Garden updates

Last week I got out in the garden to tackle some weeds that had started taking over the fence.  See what I mean…

You couldn’t even see the garden! So. Many. Vines.  And unfortunately, that area where they are all growing is actually wire fencing that goes along the inside and higher than the wood fencing.  And those nasty vines went in and out, in and out of all the wiring.  Let’s just say getting those vines off the fence took quite a while!!  A few hours into the process, I had this mess…

And thankfully the other side wasn’t as bad.  So by the end of the day, we finally had a clean garden again…

And here’s how all the veggies are doing lately.  First of all, the cucumber vines are either dying off cause it’s the end of their season, or this dang heat wave is just taking them out.  The tomato plants out there are filled with green tomatoes, and we just keep waiting for them to ripen up!  We’ve picked about 4 green peppers so far (and made meatloaf!)  The strawberries are doing nothing!  Maybe next year.  The cherry tomatoes on the deck are exploding with goodies!  We pick at least 6-8 cherry tomatoes every couple of days.  We actually had enough to fill a salad the other night! And the pear tree is filled with pears just waiting to be picked (but not quite yet!).

 But the most exciting part of the garden these days is the melon side.  WE FINALLY HAVE MELONS!!  I’m gonna be honest.  I was a little skeptical whether we could actually grow watermelons and canteloup.  And then the other day (after tackling all the de-weeding as mentioned above), I noticed this tiny little guy!

And then (it just keep getting more exciting!!), this week I did a little more digging around in the vines and I found all these little melons growing…

 
 

Can you believe it!?  And as you can see, the grape vines are doing pretty well also.  So what’s my next project?  Well, we have about 30 cucumbers in the fridge, so I’ve been pinning a few pickle recipes on Pinterest.  So I may be trying my hand at canning in the near future.  Gosh, I wish my dear Nana was still alive.  She could teach me so much about all this!  I hate that she passed away just as I was getting to this stage of my life.  She used to do so much canning, and boy could she make some awesome pears and apples!  Oh if only I had her by my side to teach me all of this. 

Until next time!

Composting

I really want to blog about the big wedding weekend we were a part of for Dana and Chesley last weekend, but I know that’s going to be a lengthy post with lots of pictures, and I’m a little whipped from work the past 2 days. Soooo, I’m going to do a quick post about composting!  I started composting almost 2 years ago, and it is so easy!  I always knew compost was really good for plants, so I really got into it when I started gardening last summer.  Growing up we always had a pile in the backyard where all our grass clippings got dumped, and if you dug into the bottom of that pile you would find rich, moist, composted soil that was GREAT for potting plants.  But, you can also use a container to create a portable compost bin.  And when you use a container you have more flexibility in what you add to your compost (like food items from the kitchen).  Unless you want the neighborhood dogs and racoons digging into your compost pile in the backyard when you toss in those orange peels and egg shells, you’ll need a container.

I don’t have pictures of the process (since I did it so long ago), but I can walk you through it with these simple steps.  You’ll need:

  • plastic garbage bin/large tupperware-type storage tub WITH A LID!
  • a drill
  • leaves, grass clippings, dirt,kitchen compost and a little water

I went to Walmart and bought a black plastic garbage bin.  Your bin needs to be able to warm up easily to help the breakdown process, so I chose black plastic which would heat well in the sun.  Drill a few holes in the bottom of your bin to allow water to drain out and a few holes on top to allow some rainwater to drain into your bin.  Also, the holes allow for air circulation which is important to the composting process. Here is our compost bin (on the right) next to our rain barrel (on the left).

You can see the holes drilled at random on the lid.  The large center hole was already part of the lid when I bought it.

You want to fill the bottom 1/4 of the bin with dry leaves or pine-straw.  Then add another layer of dirt and grass clippings (avoid weeds though!).  I like to take my old winter flower pots of dried out dirt and dump them in to recycle the dirt.  In a few weeks that dirt will be good as new again full of nutrients.  If you see any worms out in your garden throw a few of them into the compost bin. They will really get the process going!!  But, if not, don’t worry….it won’t take long for bugs and worms to get into your bin and do their job breaking down the contents.

