Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Teak, Wicker, & More Inital Review

The table from came very quickly. I got it last Thursday; a mere 9 days after I was told that it was ordered for shipping. The industry standard for this type of product is 7-10 business days, so this arrived on an average schedule. The box was a little banged up, but the product did not appear to have suffered too much from it (see below).

The item was just as they had described on their site. I appreciate that greatly, especially with an online shop since you don't get a chance to "kick the tires" before purchasing.

Of course it was "some assembly required". I don't have a problem with that at all since I am quite comfortable with tools, and had all the right tools for the job. I used a ratchet set; you could get by with a Vicegrip or some other adjustable wrench.

It was little banged up (possibly from the shipping), but all on the under-carriage. I sprayed the back of the table with a little black Rustoleum that I always keep on hand for my garden accessories. The back of the table is made of what looks like non-treated plywood, but I don't see that as a problem since it is protected from weather by being on the underside. There was a little stray caulking set into the sealant that they use to coat the table top, but it wasn't that noticeable, and if it doesn't bother me -- Miss Obsessive-Compulsive -- most people probably wouldn't even notice. It is hidden well by the natural texture of the slate.

I didn't even need instructions this was so self explanatory. The cap nuts and bolts were attached to the table parts which made it really easy to inspect for any that might be missing -- they were all there - Yay!! It also makes it very clear how everything is intended to go together, and saves you from having to dig out some small baggy from the packaging box and trying to keep track of them all.

The table top took a little finagling to get all the bolts (which were attached to the underside of the table) into the holes into the top of the table legs. You might want a second person for this since the top is HEAVY!

It is the perfect table for this spot. The table appears to be sturdy and was tall enough for my regular sized chairs. The size can accommodate 4 people for just drinks, 3 people with light snacks, or 2 people for dinner.

The look of the table with its natural slate top and black iron frame goes with just about anything. I especially liked that the legs were scooped, matching well with the feminine style of my other garden accessories. The slate was a beautiful mix of earthtones and I really like the particular pattern that they installed it on the top. It is reminiscent of a spiral, which is perfect for my garden!

If I had found this table while on my recent store searches for a table for this area, I would have snapped this one up -- even at the $86.99 price tag! And they offer FREE SHIPPING on this! Wow!

My initial recommendation: I would suggest checking out Teak, Wicker & More. I know that I will be surfing their site for other wishlist items! Good deals on high quality, stylish items with accurate descriptions. Can't beat that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Additions

Since I had to go all the way into the Twin Cities yesterday for a work related seminar I decided that I would stop at Gertens to look for non-invasive ground covers and came home with these beauties. Disclaimer - not all are ground covers.

Sagina subilata - Irish moss
Sedum spurium - fireglow sedum "Fuldaglut"
Sedum hispanicium - "Purple Form"
Geranium cinereum - "Purple Pillow"
Iris sibirica - "Pink Haze"
and last, but definitely not least...
Lavandula augustifolia - "Lavance Purple"

Can you tell I like purples? That iris is not pink, it's purple. I was going to show a picture of its wonderful bloom, but it was spent by this morning. There is another on the way though!

The lavender is tagged as northern grown and zone 4. We will see. I bought two so that I could try out a couple of different sites. Wish me luck -- and give me any advice you may have on them!

The geranium is similar to Ballerina, but the flowers are a rich reddish-purple.

The Irish moss is for my husband. He loves moss and it was on his wishlist.

Another one on his wishlist was that tiny leafed sedum, Purple Form. The university has it all over their native garden (mostly natives, some non-native) as ground cover and we love it.

The other sedum is just so perky! I love its form and color combo. I can't wait for this to multiply so I can spread it everywhere!

Monday, June 15, 2009

OMG, 1st GBBD!

So finally all vanillaed up, I made it back outside to get some pics for my first GBBD ever (well, actually I was already going to get bloom pics and decided, why not link and share - right? Say thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens).

My favorite hardy geranium: Ballerina. It was a tough one to get started, but well worth it! I discovered in my garden, it likes to snuggle in the sun. Plant in sun but tuck it in with other plants so it won't feel so exposed.
My second favorite geraniums, because they are FREE! These came into my garden on their own and have been busy setting up their friends and family. They are pretty and polite, so I don't mind.

New this year to my garden: Dream Queen hosta.

Isn't she dreamy?

My first delphinium of the year. Not sure of the variety, most likely Magic Fountains. This one is four years old.

Thimbleweed in the rain garden. They are getting nice and bunchy.

Bleeding hearts, and not-so-bleeding hearts.

Blue Ravine clematis. Not as nice as the first one I had, that met an unfortunate accident, but lovely all the same.
The absolute best picture I could get of Pewter Moon heuchera. I only have two, but I want more!
Red Prince weigela and cerastium tomentosum. I love this cerastium tomentosum and creeping thyme together.

I planted these peach poppies from seed years ago. What's that? They aren't peach? Yep, because this is what happens to all my color varieties of poppies - back to orange after a couple of years. But I love them anyway!

