Category Archives: In the Garden

DIY Garden Fence

This week, Cage Free Dad and I decided to get started on a garden fence.  We’ve known for awhile that we wanted to fence off the garden, but our struggle with birds and squirrels made us get started sooner than expected.  We don’t have a huge budget for these projects, having just moved in and having way too many projects to finish at once, so I wracked my brain for a simple, free idea.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

We constructed this fence from old wood pallets and recycled fence wood.  We didn’t spend a single penny on supplies, which is just great! I love the uneven, messy look.  Eventually, we’ll paint it, but it’s just not in the budget right now.

We designed the fence in a way that we’ll be able to expand it as our garden grows, without too much work.  Right now we just wanted something around our immediate garden so that we could drape the bird net right on the inside of it and fully protect the garden from those pesky birds.  An added bonus, our chickens can now roam the yard again!  They had a great time enjoying the yard after CFD mowed.  Hopefully, letting them out again will help with the bug problem we’ve been having.

I’m pretty proud of our little freebie project.  It sure did take a lot of labor time (we actually started 2 weeks ago pulling apart pallets and fences), but I think it’s worth it! We should have enough wood right now to fence our entire future plot, too.

The process was pretty simple, but I’ll break it down here.  First, we broke apart pallets.  Those were a PITA, though, so after a few, CFD moved on to fence wood, which was much easier.  He cut those boards in half, because we didn’t want a tall fence.  Then, I laid out all the pieces on the grass, staggering cross beams all the way across.  We didn’t measure a certain distance for the boards, just eyeballed it, since we weren’t looking for a perfect looking fence.

Fence posts that borders the garden previously, shown in photo.

Fence posts that borders the garden previously, shown in photo.

Once all of the cross beams were screwed in, we lifted the fence and screwed them to the round fence posts that were already bordering our garden for extra support.  (see photo above)

Once that was done, we secured the corners by making wooden L’s to screw in.  Once that was done, the fence was complete! We still need to build a gate, but I’m hoping that such a small opening won’t be noticeable to the chickens and other critters in our yard.

Side view

Side view

Don’t you just love projects that turn out to be free? I know I do!

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Garden Surprise

Have you ever been surprised by the plants in your garden? What I mean is, we usually go to the nursery and pick out plants based on a plan, so we know exactly what will grow, where.  Well, this year was our first year trying out a local nursery, instead of buying starts at a big box store.  I loved the prices (.99 a start!) and service, but we have now ended up with two garden surprises!

The first one was simply the wrong kind of pepper- it was labeled jalepeno but we are pretty sure it is a banana pepper.  It’s a great producer, though, so no big deal.  However, we’ve now got a big (and I mean big) surprise in our garden.

That's not a cucumber!

That’s not a cucumber!

Remember how I said that right after we planted our garden, we suffered a really late frost and lost a few plants? We had to replace 2 of our cucumber starts.  They seemed kind of puny for the longest time, and I didn’t have much faith in them.  Suddenly, the vines branched out so fast I didn’t even have time to train them. They went everywhere.  Optimistic that this meant we would get a lot of cucumbers, I didn’t mind.  What we thought were cucumbers were popping up everywhere and growing at an exponential rate.  I finally asked in a gardening group, “what kind of cucumber is this?”  Obviously, I was told it’s not a cucumber at all (in my defense the photo was of a much smaller one, but still really big for a cucumber). I’d never seen them get this big, or have quite this pattern on them.  I feel kind of silly, now, but seeing the above photo, this obviously isn’t a cucumber.

I thought it was a cucumber!

I thought it was a cucumber!

We’ve now got 3 good sized watermelons growing in our garden.  I feel kind of silly that I picked a few when they were smaller, but hey! When you’re told it’s a cucumber, you assume it’s a cucumber, right?  I’m a little disappointed that we won’t be getting any pickles this year, but hopefully soon we’ll be enjoying some fresh watermelon straight from the garden! Now, the trick is to know when they’re ready! I honestly have no idea, since I’ve never grown a melon.

Has this happened to anyone else before??

