Category Archives: Tools

The Summer Is Here!

The Summer Is Here!

Today is the first day of summer! So happy summer! It’s the longest day of the year (or the shortest if you live on the other side of the world).

Summer is…

  • a time for home made and carted popsicles.
  • swimming pools or swimming holes.
  • firefly lanterns and sleep outs.
  • lemonade on the porch and watermelon in the fridge.
  • secrets with friends.
  • daisy chains and banana bikes.
  • pirates and princesses.
  • grandparents and cousins.

It’s the first day. What are you going to do with your summer?

Make it paisley!~KeriAnne

Please, Fence Me In

Please, Fence Me In

Last week, and now again this week, has been all about the fences.

Here are a couple of trellis solutions for cucumbers, melons and tomatoes.

Last week I spent an inordinate amount of time fixing the pvc with netting that was my shoestring cucumber trellis from last summer. I contemplated replacing it with the new, easy, but much more expensive fencing I’ve adopted for the melon beds (and everything else it seems) but opted to keep it in place. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?

Pvc and twine, time consuming but costs less than $5

I’m pretty glad now that I didn’t because I was able to plant some marigolds, tansy and borage in the center, on the ends.

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Sunny Weather

Sunny Weather

The sun is out and it’s a glorious day in East Texas! It’s cool, with a breeze, sunny and mild. It’s one of those days I’ll have to monitor my garden time carefully so I don’t end up in traction.

I had a great Mother’s Day! I got to have lunch with *2nd family, and then, in the afternoon, Meghan was off and we got to hangout together. There was a lot of laughing and a few great presents! I am completely blessed!

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Free Range…Tomatoes?

Free Range…Tomatoes?

I’m not a fan of tomato cages. While they are quite effective at reining your sprawling queens in, they also make the tasks of picking off pests, wilted leaves or sometimes even fruit, laborious. I know I’m in the minority on this matter.

Everyone I know cages their tomatoes. They are perfectly happy with their arrangement. I am perfectly content with mine. It’s just a personal preference on my part.

I’ve taken to using the same fence method that I use for melons, and I’m quite satisfied with it. It is simply straight rows of stakes with chicken wire, hog wire, or whatever wire I have handy at the time, tied to the stakes.

 

 

I plant my tomatoes on both sides of the fence and tie them to the fencing as they grow. In this way I am able to get to the middle of my plants at any given time. I don’t have to wonder if there is fruit somewhere in the middle of that mass of leaves and flowers because I can see clearly to the main stem. Read the rest of this entry

To the Garden We’ll Be Going, To Do Some Raking and Some Hoeing

To the Garden We’ll Be Going, To Do Some Raking and Some Hoeing

The beds are in…the beds are in! 20 beds all tucked in, one Parsnip, all tuckered out!

This is the before picture of the front four beds.

Today was the first day schedules meshed with the Parsnip, my Father-in-law and his tiller.

It could not have been more perfect. Around seven the Parsnip started tilling the two beds that will have flowers around the driveway. By 11 or so all 20 beds were done and I was sweeping off the porch.  The Parsnip even did the squares for my pea teepees. He was very grouchy about it, and he was not at all pleased about having to do it, but he pressed on anyway. He’s good that way.

Paddy's Green Garden Tilled and ready for Seedlings

At 11:30 he was all done and I was beginning to rake out the clods and making some rows. At 11:45 it started to rain, not hard, but kind of insistent. By 12:30 it was raining too hard to get anything done. So, in a little less than 5 hours we had done what the Parsnip said ¤couldn’t be done. (I never doubted it, so there)  ¤ Note: The Parsnip said after he read my post, “I didn’t say it couldn’t be done, I said it shouldn’t be. See the difference?” It’s whatever.

I have beds to tuck all my babies in…Yay! A place for the peppers. A home for tomatoes. Seedlings, many, many seedlings now have a place to reside.

I think I’m going to hold off another week on the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. The melons and cucumbers will go in within the next couple of days though. Peas and beans, radishes and turnips as well. I take a chance with my turnips and radishes, they don’t really “love” to be transplanted, but I am very gentle with them and haven’t lost any yet.