Hardy dianthus. It came in a big pack from Home Depot years ago. I thought it was an annual but needed the color and it was 50% off! It has never disappointed with its blooms and has since multiplied!

Anthemis marschallianna. I got it from Shopko years ago and haven't seen it offered since, anywhere. I have tried to divide it, but it is a fussy little bugger. As long as I leave it alone, it does fantastic and has been mounding up nicely.

FINALLY A PEONY! And unfortunately I don't know the variety. I thought it was Sarah Bernhardt, but it's not a soft enough pink. Maybe someday I will find that tag!

These daisies were some of very first plants I bought when I started my garden over 10 years ago. I bought twenty, three survived. I love the way they look against the golden barberry.

Speaking of daisies, lets not forget the backbone of my garden: the humble oxeye daisy. They volunteered their services almost immediately and have not let me down in all this time. Thank you daisies!

Oh, Gnats!

I have a HUGE gnat problem! Well, the gnats aren't huge, there's just a lot of them and they all love me, or hate me -- however you want to look at it; they are all over me! I was out in the garden today trying to get a few pictures of what is blooming and they would not leave me alone! They were in my ears and hair, up my pant legs, shirt sleeves and even in my shirt! They leave big itchy welts and sometimes when they bite it feels like a tiny bear trap! UGH!!

I gave up and retreated to the house. But being the obsessive gardener that I am, I did not let it go. I hate using insect repellent because it it stings my skin, is sticky, smells bad and sometimes gets onto my lips or in my eyes - yuck! So, Google to the rescue!

In 30 seconds I found my answer - vanilla! Apparently gnats don't like it, and I have some so why not give it a try? I took about 1/8 a teaspoon real vanilla extract and rubbed it onto my neck, ears and forehead, grabbed the camera and went back outside. I was outside for the same amount of time I had been before - no gnats! And bonus, I smell like a cookie!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Heavy Duty Squash Trellis

I have grown squash for the last few years and usually just let it ramble into the pathway around my veggie garden. This year I decided that not only would I get all that squash vine out of the paths so I could get around, but that I would also block out some of the not-so-scenic alley with one project. I searched the internet for squash trellis plans. Most involved making two simple wooden ladders and leaning them together. Hmm.. not exactly what I was looking for. First, it doesn't take up as small a footprint as I was hoping for, second, it just didn't seem tall enough. I decided that I would have to come up with something on my own.

I already had a bunch of lumber I had bought for another project years ago that I never got to, so I decided that I would make use of that. They were treated 2x4 in 8'+ lengths. I figured that I could make posts out of them and use some pound-in post holders that I had seen for $15 each. For a 16' span I figured that I would need 3 posts.
For the area between the posts I picked up a 16' 4g galvanized fence panel. I almost bought one for $28, but as I was picking it up, the warehouse guys asked if it needed to be pretty. I said not too pretty, why? Well, they had a stack by the dumpster that the manager was letting go cheap. I got the whole panel for $11! And you can't even really tell what was wrong with it! I had intended to leave it the full 16' span, but we had to cut it in half with some bolt cutters so it would fit in our friend's truck.

The various tools that we used: small and large sledge hammer, long level, quick clamps, crowbar, chunk of 4x4, ratchet wrench set, screwdriver, drill driver w/bits, chop saw, tape measure, and bolt cutters.

The post holders were a little tricky to install. You have to pound them in using a chunk of 4x4 and a sledge hammer. We learned that you should hammer a little, lightly and then check for level and repeat often. Don't try to get these in too quick, or hammer too hard, or your posts will be cockeyed and the fence will look terrible! We figured how far apart to put them in by installing one post holder, putting in the post, attaching the metal panel then setting up the next post where the end of the panel landed. This worked better than trying to measure out everything. We know because that was what the crowbar was for -- pulling the post holders back out to try again! And that is why you should not hammer the post holder flush to hard ground. I left ours up about 3" and back filled with compost which made them very easy to get out when we screwed up the first placement.

Also, to get the post centered where you want it, flip the holder upside down and press the square opening into the dirt to leave an impression. Then flip it right-side up and push the spike into the center of the square.

And don't forget-- before you pound these in, call digger's hotline! They were out in just a couple of days and marked all incoming lines so I was sure I wasn't going to blow up the block spiking a post holder through the gas line.

Since we were using 2x4s and the post holders were made for 4x4s, we had to make up the difference with filler. We were very lucky to find these treated lath pieces, a huge bundle for $3! I dug through the whole pile of bundles to find the bundle with the most 5/16" pieces. (2x4 are actually 1-1/2x3-3/4, go figure)

Here are all three posts in place. We added the height of the fence panel, the depth of the post holder's post holding square, and added a couple of inches to it for good measure (to add post toppers if we wanted!) to figure out how long to cut the lumber.

We were asked by our friend who picked up the fence panels for us why we didn't just save ourselves the hassle and use 4x4s. Well, not only did we already have this lumber, but the space left between the boards gave us a way to attach the fence panel.

