You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘garden architecture’ tag.

Peas are the first seeds that I have planted into my garden soil this season. I got only a small taste of these sweet morsels last summer, leaving me with a huge appetite for more this year.

Pea seedlings in last year's garden

Last year, my very first year as a vegetable gardener, my spring peas took an awful hit when cutworms came along and in one night wiped out a sizable portion of the crop. Well, you expect to learn a few things the first time you do something new, and I vowed while they got my peas then, they would never get them again. Hah! I have been saving up egg shells for the solid past year and now I am arming my peas with crushed eggshells, which (I’ve read) will cut up those little cutworms who try to break through their barrier. Let those cutworms try. We are ready.
Crushed egg shells will help defend my peas from any cutworms who might see them as an easy mark.

I’m planting my peas a little later this year as well. I’m hoping the cutworms — if there are any hanging out in our neighborhood — will take the rampage elsewhere by the time my little peas sprout and grow.

This is a household of women, and I look for ways to use lightweight material for heavy-duty tasks. My trellises are constructed with 12-foot lengths of vinyl fencing tied to three 4-foot pine stakes. These are easy for a one-woman army, without any assistance, to lift and hammer each into the ground. I tried nailing the fencing last year for a fall planting of peas, but with my arthritic hands, that took more time and effort — and caused more pain — than I was prepared to give this year. So, sisal ties became my cheap and easy alternative.

I soak my pea seeds overnight before planting to get the sprouting process underway, and then I sprinkle my seeds with soil inoculant before planting the seeds. After double spading a 2-foot wide by 12-foot long stretch of ground, raking and then, using a hoe, plowing a 4-inch wide trench the full length of the row, I hammer the trellises into place first before planting my seeds about 2 inches apart on each side of the trellis. The egg shells are sprinkled into the ground with the pea seeds, and then I, again using my hoe, push soil over the seeds. Another sprinkling of egg shell pieces cover the entire top.

Finally, I support the each end of my trellises by tying them to my fence and a nearby tree to pull the vinyl fencing taut. These ties will stay in place throughout the entire pea growing season. I learned from last year, also, that it’s better if I put in my trellis before planting the seeds, as I’m pretty clumsy and tend to kill off a plant or two if I attempt to do this later on. (Oh, the things you learn from your garden.)

Each end of the trellis gets anchored to pull the trellis taut.

I’m planting a large crop — two double rows of sugar snap peas and two double rows of shelling peas. We love peas in this family, and I want to grow enough to keep us going through the next twelve months. I’ve selected my back garden plot for my peas this year, which gets full morning sun but has high shade in the afternoon hours. This is where I grew my lettuce bed last year, and I expect that I’ll rotate these two crops yearly. For both lettuce and peas, I can get in a spring and a fall harvest, given that both crops are relatively tolerant of cool spring and fall temperatures, as long as we don’t have a hard freeze. If I can finish planting these four double rows of peas quickly, I’ll also add another row of snow peas. In my family, those likely will be eaten as fast as they grow, and we’ll have little available for freezing.

I have to brag a little bit about my fence. We live right where new commercial and residential development borders long-time rural homes. I live in an older farmhouse, next door to a 1960s ranch with a new home built in the 1990s right behind me. The wildlife here is mostly rabbits, squirrels and ground moles with robins, wrens, hawks and doves hovering above our heads. But raccoons, ground hogs, coyote and deer are close by as well, and I’ve even recently spotted an eagle.

With one 60 by 12 foot garden bed running along my garage and drive and another 12 by 15 foot bed sitting in the back corner of the lot, you can imagine the potential cost of fencing such a garden. This year, I decided to go with the cheapest possible option. I am using deer netting, held in place by purchased wooden stakes and wood chips I got cost-free when the utility company took down a tree across the street from me, put the limbs through a chipper and left behind a huge pile of mulch in its place.

I was able to purchase a 100-foot length of deer netting from my local Lowe’s store for just under $13. I found 4-foot stakes (1 by 1 inch thick) in packages of six for less than $4 at Menards. I bought four packages. The deer netting is seven feet tall, and I cut it in half so that I had two 100-foot lengths that were 42″ high, yielding enough fence for these two garden beds for less than $30.

I stapled the deer netting in place to the wood stakes (which are soft wood, probably pine), leaving an extra six inches on the ground, which I folded out and then covered this with a thick layer of wood chips to secure the bottom edge of the fence.

Wood chip mulch runs along the bottom edge of my deer-netting fence, securing the garden from critter and providing a border that is easy to mow along.

Wood chip mulch runs along the bottom edge of my deer-netting fence, securing the garden from critter and providing a border that is easy to mow along.

Rather than a gate, I have a couple of sections where the deer netting is only 24-inches high, which allows me to easily step over the fence. I threaded a length of yarn along the top of these sections, so that I could easily see what I have to clear, anticipating clumsy falls into my growing produce without this precaution.

This little red wagon transported twelve loads of wood chips from across the street to secure the bottom edge of my fence.

This little red wagon transported twelve loads of wood chips from across the street to secure the bottom edge of my fence.

Having gone with this inexpensive fence, I realize that my garden remains vulnerable to large animals, but with a great deal of open greenery surrounding our property, I’m willing to bet that a rampaging herd of deer is unlikely to venture close to our house and garage, where my garden beds lie. Still, I have placed many of our now-unused cloches made from soda bottles on the sticks and bamboo stakes that are in my garden for various purposes. Others hang from nearby tree branches. My theory is that these bottles are functioning much like a scarecrow, creating motion and reflections that will fill wild creatures with caution and suspicion.

I'm hoping the soda bottles in my garden will make thieving critters think twice before encroaching on my territory.

