and preparing the spot chosen.

The design side took quite a bit of time. Once I had the dimensions I made some graph paper layouts in Excel and printed the grids on paper so I could draw raised bed layouts to scale and find what appealed to me the most. The most efficient use of my space took several tries to get. Each bed needs a 2′ walk path around each side of it so that a gardener can reach the middle of the bed. To get the maximum amount of useable garden space with that restriction that also appealed to me aesthetically took several layouts.

Once I had a layout that I liked I used it to calculate the linear feet of lumber I would need to build the beds as I had drawn them. Once I had that number I went online and began looking at the kinds of lumber I could use to build the beds and the costs. Different board widths, heights and lengths gave me varying options not only for construction but also price-wise.

Calculating how many pieces of which size helped me reduce waste. For a raised bed garden wood that is bug and rot resistant is a must. I wanted cedar but it was so expensive. There was no size I could afford to get in sufficient quantity for my project. In the end for economic reasons I decided I would go with 2x12x16 pressure treated wood, which for the size of my garden would be pricy but worth it. I could already imagine the fresh vegetables and herbs.

The lumber is pricy and once I purchased it I would have to load it in my vehicle, bungie cord it and put the red safety flag on it to get it home then unload it. I would also need to get corner fasteners, posts and other little things to actually construct the bed.

OR…the interwebs was happy to suggest that For $50.00 more I could order pre-made raised bed kits made from cedar (superior and preferable) from Amazon and get them delivered free to my house. Hmmmmm….I’m already committed to spending quite a bit of cash….And I really wanted cedar to begin with, I just couldn’t afford it if I got it at any of the number of local home improvement/lumber yards I’d checked out.

Still $50.00 is a lot of money, so I went to the store I’d found online that had the pressure treated wood for the price I was willing to pay. There I found that they didn’t actually carry the lumber I had chosen for the price listed. The price they did have was more by $2.00. Multiply that over the number of boards I would need and suddenly the pre-made kits were in range. I was sold–on the pre-made kits that is.

Let’s be honest here. If I constructed the beds they would be basic boxes. I am not mitering any corners to give them a finished look and I’m not buying end caps for the post tops. My basic garden would look like someone bought some wood and made boxes. Since this is intended to be a semi-permanent installation the beauty and finished look of the superior cedar beds was really worth the little bit extra they cost me. It was the free delivery that put it in range. If I’d had to pay for delivery I wouldn’t have done it.

Now over the course of the past month we have been cleaning up the garden space. We have been cutting out Himalayan blackberry vines, which are vile things with huge sharp thorns and digging out the roots, cutting out Clerodendron runners (apparently it propagates underground too–who knew?) and catnip that was planted in one little spot 15 years ago. Catnip is invasive. It was an absolute mess back there. We have filled our yard debris bin to overflowing every weekend for the past month. The day finally came when we had enough space cleared to rototill the spot.

After tilling

After tilling

I researched several little rototillers online, even going so far as to watch youtube videos of people reviewing some models. I finally settled upon a lightweight model that was reasonably priced and that I felt I could operate myself without having to ask someone else to do it. Once again my local hardware store did not carry it. This is the same place I went for the lumber I had chosen. Oh I could order it online and have it shipped to their store for free but this involves a wait while the item ships and then I still have to pick it up.

For the record, offering to have something shipped to a store is a bad strategy for a local store. If I want to wait for something to ship, I don’t want to have to then go pick it up. The only reason to buy something like this locally is if you want to pick it up the same day. If the shop is forcing me to wait for it anyway, then I’ll order from the place that not only gives me free shipping but also ships it right to my door.

Thankfully, another garden center nearby actually carried the little rototiller and I picked it up there. With the added bonus that this was a locally owned place. I try to support locally owned places whenever possible and had I known beforehand that they carried this item I wouldn’t have even tried to get the tiller at the other place.

This week the kits arrive and next weekend we will assemble the first beds. Stay tuned.