Pole Bean Tent

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This year we planted pole beans and Oregon giant snow peas where we had planted potatoes last year.  It's a small plot, about 15 feet long by 5 feet wide.   I wasn't sure what to do for the beans to climb.  Last year I tried a tee-pee with miserable results.. my own doing.  I didn't stake the tee-pee in the ground properly and we had a rain storm with some heavy gusts just when the pole beans were getting going.  The wind tipped over the tee-pee and we loss pretty much everything as it ripped the plants right out of the ground.  Wasn't going to go through that again ;o)

This year my son saw a picture of a tent style structure with garden netting on it so we decided to build something similar.  Easy to build and fun too... we just went to the back of a dead end street and cut down some alders.   I sharpened the ends and put them firmly into the ground and used screws to hold them together.  We kept it like that for a couple days, then decided to pin it down with twine to keep it steady... didn't want this one blowing over.

We kept it like that until the pole beans and snow peas were about ready to start climbing.  We added some garden netting held down with some zip ties I had laying around.  So far so good... We hope this one keeps up and it's nice because we can easily reach both sides for the pole beans and the snow peas on each end.  The only issue we had is at the beginning, birds would get caught under the net and fight to get out.   We had to help a few out actually, but that doesn't seem to be an issues now that the plants are higher then the bottom of the netting.

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On the side of our house, between the house and the driveway, we have a small strip that was once a flower bed.  It's about 20 feet by 3 feet roughly.  Last year we ripped out the flowers, yes they're pretty but not edible, and planted 4 raspberry bushes and 3 blackberry bushes.  Before you yell as us for pulling out nice flowers, they were transplanted out back about the garden to attract bee's, hopefully ;o)

We already have a great 3 year old black lab who is trained not to dig and listens well.  We got a second pup black lab... well I don't need to go into the gory details, but only 1 blackberry bush survived.  After morning the loss and trying to figure out what to do with that space, I thought of planting some tomatoes we started from seed.  These are doing great, but do require more watering then out in the garden.

This space is south facing, which got me thinking of putting up some cold frames and try for winter greens after the tomatoes are done.  I salvaged some old sliding window panes and have some access to free left over lumber, so just have to come up with a game plan to build them.  Let's see how the tomatoes do first though.

The raspberry bushes have more then doubled since last years planting and look very healthy.  They seem to love it there and hope to get a good pick this summer.  The one blackberry bush that survived is thriving... so we'll see how this tenacious one does this summer.  It's sitting between the tomato plants, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing, but so far so good.

Urban Homestead Summer Garden Update 2010

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It's been a while since I've been able to post due to intense work schedule. Been keeping busy around the house and garden though. It's been a trying spring and beginning of summer with workload, preparing for a new baby, studying and gardening... obviously a few of the more ambitious plans had to go ;o)

Due to time and money, the squre foot garden conversion had to be pushed off till next year. That's OK though as we expanded the garden yet again to add a 20 x 5 plot for corn and potatoes. We also planted an herb garden on the deck boxes and testing planting tomatoes on the side of the house where the cold frames will go this fall. Here are a few pictures to start, get caught up and document the start of the garden. Plan is to take pictures on Friday to document and visually follow the progress of the garden as well as note what worked and what didn't... on to the pictures.

My son give the thumbs up after his first shot at starter seeds back in April.  He started and cared for tomato and cabbage.  The cabbage didn't make the first round, I think due to over watering?, but the tomatoes came out good and are planted on the side of our house in the test bed, next to the raspberries... yumm!

The deck herb garden is a new addition this year.  We used to have flowers in there but decided this year to grow some herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley, mint and a couple others as well as jalopenos and peppers.  The boxes are about 8" deep and were filled with black earth and compost.  Next year the plan is to rebuild these as self watering containers using old storage bins, hidden inside the wood frames.  It will look just as it does now, but will be much less maintenance to keep watered.  We need to water these boxes at least once a day or twice if it's an extremely hot day.  We'll test a few different methods but one setup I like so far is: Building a self watering container.

The new bed we put together this year for corn and potatoes.  Should have taken the picture after weeding yikes!!  Potatoes on the left and corn on the right.  Half the corn was started indoors and the rest seeded direct.  This bed used to be a long flower and shrub bed along my neighbours fence line.  We moved the cedar shrubs at the top of the pics to create a natural barrier for our dogs and transplanted the flowers around the house.

We planted bush beans, pole beans and giant oregon snow peas where we had potatoes last year.  Here they're just babies.  My son and I had fun running out to get alders for the frame that will support the netting for them to climb up on.  Hope it works out.

Last picture for this post is an overview shot of the backyard garden just prior to planting.  I'll get some updated shots in the next few posts.  This picture looks like we live in the country...lol.  It's hard to believe we are about 5min walk to 3 grocery stores, 3 big box stores and basically a shopping mecca.  We are lucky as our property is pie shaped backing onto a green-space.  Just below our backyard is a drop of about 8 to 10ft and a small brook.  What the nice trees in this picture hide is the huge heavy equipment rental shop just across that little brook and a car dealership.  Which reminds me... I need to go complain about how loud their damn outside paging system is!

