Simply Grateful Gardener

Gardening To Fill The Pantry!


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Building A Garden Fence With PVC Pipe

Last year after I expanded my garden I needed to fence it in to keep out the bunnies, neighborhood dogs, and stray cats. I found some chicken wire at a garage sale for $5.00 and wrapped it around the garden using stakes at the corners and mid-points to hold it up.

At the beginning of the summer the fence stood up pretty good and kept out unwanted critters. By mid-summer and especially late-summer, however, the fence began to sage and lean in towards the plants. Eventually it got so bad that I had to put plant stakes every couple of feet in order to keep it from falling on my plants.

This year, when I decided to expand the garden even more, I knew I would have to find some way to “fence” in my garden in such a way that I wouldn’t have to worry about it falling all over my plants. My first thought was to use 1″ x 2″ x 8′ pieces of wood to make a frame to staple the chicken wire to. The sections would be 8 feet long and 2 feet high. I bought the materials to make one section to see how I liked it.

After completing the section and attaching the chicken wire to it, I decided that it was really more cumbersome than I wanted it to be. It would be hard to use one continuous piece of chicken wire for the entire fence when each section would have to be stapled and installed independently of the others. So, back to the drawing board I went.

Thinking back to when I used to home school my kids, I remembered that I used to use PVC pipe and connectors for any number of things. From chart stands to building blocks to geometric shape models, I always found a use for it. PVC pipe would be weather-proof, sturdy, and flexible when it came to framing the entire garden. Cutting it would be no problem and with the wide variety of connector options, there was nothing standing in my way.

For my 16′ x 32′ garden it took 25 – 10 foot sections of 1/2″ PVC pipe, 32 t-connectors, 8 elbows, 8 – 3-way side elbow’s, and 8 male adapter sockets. For right around $50.00 I was able to fence in the entire garden, make it look neat and clean, and eliminate the threat of any animals trespassing into the garden or floppy fence sections falling on top of my plants.

 

First I cut each 10′ section of pipe in half. This made each fence section easy to manage and helped ensure that the pipe wouldn’t sag.

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To connect the sections together I used t-connectors and a smaller section of PVC pipe cut to fit the height of the chicken wire perfectly and then screwed the bottom t-connector into the landscape timbers framing the garden. The chicken wire was run along the inside of the garden for aesthetic purposes and secured with zip ties.

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When I reached a corner I used the 3-way side elbows with a male adapter and more PVC pipe. Again the bottom 3-way elbow was screwed into the landscape timbers for stability.

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I also bought a garden arch that I wanted to put in the garden to mark the “entrance.” This meant I needed to make a gate. Not wanting to get too complicated, I used elbows to make a frame that fit perfectly between the sides of the arch and pulled the arch just far enough away from the landscape timbers so I could wedge the gate there when not working in the garden. To remove I just lift slightly and remove it.

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I used the chicken wire I bought at the garage sale last year for the entire garden except the gate. I was short just that much. Fortunately, while Hubby and I were driving around one evening I happened to see a small section of wire fencing in someone’s garbage. I threw it in the trunk and viola! it fit perfectly.

I love my new fence. I think it makes the garden look like a real garden and not just a really big sandbox. Even my neighbors have stopped by to tell me how nice it looks. One of them even went so far as to suggest I send it in to Home & Garden magazine.

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I’m not going to take it that far, but boy am I proud of my work. A little ingenuity, a few sections of PVC pipe, and some time well spent equals a fence that should last a long, long time, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Pea Garden 2016

After all the bad things that I have experienced thus far in the garden this year, I thought I would share a bit of good news.

Back in April I planted peas in the back garden. I moved them from the side of the house in order to rotate all my crops. I dug in three pea fences for climbing and planted a row of peas on either side. For what seemed like forever nothing happened. Being in Michigan, the weather was iffy all of April and for the better part of the beginning of May. Finally though the peas have decided to take hold and are beginning to grow.

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They still have a long way to go, but for the moment I’ll take any success I can, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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Saving Plants That Have Suffered Sun Scald

Consistent! I am nothing if not consistent and when it comes to my gardening this year — well, let’s just say I really need to change things up a bit!

