This Old House has a tutorial on How To Make A Fire Pit. Weekend project?
Read PART 1 HERE.
Going on from yesterday, here is My 2013 Raised Bed Garden:
In this bed, I’ve got squash (zucchini and butternut) and Kentucky green beans.
I tried an experiment with the zucchini this year. I tried one with the addition of cow manure and the other without. So far, they are exactly the same. Hm. Okay then.
The green beans haven’t reached the trellis yet, but they’re getting there.
This is the most boring bed because I just planted it. It’s three melon plants and French green beans. The melons are crane and Boule d’Or melons, two of which I grew from seed myself.
I have pots scattered around the yard too. Eventually I’m going to get a dolly out and move them to a more attractive location, but in the meantime, from left to right I have:
Potatoes. I used this new method and they seem happy so far.
Garlic. They are planted too close together, but they are dealing with it.
Apple Melon. I’m going to try to trellis it.
Fennel Bulbs. I read that fennel doesn’t get along with a lot of other plants, so I put it by itself in a pot. The seeds aren’t sprouting, so may have to re-plant.
In the pot in the back, I have Cosmos and Pincushion flowers. The two small pots in front are yarrow plants I dug up from other parts of the yard.
Other plants in pots that are not pictures include: Scarlet Runner Beans, parsley, more basil, thyme, savory, chamomile, chives, dahlia, and nasturtium.
The side plot are all perennials. It starts to the left of the raised beds and run all the way behind them. All the plants are in gopher cages. They include: strawberries, artichoke, asparagus, yarrow, hops, raspberries, and one bedragled peony.
The strawberries, artichokes, asparagus, yarrow, and sad peony are all plants I transplanted from other parts of the yard. It’s gratifying to see them thriving in their new environment (except the peony, poor thing).
I harvested asparagus for the first time, which was so cool! The strawberries don’t look that exciting compared to the pillowy things you get in the store, but they taste approximately 1000% better.
So there you have it. How’s your garden going so far?
In My 2013 Garden Plan, I mentioned we are putting in raised beds this year. Well, they’re in.
I wanted a permanent structure, so what you’re looking at are 2-foot-deep redwood beds with two layers of gopher wire on the bottom. While Mr. Savvy could have built me such a thing, it so happened that the local hardware store was selling finished raised beds for about the price of the redwood lumber, so we bought and assembled them instead.
They are working out great so far. So far, the plants are the healthiest I’ve ever put in.
In this bed, I have plants all grown from seed. It’s a little hard to see, but I have a row of leeks (the grass-looking things in the front) and heads of lettuce under the wire mesh. The mesh is there to give the lettuce relief from the sun. Behind that, which you can’t see, are some spinach.
To the right front of the lettuce, I have what’s left of a row of radishes. I already harvested most of that crop and have replanted with dragon tongue bush beans, which I’ve never grown before. Between the radishes I have baby carrots and yellow beets.
In the three tomato cages behind the lettuce, I have three variety of snap peas. In the far right cages, I have two lemon cucumbers. I have a third cucumber growing in the ground in a gopher cage, too. I couldn’t resist because I love cucumbers.
There’s also a basil plant in there too.
A couple of things I’ve learned from Bed 1 so far:
1. It seems to work to plant a bunch of lettuce close together and then thin every couple of days, pulling out the baby lettuce plants as you go along. If you are diligent about this, you get a steady supply of lettuce as they grow bigger. Now that the lettuce are starting to form heads and suddenly need a lot more room, it’s a little hard to choose what to pull out and what to leave in, but my salads have been fabulous so far this year.
2. I am seeing cucumber beetles for the first time. They look like this:
I’ve been picking them off. There’s so many good bugs in the garden this year, I’m reluctant to spray.
3. Baby beet greens taste great raw and are excellent in salad.
This much simpler bed has three things in it: tomatoes, bell peppers, and one purple basil plant.
The tomatoes are the main reason the beds are so deep. Many nurseries will tell you a tomato will thrive in a 10- or 15-gallon pot, but when you look at how I plant tomato plants, you’ll see why my tomatoes need a lot of space for roots.
These tomato plants are doing great so far. They are a brandywine tomato, a beefsteak, and an early girl.