Enough for now... now that work and personal schedule is getting under control I hope to bring this blog back to it's normal posting frequency.  Cheers and happy gardening!!

Garden Plan 2010 Draft

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Been busy couple weeks at work and coupled with the snow I just can't wait for Spring to come around.  I'll be picking up my seeds probably next week and within the next 2 weeks, start some seedlings indoors.  Visited the local nursery and they still hadn't put out the Veseys Seedsyet, but should be out next week I'm told.  I might just order them online...

I thought I would put some of my work conference call time to good use and draft up what our new raised garden beds would look like in Excel.  It's not pretty and things will not be planted as shown in the image, but setting it up this way will allow me to easily move things around.  Still have some reading to do an beneficial/companion planting and aligning to the sun.  Looking at the image, East is the top of the beds and West is the bottom.  The right side length of the beds will face South.  I have to confirm the number of seeds per square, per vegetable type as well as I only used one reference online but it didn't seem that accurate.  Once it's all put together proper, I should be able to calculate by function the number of total plants per type and benchmark yeild, etc... ya geeky, but it's a start ;o) 

I had to buy a few more training books for work so of course bought a treat.  I figure after toasting my brain on Windows 2008 Active Directoy Configuration (yes it's as exciting as it sounds), I thought I should reward myself with some good reading so included All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! in my order.   Talk about "one of these things are not like the other..." (if you ever watched Sesame Street you get that ;o)  I had the original edition from the library but had to bring it back before I was done since someone else had it on hold (good for you!!).

So the plan is to study, finalize selection of seeds, start seedlings indoors and complete the plan for the new raised garden beds, almost in that order.  I'll be pricing out the Hemlock that I'll use for the beds once I calculate how much I need.  Also have to start looking for my options on materials to create my own versions of Mels's Mix.  I won't have enough compost to do all the beds so have to find some alternatives.  I can get loam and peat moss perlite at good prices, but good compost in bulk might be hard to come by in the quantities I'll need to kick off all these beds at once.  Still researching at this point. 

So as this is posted it's another snow day here (30cm of the white stuff) and seems like Spring will never come, but it will and I can't wait!!

Planning Our Summer Garden: Raised Beds

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Backyard Garden 2009

For the past 3 years we've planted a traditional type of row garden in a 14' x 40' and 20' x 6' sections of our backyard.  When we bought the house from my parents, there was a large ornamental flower bed that we slowly converted to a full vegetable garden.  Not really knowing what we were doing, we started slow, learned along the way and know there's much more to learn. 

This picture is the only one I could find that showed the entire garden.  Even though it's a bit small you can see the rows and the 2 apple trees in the back that we planed last spring.  The large tree in the top left corner will be moved as this year we want to move towards raised garden beds.  We want to go down that road for a few reasons:

Dogs: We have a 3 year old and an 8mth old pair of black labs.  They are great but the little one is a digger and chewer, so this is one of the main reasons for the change.  She already chewed up my raspberry bushes planted last year, which was my fault for putting her out where she could reach them, what was I thinking??  More on my remedies for this later.

Square Foot Gardening: The last few years we basically bought our seeds on a whim without much planning.  This worked out OK, but we didn't space our our plantings and ended up with too much lettuce or cherry tomatoes all at once, not enough potatoes, beans or carrots to carry us into winter, etc...  This year we are going to plan for preserves and follow intensive square foot gardening practices to increase our yields and maximize the space we have.  Also want to try companion planting of mutual beneficial vegetables and flowers.

Extending Growing Season: I've seen a few articles on using 8' pvc pipe and cover to create nice row covers to extend the growing season here in our Great White North when frost comes earlier then we want, so want to test it this year along with possibly experimenting on a few removable "Cold Frame" cover for the beds.

Ease of Management:I've never worked with raised beds before, but from I've read and feedback I've received from others, they are easier to keep up and work on.  Ours will be hemlock, which will match our fence when it goes up.  Everything is at an arms length away and the paths in between give you ample room to move about, also important for the dogs and kids ;o)

Esthetics's:I honestly find raised beds more neat and esthetically pleasing to the eye.  Since my wife is a photographer, we have a few other backyard projects to create good photo ops, which will tie into the beds as well.

I'm still playing with the design and layout, but we can easily go with eight 4' x 12' raised beds in the main area and another two 4' x 8' in the back.  This year we're going to test growing potatoes in a "potato stack" so that will be in addition to the raised beds and another post all together.

Putting money away for this project already and will purchase the hemlock for the raised beds in end of April or start of May depending on how the thaw goes... can't wait and will do a follow up post including pictures ;o)