Tag Archives: gardening

Creating A Berry Trellis From Reclaimed Material

We had a right pleasant day today.  Morristown (about 20 miles down the road from us) is flooded, but I have no idea where the rain came from.  It was sunny all day here.  And unseasonably warm: there is a rumor about that we set a record for high temperature in February for our area.  We’ve had a couple of similar days this week, so it seemed a good opportunity to do some work in the garden.  This week my main yard-work task was to erect a set of trellises on which to grow berries.

I have boysenberries, blackberries, black raspberries, and red raspberries established and producing.  I also have blueberries and strawberries but they don’t require trellises.

The trellis for the boysenberries is the separate unit on the left end of the photo. For the two previous years I’d used four tomato cages in a row as the trellis here – that did not work well.  Boysenberries are viciously thorny and having to reach inside a bush that covers both sides of the bulky trellis tended to leave my arm torn and bloody.  And I let the canes get out of hand and they got all twisted up and tangled together.  It’s hard to prune out the old canes when they are like that.

Thornless blackberries are along the long leg of the L and black raspberries on the short leg. Blueberry bushes are in the box on the far side of this grouping.  Red raspberries are in a separate row on the right hand edge of the photo.  They already have a trellis I made from steel fence posts and wire mesh fencing.  It’s ugly but it works.

For this one I used T posts, which I had, and 1 3/8” fence rails, which I had, and some multi-strand wire, which I had, so all I bought was  6 rail end clamps, 6 eye bolts, and a small spool of 17 gauge galvanized steel wire (because I didn’t have enough multi-strand wire to do the whole thing).  Less than $20 cash outlay for this project.  All the rest of the materials were salvaged from past projects – not all of them my own.  I’m such a scrounger.

The fence rails were rusty in spots, so I sanded those and hit them with a coat of silver Rustoleum spray paint (which I had on hand).  That won’t stop rust, but it will slow it down and make it look nicer for a while.

In the past, the blackberries grew on a length of wire mesh fencing hung on three wooden posts.  A wooden beam across these supported PVC hoops, which supported bird netting to form my Berry House.  But two of those posts rotted off, as did the support beam.  So I dismantled that last fall and pruned the berry canes back over the winter.

With construction complete I took a break, then went back out to tie up the berry canes to the wires with hemp twine.  Where I had clumps of canes that would be too dense, I cut out the older ones – probably bore fruit last year anyway and will not bear again.  This is kind of a start-over scenario since I pretty much let it go wild last year.  This year I need to be more diligent in my vine husbandry.

I do not, at this point, have plans to erect a structure for bird netting again.  The PVC was too flimsy (snow on the netting collapsed it, crushing the blueberries.  Who’d a thunk that snow would build up on bird netting!) and I’m not sure I want to go to the trouble of building one out or treated wood.  It did not seem that the birds were attacking my berry house, so it may not be needed.  We’ll see,  for now the trellises will give me the chance to start over and keep things properly pruned for a better yield.

Using Epsom Salt in the Garden

Most people are aware that Epsom salt makes for a soothing bath if you have itchy skin or sore muscles, but did you know it’s also beneficial to some of your garden plants?

Why Epsom salt?

Epsom saltEpsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is high in magnesium.  Magnesium promotes the uptake of nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil.  Magnesium also promotes the creation of chlorophyll, the stuff that gives plants their green color and is essential for photosynthesis.  By improving photosynthesis the plant feeds itself better and stays healthier.  Magnesium also aids a plant in the production of more flowers, which in turn become fruit.  Boosting photosynthesis also boosts sugar production, so fruit trees and vines will produce sweeter fruit.

Before using Epsom salt it is recommended to have your soil tested for magnesium content; amending it may not be needed.

What Plants Benefit?

Most flowering plants can benefit from the use of Epsom salt.  This includes flowers such as roses.  But my focus is the vegetable garden, so I’ll confine my discussion to those plants.  The primary benefactors are the nitrogen hungry plants like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, squash, and zucchini.  Do not use it on beans (which are nitrogen fixers) and leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, chard, and kale.

Signs of Need

Continue reading Using Epsom Salt in the Garden

Aaannd … it’s DONE!

DougFor the past … oh … year or so, I’ve been working on a garden upgrade project.  The entire thing has been chronicled on Grit Magazine’s web site (list of links below).  Feel free to click through to go read all about it.  Make sure you have a beverage handy.  And a sandwich. They can take a while to read through, but they’re chock full of tips and advice on doing this.

Mega Garden Box

Today, Julian the Boxer and I completed this project.

Well, almost. Continue reading Aaannd … it’s DONE!

Trying Something New

Garden 100_6711Six years ago I tried something new: gardening.

As a youngster I had been slave labor in my Dad’s garden, but I didn’t learn anything from that except “THOSE are not weeds, THOSE are my plants!” When I decided to try gardening for myself, I knew very little about it. Six years later I’m still trying new things.