After looking over these pictures, I realized that you can’t tell how much this truly is. This is four beds, each are 6′ in width and approximately 20′ long. Then in the back yard there is one 3′ x 7′ bed and one 3′ x 12′ bed for melons, one 12′ x 15′ bed for peppers and eggplants and one 12′ x 15′ bed for tomatoes.  Oh, yeah, then on each side of the house is a 12′ x 20′ bed, herbs in one, flowers in the other. Five pea plots, five bean plots, wow, I owe my husband a foot rub. Bugger I completely forgot, three 4′ x 20′ cucumber beds. I may have to rub his feet tomorrow too…nah.

To the Garden We'll Be Going, To Do Some Raking and Some Hoeing

My “secret” to transplanting those crops that set a taproot is not anything scientific or brainy. These are the things that get very “upset” if you try to start them as seedlings and then plant them in your beds. While none of them really enjoy being transplanted and may nod their little heads for a few hours with a little plant, “Oh, just who does she think she is”? kind of attitude.

But there are some, really uptight little guys that actually lose the will to live should you decide they must be moved after you start them. These are the things that need a little careful planning and a big dose of coddling in order to safely transplant them as seedlings.

Squash, including pumpkins, summer or winter varieties fall in to this group, as well as turnips, radishes and parsnips (the veggie, not the hubby. I rarely ever transplant him). Melons and cucumbers are picky about being transplanted, although they won’t usually just die completely, they may put on a very convincing death show before rebounding. Drama queens.

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Stuff You Missed in Botany: Leaves

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Leaves

Leaves are such fun! We love to see them stretch themselves in our little peat pots in the early spring. We love to see them set themselves ablaze in the dog days of summer and the proclamation of fall. We take treks to behold the wonder that are leaves.

So, what are they? How can we help them be healthy in our gardens?

Leaves are the organs of photosynthesis, typically flattened and thin. Although some leaves have adapted to be quite unrecognizable as a leaf in the way we think of leaves. The leaves of conifers are those needles you pull out of your carpet for six months after Christmas. The leaves of succulents are fat and juicy, sometimes waxy or pokey. (Pokey is a technical term, don’t try this at home)

Leaves come in a gazillion shapes, sizes and colors. Like people. (Gazillion, another technical term) = )

Leaves in my garden are the indicators of health for my plants. If they’re perky, green and abundant, life is good. Proceed with gusto. If they’re droopy, sallow and sketchy, an intervention of some sort is necessary. Proceed with caution. If they are rotted, brown and chewed on, well, it may be time for a new hobby or at least some new plants. Proceed to the seed catalog or knitting store, whichever seems logical at the time.

Leaves perform the duties of changing the energy in sunlight chemically into a form of energy or food for the plant. Think of them as tiny little powerhouses. They arrange themselves in such a way that they get the most amount of sunlight they can without shading their brother and sister leaves. If you’re even half observant in your garden you’ll see leaves turn themselves towards the radiance of the sun. It’s amazing.

Cucumber stretching to the sun!

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What Mother Never Told You About Weeds

What Mother Never Told You About Weeds

East Texas is bursting in to bloom. The Parsnip has a job preaching at a very small church in a little town south of us called New Summerfield. It’s a tiny town, boasting one stoplight, one gas station but no fewer than 40 greenhouses. I asked one of the locals about this, they said New Summerfield is the growing capital of Texas. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’ve seen evidence myself that it may be. They have a Color Spot house, a Bonnies Plant store, and family owned greenhouses a plenty. (Haha I went to the Chamber of Commerce page for New Summerfield—it is, indeed The Plant Capital of the South according to their web page population 998)

New Summerfield, TX Greenhouse

Greenhouse in New Summerfield

It’s a lovely drive and we really have enjoyed our times spent listening to podcasts and visiting with each other for the 35 to 40 minutes it takes to get there. So, get to the point, right? Okay. This past Sunday on our way to New Summerfield we saw field after field of the most beautiful yellow wildflowers.