As for the final layer of your compost, you want to add biodegradable items from your kitchen and home.  There are so many things that can be composted!  Our components are usually made up of egg shells, fruit and veggie peels, old salad/lettuce and dryer lint, but there are literally TONS of things you can compost.  See the list below for recommendations.  Here’s our compost from a few weeks ago.  I just keep a little garbage bin in the cabinet under the kitchen sink and dump all the contents into our compost bin outside when it gets full (or starts to smell!).

Then you just add these items to your compost bin and mix them in well.  You will also want to sprinkle a tad bit of water to your compost layers initially to moisten the contents and make sure you stir it up!  Air circulation is important for the breakdown process. So if you aren’t regularly adding items to your bin (and mixing each time), you’ll still want to mix up your compost at least every other week to ensure things are breaking down well.

 

Like I said, the breakdown process works best in moist warm conditions.  If you’re mixture becomes too dry, add a bit of water.  Place your bin in the sun so it can “bake.”  Your compost should never have a foul smell to it.  If your bin begins to smell, it may be getting TOO moist or TOO hot.  Move it under an eve of the house where rain won’t drain in as easily and it can dry out a little.  You can place it in a shadier spot as well to help.  Your compost will still break down in cooler temps (even throughout the winter months), it just does so at a slower rate.

So here’s just a few wonderful things you can add to your compost bin. Happy Composting!

Wood chips
Hay
Old spices
Pine needles
Leaves
Matches (paper or wood)
Grass clippings
Potato peelings
Hair clippings
Stale bread
Coffee grounds
Wood ashes
Sawdust
Tea bags and grounds
Egg shells
Houseplant trimmings
Old pasta
Tree bark
Flower petals
Pumpkin seeds
Expired flower arrangements
Stale potato chips
Nut shells
Electric razor trimmings
Shrimp shells
Onion skins
Watermelon rinds
Peanut shells
Bread crusts
Cooked rice
Banana peels
Wooden toothpicks
Stale breakfast cereal
Pencil shavings
Fruit salad
Tossed salad
Burned toast
Fish bones
Produce trimmings from grocery store

The Melons are In!

Well, I thought I would never say it, but the garden is finally finished!  Ok, it may never actually be finished, but everything is finally planted.  I’ve had 2 watermelon and 2 cantaloup plants that have been in dire need of getting into the ground for weeks.  Remember this side of the garden?  This is where I intended on them going to they would have plenty of room to spread their vines.

Luckily it didn’t look this bad this morning.  About a month ago I sprayed the heck out of these weeds with Round-Up and spread weed-blocker over the area to keep weeds from coming back.  But I still felt overwhelmed thinking about tackling this portion of the garden.  Thanks to my step-dad and his farming knowledge, I think we are in good shape now.  He brought the tiller over and we made a nice mound in the center to allow for proper drainage.  Watermelons and cantaloup require lots of space for the vines to spread out, so we planted each of them about 3-4 feet apart.  Here’s our progress before and after we laid out the weed-blocker.

 I actually had 2 more tomato plants also, so we placed them in the middle.  We used some rocks and 2x4s to hold the edges down on the weed-blocker.  And I’ll get some pine-straw to cover it all and clean it up a bit.  And the other side of the garden is making a lot of progress as well.  The cucumbers have EXPLODED!  They are out of control!!  Let’s take a look at the garden when it was originally planted…and then what it looks like today…

 See all that green in the middle? That’s cucumber vines!  You can’t hardly distinguish between the plants anymore.  Next year, the cucumbers are going somewhere else where they can spread out more.  See the little cucumbers starting to sprout?

And here’s our tomatoes on the porch…before…..and today.

 

So the fruits and veggies are making some progress.  Unfortunately, there are some bugs getting to the plants out in the raised bed, but hopefully some Seven Dust will take care of those.  Fingers crossed everything continues to do well, or even better!

Fixing the Pond

So there’s this pond in our backyard just off the corner of the back deck.  It had fish in it at one point.  For 3 years actually (even after the filter quit working, and Greg quit bothering to clean it out or even feed the fish.)  They were some resilient goldfish.  Here’s what it’s looked like for the past several months…

 As you can see, it’s nothing but gunk.  A little bit of water, a lot of leaves, sticks, and algea.  To make things worse, the dogs like to try to drink out of it.  Lovely, right?