 

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In the Garden This week – June 1-7

I haven’t shared any photos of our garden the last few weeks, and thought now would be a great time to do so.  We were outside Monday evening and the light was just perfect and all of our plants looked so good that I just couldn’t help but pull out the camera and snap a few pictures.  It’s fun to see the changes over the season.  I hope you agree.

Tomato Plants

Currently, my favorite plants in the garden are my tomato plants.  We have 14 in varying varieties, and they are all producing really well.  The best production so far appears to be Romas and Cherries, but there are tomatoes and blooms on all 14 plants, and they are just looking so green and lush.  I couldn’t help but take this picture of all of them in rows.

Roma tomatoes on the vine

Roma tomatoes on the vine

Cherry tomatoes on the vine.

Cherry tomatoes on the vine.

As you can see, I’m getting some beautiful cherry and roma tomatoes this week.  These pictures were taken after our tomato harvest that day, where we got about 8 tomatoes that were fully ready.

Recovering jalepeno plants

Recovering jalepeno plants

Probably one of the biggest improvements I’ve seen in the garden this year are our jalepeno plants.  A few weeks ago, most of these plants had lost their leaves.  They were still producing fruit, but had mysteriously lost almost all of their leaves.  They were just twigs in the ground with tiny peppers coming out.  After some good pest prevention and organic fertilizing (more on that later) they’ve made a drastic recovery in a short amount of time. There are even some new flowers!

Bell Pepper Plant

Bell Pepper Plant

So far, we’ve only got one bell pepper growing on the 3 bell pepper plants we purchased, but it is getting pretty big.  It’s supposed to be a red bell pepper, so we’ll see what happens! So far, it’s bigger than the peppers that came off our plants last year, and it’s not even starting to turn red.  One of our bell pepper plants we assumed was totally done for.  In fact, even the main stalk had turned brown and drooped away from the stake holding it up.  Then, suddenly, it turned around! It’s now green and growing again.  I’m optimistic for later in the season.

Baby Carrots

Baby Carrots

Okra starts

Okra starts

We planted okra and carrots from seeds back at the beginning of May (or end of April? I can’t remember).  I didn’t weed around that area from the point of putting in the seeds until this past weekend, because I was paranoid about actually pulling up starts.  I wanted to be sure I could tell the difference before I started yanking.  Needless to say, in Southeast Texas, those weeds went rampant before I got to pull them up.  When I finally had a few hours to dedicate to wedding, I was shocked to see just how good this section of my garden looks.  In fact, I realized I have room to plant a lot more carrots! This week I’ll be mulching around the okra and planting new carrot seeds, but for now, I’m just enjoying how clean and well kept it looks.

baby orange on the tree

baby orange on the tree

baby lemons and blossoms

baby lemons and blossoms

Baby lemons on the branch

Baby lemons on the branch

My citrus trees are also doing pretty well.  Our crop won’t be nearly what it appeared when we first started getting baby fruits, but since I didn’t expect any fruit this year, I’m still happy.  As you can see in this last photo of the lemon tree, we keep getting little babies that turn yellow and fall off.  The same thing happened on our orange tree, even after we fertilized (although I believe we did that pretty late). Our lemon tree also lost a lot of it’s leaves when we transplanted it, but what is still there looks healthy, and as you can see from the second photo, we’ve still got some green lemons getting big!

Figs!

Figs!

We also have a new addition to our backyard garden this week.  2 Fig trees! This is the smallest of the 2, a Texas Everbearing fig tree. We also bought a Celeste fig tree that is much bigger (about the size of the lemon tree), but it also lost a ton of leaves when we transplanted, so it didn’t look pretty enough for a photo this week!  Hopefully it recovers quickly.  Both trees were loaded down with fruit when we bought them, so fingers crossed that they get ripe for us this year.

