Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How does your garden grow? Some more ideas.....

The biggest enemy of my garden is deer. The fence is a must-have around here. Without it, there is no hope. This is a simple wood post, bailing wire, 6 feet tall number. Only once did a deer jump into it, and you should have seen the havoc when that poor soul tried to get out. It was either going to get out, or die trying. All of my kids were in tears watching, yelling, "It's going to DIE!" Well, thankfully it must have had some deer-superhero qualities, and it jumped over.
I already posted about Square Foot Gardening. If you haven't motivated yet to try it, but want to, IT'S NOT TOO LATE! Shoot, we are going to have to re-plant half of our crop because it has been so wet and cold up here in the NW. Truly, this is an easy project, especially if you just do a couple of boxes.
The box system makes it easy to designate each one of my children their own little plot. Because it is a manageable space, it is easy, not overwhelming, for kids. They are responsible to:
*weed the box (there aren't many in this system, but an occasional grass seed grows)
*mix in new compost at the beginning of the season
*plan what they want to plant and when they can plant it (then we go to the garden center and each child buys the plants)
*water it
*stake the plants as they grow (tomatoes, beans, etc.)
Early growers - you can plant these in early-mid spring and they can take the rain and some cold: broccoli, chives, mint, rhubarb, peas, lettuces (including spinach), strawberries, cauliflower, parsley, rosemary.

Everything else you can plant after the danger of frost has past. For us, this is usually around Mother's Day, or when the snow is off the mountains. There are a few plants that are VERY finicky, wait to plant the following until it is WARM (usually mid-June in our climate):
Basil, Melons, Cucumbers
I've learned the hard way on all of these -- each year, for some reason, I am hopeful they will make it, so I plant them, and they always DIE. Haven't I lived in the inland NW long enough to learn? This year they are all in a wagon and I pull them in and out of the garage each day (a PAIN), but I'm trying to control myself, we'll see if I last until June!

As you can see, I don't stick to just boxes. In order to create some visual interest, I also use whiskey barrels (because I love them). These are great for planting root vegetables due to their depth. We have a whole barrel of just carrots. I also use sheep troughs. My friend got one of these to use as a backyard swimming pool for her young boys, and I ran right out and got 3 of varying sizes for my garden. I love the way they look. I flanked the entrance of my garden with two of them and planted flowers in these. It makes me happy to see flowers when I enter the garden gate. Trellises also rise out of my long, rectangular box. I like to climb different plants up these each year.
Another element I added to my garden was a little sitting area. There is one wooden chair, a small side table, and a garden pedestal with a little decorative spire I found. The table we use constantly for holding tools, seed packets, etc., and the chair is nice to sit a spell and enjoy the fruits of the labor!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Creative Planters

Who says you have to use terra-cotta pots for container planting? I've got nothing against them, but a little creativity goes a long way! My favorite thing to do is find something around the house that's been sitting lonely in the garage and transform it into beautiful garden decor. Above, I found this strawberry box on sale. I knew instantly I had to transform it into a strawberry plant container for my friend's birthday. Planting a white trailing flower with it makes it extra beautiful. I drilled 3 drain holes in the bottom with the electric drill, filled it with dirt, and planted. I think it turned out pretty cute.
This next example shows how I took some things from the garage and made a decorative garden trio to cover some ugly sprinkler boxes. The baskets drain well, so no need to make holes there. I used some moss to cover the tops. I planted wave geraniums and some trailing plants. When these grow, no one will even be able to see the boxes. I also put rosemary in one because I love that herb and could have it in every container I plant!

Let me show you how to create a planter out of a wire container. I found this darling "apple" wire basket on sale next to the strawberry tin. I knew this would be fabulous next to my whiskey barrel.

Step 1: Stuff moss, green side facing out, around the edges of the basket.
Step 2: Cut a plastic garbage bag to size and place inside of the container. This will act as a holding tank for the dirt.
Step 3: Poke drain holes in the bottom of the plastic bag.

Step 4: Fill the container with dirt. I also use Osmacote (which is a great time release fertilizer). If you place Osmacote in with the dirt, you don't need to fertilize the plants all summer. The Osmacote in the picture is yellow. Mix it with the dirt and plant.Ta-Da! Done in no time at all!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Time to Get Your Hands Dirty!

Can I get a resounding AMEN??! Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are FINALLY reaching 60 degrees. It's taken until May 9, but hey, spring sprung today!!! And we all know what that means..... IT'S TIME TO GARDEN!!!!!
I'm going to introduce you to my very favorite, SIMPLE gardening method: The Square Foot Garden. I discovered this book about 6 years ago now, and it has transformed how I garden. Gone are the days of huge plots of land that need to be weeded every hour, tilling the soil in hopes that it won't compact into mud again, and praying and hoping that something would just GROW! With this system, everyone can garden well (even those in wheelchairs or the elderly).
Here are the basics:
*Boxes are build from basic, untreated lumber for the squares. They aren't very deep because the soil is so good the roots don't need a lot of space.
*You fill the boxes with a combination of compost, peat moss, and coarse grade vermiculite (Mel's Mix is what he calls it. I call it magic)!
*Inside of each box you lay wooden slats to divide the box into smaller squares, each a perfect square foot.
*the soil is perfect so there isn't a need to keep amending it.
*weeding is at a minimum because the boxes are separate from the ground soil.
*less space is used to grow more produce! You don't need a big yard, or even a yard for this.
*Easy plant-support instructions are provided for vertical gardening.
If you've been dragging your feet about gardening, this method will make the task seem fun and easy. Give it a try... it will save you a lot of money, time, and energy. Plus, you'll impress all of your friends with the green thumb you grew overnight!