Simply Grateful Gardener

Gardening To Fill The Pantry!


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Second Garden Project 2017 – Free-Standing Greenhouse Frame

My second garden project this year was a small greenhouse frame to cover a portion of the back garden. Wanting to get a jump-start in the garden, my goal is to get a good sampling of the root vegetables planted before April 1st. I doubt this is going to happen, but with this second area complete, I’m one step closer.

Being that I have never planted this early, and not knowing how well these greenhouses are going to keep my plants protected from the still potentially cold Michigan weather, I’m planting a sampling of the crops I wanted for early spring rather than everything all at once. Don’t want to get caught with all my eggs in one basket. One row of carrots, two rows of various types of lettuces, and a row of beets was the plan for this new greenhouse. If these structures maintain the temperatures enough for root vegetables to start in Michigan one month before the typical planting, it could mean more than two crops of carrots, radishes, turnips, and especially lettuce. Continue reading


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Burglar-Proofing Your Strawberries

Last year I learned how to propagate my strawberry plants (check out my post Strawberry Propagation) and ended up with a ton of little plants in need of a home. After setting up the little guys on the side of the house I patiently waited until spring to see if the new plants would flower and bear fruit.

As soon as the weather broke the new strawberry plants picked up right where they left off and began growing. Very quickly they formed tiny flowers which soon turned into berries. Unfortunately the strawberries disappeared almost as fast as they were forming.

Last year we had this problem with our original plants and thought that perhaps the squirrels were making off with our bounty. This year I learned it wasn’t the squirrels, or at least not only the squirrels, but also the birds that were making short work of the strawberries that were forming. What I couldn’t believe was that whoever was stealing the fruit, wasn’t even waiting for the strawberries to turn red. No sooner would a green berry form, and the next day it would be gone.

Frustrated and out for blood I decided something had to be done. Seeing as bear traps and land mines might have been considered over-kill, I opted to fall back on my ever-favorite gardening helper — PVC pipe. I outlined one of the areas where the strawberries had been planted with a PVC frame, made legs that would raise it about 12″ from the ground and then covered it with deer block netting being sure to drape it over the sides so nothing could sneak in underneath. I was going to use bird block netting, but it was more expensive so opted for the deer block instead.

The completed frame in place.

The completed frame in place.

Once the frame was made I carefully placed it over the strawberry plants and waited. Although there were two other areas where the strawberries were being eaten, I didn’t want to invest the time and money into making the frames if 1. it didn’t work or 2. the netting stopped the bees from pollinating the flowers. I wasn’t as concerned about the frame not doing its job as I was about the bees being able to get in and pollinate. Strawberries will form without pollination, but they would be deformed and small.

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For several weeks I watched as flowers formed and then tiny strawberries took their place. Slowly the strawberries began to grow and then turn red.

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Success!

Not a single berry has been stolen or damaged and there are strawberries on every plant. Unfortunately the other two areas where the strawberries are haven’t fared so well. This is going to be remedied however when I make a frame for each of these areas as well.

This is going to be one monster of a strawberry!

This is going to be one monster of a strawberry!

This might not be the answer for everyone as you might have a strawberry patch too big to allow making a frame like this economical or practical, but for my tiny 10 foot by 4 foot patch it is perfect. The only change I might make to the currently standing frame is to put an additional support/leg in the middle of the longest side to give it additional support. Plus I need to remove all the rocks so all the runners can be propagated and planted in between the existing plants.

My strawberry plants produce fruit all summer. Now that my frame has secured the plants I’m sure to be enjoying mouthfuls of sweetness well into September, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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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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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.