We debated whether to dig the whole thing up and just fill it in and put grass there or fix it up.  We both liked the idea of having a nice pond and some fishes out back, so we opted to fix it up (and we’ll do a better job at keeping it up this time!).  So the first step was to empty out all the crap.  And of course Greg jumped on the chance to go buy a shop-vac!  We registered for one for our wedding, but didn’t get it.  A quick trip to Home Depot and we were in business.

About 2 hours later we were all cleaned out. And I trimmed away some of the limbs at the base of the tree to clean that up too.  It was way too messy before.
 We found a good size hole in the lower pond, which we had anticipated might be there.  We bought some pond filler to take care of that.  We might have gone a little overboard, but we weren’t really sure what this stuff would do.  It basically filled in the hole and hardened into a spongy blob (that’s the best I can describe it!) And it expanded as it hardened…so yeah, a little overboard. But we’re good now!
We bought a new filter at Home Depot, and it’s working great!  
So we filled it enough to cover out blog (to test it out), and we’ll let the filter run for a few days and clear the water up.  Then we will pull some of the weeds growing around and in between some of the rocks and fill it with some fish!

a little love by the mailbox

I’ve been spending 90% of my outdoor time in the backyard and garden, which is great cause it looks so good!!  Yep, I’m gonna brag, cause I think it looks awesome, and there’s so much more I still want to do! 😉   I love yard work.  Is that weird?  I wish I could show you pictures of Greg’s yard 1 year ago so you could see the comparison.  I kid you not, the backyard was a complete JUNGLE!  Seriously, you couldn’t step more than 4 feet off the back steps because it was so overgrown with dead trees and bushes, weeds as tall as I am!  You’ve seen garden pics, but even that is still a work in progress. I haven’t even planted my watermelon and cantaloup plants. They are going on the other side, which has been cleared out and prepped, but I haven’t gotten around to planting.

The past 2 days I’ve been out in the yard.  Surprisingly, I’ve woken up at 8 and 830 am ready to start my day (yep, meaning I woke up BEFORE my alarms went off.  That’s monumental, my friends). So I’ve gotten in 2 FULL days of yardwork.  I’ve pulled weeds, finished clearing out the “melon” side of the garden, raked up tons of sticks, trimmed up some bushes and trees along the fence-line, and then I decided it was time for the front yard to get some love.  I mean, that’s the part everyone else sees, right?  Remember our ivy covered mailbox area? 

This picture was taken AFTER we had already cleared out all the ivy off the ground.  See how thick the ivy is on the back fence wall?  It was just as thick all over the ground.  The ivy was taking over!!  And it still is taking over…here’s a picture from behind that fence wall…

Again, this is after being chopped and cleared out so that the ivy only remains on the fence.  That whole dirt area was covered in ivy.  And it still is, sorta.  Ivy vines are a mess. They go deep into the dirt and are a pain in the butt to pull up.  That’s part of what I worked on Friday, and why my back was feeling it all day Saturday :/

But, the results are so much better! 🙂  I really wanted to plant a bunch of zinnias (the flowers I used in our wedding), and make this area sort of a wildflower area.  Like this…

But zinnias require lots of sun, as do most the flowering plants I like.  The problem with this area is after about 11am, it’s full shade.  So I headed out to Lowe’s to talk to a plant expert about what would work best in the shade.  He lead me to some little bushes, and although they are little now they will grow as big as 5 feet tall and wide.  We will have to trim them to keep them from getting that big, but they will fill the space nicely with their yellow flowering tips.  They are called “Sweet Broom” shrubs and they are the 3 plants you see in the bed below.  (oh, and after I took this picture I thinned out the ivy on the back fence wall. So it looks a little more like the left wall now)

 And when they are full grown, they will look more like this…

And all around the curved border I planted some hosta root bulbs.  I love hostas.  I think they look so pretty with their big green leaves.  So these will sprout up inside the border in front of the yellow shrubs.

Hopefully in a few weeks or sometime this summer they will all grow in nicely and I’ll come back and show you the results 🙂

day 2 of gardening

We made a lot of progress today on the garden. I bought some weed-killer to spray along the fence lines, got a few more strawberry plants, grape plants and a few more garden necessities.  Here’s some of the containers I planted last week…

These are strawberries…like I said, my strawberries didn’t do well last year, so I’m trying different containers in hopes something works this year. I have a mixture of Ozark Beauty, Quinault, and Sequoia strawberries.