I'm hoping the soda bottles in my garden will make thieving critters think twice before encroaching on my territory.

So far, so good. We’ll see if this fence continues to keep my vegetables secure through the growing season.

I’ve shared before the unexpected garden treasure I received from my elderly neighbor next door, whose husband planted bamboo some years before his passing, hoping to furnish the growth to our local zoo’s red pandas. The zoo turned him down, evidently having certified food sources for these valued animals, but the bamboo next door grows on.

I accepted the bamboo, planning to use it to support my pole beans. (And I do have several bean teepees in place, increasingly covered with growing bean vines.) What to do with the rest didn’t come to me immediately, until my compulsively overplanted tomatoes took off and passed my knees in height. In my ever-stringent effort to keep garden expenses to a minimum, it occurred to me that I could put my excess bamboo to use in the form of tomato cages.

I'm using my excess bamboo to make tomato cages.  Okay, yes, I know I need to do a bit of weeding.  I've been a little busy, but that's next.

I'm using my excess bamboo to make tomato cages.

There’s nothing special about their design. I don’t have a lot of extra time, so I wanted to keep their construction as simple as possible. First, I use a wood stake to make four post holes, into which I drop four sturdy pieces of bamboo, cut to 40 inches in length.

The holes are about eight inches deep and help keep the bamboo tomato cages in place and upright.

The holes are about eight inches deep and help keep the bamboo tomato cages in place and upright.

I used plain old yarn that I had in my closet to tie four smaller pieces of bamboo to join them surrounding the tomato plant, and I do this on two levels, although I could add a third if the tomato plants outgrow these.

Yarn wrapped around the bamboo and tied with square knots is all that holds these cages together.

Yarn wrapped around the bamboo and tied with square knots is all that holds these cages together.

I had enough bamboo to make cages to support 30 tomato plants. That’s about half of what I have planted. I haven’t yet decided what to use to support the rest, but I have to think of something soon. (I’ll let you know how that goes. My sister says she has a few wire cages left over from past seasons that she can lend me.) Whatever I come up with, I don’t think I can match the rustic charm of the cages I have in place so far.

I have bamboo tomato cages in place for 30 tomato plants in the garden bed along the south side of my little farm house.

I have 30 bamboo tomato cages in place along the south side of my little farm house.

The thing about using natural materials is that the pieces are not always uniformly straight, but I don’t mind. It all adds to their beauty. I’m not sure how bamboo weathers, but I’m hoping that these cages will last for several seasons.
100_1471

My tomatoes share their bed with 18 pumpkin vines growing from six hills, along with random plantings of herbs, nasturtiums, marigolds and sunflowers. I can’t wait to see what this garden bed will look like in a few weeks.

My granddaughter Jadyn loves to help water my garden.

My granddaughter Jadyn loves to help water my garden.

One of the best things about a garden is that it can involve the entire family, particularly children. Ever since I began digging in the dirt this has not been an entirely solo project. My sons turned over the dirt for me when their father found a rototiller that we could borrow one weekend. Never underestimate the power of a motor-driven gadget to pull in the interest of men. I would still be digging up our two garden plots — one 12 by 15 feet and the other 10 by 60 feet — had it not been for their contribution.

Now that green is sprouting up everywhere, I have the attention of my grandchildren, Jadyn (who will be nine this summer) and Jaxon (who just turned two). That’s good, because I have planned quite a few things with them particularly in mind. Why else would I have planted six hills of pumpkins — 30 seeds — if there weren’t children to share in the harvest?

Today I am working on the two teepees of pole beans that I hope to have functional for the children before the month is out. Each teepee has 15 beans around three poles that meet about six feet up. The beans have all sprouted now, and my generous next door neighbor (who also furnished much of my pine needle mulch) has given me an unusual treasure.

You can still see the work of Rita’s husband, who passed away a few years ago, in place behind her back yard. This garden must have been a marvel, although all that remains now is the crops that return every year — strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. Among these crops, on each end of the garden, are very large stands of bamboo.

Now, I didn’t even know you could grow bamboo in northern Indiana. Evidently, Rita’s husband had the idea of planting bamboo to help feed the red pandas that our community zoo had acquired a decade ago. Unfortunately, it turns out that the zoo is pretty selective about what it feeds its animals and must get its bamboo from approved growers, so the bamboo never actually made it to the pandas. Instead, I am reaping the benefits, as there are plenty of towering bamboo poles left from last year’s growth that Rita’s daughter and grandchildren would have burned had I not asked for them. And several of these poles will form the support poles for my own grandchildren’s pole bean teepees. And there will be plenty left to construct tomato cages as well.

But garden architecture is the last thing on my grandchildren’s mind just now. A couple of weeks ago, during that crunch week in which I was hurriedly sowing seeds in the large plot next to my garage, I uncovered a rabbit’s nest under a pile of pine needle mulch. Only I didn’t know it was a rabbit’s nest at first, and the image of what seemed like dozens of palm-sized brown rodent bodies streaming from the ground will haunt my nightmares for a very long time.

Although the bunnies seemed perfectly able to get around quickly on their own, there remained a touch of that white blaze on their foreheads that marks the immature bunny. I rounded up as many of them that I could — five, which was probably less than half of them — and successfully returned them to their nest. They have since flown the coop (so to speak), but wouldn’t you know it, one has taken up residency in my garage. This is an older, farm-style garage with a large number of possible entrances and exits that I’ll never be able to block off without bringing in a professional contractor. So, for the time being, we have a juvenile rabbit living next to my garden. My challenge now is to keep him happy outside the garden and safe from the three golden retrievers who live here too.

Our resident bunny, hiding in the clutter in the garage

Our resident bunny, hiding in the clutter in the garage

On Twitter

Archive