For years I thought I had a black thumb when it came to any type of plants – house, garden, or even artificial. Hubby always joked that I could kill silk flowers, but in all honesty, he wasn’t too far off. Then a few years ago I made a real effort to grow a few tomato plants and possibly actually have a few for the family to eat. Well, that first year was tough, but by the second year I felt I was getting the hang of it and by the third year — that was last year and boy did the bounty come in. Over 1,000 peppers, 200+ cucumbers, tons of root vegetables, more beans than we could eat, and so many tomatoes that I actually had a few people who were driving who saw my plants weighted down with fruit stop by to ask me how I did it. Boy did this fluff up the old tail.

Conceit has got to be one of the seven deadly sins, and if it isn’t, well it ought to be. When I set out to start my seedlings this past spring I jumped in without giving it so much as a thought. I figured I’d done it before, so now I must be an expert, right? WRONG!

Everything and anything that could go wrong this year, has and it isn’t a matter of the weather not cooperating, my seeds not being fresh, the soil having lack of nutrients — no, it’s just me. I forgot that gardening isn’t easy. Gardening takes time, patience, attentiveness, and mostly knowledge. If you bounce around haphazardly, thinking you know everything when the truth of the matter is that you know so much about things that just aren’t so, things are going to get screwed up and screwed up fast.

This is exactly what has happened this year. I keep rushing around as if my garden has got to be done yesterday and because of this I have rushed my plants to near extinction. Even after replanting my tomatoes and vowing to slow down and learn from my mistakes, I am still killing them at every turn.

My latest fiasco was planting them outside. Did you know that you are supposed to “harden” seedlings off that are grown indoors prior to planting them outside? Well, I did, but that certainly didn’t stop me from just grabbing a tray of plants and putting them right in the ground. Can you guess what happened? Right, they began to die. Big surprise!

So, I tried to remedy my error and put my wonderful milk cartons to work. I knew to put them over the plants at night until they got accustomed to the varying temperatures, but forgot that the sun and wind would wreak havoc on them during the day. Guess what that led to? Yep, sun scald and breakage. Things just keep getting better.

To make matters even worse, I got so excited when the garden expansion was finally done and the soil looked so inviting, that I began planting my pepper plants outside. Do you think I hardened them off, learning from my tomato mistake? NO! Why would I do a silly thing like that. Can you guess what happened? Exactly! They too got sun scald and wind damage.

I swear, I am really beginning to think I should just hang up my garden gloves for the year, leave this gardening thing to the professionals and begin planning my trips to the farmer’s markets. At this point I don’t think I even deserve for my plants to live, that would truly teach me a lesson, wouldn’t it? Probably not. This dog is definitely too old to learn new tricks.

My problem is that I need to find a solution to my problem to recoup my losses and prove to myself that I am not a total failure. Googling sun scald and wind damage I found that really there is no fix for this other than luck. Some plants will recover, while other may not. This was not what I wanted to hear. I have never believed that there isn’t some solution to every problem. Even the most dire circumstances have to have a silver lining. I really can’t believe that I am being this optimistic at this point, but what the heck I’ve got absolutely nothing left to lose.

Staring out into the garden, with the sun beating down on my helpless little pepper plants, knowing that they will have at least 10 hours of full sun, I came to the realization I had two options. One, I can dig up every last plant, put them back in their little pots, hope they don’t die from the shock, allow them to recoup in the greenhouse for a week or so, and then harden them off like I was supposed to in the first place before replanting them back in the garden; or, I can find some way to protect these guys while they are still in the ground until they become acclimated to their new environment and do my best to nurse them back to health. Being the impatient sort I couldn’t see myself uprooting all those plants and trying to save them that way. No, there had to be a way to protect them.

Looking at all my wonderful milk cartons it came to me. Every plant in the garden has a stake. These stakes serve two very important purposes. One, they will help support the main stem of the plants as they grow throughout the summer (keeping my fingers crossed this happens this year) and two they hold the milk cartons in place when I cover the plants at night.  Well, maybe I could somehow use the milk cartons and stakes together to shelter the plants from the sun and wind during the day. Leaving the milk cartons over the plants all day would surely kill them. Although there is a hole at the top where air can escape, the heat of the sun would probably bake the plants and suffocate them. There had to be some way of suspending the milk cartons over the plants so air could circulate around them yet shade them from the harsh sun and gusting wind.