Mimosa tree: a pleasant surprise

Mimosa tree: a pleasant surprise

Some Pink Oleander Blooms

Some Pink Oleander Blooms

And, finally, I just wanted to share some pretty pictures from around the yard.  I’ve had so many pleasant surprises this spring.  Whoever lived here before us must have really loved to spend time in their yard at some point before they got too old to handle it (this was an estate sale, so I can actually say that). We’ve found some gorgeous plants and flowers that I didn’t recognize until they bloomed.  As you can see, we have a beautiful Mimosa tree in the back corner of our yard.  We also found a huge Oleander bush along the fence line as well.  And yes.  I’ve read the book White Oleander, and do realize that these plants are poisonous.  We have no intentions of ingesting any part of the plant, and Pistache believes that the fairies will not come to our yard if she harms any living plant, so she doesn’t play with it, either!

So, that’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed the “stroll” around our garden.  I know I sure did.

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Let the Harvesting Begin

I can’t believe the day finally came.  It always seems to take ages for the first harvest, but today, I picked the first ripe veggies from my garden (not counting the occasional green onion clipping).  It feels so good! I just can’t wait to put these goodies to use.

first harvest

 

Today, I had a jalepeno pepper (or at least it’s supposed to be jalepeno…that’s a pretty light pepper!), 2 cherry tomatoes, a green onion clipping, a cucumber, and another handful of berries.

So far, the garden is doing better than we could have hoped.  As long as all the peppers and tomatoes hanging on our plants right now ripen, we’ll be doing loads better than our garden last year!  Hopefully, we’ll be harvesting more veggies in the next few weeks, but I’m so excited to already have ripe food straight from the garden.

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In the Garden: This Weekend

This weekend, we spent a lot of time in the yard (again).  It’s the story of our lives now that we’re home owners.  However, I just love this time of year with everything coming into bloom and surprising me. I thought I’d share a few more pictures for you, since everything is coming alone nicely.

Baby jalepenoThe most exciting development so far (because they’re new to me) are our baby jalepenos! I just photographed the largest one, but we’ve got at least 5 that are definitely going to grow, and several more that are little green nubs right now.  So cool!

Tomatoes

 

cherry tomatoesAnother exciting update is the wide array of tomatoes we have growing in our garden right now.  Last year, we only got a few small cherry tomatoes out of our garden, but this year I see little green tomatoes on all 14 of our plants.  We have cherry, roma, and big boy tomatoes, so I’m very excited to see what sort of crop we’ll get this summer! Hopefully we’ll have some to can.

first baby cucumber

I remember in last year’s garden, I sat around and watched our plants for days, studying and figuring out why I wasn’t getting a crop.  With the cucumbers, I even pollinated them myself! This year, however,  I vowed to make my garden less stress and more fun.  I haven’t done a thing other than my original fertilizing and using better soil (and watering).  Still, I noticed a baby cucumber yesterday! The one on the right should turn into a cucumber.  It’s grown considerably from what it looked like before.

magnolia blossom

And, since this is my favorite tree, I had to share one of my first Magnolia tree blossoms. I’ve been waiting on this for about a week because I knew it was coming.  Our tree may be a little worse for the wear, but I still love the flowers (and smell) that it produces in the late spring! I can’t wait to see the whole tree covered in blooms.

 

 

 

 

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DIY Cucumber Trellis

In my last post, I discussed the benefits of using bamboo in the garden.  The cut and dried stalks make great garden stakes for your plants that require a little extra support.  Plus, if you know someone that grows bamboo, it’s a much more cost effective way of staking your garden without buying commercial cages and stakes, that often don’t offer enough support as your plants continue growing.

Today, I thought you’d like to see another way I’ve used bamboo in the garden, because it solved another common garden problem.

Cucumber trellis made from bamboo

Cucumber trellis made from bamboo

{Disclaimer: please ignore that awful, awful fence.  It’s our neighbors, and the house is currently in contract to sell, so we’re patiently waiting!}

I personally don’t like growing my cucumbers on the ground.  They get dirty, the cucumbers remain hidden, and they are more susceptible to different plant illnesses.  Growing cucumbers on a trellis also takes a lot less room, so it’s a great alternative for gardeners without much space.

The photo above shows my DIY cucumber trellis, that Cage Free Dad and I made using 5 bamboo stakes and some baling wire. The total cost for the project was about half the cost of a spool of baling wire, so it was very budget friendly.

