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Archive for the ‘Growing Vegetables, Herbs & Fruits’ Category

Fake Wasp/Hornet Nest To Keep Wasp Away

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Reliance Grapes Ripening

Since our grapes have began to ripen we have had a lot of wasps under the arbor.  They are getting the juice from the. grapes that have fallen. They don’t really bother anyone but many people, especially children, are afraid of them. It’s easy just to shoo them away but it is much nicer not having them there at all.

I just found out about this neat gadget that you can hang in your garden to repel wasps. Wasp are very territorial and this little lantern shaped thing looks like a wasp nest and so wasp take one look at it and take off.

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Fake wasp/hornet nest to keep wasp away

I was skeptical that it would work, but thought it was worth a try. Just hung it up today and the wasps have all vanished. The juicy fallen grapes are still there but no wasps.

I got it at Lowes and there are 2 in the package. It says that it should clear an area of 200′. Now that I’m a little skeptical of. I only hung one for now though. I’m saving the other for next year in case this one doesn’t survive till then.

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Grapes on the arbor

Red Haven Peaches Waiting To Be Bottled

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Peaches to be bottled

One of the joys of growing your own fruit is being able to bottle as much as you want or need to without it breaking the bank. Peaches in the store and at the Farmer’s Market here on Thursdays cost a small fortune. It’s one thing to buy some to eat but having enough to put up is a whole different ball game.

The Red Haven peaches are going to finish up by early next week and then the Hale Havens will begin to ripen. I’ve tried one that was almost ripe and it was sweeter than the Red Havens. When I’ve finished bottling peaches from the first tree it will be about time to get started on the second…and so on and so on. Six trees should take us through September and then it will be time for a well deserved vacation.

We do share a lot of our peaches, thankfully so many people really like peaches. I can’t imagine what we would do with all that fruit if we didn’t share.

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Bottled Peaches

Our Red Haven Peaches Are Finally Getting Ripe

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First picking of Red Haven Peaches

We have six peach trees and all of them have peaches that ripen at different times. This way we have a long peach season and we aren’t pushed to do something with all those peaches all at once.

We have Red Haven, Hale Haven, Autumn Star, Elberta and Early Elberta. We also have a mystery peach that has been here for about 50 years, which is about 46 years longer than us. The Red Haven is the first to ripen and it is a teaser. The peaches turn beautiful, rich shades of red and peach long before the peach is ripe. Looking at the tree you would think it was ready to be picked. Not so. Those peaches may look ripe but they stay hard as rocks for quite a while. Then one day they begin to soften. Thankfully, they don’t all soften at the same time, just a few here and there. Soon though they will all be ready to pick.

We like to share them and of course we eat quite a lot too. We will be busy bottling peaches for the next six weeks or so.

Giant, Sweet Blackberries Ripening

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Huge blackberries out of the garden

A couple of years ago I planted 6 thornless blackberry vines in a patch I had prepared just for them. It turned out not to be such a great place because the nearby trees didn’t allow enough sun to get to the plants and so they grew but didn’t produce much fruit.

Last fall I moved them to a sunny area near the raised vegetable beds. I provided something for them to grow on by driving two pieces of rebar into the ground, one on each end of the blackberry bed and arching a PVC electrical conduit (which I had painted black to blend into the background) over the bed and down onto the rebar. This works great because it is a little flexible and I can pull it down a little so that I can reach the berries.

Apparently the vines are very happy

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Blackberries ripening in the garden

in the new location because the vines have more than quadrupled in number and are producing prolific amounts of berries. We will have plenty of berries this year. The berries are huge and when they get ripe they are so sweet. I picked a basket full today to make a cobbler. Being sweet is great for just eating raw but for a cobbler, the tartness of the berries is perfect.

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Arbor made from rebar and PVC electrical conduit for blackberry vines to grow on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grape Arbor Is Covered In Grapes and Grape Vines

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Grape Arbor with vines fully covering the top.

Last year, which was the third year, the grape vines covered the arbor by the end of the summer. This year the top was pretty much covered by the middle of June.

