Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trellises for the Garden

Trellises are helpful for vining plants in a garden. For my tomatoes I used the cheap circle wire frame ones that stick in the ground. My tomatoes got so big, they are pulling them over. This is after I reinforced them with a 6 foot wooden stake.

Following Mel's guideline in Square Foot Gardening, I built 4 trellises for the raised beds. The beans and peas that are in the fall garden that will take advantage of the trellises. Trellises are placed on the North side of the raised bed, so they will not shade out the bed itself.

To build the trellises I bought 6 10ft 1/2 inch metal conduit pipe, 8 1/2 inch 3ft rebar, and 4 3/4 inch conduit 90 degree angles from Lowes. Amazon had 5ft by 30ft trellis netting for $10. To build the 4 trellises I spent about $70.

Garden Trellis

Building the trellises is very easy. On the North side of the raised beds I pounded the rebar halfway into the ground with a 3 lb sledge. To save oneself some pain, make sure that one end of the rebar is straight. Rebar tends to have burrs on it or is bent on the ends. The straight edge needs to be up in the air.

After the rebar was in the ground, 4 of the conduit were cut in half with a hacksaw, so that they were 5 foot in length. I then cut the other two pieces into 4 45 inch lengths. These pieces will be the vertical cross bars.

Assembly was fairly easy. The 5 foot conduit sections slid over the rebar. Two of the pieces of conduit were pounded on because two of the rebar had a burr on the end. The rebar adds extra support so the trellises don't fall. Next, the angle conduit brackets were slid on top of conduit sticking up in the air. Then 45 inch conduit is pushed into the angle brackets at the top. This completed the framing.

Garden Trellis

Probably the longest step is attaching the netting. I had some cable zip ties that I purchased a long time ago. The net was strung over the conduit, pulled tight, and secured with the zip ties. Finally, the netting had little strings at the edges. I tied these off and this was the longest part of the process. I figured the extra support couldn't hurt.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Split Tomatoes

I have only been on this property for one season now. In the past when I have grown tomatoes in other geographical regions, rarely had one split. After neglecting the garden for a few days, I noticed that 6 ripening tomatoes were lost because they split.

Split Tomatoes

Splitting tomatoes exposes the one problem I did not think about with hugelkultur. The reason the tomatoes split was because of a heavy rain a few days ago. Tomatoes split when the watering pattern increases suddenly. A tomato's skin becomes hardened when it is not expecting more growth due to lack of water. Therefore, the sudden increase in water causes the interior to grow. This growth splits the skin. Because I was using hugelkultur and wanted flavorful tomatoes, I was hardly watering them. I watered once a week during the hot weather. The flavor was amazing for the tomatoes that I have gotten so far.

In the past when growing gardens, I watered every other day on a consistent cycle. When it rained, I would skip a day watering. Therefore, I had a consistent watering pattern.

In the future if it rains heavy, I am going to have to pick the tomatoes during the rain and ripen them inside.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fried Chicken Strips

I don't fry much, but my step son loves chicken strips. He has been doing really well this week, so I decided to reward him with a special meal. I have never made fried chicken, but figured it would be pretty easy. His dad always gets him the fast food version. I'm not into eating that junk though.

For my recipe I:
I beat an egg
Added in 1 1/2 cups milk
A tablespoon of lemon juice
2 chicken breasts cut in 3/4 strips lightly salted

I let the mixture soak in the fridge for about 45 minutes.

Fried Chicken Strips

While the chicken was sitting I warmed up my deep fryer. When the fryer was ready, I took the chicken out of the fridge and rolled the strips in some flour. Next, I threw the chicken strips into the fryer and fried them for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Most of the strips came out nice and juicy, but a couple of thin ones were a bit overdone. Lesson learned, try to keep similar sizes together.

The flavor of the chicken was really good. Next time, I will have to play with some spices in the breading to give it that something special. It didn't matter to my step son, he loved them.

Now, I have to dodge the wife when she comes home because she hates the smell the fryer leaves in the kitchen after use.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Kiwis Planted to Replace Damaged Ones

Mafia, our dog, likes to challenge the neighbors' dogs that run into our yard. Unfortunately, to do this he jumps unto the fence. This is the fence that my Kiwis are vining on. Therefore, these new Kiwis I am putting on the outside of the fence. I really don't want to put another inner fence to keep him back, so I am hoping this works.

I bought the Kiwis for half off at the Urban Farm Store because it was late season. The roots weren't all bunched up in the pot and the plants looked like they were in good shape. My thought is now to check out the local nurseries and see what they are clearing out in the bushes, trees and other perennials.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Worm Bed on a Small Scale

A friend of mine gave me a couple of plastic tubs from some Red Vines that he shares at work. One of them I am using as a compost container for the kitchen. I was wondering what to do with the others though.

Then I thought of a worm bed experiment my wife did with the kids a month ago. She cut the top off a 2 liter coke bottle. Then flipped it upside down. Four inches of compost material was added next. Then a few inches of soil was placed on top of the compost material. She dug some worms out of the garden with the kids and threw them in. Finally, the top was filled with a layer of rocks from the driveway. Now, that the bottle was full. Then she turned the bottle and stuck it in a plastic tub that had a few inches of rocks in it. A month later there was beautiful soil in it.

I figured that worked great for the kids and the Red Vine containers are a bit bigger with a real lid. Therefore, there was no cutting involved. I want to start a worm bed anyways for a chicken feed supply when I get them in spring. Thus, it makes sense to turn one of these into a starter worm bin.

I varied her idea for this worm bed. I want to use cardboard as the bottom liner. Then pour some worms in. Then finish it with another layer of cardboard over the worms and let them work. Once they get established, I will add in some of the compost scraps from the kitchen.

First, some holes were drilled in the bottom of the containers so moisture and the worm tea can drip out. This replaces the rocks used in my wife's experiment. Then more holes were drilled lid for air.

For cardboard, I used a pizza box we had from a few nights ago and soaked it in the sink. There wasn't much grease on it. Here is a trick for everyone, soaking cardboard for a few minutes makes it tear apart very easy. This allowed me to easy shred it into one inch pieces within a couple of minutes.

Soaking Cardboard in Sink so it can be torn

After stacking everything in the worm bed was placed in a small bucket. The worm bed was placed on a 3 small pieces of 2x4 inside the bucket. I had these left from another project. This will keep the bottom of the worm bed from sitting in the worm tea.

Worm Bed Small Scale

I am pretty sure this is a good idea for starting a worm bed. The negative thoughts I have are that the worms will multiply and quickly out grow the small worm bed. Another issue that could arise is the worms won't do well because the worm bed is clear plastic. The bed is in the bucket in the garage; therefore, not much light should get in and the risk should be minimized.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fall Garden Planting

It is time to get the fall garden into the ground. Since my summer garden, I have added 5 new raised beds. Four of the beds are 4x4 foot and the other is a 2x12 foot bed.

For the fall garden I am planting:
  • Potatoes that grew in my pantry (might as well try them out)
  • Radishes
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet Peas
  • Peas
  • Cabbage

Because I used 4x4 raised beds in my garden, I can easily cover them when the frost hits. The idea for the garden beds is to use clear plastic to make mini-greenhouses. This will extend my fall garden season, at least that is the goal.

Fall Garden Raised Beds

My planting style, right or wrong, is to put two to three seeds in every divot. This way if one of those seeds doesn't take I still get a plant. To me it is better to trim back plants than not have them grow. So far I have a few sprouts coming up in the garden.