 These are 3 different types of cherry tomatoes…Husky Cherry Red, Super Sweet 100, and Amelia.
But the biggest achievement of the day was our backyard garden area. I got the veggies planted into the raised bed.  I mixed the dirt we piled in it yesterday with the remaining compost from my bin.  Yep, a whole year’s worth of composting all gone in 2 days :/  Oh well, that’s what it’s for.  And check this guy out…
 You know you have good dirt when it’s filled with earthworms, but seriously, this guy was HUGE!! Definitely the biggest worm I’ve ever seen!
 
While I finished planting, Greg went to get us some gravel to make easier pathways (and to help with drainage). It looks so great now!

I have large tomatoes (Celebrity and Better Boy), red and green bell peppers, cucumbers, and more strawberries. I’ve never grown cucumbers, but my step-dad said they are vines so I added a trellis for them to climb.  The cucumbers are at the top of this picture, along the chicken wire trellis.  The 4 plants in front are the other strawberries.
I mounded these strawberries up to help them drain (again, in hopes of better growth this year).
And I got a soaker hose that winds throughout the garden.  I’ve only used it once so far, but it’s so easy. You just turn on the water and it slowly waters the whole bed.  But eventually, this little beauty will water our garden…
Yep, it’s a rain barrel.  We got it last fall as a wedding gift and it collects rainwater that can be used to water our garden and plants.  It was completely full, but unfortunately we had to empty it to get it up onto this shelf that Greg built.  We figured out that in order to get water to flow through a hose connected to the spigot, you need some help from gravity.  So we had to figure out a way to elevate the barrel.  Greg took a wood pallet and nailed some 2x4s for legs and support beams.  Now we just have to wait for rain to fill it up again (and hope the weight of it doesn’t crush the pallet!)  Once it fills though we can use this to water the garden rather than precious (aka pricey) water from the house. 
Oh and one more thing. I bought us 2 grape vines that will hopefully grow along the fence line. One of them is a Concord grape plant, and I don’t actually remember the name of the other.  They are both red grapes so hopefully they are good!
So there ya have it.  Lots of progress this week.  Of course it’s not 100% done. I still have cantaloup and watermelon to plant, but that will have to wait till next week!  I’m back to work for 3 days and then we are celebrating our first wedding of the season on Saturday!

the gardening begins!

Last week I was off from work for 4 straight days…can we say “hallelujah!”  The first day was cleaning and laundry day.  I worked overtime both weeks prior to this break and the house had gotten out of control.  And we all know how much a dirty/cluttery house drive me crazy! So, first things first, lots of cleaning.  Next, I decided this was pretty much the only opportunity I would have to get our garden started since we would be crazy busy in April!  We will be out of town 3 weekends for weddings and all my workdays will be during the week. So, if we wanted a garden this year, now was the time to get things going.

I have been putting off going to Lowe’s or Home Depot since the warm weather set in because I knew I would buy way too many plants and flowers!  I LOVE a garden center.  But, I needed to get a raised garden, so I finally gave in.  After doing some research (on Pinterest, of course!) I decided although building a raised bed with pallets would certainly be cheaper, I couldn’t do it on my own.  And Greg was working all the days I was off so I couldn’t expect him to devote his work days to building us a garden. And I couldn’t be sure if the wood on pallets had been treated with any chemicals, which I didn’t want mixing in the soil with all our veggies.  I read on some websites that cedar naturally resists rot, so I figured that was my best bet.  Home Depot sold this one for $80 and it was 4ft x 8ft which fits perfectly in our garden area.

And it was SO EASY to put together.  Seriously, it took all of 10 mins to set up.  The rest of the garden preparations were anything but easy.  First of all, our garden area (which was built by a previous homeowner) had gotten completely overgrown with weeds. It was a total jungle!  Greg and I cleared out one side last week (where the raised bed will go), but today my step-dad came over and helped us clear out the other side, as well as tilled up the ground so we could fill the bed with dirt.  Thank goodness for a motorized tiller.  There’s no way I could have loosened up the ground with a hoe.  So he tilled, and we filled the beds with a mixture of dirt and compost.  It would have been better had it not rained the past 2 days since this made the dirt pretty clumpy, but hopefully it’ll dry out by tomorrow and I can put veggies into the ground.  Here’s some of our work today….