My very first garden was a very small patch (6 feet by 12 feet) next to our storage shed: the only almost flat spot on our property. That went okay, so I expanded the following year … and ran into trouble. Planting on a slope means all the dirt I tilled up, amended, and planted washes down the slope and is gone.  Read more …

Some Berry Good Advice

Berry berries in a bowlEarly this spring my friend and mentor, Benny LaFleur, gave me a load of berry starts. These are roots and shoots that creep out from around his established rows. To clean up the rows he digs out these ambitious upstarts. Some of these ended up in my garden. In fact all of my berry plants have come from Benny over the past couple of years. Benny’s berry patch is much (much) larger than mine: almost a farm. And he has a ton of experience to share. Here is what he’s taught me. (Continue Reading …)

 

The Opening Act: Taters & Onions

The opening act for this year’s garden was to plant onion seed and seed potatoes.

Tater Box 04The onion seed was harvested from some onions I allowed to go to seed last year. I did not plant in neat, orderly, well spaced rows this time. I scattered the seed liberally (I have plenty!) and will harvest many of the young plants as green onions to attain proper spacing for the mature onions.

The seed potatoes, too, were kept from last year’s crop: those too small to do much else with. I put them in a box of dry wood chips (my surface planer makes small chips ideal for this). I closed up the box and tucked it away in a cool, dark spot for the winter.

When I opened it this week and sifted carefully through the chips for the spudlets, I found most of them had just started to sprout: perfect timing!

In the past, I planted potatoes in a deep raised bed in a more or less traditional manner. But to accomplish crop rotation that means moving add-on box sections and shuffling soil around – or (eventually) making all my garden boxes “deep” boxes. This year I decided to jump on board with the current fad in potato growing: wire bins.  Continue reading …

Lasagna Garden

I love lasagna, don’t you? A flavorful concoction made of noodles, meat, cheese, and tomato sauce, layered in a deep pan and baked so the flavors meld. Yumm! My garden beds this year will be going lasagna.

lasagna gardenOver the years I’ve tried several different techniques for the raised beds in my mountain-side garden. I have to use raised beds because the slope is steep enough that even a light rain washes away top soil that is not firmly pinned down by a thick carpet of grass.

Keeping the soil in these beds rich and productive has been my primary focus. When I established the beds I made my “dirt” using commercial compost, peat, and some native clay soil. I’ve added home-made compost each year. This involves digging-in the compost and turning the soil.

Lately I’ve been reading that turning the soil is not the best approach, but is a hold-over from large scale agriculture where the time and effort saved by plowing a field makes sense. In a garden, tiling and digging are less important as time savers when the soil structure is considered.

I started my quest when I began finding white fungus-like strands growing in the soil, especially near the wooden boxes, and asked myself, “What is that? And is it good or bad?” Research showed it is indeed fungus and it is good.  Read More …

I’m Just Chicken About Chickens

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who is not raising chickens. Everywhere I look are articles about raising chickens, plans for chicken coops, chicken tractors, chicken feeders, pictures of chickens, and people talking about how wonderful it is to have really fresh eggs.

chickensThat last part is what comes closest to hooking me. I love eggs. We eat eggs for breakfast twice a week, and use them in cooking. We’d eat them more often if they weren’t getting so expensive. I read that the commercial egg farms have been hit hard by avian diseases that required them to kill off significant amounts of their flocks. That kind of thing will drive the price up, and when this sort of thing happens, the prices generally do not come back down. It’s like the delivery services adding fuel surcharges because fuel was so expensive, but when fuel costs came back down the surcharges stayed in place. We will just be eating fewer eggs in our house now. Unless I raise chickens.

I’ve given it some thought too. Read More …

Growing Satisfaction

People garden for a lot of different reasons: reducing household costs, increase food quantity, increase food quality, providing food for the less fortunate of their community, those who tend flower gardens seek to beautify their property, give shelter to certain insects and birds, and improve the aesthetics of their life. But one common thread that runs through it all at some level is that we do it because we enjoy it: when we grow flowers or vegetables we are also growing satisfaction and contentment.

satisfaction, gowing, gardening, dirt
Image courtesy www.Patheos.com

There is something therapeutic about working the soil with our hands, watching as seeds we planted push up through that soil, develop into plants and thrive under our attentive care. Then we EAT THEM, mua-hahaha! Sorry, I got carried away there. (read more…)

Magic Tomatoes

Some time ago I read that when winter approaches and you still have many green tomatoes on the plants, you can (if you’re growing determinant: bush type tomatoes) pull the whole bush up and hang it upside down in a garage or basement where they will be protected from frost and the tomatoes will continue to ripen. Over the course of the next few weeks you will continue to harvest ripe tomatoes from your upside-down bushes.

It is mid-November and I still have lots of tomatoes on my plants. Unfortunately mine are indeterminate (vine type) plants, so yanking them out by the roots is not an option for me. The full-size tomatoes only had a few dozen green tomatoes left, so I harvested those. We made a green tomato pie with some and I wrapped the rest in newspaper and set them in a cardboard box. I check them every couple of days and remove those that have ripened. These don’t have the robust flavor of a sun-ripened tomato, but they’re not bad.

tomatoesMy cherry tomatoes are still loaded with greenies. Earlier I pinched off the smallest fruits and all blooms to force the vines to concentrate on ripening the maters. I have been harvesting those that ripen at a rate that keeps my family, my mom, and a lady at church well supplied. Still, there are many green ones left and a hard freeze is expected. What to do?  (read more…)