Sunday, May 31, 2009

Garden Project - Raised Veggie Bed

I promised you fine readers years ago that I would cover how I build my raised veggie beds. Well, I finally got around to making a second one a few weeks ago, so now I have pictures to show!
MATERIALS: 15 3x4 8' long ACQ treated landscaping timbers (they have the corners rounded; use 3x6 if you want a larger seating area - do not ever use railroad ties for edible gardens!) and 20+ 2' long rebar rods (these are hard to find - you could use 3' or 4' or get longer pieces and cut them down - a pain in the patootie). Total cost: just under $84.

TOOLS: Tape measure, chop/miter saw, long level, wood boring bit a little smaller in diameter than the rebar, hammer drill, sledge hammer, flat shovel.

Here is the bed I started two years ago. See my awesome patch of garlic? The rest is pretty much weeds except for some volunteer leeks from last year's leeks. I had laid down treated boards (leveled, of course) then stacked bricks on top. It worked pretty well, but I wanted something more stable and permanent.

My son and I tore down the old and replaced with the new as we worked our way around the bed. I was moving this bed a little on the garlic end to make it parallel to the raised bed next to it (my bad from two years ago when I laid the second bed cockeyed in haste to plant ;)

Make sure that you carefully level the first layer as the whole bed is dependent on this layer. I leveled it all the way around as well as leveling it to the other bed.

I made 4' x 16' beds since the lumber is 8' long and you shouldn't have beds more than 4' wide to be able to reach all parts of it from the edges. For the ends, I just chopped 3 pieces of the lumber in half. For the sides, I wanted to alternate for strength, so I start with 2 full pieces end to end, cut a piece of lumber for the next layer so that I have one full piece in the middle and two half pieces on each end of it, then the last layer is back to two full pieces.

Now here's where the 20+ on the rebar comes in. There are two ways to tackle the attachment - you can either drive in rebar after the second layer and then again for the top layer or wait until the top layer to do it all in one. I did rebar as I went along, but in hindsight, I would get all the lumber laid out and do it all in one to save the hassle and money on rebar.

Where ever there is a joint, drill a hole to either side of the joint and drive a rebar through. Our drill bit was only long enough to go through two boards, so on the top layer, I drilled through the top and middle layer, pulled the top board off and finished drilling the hole all the way through the middle and bottom. Do not attach any rebar until you have all the holes for one piece of lumber all the way drilled through all three pieces!

Here is my helper with the finished product. As you can see, we alternated all the lumber, even the corners. This adds strength and stability. These corners will not pull apart. That bed next to it is over 8 years old; all the lumber is still where I originally put it.

Now it is just a matter of finishing off the bed with some compost and we are ready to plant!

I actually have already finished that part too. I have even gotten both of these beds fully planted: 14 tomato plants, 8 Packman broccoli, 12 pepper plants (orange sweet, red sweet, yellow sweet, jalepeno), 3 Fordhook straight neck summer squash, 2 Black Beauty zucchini, 1 spaghetti squash, all that garlic, an equal size block of American Flag leeks, two 8' rows of mixed lettuce, a 2' row of more garlic, a 4' square of Maxibel green beans, a 2' row of Vates kale, eight 4' rows of various peas, and Bloomsdale spinach and Mammoth basil everywhere!! Yay for me!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Garden Project - Gazebo Floor

I got this gazebo in 2005 for my graduation. I did put the legs on blocks, but I never put a floor in. I had considered putting sand in, but my inconsiderate neighbors let their cats roam free and I already spend almost an hour each week digging cat crap out of my front annual beds. So the floor just went to weeds. This spring things were looking so nice in my garden that I just had to do something about it. I dug out all the weeds and got some sand from the compost site.
I started with the centerpiece. I dug up this millstone while gardening years ago. Now it will have a befitting home. The square blocks are leftovers from the patio project. The smooth, blue stones are from our trips to the North Shore of Lake Superior.
I leveled out about 1"+ of sand for the floor material. I didn't have enough of the patio blocks to do the whole floor, so I just used those as borders. What I did have a ton of was chimney bricks!
My husband helped me get them all laid out before night fall to avoid having to sift through the unlaid area for cat-doo before laying the rest of the bricks. I figured we would just get the bricks down and not worry about what it looked like, but strangely enough, it ended up being perfect!
The finished product! I think it looks old-world, and it ties in the blocks from our patio and the bricks I've been using all over the garden. We didn't have to cut any bricks because we had taken brick pieces as well as whole bricks when we tore down the chimney. I filled in the big gaps with some pea gravel and the rest with more sand. To help level the bricks, I flooded the area with water and raised and lowered the bricks to water level and filled it all in with more sand when the water disappeared.

