Wednesday, May 28, 2014

PVC Pipe Garden Markers

I made some garden markers for our new raised beds out of metal BBQ skewers and PVC pipe.

I found these skewers in the dollar section at Target and snatched them up.  You need one skewer for each garden marker.

I also purchased some 1/2" diameter PVC pipe, cut it into 5" pieces with a hacksaw, and spray painted them with chalkboard paint.

I probably should have used a larger piece of cardboard to catch the overspray.  Whoops.

I used a chalkboard marker to write the names of our herbs and veggies onto the PVC pipe pieces after they dried, and then I slid them through the circular opening in the skewers.

The PVC pipe was slightly larger in diameter than the opening in the skewer so I used some pliers to pull the skewer open slightly before sliding the PVC pipe inside.

Do you see how much our veggies have grown?

I was a bit worried about the chalkboard marker getting rinsed off in the rain, but so far it hasn't been a problem.  Maybe the sun baked the labels on.

This was an easy, inexpensive project that adds a nice custom touch to our garden.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dirt & Veggies & Herbs, Oh my!

Where were we?  Oh, yes.  We built our DIY raised garden beds and attached some galvanized hardware cloth to the bottom to create a mole barrier.  After that, it was time for dirt.

It took almost two "scoopfuls" (two truckloads) of dirt from a local nursery.  The dirt is a special combination of topsoil, compost, and sand that they had available for gardening.

Seth shoveled it from the bed of the truck into the two raised beds (and later the herb beds) and I used a hoe to spread it around.  I believe it was close to 90 degrees that day and we were sweaty.  (Just painting a realistic picture for you.)

Next, we laid out our soaker hoses and used some landscape fabric pins to help hold it in place.

Hehe...Amos looks tiny next to the huge bed.

What I dislike most about gardening and adding new plants to our landscape is watering them. Not the act of watering itself, but the fact that I get eaten alive by mosquitoes while doing it.  They are horrible in our yard.  In short, our neighbors are breeding mosquitoes due to a grading issue in their backyard.  So in order to minimize the amount of time that mosquitoes are feasting on my flesh, we decided to utilize a soaker hose system in the garden.

It's definitely not the prettiest set up.  The closest spigot is located inside the carport near the back door so we had to run a hose through the carport and across the backyard.  We then attached a splitter, two short hoses (the shortest ones we could find at Lowe's), and the two soaker hoses.  

It may be ugly but it's definitely convenient.  And I have avoided West Nile virus thus far.

Alright...onto the fun part.  Planting some veggies!

We first laid out our plant choices to determine if we needed to rearrange the soaker hose, and then we started digging in the dirt.  Soon we had all of our plants in place.

The photo above shows our left bed.  It contains tomatoes and peppers.

red slicing tomato

red striped heirloom tomato

green striped heirloom tomato

sweet 100 cherry tomato

sweet banana pepper 

bell pepper (not sure if it's going to be red or green) 

cayenne pepper

poblano pepper

The right bed contains onions, yellow squash, zucchini, and okra.

red, white, and yellow onions

 yellow squash

zucchini squash


As I mentioned in my previous post, we also decided to build a couple of smaller herb beds.  

They are 2 foot x 2 foot and constructed the exact same way as the larger veggie beds.  The front herb bed contains mint and basil.


greek basil

thai basil

The back herb bed contains two cilantro plants.  Because we LOVE cilantro.  And because, for some reason, it tends to be out of stock at our grocery store almost every other week.


I'm planning to "pretty it up" by defining the garden area and by adding some garden markers. Stay tuned.  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DIY Raised Garden Beds

Our raised garden beds are complete and full of veggies!  I'm so excited.  They are like new additions to the family.  Seth and I are constantly checking on them - before work, after work, after dinner, before get the idea.  We can't wait until they grow up and start producing fresh food for us.

Before constructing our raised beds, I searched the internet for tutorials.  There are about a million of them.  I made mental notes of the designs that I liked and came up with a no frills plan that would work for us.  First, we decided how large (4 feet wide x 8 feet long) and how deep (approximately 1 foot) we wanted our beds.  To make assembly easier and to add some support, we chose to use square posts at the corners.

Supplies (per bed):
  • One 4x4x6 - ~$8 (we got our wood for free from Seth's father)
  • Six 2x6x8s - ~$34 (free for us)
  • 3-inch exterior wood screws - ~$12  (we used approx 64 of these)
  • Galvanized hardware cloth - ~$46 (optional; we bought this roll which is enough for two beds)
       TOTAL:  ~$54 per bed  ($77 per bed with poultry netting)

Cut list:
  • 4 - 4x4s @ 11" (corner posts)
  • 4 - 2x6s @ 48" (end panels)
  • 4 - 2x6s @ 96" (side panels; no cutting needed if you bought 8ft boards)

  • Chop saw or circular saw
  • Drill
  • Staple gun (if using hardware cloth)
  • Wire cutters (if using hardware cloth)

     1.  Use wood screws to attach two 2x6x8s to two of your 4x4 pieces (as shown below) to form one side of the bed.

     2.  Repeat step 1 to form the other side of the bed.

     3.  Use wood screws to attach your 2x6x4 pieces to either end of the bed

     4.  Use a staple gun to attach pieces of hardware cloth to the bottom of the beds to keep the moles out (optional)

     5.  Flip your bed over and admire your handy work.

Some additional info:
  • We used untreated poplar to make our beds (again, it was free) so I'm not sure how long they'll hold up compared to pressure treated wood or cedar but it was worth the trade off to us.
  • Using pressure treated wood for a raised bed is considered to be safe.  Studies from the Texas A&M Ag Extension have shown that the chemicals used to treat the wood do not leach into the soil in any significant amount.  And if you're worried about arsenic - it has not been used to treat wood in over 10 years.
  • When using pressure treated wood you should use galvanized, polymer coated, or stainless steel exterior wood screws to avoid corrosion.
  • Cedar is a great wood option if you can afford it.
  • If you want to reduce the cost when making your bed, make it only 6" deep instead of 12" and/or don't use the square corner posts.  The approximate cost for a 6" deep bed would then be ~$25 (more if using the poultry netting).

This is a fairly easy, inexpensive DIY project.  We made two of the 4 foot x 8 foot beds for veggies and then decided to make two 2 foot x 2 foot beds for herbs (I'll reveal those in a later post).

Next up I'll share pics of filling them with dirt and veggies and installing our soaker hose system!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring Backyard in Bloom

Spring is such an amazing time of year.  Everything turns green again, trees and flowers start blooming, kids are playing outside, grilling season is in full swing, and winter jackets are shoved back into the coat closet (yay!).

Early Spring means our cherry trees and azaleas are bursting with color and life.  I was inspired to take some pictures of our backyard to share their beauty with you.

As I've mentioned before, the azaleas aren't our favorite.  Sadly, they only bloom for about a week and then the blooms fall off.  We have a lot of them in our yard though so they aren't getting replaced anytime soon.  Last year, we just let them be, but this year we are hoping to prune them into more pleasing shapes.

I also snapped some photos of the lenten roses that we planted last year along the driveway.  

They have done amazingly well and we snatched up seven more at our local Master Gardener plant sale!  (At Lowe's they are $19.98 for a quart sized pot.  At the plant sale they were $3-7 a pot!)  In my opinion, they are an absolute must for every shade garden.  

When our hydrangeas and the other perennials along our driveway start blooming, I'll share some more pics.