Fields of Yellow on the way to New Summerfield

Saffron Fields on the way to New Summerfield

The Gunz family are no slouches when it comes to wildflower looking. We take the requisite “Bluebonnet” tour each year at Brenham and College Station. We do the Azalea Tour (okay that’s not a wildflower, but you get the point) in Tyler. We have driven far off the beaten path, yea, verily I say, off the path completely, to see some flower, plant, or tree. This is the first time we have seen this saffron sea as far as the eyes can see.

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A Tale of Two Critters

A Tale of Two Critters

They are the best of critters, they are the worst of critters.

I’m guilty. I am one of those people that think bunnies and deer are cute. Squirrels are adorable and foxes are precocious and clever. Birds are beautiful, bold and brash.

Oh how sweet...NOT!

Just adorable? I don't think so!

In the garden and hen yard, it’s an entirely different story. When you realize that these uninvited visitors are the cause of your poor yields, you get a reality check. Bunnies and deer are a detriment. Foxes and squirrels, savages to bulbs and chickens, and birds…must…be…BANISHED!

Some of this attitude stems from the fact that until quite recently, I have always lived pretty much in the middle of major cities. My gardens had a few unwanted visitors, armadillo, groundhogs and the occasional nuisance crow. Nothing like what I have now which is sixteen distinct beds, seven that back up to a heavily wooded area. Let’s just say I’ve put on my “critter beware” hat and I mean business.

You worked for those veggies! He's eating them.

So, what am I doing to stop the veggie carnage? My approach has a threefold structure. One, deter with some pretty low tech methods. Two, deter with a few things the garden uses anyway. And finally, break out the secret weapon.

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Tools That Rule!

Tools That Rule!

It is possible to produce a garden without store bought tools. You could use a stick to dig I suppose. I’m guessing the majority of us do not do this.

Having the proper tool makes our garden toils less…toilsome. Proper care of our tools can keep us from having to replace them.

I live on a budget. At times, that budget is confining. When I have money to spend in the garden, I like to buy seeds, or plants or trees. I don’t want to have to replace a hoe, or put a new handle on a spade. However, as a so called adult, I realize that this is what needs to be done, so I do it.

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Fight the urge

Fight the urge

We have had an incredibly mild winter. This has annoyed me for many reasons. The first reason is that when we prepared to move last summer, my youngest son, Patrick was aggravated that he was going to have to leave the saltwater pool that he loved so dearly. I, in all my wisdom, comforted him with stories of the snow we would get to play in since we were moving to a much northerly climate that has had snow every year for the last 160 years. So, we’re here, and of course, not…one…flake! In actuality we have only had three days of barely freezing temperatures. Is my eight year old scowling at me? I think he is.

As for the garden. Because of this freakishly warm weather, I am now aching to be in the garden. C’mon it’s been sunny and seventy-two degrees for a week. So I am fighting the urge! I know I must fight it. For if I were to give in and plant something outside, those precious little seedlings would undoubtedly be clobbered by the long arm of the north. February and March will most likely now be unseasonably cold.

So this is how I put my cravings in check. Seed catalogs help. As I said before, seeds started arriving at my house about the middle of December. My middle son, Jonathan and I have been starting seedlings inside in preparation for this years garden. It helps to start some new seeds when I’m itching to get outside.

Getting the structures ready has been helpful as well. Jonathan and I have also been making trellis’ and cages for the melons and cucumbers we’ll have this year. I have a plan for pvc towers to grow melons on that we are installing this week. I’ll post pictures when we get them erected. I’ve also sharpened my tools and oiled the wood.

Finally, when I get really anxious about the wait, I work on my compost. I know that I’ll be needing plenty of that brown gold to feed my babies when spring actually does come calling. So, I water, and turn, and add horse poop to the compost pile. In the compost department, it has actually been beneficial to have had so many warm days. The lasagna compost beds have been settling down nicely.

See Patrick, you’ve gotten to play outside more than usual for January and mommy’s compost is cooking faster. Still scowling. Sigh. I guess I’ll start some new seeds. Have a paisley day.