It has been wonderful having a nice shady place to enjoy lunches and dinners. The vines make such a difference in the temperatures too. We have had a very hot summer with temps hitting 104′ way too often. In the shade of the arbor though it feels at least 10′ cooler.

Better than the shade though is the abundance of grapes that are growing. Since

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Grapes growing on the grape arbor

our arbor is 50’x10′, that is a LOT of grapes. They won’t get ripe till late August into September, but we will have plenty to eat, share and make into raisins. There are 12 grape vines now, all seedless table grapes. We have Reliance, Candice, Suffolk, Himrod and Lakemont.

One of the Candice vines turned out to be a Concord. Unfortunately it didn’t bear till last year. When we discovered it we took it out and put in a Suffolk. Cross pollination can occur between seeded and seedless grapes and eventually the seedless won’t be seedless any longer. That means we have an open area in the canopy of vines, at least till the Suffolk catches up with the others and begins to cover the top.

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So many grapes

 

 

 

Millions Of Baby Grapes On The Grape Arbor

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Baby grapes growing on grape arbor

It looks like it’s going to be a very good year for grapes.

First of all it’s exciting that the vines have finally reached the top and are already shading the arbor area. We like to use the grape arbor like an outdoor room with it’s tables and chairs, swings and other seating areas. The deep shade the grape vines provide make the space usable all day instead of just the cool of the early morning or evening.

We had a lot of grapes last year but the vines were still young, only 3 years old. I

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Grapes developing on grape arbor.

think we may be in trouble. There are so many tiny baby grapes up there it’s mind boggling. These photos only show a couple of square feet each. (click on the photos to enlarge if you’re unable to see well. Even click again to make them even larger). The arbor is 50′ x 10′ so that is a lot of grapes headed our way.

Even with eating tons of them, giving even more away and drying many into raisins (the best raisins in the world I might add), I think we are going to have so many grapes on our hands.

If you’re interested, we are growing all seedless table grapes – Reliance, Suffolk, Candice, Himrod and Lakemont. Besides these 10 vines on the arbor, we have 3 very old vines growing on the fence on the north side of our garden which already produce tons of grapes. We have no idea what they are since they were planted about 45 years ago, but they are white seedless and delicious.

Here are some photos of last years grapes ripening.

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Grapes ripening 2012

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Grapes of 2012 season

 

 

 

 

 

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And we thought this was a lot of grapes. 2012

I failed to mention that on the two north posts we have Hardy Kiwi growing. They take a long time to begin to produce fruit, but it looks like this might be the year. There are a lot of little BB looking things up there. I’m keeping my eye on them too.

 

Building a String Trellis For Peas and Beans

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Support for Sugar Snap Peas to grow on.

I’ve tried all kinds of ways to provide support for climbers, like sugar snap peas and green beans. Most of them have their drawbacks. Last year I created a framework of long bamboo poles. That worked pretty well except that even though I made it very tall (about 6 1/2 feet) the peas grew even taller. It became a balancing act trying to keep the whole thing from toppling over. I had re-bar stakes to support it but it just wasn’t enough. Besides, until the peas got tall enough to hide some of the bamboo, it seemed a bit of an eyesore.

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Sugar Snap Pea Vines reach 6 feet

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Detail of support for peas.

This year I decided to try and make something a little more permanent. I got some of those heavy metal fence post that have little nubs on them. I had to get up on a tall ladder to pound them into the ground deep enough (about 18″-24″).  The little nubs all along the length of the posts let me decide where I would tie the twine. I strung heavy twine horizontally in several places, both high and low. Then I strung string vertically between them. I left a tail on the string at the bottom for the peas to attach to and begin their climb. I almost strung wire for the horizontal support but thought I’d try the twine for this year. It seems like it would be easier to clear out at the end of the season instead of pulling all the dead vines off the wire. I guess I’ll soon see if the twine is going to be enough support for the heavy vines.