The peppers are two spicy pappers, a jalapeno and a thai-like spicy pepper. The rest are chocolate, yellow, and red bell peppers. This year I’m going to make jam with my excess peppers.
I’m trying one more thing with the peppers: I read that if you snip off the flowers early on, it makes the plants bigger and then they produce more peppers because they’re stronger plants. I tried it with the two at the far left and indeed, they did seem to redirect their energies and get bigger than the other plants. We’ll see if they produce more peppers that way.
Ants, man. They are my garden nemesis. I’m getting better at killing them but they can still do a lot of damage if you let them.
They don’t just put aphids on my plants (I’m getting better at killing those too), they put scales on my fruit trees.
Scales are soft bodies insects that suck the life out of plants and put off a sooty mildew/mold that the ants like to eat, because they are gross. Scales look like this:
I didn’t know about scales, so I didn’t know why ants were climbing all over my lemon bushes. By the time I figured it out, I had an enormous scale problem that has required a lot of care and patience to get under control.
Anyway, I have since learned of a great way to keep ants off fruit tree. The best part of it is that it’s non-invasive. It doesn’t coat the tree in chemicals and it doesn’t kill beneficial insects. Heck, it doesn’t even kill the ants.
It’s called Tanglefoot.
Tanglefoot is a non-drying, sticky compound that forms a barrier against climbing insects. You put a paper collar around the tree–I use duct tape–and “paint” this sticky, honey-like glue all around the trunk, like so:
The ants can’t cross it. Their trail is disrupted and they can’t continue their evil scheme to colonize your tree with scales or aphids.
I’ve used Tanglefoot for almost a year now. It stays sticky for quite awhile. Eventually, the paper collar off the tree and you have to reapply it, but no big deal. It’s nice to have an organic insect control that actually works.
You have to watch those ants, though. They were trying to put citrus scales on my orange tree, so I put Tanglefoot around its base to stop them. The next day, I went out to check that it was working. It was. The ants could not climb up the trunk because the Tanglefoot was blocking their path.
So what did they do? They moved a piece of grass and used that as a ladder over the Tanglefoot so they could go back to putting citrus scales on my orange tree.
Keeping a garden tally throughout the year is a good way to figure out if you’re making money in your garden. All this means is that you have an ongoing list where you mark how many vegetables you harvest. At the end of the year, you add everything up and compare it to what it would have cost you to buy the same amount of food in the store. Take that number, subtract the cost of the garden (the amount you paid for plants, fertilizers, etc.), and you have an idea of how much you’re making by gardening.
Last time I did a tally, I learned that my garden made me $600 that year. I’m hoping to top that number in 2013.
There are lots of ways to set up your garden tally. You could use a notebook or a spreadsheet or an online program. My methods are more primitive. I simply attached a sheet of paper to my refrigerator and put a pen on a magnet beside it. Then I wrote out all the vegetables and fruit I’m planting. From now on, when I bring a vegetable in from the garden, I will mark it on the tally.
For some vegetables, like carrots, you can do a straight count. For others that are more difficult to count, like lettuce, you can weigh it on a kitchen scale and keep track in ounces or pounds. Just make sure you keep straight which way you’re doing it.
There are several reasons to keep a garden tally:
1. It’s great to have a number you can point to and say “My garden made me $X this year.” Numbers are important in assessing the success of any project.
2. It shows which vegetables are the most successful. You’ll know which are the bumper crops and which are being difficult, which will help you plan what to try again–and give up on–next year.
3. It shows which vegetables make you the most money. Because you compare your harvest to the cost of the same food in the store, you’ll quickly start to see which crops are making you money. Put more of those in next year!
4. It’s fun to watch the tally grow. As the year goes on, you see more and more marks, straight evidence of your garden’s harvest. That’s a good feeling.
How do you do your garden tally?
As mentioned in My 2013 Garden Plan is that I’m growing Scarlet Runner Beans this year. These are beans that have a bright, scarlet colored flower that attract hummingbirds and produce huge bean pods. This is the first time I’ve tried them.
Originally from Central America, Scarlet Runner Beans are sometimes also called Oregon Lima Beans. The plants can get up to 10 feet tall, which makes them a great choice for a bean teepee. In many regions, they can be grown as perennials, which means less work for more food. Here’s other advantages of Scarlet Runner Beans:
You Can Eat Them Green. Apparently, young pods taste a lot like snap peas.