We put the panels between the boards and ran a 4" bolt through holes we drilled in the boards at measured intervals so that we would be between rungs in the fence and not hit them. The bolts go through the end squares in the panels. By going through the squares, the panel will not fall out as the edges of the panel will hold it in place. The middle post has two ends of the panels which we overlapped to be sure that the bolt went through both panels' squares. We attached a locking nut to the other side of each bolt to cinch the boards together.

Here is the before (OK, yeah you can see the post holders already in place, but you get the idea)

And here is the after! The squash is planted and now we just have to wait for the screening magic to begin.

The whole project cost us around $65. The lumber will cost you extra - unless you too have a big pile of treated 2x4s just laying around. And the fence panel will cost you extra too - unless you get lucky as well. You can get a non-gradated panel for $21.

This will be fairly easy to dis-assemble (we know because we already had to do that once) and store or move. Once we had all the materials it took us just a couple hours to cut and drill all the pieces and install the post holders. An easy project even for you non-carpenters.

UPDATE: October 2009 - This project worked out great! I did try to hammock the squash in nylons, but it turns out that all the squash was strong enough to hang except the pumpkin (and they apparently are a little claustrophobic so no-go on the hammock for them). The squash plants, overall, took up about 3-4sqft of ground space each - not bad for squash! It was a bad year for squash, but I still got 2 butternut, 3 buttercup, and 7 acorn squash! The pumpkins did not care for this set-up, but, luckily, I thought ahead and had planted a huge bed at my friend's house yielding me enough pumpkins for the season! One tip though, install a short fence between your squash and the rest of the bed to contain strangling vines (I used a cheap, but sort of strong, push-in fence).

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Opportunity Knocks

I got an email a while back offering me an exciting opportunity. Normally I just send these to the spam pile, but this one did refer to trying out and reviewing garden accessories, so what the hey, why not check it out? I went to their site, Teak, Wicker & More, to check out their products and I was very impressed with the style and the prices!

I spent some time seeing if there was anything that I might want to try out. I had considered the cold frames, but the one that I really wanted wasn't available until late June. Not to say that I wasn't drooling over some of the other marvelous greenhouses that they had available, but most of those were either not the right size or were out of my try-out price range.

Then I remembered that I had just finished the floor in the gazebo and it really was needing a nice table to have coffee in the morning, right? I had been looking at the local stores for a good bistro set that went with my garden style and wasn't having any luck. Maybe TW&M would have what I was looking for. And guess what; a quick search in their outdoor furniture section led me to a nice find: a round slate table (frequent visitors must know by now how I like curves and natural material)!

So here's the deal, I have never gotten anything from this supplier before, and maybe you haven't either. Once I get the table, I will post pictures and write a review of the service that I received and the quality of the product - and you know how opinionated I am, so you are guaranteed a good, honest review!

Hoop House Heaven

PrimRozie has got me all obsessed about hoop houses. We are finally getting some much needed rain (just in time since yesterday my husband and I put the corn gluten fertilizer on the lawn and our dogs have been fussing about going out to eat it!!), so instead of spending the morning in my garden, I have been scouring the web for info on hoop houses. They seem very simple and I have been wanting to build one. This year it might just happen now that I have both raised beds built - now I can just put the hoop house right over both of them and have a path down the middle!

Most of the designs that I found were pretty similar. And being the Scot/German that I am, I immediately was thinking of ways to improve the design and make the plans more efficient. It took me about an hour for my epiphany - instead of building a spine to keep the PVC poles in place, why not sew a spine? The tent I bring camping doesn't use a separate spine, the poles feed through tunnels sewn into the tent to keep them where they are supposed to be and they themselves are the spine. Why not do the same for the hoop house, 'cause what is a hoop house but a tent, right? And I not only sew, but I still have a spool of plastic thread from when I made a bunch of tomato cage covers (mini green houses! If I make them again, I will post the plans - VERY EASY; even for non-sewers).

Here are the most interesting hoop house sites I found:

How to Build a PVC Hoophouse for your Garden at The Westside Gardener
This has great pictures and walks you through the entire process, including a materials and tools list! (the website needs some attention, but it is still very informative).

Home Sweet Hoophouse or How to Change Gardening Zones without Leaving Your Own Backyard at Kitchen Gardeners International.
This article had great pictures showing people actually putting one together. Not much in the way of a step by step, but does offer some advice for fortifying based on use experience.

Hoop House I from the Utah State University Extension
A fantastic video (41min) about the university's trials with their hoop houses. It gives a fairly thorough explanation about the structures they have built as well as the potential uses for the structures. I took the most notes from this video. Good stuff!

AND once your done watching that video, check out some of the other similar videos YouTube suggests! Larks Hoop House is quick and descriptive - but as a disclaimer, that accent sounds more Minnesotan than Wisconsin!

[and just as a cool find I found this. Science geeks and off-the-grid dreamers will LOVE this!!]

I've been taking notes and making drawings all morning. Hopefully I will be able to get one built this summer for use this fall. I can't wait!