 

 

 

Peach Blossoms and Birds Singing

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Peach Blossoms

As if the gorgeous sunshine and warmer (74′) weather aren’t enough to make me super excited that Spring is finally here, the peach and plum trees are in bloom and the birds are singing away.

There is so much to do in the garden, but I have to admit that it has been hard accomplishing anything because I just want to BE in the garden, absorbing all the things coming back to life after such a long, cold winter.

The yard help came and went and did such a fantastic job (I’ll post pictures later of their work) that I can take time to enjoy the garden. It is fun to see things coming up that I had forgotten were there. In the Fall I usually put in more perennials (mainly because they are on sale then) and so it’s a surprise to see the new plants emerge.

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Plum Blossoms

The Aprium trees were in full bloom when temperatures dropped down to the mid 20’s so I’m not hopeful of getting many, or any, of them this year. The Apricots and Cherry buds were beginning to open and so this may be a bad year for them too. If we don’t get a lot of fruit, at least the trees will have a year to rest and get stronger.

Now we just have to wait another month before planting the rest of the garden, the annuals and vegetables. Gardening teaches us patience.

Preparing For Spring Gardening

As I try my best to be patient waiting on the snow to melt so that I can finally get back out in the garden, I realize  that there is a lot to do before I get started..

One of the first things to do is to make a list of the things that need to be done, such as clearing away winter debri and checking the plants for damage.  Some of the plants (fruit trees and roses) need to be pruned and as buds begun to swell on the fruit trees, it will be time to spray with dormant oil to prevent pests like aphids from getting a start.

Before the perennials come up or annuals are planted, it’s a good time to work on things like pathways and sprinkler heads.

Early spring is a good time to evaluate your garden to see if you might want to make any changes or additions. Trips to plant nurseries can give you a lot of new garden ideas.

Check out lists above (Flowers tab) for some favorite annuals and perennials.  Don’t forget to check out the seeds available before they get all picked over and scarce. Planting seeds are a great way to get a lot of flowers (or vegetables) for very little money.

Unfortunately, planning for spring gardening makes me even more impatient to get out there and get started.

Kumquats and Other Plants Wintering Over

We’ve just returned from Arizona where the lemons, oranges and grapefruit are hanging heavy on the trees and it’s the middle of January.

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Kumquats wintering over inside

Here in Zone 6 it’s possible to grow citrus but they have to be in large containers so they can be brought inside to protect them from the bitter cold of our winters.We grow Kumquats and Mandarin oranges in large pots and when it’s nice and warm again they will go back out into the bright sunshine.

They do well inside if there is plenty of sunshine to keep them healthy and thriving.

This spring they will be transplanted into much larger pots so next winter it will be a challenge to bring them inside. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Some Before And After Pictures Of Our Yard And Garden

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New Hostas planted in the fall of 2011 (before losing the shade of some tree limbs and neighboring trees due to a storm).

When looking at our property on Google maps, I found photos of our yard before we bought it 3 years ago. The bird’s eye view is from about 2 years ago. It’s fun to see how it use to be and how it is evolving. It is still a work in progress. Most of the plants are in (there is always room for more) but they will begin to grow and change and the garden will mature and become a more peaceful, relaxing place.

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Front yard before 2009

 

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Front corner by the stop sign before 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Front corner and sidewalk 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Front corner with picket fence and Apricot trees 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South side of yard before 2009

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Sidewalk on south side of house 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South side of yard 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South side of back yard before 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South side of back yard May, 2012 with peach trees over fence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South side of yard August, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bird's eye view of our yard about 2010. Large tree on left was taken out 2011. The grape arbor (or pergola) had just been built and the deck wasn't built yet.

 

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Master garden plan (North is on the left and South is on the right). Green shows the flower beds to be planted.

 

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South east corner of the back yard 2009, before garden planted, arbor and deck built.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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South east corner of back yard 2011 with deck, peach trees, raised vegetable beds and roses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arbor site - Grape Vines planted before arbor built. 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grape vines reaching the top of the arbor 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take lots and lots of pictures. You’ll be glad you did. I wish we had taken more, especially of our lawn being carted off. We rented a sod cutter and cut up the lawn. Then we put out a huge “Free Sod” sign and our lawn was hauled away by many neighbors. They were happy and we were left with a clean slate.