I can't use a tamper on these bricks, so now I just have to wait for a couple of really strong rain storms to help settle and compact everything naturally. It will take a while, but it is SO worth it!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More Tulips and Then Some

Here's another shot of the Texas Flame parrot tulip. They really look fabulous this year.
A new flower this year is the fern peony I got several years ago from a fan of my garden. Her daughter showed up on my doorstep one day with a package. "My mom loves your garden and wanted you to have this." I unwrapped the package looked at the gnarled little root with a little ferny green poking out of one end and gushed, "Ohh! I always wanted one of these!" It took all these years of very slow growth to finally get a flower out of it, but my, what a flower it is!
That fern peony matches well with these Bastogne's Parrot tulips I got from Menards. These ended up being my favorite tulips buy from last fall. They had a rich, deep red, velvety look to them. The darkest red of my of my tulips (this picture just doesn't do them justice - oh, and they are mixed heights, nice). The one's that I had the most hope for - Elegant Lady lily tulip - eh, not so much. They were pretty, but didn't really look like the package. They were just pink edged tulips, and not even much lily.
Now THIS is a lily tulip! It is Aladdin. I only have one left, and this is it's second home. I originally had them in the center berm, but that berm eats tulips - I figured out too late for this tulip's companions. I am on the look out for more of these.
I finally got World Expression tulips last fall after a couple years of out-of-stock postcards from Brecks. Although they aren't exactly what I had expected, they matched well with the Flaming parrot tulips I had got from Menards the year before. In fact, these look exactly like the non-parrot version of Flaming. (they are very tall, so if you get them, plant to the back)
I'm not huge fan of crab apples because when I was a kid, we had two HUGE crab apple trees in our yard and they made a HUGE mess! But this crab apple, Pink Spires, has big blooms and practically no fruit. Win-win.
I saw these Thalia narcissus on another blogger's site last spring and decided that I must have them. They are multi bloomers. A definite must have.
Even the strawberry flowers are interesting. They are really big this year and quite a few of them have a dark center.
That bulb experiment from last fall worked out fairly well. Almost all the bulbs survived, and most of those produced a decent bloom. I was able to group the similar tulips together and find the perfect spots for them in the garden. I will probably use this technique for other mixed tulips packs in the future.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Long Time No See

I have something strange happening in my garden this spring - many of the tulips and daffodils that I haven't seen in years have suddenly bloomed!

Back in 1998 I planted 5 Texas Flame tulips. They all bloomed the following spring. The next spring two weakly bloomed. A few years after that 1 bloomed. Then nothing but greenery - until this spring when all 5 bloomed as if I had just planted them last fall!
These daffodils I planted in 1998 as well. They bloomed the following spring and then only sent up leaves every spring after that, until this spring when the whole bunch bloomed again!
I planted this Estella Rijnveld (actually 3 of them) in 1998. They bloomed the following spring, then nothing but leaves until this spring. Only one, but still...
These daffodils, yeah, you guessed it - 1998. Bloomed the following spring and then not again until this spring.

I also had daffodils, Salome - supposed to be naturalizing daffodils by the way, that I planted over 5 years ago, that didn't even bloom the spring following planting-- in fact they never bloomed, until this spring!

It must have been a great year for bulbs!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May Overhead

If you look carefully in this last picture, you can see a cardinal flying through!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Now Blooming - May 04, 2009

White Emperor tulips.
These multiplied from last year. Nice!

This year has been another good year for them in my garden.

Sunrise tulip.
I have mistakenly called this Tequila Sunrise in past posts. It just looks like one!

Blue Gem tulip*.
My newest treasure from Brecks. You only get three bulbs (only two of mine came up) but they are so special I would buy them all over again!

*officially: Tulipa humilis alba coerulea oculata.