When we planted our cucumbers, we didn’t actually have this trellis design in mind, but it really worked out.  We have 2 rows of 4 plants each, so when it came time to make a trellis, we simply constructed this triangle shaped trellis right in between the 2 rows of plants, so that they’ll climb along the outside of the trellis (if you have the plants grow on the inside it’ll be harder to reach the cucumbers when the plants are fully grown).

How We Did It

First, we cut our bamboo stakes to about 3′ long (I didn’t measure, just eye-balled it).  Then, we pushed the stakes into the ground a couple of inches to make them more sturdy.  Our soil always stays a bit moist, so it was easy to push the stakes in where they needed to go.  We put them right on the outside of the last plants in the rows.  If you have longer rows, you may want to consider having another stake to go in the middle of the row to support the wires, but this design worked well for us.

Once we had all 4 stakes where we wanted them, we used some baling wire to connect the tops of the stakes, so it makes a sort of tent design.  Then we added the 5th stake across the top and secured it with more baling wire.  This made the construction really sturdy.  In fact, it withstood a pretty good thunderstorm last night with no signs of wear and tear.

After we had the skeleton of the frame put together, we simply strung several lengths of wire across the stakes, making sure to pull them tight.  This is the first part that really needed 2 people, so that we could get the wire tight and secure.  The rest of it I was able to construct myself while Cage Free Dad worked on the chicken coop.

Finally, we were done and just had to gently start training our plants to grow along the wire instead of the ground.  As you can see in the photo, a few of the plants have grown considerably, and are already able to trellis to the second wire!  If you’re really on top of your game, I suggest having the trellis in place before planting your plants, because they grow fast, and it’s easier to train them from the beginning.

There are plenty of other options for trellising your cucumber plants (and other vining plants), but for us, creating our own was the best option.  We were able to use materials we had on hand and saved a bunch of money.  If you decide to use this trellis idea for your own garden, please feel free to add a photo of it to my Facebook page!

 

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This Weekend in the Garden

Perhaps I’m going a little overboard on the garden photos, but at this time of year, it’s just too irresistible to not go snap photos when I walk around and see progress! There is just so much constant change, so I feel the need to document it frequently.  So, I hope you enjoy the photos I took this weekend in our garden.

Our pecan tree coming back to life

Our pecan tree coming back to life

One of the things we were most excited for with this house was the huge, established pecan tree in the back yard.  However, so far we’ve been disappointed with the fact that it appeared to be dormant this year.  It looks like it’s just a late bloomer, though, because this week, we’ve finally noticed some green on those barren branches!

First blackberries forming on our bushes.

First blackberries forming on our bushes.

It also looks like our blackberries are beginning to form.  The bushes are thriving! We probably won’t get a ton of berries this year (I only planted 2 bushes), but these bushes look like they’ll be heavy with fruit!  If you notice the string, it’s because this bush was growing away from our fence line, which is where we wanted the bushes to grow, so we’ve got some twine and we’re gently and slowly pulling it towards the fence this way.  The other bush seems to have just known the plan, and grew that way in the first place.

New growth on the strawberries

New growth on the strawberries

Our strawberry plants are also showing some great improvements.  As you can see here, we’ve got some new green growth! We’ve also been picking off several flowers a week lately.  I know it sounds crazy, but until June we’ll be picking off all the berries so that these can focus on growing and  spreading.  These are more of a labor for next year, when we should get tons of berries for canning and enjoying.

There's a bee in our blossom!

There’s a bee in our blossom!

If you remember my post from last year, discussing the woes of a bee-less garden, you’ll understand why this photo is so exciting to me! Yep! That’s a bee! And he’s not the only one, either.  We’ve got bees all over the place, without even trying this time .

Our new (intimidating) friend

Our new (intimidating) friend

We also found another new friend in the garden today.  Pistache was so excited to see him that she ran up and tried to grab him.  As you can see, he decided to try and scare her, and we got a nice lesson in about how lizards defend themselves while I snapped the photo.

Well, there are my updates for the week! Be sure to check out my Facebook page for an album full of progression pics, too.  It’s so fun to see the changes.

 

 

 

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