Here’s the view from our back deck looking out towards the garden area.  There’s my sweet step-dad working away!  By the way, today was his birthday, and he still was more than willing to do manual labor to help us with the garden 🙂  Thanks Dwayne!
Here is the side of the garden that had not been weeded at the time (and what the other side looked like prior to last week’s work).  And by the way, I learned what poison ivy looks like today and also learned that we have a lot of it in our yard :/  Luckily, though, we didn’t get it on us, and I sprayed the heck out of it to hopefully kill it all!

And here’s today’s progress on the raised bed…

My mom had some landscaping liner that we laid out under the bed to help keep weeds from growing back up.  We will cover the areas around the bed with gravel to make pathways and help with drainage.  So far I have bought 3 types of large tomatoes, 3 types of cherry tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, strawberries, cucumbers and watermelon plants.  Yep, really hoping that watermelon actaully grows!  Last year I did tomatoes and green bell peppers and they all grew wonderfully!  My strawberries did not do as hot.  The plants grew but didn’t produce any berries. I changed up the way I planted them this year (added rocks for better drainage and planted them in large containers so they’d have more room).  Maybe this year will be better.  Dwayne suggested putting some strawberry plants in the ground just on the other side of the raised bed.  So I may build-up some mounds for them their and see how it goes.
We also did lots of work on the front yard today. Greg trimmed up a ton of wisteria vines that were out of control and taking over some trees. He also mowed the grass and raked up a giant section of mud and leaves that had collected in the driveway all winter.  Lastly, we dug up all the ivy growing around the mailbox (that was also taking over the yard and growing out of control). I would like to plant some flowering plants around the mailbox, cause our front yard is desperately in need of some color.  Seeing everyone’s azaleas in bloom these last few weeks has made me realize how bare our front yard is.  We need some color!!
I didn’t get around to taking pics of the front so I’ll be sure to do that tomorrow and hopefully give an update on the veggie garden.  But I can’t guarantee how much work I’ll do tomorrow. My hands and back are pretty sore from today’s achievements.  I may not be able to move tomorrow!  But I’m happy with our progress 🙂

my little garden

Last year I put my green thumb skills to the test and had 2 little tomato plants- one cheery tomatoes and one big tomatoes.  The cherries did pretty well, and Greg was able to enjoy a few throughout the summer.  But my big tomatoes never go any bigger than a ping-pong ball and never turned red.  Well this year, despite last years semi-failures, I decided to go even further in my gardening adventures.  I bought 2 large tomato plants (Better Boys, to be exact), 1 cherry tomato plant, 2 strawberry plants, and 2 green bell pepper plants.  I also bought a huge wooden planter, made from an old wiskey barrel, to use along with a smaller wooden barrel planter I owned from last year.  Here’s how my little garden looked the day I planted everything…

The strawberries have done kinda ‘eh.’  They made fruit, but nothing like the “large fruit” the info label on the plant said they would produce.  I don’t think I’ve planted them in the optimal container they need.  I think strawberries need more space.  They have also stopped making fruit for the time being, but after doing some research on the internet, I think they should begin producing again in the early fall.  The cherry tomatoes have done the best so far.  I just picked the 1st two this week, and gave them to Greg to eat. He said they were delicious!  And there are a lot more in the process of growing.  The big tomatoes seem to be doing much better this year.  They are growing bigger than last year’s crop, but are still very green, so it’ll be a while before they are ready to eat.  I was a little worried about the bell peppers at first. They took a while to begin growing fruit. For a good month or so it was just the leafy plants, but about a week ago, tiny little bell peppers began to spout!  So, I’ve got my fingers crossed that they will do well!  Here’s how things look as of this week…

And speaking of my garden. I don’t think I ever posted about the BEAUTIFUL lillies I had in my front yard.  These flowers just popped up the following spring after I bought my house the summer before.  They are were absolutely beautiful! (they’re gone now until next spring) And luckily this year, they multiplied!  Oh, I LOVE them 🙂