Saturday, April 21, 2012

DIY Trellisses... no tools required

I first decided to build trellisses for my garden when I realized that I had planted my cucumbers to close together. The cucumbers are not an issue at the moment, since they all died, but I have replanted some and will get more in this week. I searched gardening blogs and pinterest for weeks trying to come up with something that I could build on my own that was also cheap and relatively quick to build. Through my searches I found that you can pretty much make a trellis out of anything... you just need a little imagination, time and patience (that one I'm a little lacking in sometimes). While digging around in the shelter where my husband stores the heavy equipment for his forestry business, I found a huge pile of approximately 1x1 stakes that are about 6 feet long... perfect for my project! They are, I believe, old tobacco stakes that he and his dad salvaged from an old barn that was being torn down a few years ago. I'm not sure what type of wood they are but they are weathered and smooth in some spots, they should hold up well in the garden.

I used a hammer to help drive the stakes a few inches into the ground at equal intervals around the base of the plant. (this step is much easier to do if the ground is wet) I used twine to secure the top. Then starting at the base wrapped the twine around the poles leaving a few inches between rows (make sure you can easily fit your hand through or harvesting could be tricky). Last, I ran a piece of twine down the center from top to bottom. On the first one I used 3 pieces, but then decided that one piece would be sufficient for the rest.

Through my searches I discovered that there are many benefits to growing vegetables vertically. So, even though the cukes don't need them right now, I built them for my squash and zucchini. Most people with small backyard gardens do it to save space, but it also helps prevent disease and pest problems when your veggies are up in the air instead of laying in the dirt. Keeping the plants weed-free and harvesting should also be easier and I won't have to worry about my kids stepping on them when they help in the garden. Last, but certainly not least, they trellisses are pretty and should be gorgeous when the vines are covering them. So, far I have built 8 of them, but I will be building more when the cucumbers start growing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Good News and Bad News



The week before last, my husband, the kids and I took a week long (and much needed) vacation to the Florida Keys. While we were gone, my mother-in-law watered the garden for me since we had absolutely no rain that week. I tried not to worry about the garden too much while we were gone and only called to check on it a couple of times. I came home to mostly good plants... My son's watermelon looked great, some of the tomato plants had flowers (one even has a few very tiny tomatoes), The squash and the zucchini are doing great. They have big healthy leaves and very strong stems. Corn looks ok, but more on that later. I'm also not sure about the's off to a slow start but I believe they should be one of the last plants ready for harvesting.  

tomato flowers
Now for the bad news... all but two hills of my cucumbers are dead. I'm not sure what went wrong. They were in the same section as the squash and zucchini (which are all doing fabulous) so they had the same amount of sunlight and water. Normally, I would think it was something I had done wrong. Especially considering the fact that I am a novice vegetable gardener. However, it does seem odd that I lost 80% of the cucumbers and nothing, I'm just going to assume that I got some bad seeds. I removed all but the 2 good hills, raked it and rebuilt the hills (a little further apart this time) and replanted 8 hills today. I'm going to stop by our local nursery tomorrow to see if they have some transplants available.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Weather Obsession and a Case of Insane Plant Love

Last Saturday, we got about two inches of rain in just a couple of hours. It came down so fast that my backyard and garden very quickly flooded. I was just standing on my back porch watching the torrential downpour and trying not to panic. I just wasn't sure that my poor little plants and seedlings could take it.
When the rain finally subsided, I quickly threw on my garden boots and ran to check on my babies. The corn and sunflowers were fine. There was standing water between the rows, but since I had anticipated that problem, I had built the rows up a little. Cukes, squash, zucchini, okra, watermelon and bell peppers were all fine. Once again, a little standing water but not near the plants. Then I took a look at my tomatoes and I nearly had a heart attack! My little babies that I had taken such good care of and grown from seed were laying in the dirt. I just stood there staring, almost in tears at the prospect of losing all of those beautiful plants.  I walked down the rows and then gently lifted one of my plants from the ground. I then realized that the stems were not broken but the leaves were caked in mud that was weighting them down. I very carefully went over each of my 16 little plants and gently brushed the dirt from the leaves. Later that afternoon, they were standing up straight and happy again! 

We have more rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, but they're a little bigger and stronger so I think they'll be alright. Now, my biggest concern is a forecasted low of 41 degrees tomorrow night. I'm working on a strategy to get everything covered to protect from the potential frost. We have tarps, some old bed sheets and stakes. I should be able to rig adequate plant covers from those items. 

Best of luck to the fellow Georgia gardeners this weekend... The weather will be crazy but with the right prep work and diligence we should all be able to keep our plants safe, happy and ready to provide a bountiful harvest!

***UPDATE***  April 6, 2012 5:30pm
Latest weather forecast in my area is calling for a low of 46 degrees with a light wind which means no danger of frost!!! Phew... that is a huge relief. My plants are safe...from frost damage anyway!