Friday, April 15, 2011

The only way is up, baby. (Think Yazz!)

Here's what I did wrong last year:
  1. I had no planting plan and shoved things in where ever I could find a space.
  2. I planted my warm season veggies too early.
  3. I forgot to label a lot of things after I put them into the raised beds.
  4. I neglected to mulch the plants.
  5. I gave my plants no support. (I mean the trellis kind not the cheer leading kind!)
This year is going to be oh-so different - I aim to have a tomato forest and a cucumber jungle! After making a couple of jars of pickles last year, I was determined to expand my pickling enterprise.  I planted about 24 pickling cucumber seeds, 13 Parisian Pickling cucumbers and  7 De Bourban cucumbers -all carefully labeled, sprouted.  I gave a couple away at a Master Gardener plant swap, but I intend to use most of the rest.  I find it hard to not call them pickle plants, as technically they are cucumbers.
I decided that I would be a good little Master Gardener Trainee, and one wet Sunday afternoon, (it's California - there was only one wet Sunday afternoon where it was so wet it kept me out of the garden!) I sat down and drew out plans for all my seven raised beds.  I worked out how many plants of each kind I could squeeze into the plots by using the guidelines given to me in the class on growing vegetables.  I'm surprised at how much I can squeeze in there.

Here's how I plan to plant the pickle cucumber plants. (Each bed is 8 feet by 5 feet - coincidentally the same size as the rug on the living room floor!)
Each dot is the precise position of where I shall plant my seed/seedling.  Here's another that I did for the pole beans, and you can see the scale is worked out on it.
I won't bore you with diagrams of the other five beds.  I have one that is all tomatos and another that is all winter squash. I am dreaming big for this years summer garden.

The hardest part is not planting the stuff too early. My sunroom is my "holding" area, and I sense that the plants are as impatient as I am.  Its hard too because to me the weather is gorgeous.  Hot, sunny, whats not to love? But if you are a pepper plant you'd find it a bit chilly! (Pardon the pun!) Also my winter garden is tardy, and I'm waiting to harvest my potatoes to make room for my wonderful plan...

As for labels - I gave up trying to make them from old yogurt cartons and actually bought some in the garden center.  Let's hope that helps keep me motivated.

I'm mulching like there's no tomorrow. I bought the compost, as I've still not mastered the alleged 4 weeks-if-you-turn-it-every-day technique in either of my compost bins. They're too slow for me to use all the time..

But my crowing glory this week is my trellis creations! Pickles cucumbers grow great on a trellis, so my husband and I went searching for something to support them and the pole beans. Ready made trellises in the garden center were too small for the job and cost $40 - $50 each.  We estimated we needed 4 of them. Plus, we couldn't fit them in our car to take home, so we'd have to pay for delivery on top of that.

At home, I went on line to price them and came across a host of websites that suggested making them yourself.  Some showed bamboo lashed together and then, wham - it hit me!  As those years as a Girl Guide had not indeed been wasted. I still know my knots and lashings inside and out and back to front and round the big tree. I'd turn my geeky past into a cool gardening feature.

We sourced a pack of 50 bamboo poles, 8 feet long (perfect for the beds) and 3/4 inch wide for $70. I spent another $15 on special string for lashing bamboo and $15 on shipping - Ta da!
A clove hitch.
As I knelt on the lawn tying my first clove hitch, inhaling the smell of the grass and hearing the birds tweeting in the trees, I was transported back 30  20 okay 30 years (who am I trying to kid!) to summer camp when we would set up our tents for a week and construct our "gadgets" in the area around them.  These ranged from simple tables to elaborate picnic table style affairs with built in benches.

Our leaders are amazing women who taught us mostly about how to be useful and good people in this world, how to laugh in the face of adversity and get on with things no matter how tedious the job. I'm thinking of all those times I've had to scrub with a Brillo pad those billy cans that had been blackened by the camp fire flames. Of course, after about five years of doing this, some bright spark came up with the great idea of smearing Fairy Liquid on the outside and the black stuff simply wiped off.  Subsequently, all our food tasted of the green soap suds but, hey, it was better than scrubbing them in cold water after dinner!
Diagonal lashings - as opposed to square lashings - are my preference.  I can still imagine one of the leaders popping up to inspect my lashing - making sure they are sturdy enough, neat enough and finished with a clove hitch. My husband did the QA instead, though he was only looking at the sturdiness.

The result - A Super Trellis. Okay, it's a weird shape, because I couldn't bear to cut my lovely bamboo poles in half, and if they reach higher than three feet even better - it's an extend-able trellis!
The pole beans trellis is two tripods(constructed with a tripod lashing) supporting a cross bar.  I attached the vertical bamboos using a modified snake lashing.


You could just use string too but I was showing off! I bought tomato cages and have some more support stuff from last year, so I'll get as much vertical gardening done this year as possible.

Byddi Lee

6 comments:

  1. I had to learn the clove hitch for my job some years ago...who knew it could be useful for pickles...err...I mean cucumbers ;) I know what you mean about not getting your warm-season veggies out too soon. We froze last weekend, but my tomatoes and pepper starts are getting so huge they're threatening to grab me by the ankles! I've never perfected 4-week compost either...I like to think mine doesn't like to be rushed :P

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  2. That trellis is impressive! I tried to make a bamboo trellis with the same technique and just couldn't get those silly round sticks to stay put. Well, I didn't have the right teacher, that's what it must have been.

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  3. Your trellis system is so impressive! I'm a bit afraid to try something like that here, because we get really windy storms. I'm afraid that might fall etc. I do loved making pickles last summer so I definitely will be growing lots of cucumber plants too!!

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  4. @ Curbstone valley farm - I like your attitude about the compost - I should stress less about it too!

    @ Town Mouse - you need the right cord - the one I used is waxy so it sticks to the bamboo.

    @meemsnyc - My husband and I have had the "high winds" conversation - I have more faith than him - he reckons the beans trellis is a little shaky!

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  5. Byddi, I can't decide whether I'm more impressed by your diagrams or by the trellis. My comment on both: Wow! -Jean

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  6. I love your post. I'm with you about dreaming big. My garden is small, only about 10x30 feet and I plan to squeeze in as much edibles as possible! I have a garden plan I created but I haven't posted that on my blog yet. I'm doing my best to follow it but sometimes I get carried away, you know putting in more even when things are tight. I've bought several veggies supports too. Growing vertically is the way to go. Have a great week!

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