My solution: A simple clothespin!

By clipping a clothespin to the stake about a foot off the ground (a little more or less depending on how tall the plants were) and then sliding the milk carton back on the stake suspended the carton above the plant leaving enough space for the plants to breath and give them a fighting chance at becoming acclimated to their new home.

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Although the theory behind my idea seemed sound, it is definitely not foolproof. I have to go out several times a day to adjust the clothespins and cartons so the sun that is moving overhead doesn’t find it’s way to the tender leaves. This being said, I didn’t realize this the first day, so a few more leaves got scalded. Quite a few plants however have managed to avoid scalding altogether. Perhaps there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.

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Why is it that for weeks it was too cold out to even think about gardening and the first nice days we have when I stupidly put my plants directly in the garden, the sun shines in a cloudless sky and the temperatures reach the mid-80’s. No doubt this is one of those wonderful Murphy’s Laws.

I planted 24 peppers and 20 tomatoes outside without hardening them off. All of the peppers are still alive, but some with severe sun scald. Four tomato plants have died and a few others are pretty iffy. The remaining tomatoes have sun scald on about 50% of their leaves. Today is the first day that I believe there has not been any additional deterioration of the plants, although the day is not yet over. The peppers have at least another four hours of sun to endure.

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The remaining pepper and tomato plants I started inside have had two full days on the patio in the shade out of the wind and look pretty happy. I’m hoping by the weekend to be able to put them in the garden. The weather is supposed to become cloudy later in the week with a chance of rain. Why couldn’t that have been the case after I put those other plants in the ground? Just my luck. That’ll teach me, or not.

So, my milk cartons continue to be functional and will hopefully save the day, or in this case, save the pepper and tomato plants, and for this I am keeping my fingers crossed and — Simply Grateful.


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The House of Many Milk Cartons

Our house will probably forever more be called “The House of Many Milk Cartons.” Hubby lovingly/mockingly referred to our house as this as I’ve been collecting them since last summer and since work began outside for the garden expansion and preparation for seedlings, it looks as if we are growing them!

As soon as the snow melted in the early spring, I laid out tar paper to kill the grass for the new garden expansion. Milk cartons filled with water were used to hold the paper in place.

As soon as the snow melted in the early spring, I laid out tar paper to kill the grass for the new garden expansion. Milk cartons filled with water were used to hold the paper in place.

Once the cartons were done being used to hold down the tar paper, I emptied the water into a rain barrel and cut them down so when the pepper garden is ready to be staked out, I can use them when the plants are moved from the greenhouse to the ground.

Once the tomato garden was turned over and the soil readied for planting, I staked out where the plants would go once the weather was warm enough to transplant the seedlings and a milk carton (bottom removed) placed over the stake.

When the tomato garden was turned over and the soil readied for planting, I staked out where the plants would go once the weather was warm enough to transplant the seedlings and a milk carton (bottom removed) was placed over the stake.

The milk cartons will allow me to transplant the seedlings directly from the greenhouse to the garden without worrying about hardening off. I just need to make sure the temps stay above 50 degrees.

The milk cartons will allow me to transplant the seedlings directly from the greenhouse to the garden without worrying about hardening them off. I just need to make sure the temps stay above 50 degrees.

The milk cartons are also being used to insulate bean seeds that have been planted directly in the ground. With mulch sealing the bottom edges of the carton to the ground, the ground is kept warm enough for the seeds to get an early start.

The milk cartons are also being used to insulate bean seeds that have been planted directly in the ground. With mulch sealing the bottom edges of the carton to the ground, the ground is kept warm enough for the seeds to get an early start.

There are a ton of uses for milk cartons in gardening. I use them to hold liquid plant food mixes, as scoops for transferring soil to pots, and as weights to hold down tarps or sheets when covering plants to protect them from frost. Being able to reuse these in a productive way — upcycling, is something I am always on the lookout for when it comes to my garden.

For the next month or so our yard will be full of milk cartons, probably much to our neighbors dismay. As for me, I’m glad to be able to use them to protect my plants and make quick work of many gardening projects, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.