You Can Eat Them Dried. The beans, when mature, range from black to brown to pink and can be cooked like any other dried bean.
Gorgeous Flowers. Apparently, hummingbirds love them.
Nitrogen Fixers. Like most beans, Scarlet Runner Beans add nitrogen to the soil, thus improving soil quality just by being there.
I’m excited to see how these beans play out.
What about you? Have you grown Scarlet Runner Beans?
Remember how I told you about growing a bean teepee for the kids to play in this year? Well here’s a similar idea: grow a sunflower house.
To make it, simply grow giant (6 feet +) sunflowers in a “C” shape, like so:
Once the sunflowers grow tall, you’ve got a great fort for the kids. This site has some ideas for how to embellish the sunflower house and make it even more awesome.
I can’t believe I never thought to do this before. I don’t like thinning seedlings because it always disturbs the roots to pull one of the plants out. Then I read somewhere to thin with scissors.
This is a great solution to the problem. All you do is snip the unwanted seedlings down at the base of the plant. It will quietly die away and let the other plant take over. I’m going to try this when I need to thin my carrots and beets this year.
This is an image of part of the garden at Lynmar Winery in California. As you can see, in between these beautiful purple chard plants are heads of lettuce. The chard plants are soaking up the sun and the lettuce is happily growing in its shade.
This is a clever example of companion planting with lettuce. Since lettuce doesn’t like a lot of heat, the idea is to plant it so it grows in the shade of larger, sun-hogging plants. That way you can have lettuce in a sunnier location and prolong its growing season. I’m may try this myself this year.
I’ve talked about beneficial insects on here, first in Predatory Insects In The Garden and Five More Beneficial Insects. These are insects like ladybugs, wasps, and bees that pollinate your flowers or eat bugs that feast on your plants, like aphids.
I’ve witnessed first hand how attracting the “good” bugs that eat the “bad” bugs is the best thing you can do for in your garden. It’s pest control without any work, chemicals, or stress. But how do you attract these beneficial bugs? Simple: grow plants that provide a habitat they prefer, and they will show up.
It never ceases to amaze me: plant it and they will come. For example, I had never seen a tiger swallowtail butterfly in my yard, then all of a sudden they were flying around my yard on a regular bases. It turned out it was because I planted leaf fennel, which the tiger swallowtail caterpillars eat. Just growing the plant was enough for the butterfly to show up (and no, I don’t mind if these beautiful caterpillars eat some of my fennel).
5 Flowers That Attract Beneficial Insects:
* Yarrow. Another thing I’ve seen first hand is that yarrow attracts ladybugs and hoverflies, and is said to bring in lacewing wasps as well. What’s more, these yellow (or white or pink) flowers are pretty and easy to take care of–they’re one of the few plants to survive almost near neglect in my front yard. On top of that, they improve soil quality.
* Clover. Some gardeners let clover take over entire lawns, preferring it to grass. Others use clover as a cover crop or green manure because it adds nutrients to the soil. On top of being easy, friendly-looking, and a soil enhancer, clover attracts lots of beneficial insects, including tachinid fly, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and bees.
* Nasturtium. This gorgeous flower looks great in the garden. They tend to get aphids–bad!–but they also attract ladybugs and bees–good! They repel cucumber beetles, which makes them great companions to cucumber plants. The flowers taste great and are a lovely addition to salads.
* The Parsley Family. This includes dill, carrots, fennel, coriander, Queen Anne’s Lace (poisonous), hemlock (poisonous), and of course, parsley. According to Cornell University, bugs like their “umbrella-shaped clusters of small 5-petaled flowers.” Chances are you have some of these plants in your garden already–I know I do.
* Daisy-Like Flowers. Cornell University also says that beneficial insects like “flower heads that are actually made up of many small flowers growing together. Many flowers are composed of rays around a disk-like center. Many well-known ornamental flowers including marigolds, dahlias, daisies, asters, cosmos, calendula, coreopsis, tansy, yarrow, zinnia, and sunflowers are in this family.”
Personally, I’m growing yarrow, nasturtium, sunflowers, and cosmos this year, so I should be all set on insects, beneficially speaking.