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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First Garden Project of 2017 – Lean-To Greenhouse

Because of circumstances beyond my control, the garden is going to have to be either smaller this year or planned in such a way that it will require far less attention from me.  Physically I seem to be struggling, so in order for Hubby to agree to a garden at all, I had to agree to some new terms. Man I hate getting old!

Realizing I have some strict limitations, this year I have decided to try a few new crops that will hopefully prove to be fairly self-sufficient. In order to protect them from the elements, however, and to get a jump-start in a Michigan spring, Hubby agreed to help me build a few make-shift greenhouses.

Actually I wanted to make hoop houses, but as with most things, Hubby had a better idea. In this case, I do agree with him. The idea he came up with for the first area I wanted to work in, turned out very nice.

Spring in Michigan is always unpredictable. One day you can have 70 degree temps and sunshine and two days later you can have 20 degree temps and three inches of snow. Such has been the case since early February around here. So, even though the weather predictions were for 50 degree weather for the next ten days, I know from experience that these forecasts are less than reliable. Thus my justification for wanting to build an enclosure for early spring planting.

There are a lot of crops that can be planted as early as mid-March in Michigan, depending on where you are located. I am near the southern part of Michigan, so mid-March is perfect for this type of early planting. Peas, carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are just some of the possibilities.

My choice for our first project this year was lettuce. We have been eating salad nearly five times a week with dinner and have been enjoying a wide variety of lettuces. Growing our own sounded like a fun new challenge and being that many of the lettuces out there continue to grow all season, I couldn’t wait to get started.

The first step was to prepare the area. All I really had to do was make a path down the mulch covered bed, dig a little trench, place the seed tape in the trench (can’t get any easier than seed tape), bury the tape, water, and cover with a little organic dirt. I am so glad I took the time last fall to clean up and prepare most of the gardens for the following year. This should hopefully mean a quick and easy beginning to the gardening season.

Slight trench in prepared bed.

Seed tape placed in trench, covered lightly with soil.

Organic soil placed on top of trench.

Completed lettuce bed.

Once I was done with the little bit of work it took to get the lettuce seed tape planted, Hubby came out to work on the greenhouse. He decided that attaching one side of the greenhouse frame to the house would be the easiest method. I never would have thought of that, as I can never drill into the mortar without messing up the holes for the screws. Hubby got this done without any problems.

I attached the plastic to the boards that we then attached to the house and then simply attached the other side of the plastic to more boards, trimmed the plastic, and secured the boards to ground with bricks. Spring can be very windy here in Michigan, especially come April, so staking the boards would not be enough. Several bricks along the length of the boards should hopefully get the job done.

In a matter of two hours the lettuce garden was planted and protected, and just in time. Because although it was nearly 74 degrees here yesterday and sunny, the temps went down into the upper 30’s last night and we have had heavy rain and winds all day today with temps in the 40’s. If I’d left the lettuce bed to the elements, I’m sure my seeds would be long washed away. As it is, the lean-to greenhouse is holding up well, and the ground is still quite warm because of the insulation of the plastic, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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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.