The Grapes Are Coming

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Grape vines reaching the top of the arbor

This year we hope that the grape vines will cover the top of the grape arbor so that the arbor area will be shadier and cooler. Even though the vines made it to the top last year, it will take a lot of leaves to shade our arbor, which is 50’x10′. There are 10 grape vines, one at each post, except for the Kiwi vines at the two post on one end.

Even more than the shade to look forward to though, are the many, many grapes which are growing. We got some last year, but nothing like what’s coming this year. All of the grapes are seedless, table grapes, some white and some pink or red.

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Grapes growing on grape arbor

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So many grapes coming

 

 

Besides eating plenty and sharing a lot (we have a large family), we will dry some. They make the best raisins.

Ah, so much to look forward to. I love summer.

No, I Didn’t Build The Peas’ Support Too High

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Sugar Snap Pea Vines reach 6 feet

Last year I thought I’d built an adequate support for the Green Peas and the Sugar Snap Peas. After all, it was about 4′ high.

I was so wrong. I just put bamboo in the corners of the raised beds and then strung jute for the peas to climb on. The whole thing collapsed from the weight of the vines and peas. I spent all season trying to prop it back up and not very successfully. Picking the peas was made difficult because we had to hold up the heavy vines to get to the pods. I’m sure we missed a lot of peas last year.

This year I decided to get more creative. I built a scaffolding out of the bamboo poles (we have lots of bamboo, bought in bundles at a thrift store) and then strung twine back and forth. I made it about 6′ tall. I got a lot of comments about how tall it was and was convinced that I had gone overboard a little.

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Sugar Snap Peas forming

Not so. This week the vines reached the top rung, at least the Sugar Snap Peas have and the English Peas aren’t far behind. I am so glad now that I made it so tall. The vines are loaded with pods already and lots of blooms still coming. Looks like a good year for peas.

 

 

 

Sugar Snap Peas Are Blooming – Good Eating Ahead

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Sugar snap peas and English peas beginning to bloom

Yes, the peas (English peas and Sugar Snap peas) are blooming and the lettuce is growing so fast that we can’t eat it nor give it away fast enough. The rest of the garden is growing so fast too.

This is such a different year than last year, when the winter wouldn’t end and everything got such a slow start.

Absolutely loving this spring weather.

 

 

The Peaches Are Growing And The Hardy Kiwi Are Blooming

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Peaches beginning to grow

It’s so fun to watch as the fruit on the trees begins to grow and the strawberries start turning pink. This year, besides the peaches, apples, apricots and assorted berries, we also have current bushes (with currents) and the Kiwi are finally blooming. This is their 4th summer and the first time we’ve actually seen blossoms. So we’re hoping to finally get Kiwi fruit. These are the hardy Kiwi and the fruit is smooth and small. It doesn’t need to be peeled and it is said to be very sweet. Can’t wait to try them.

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Kiwi vines with blossoms

Also, as the plant (a vine that can grow 40-50 feet) matures, the leaves begin to get pink and cream colorations on them, making it look like the vines are full of blooms. See this post from Cornell for more information: http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/mfruit/kiwifruit.html

We have a male and a female (yes, you need both) vine and they should cover one end of our grape arbor.

So looking forward to eating our very first Kiwi.

Circumcising the Peach Trees – The Importance Of Thinning Fruit

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Autumn Star Peaches on Tree in September

Even though it’s really hard to remove little baby fruit from fruit trees, it can be a very important step. Not only do you get much better fruit but the tree is better able to bear the fruit while it grows and ripens.

When our peach trees became laden with fruit we had to remove quiet a bit of it. Since this is just their third summer we were worried about such an abundant crop. We learned that removing the fruit is called ‘circumcising’ the tree. Well all 5 of our trees got circumcised. Apparently we weren’t thorough enough because just as the fruit on our Red Haven ripened the trunk of the tree split right down the middle all the way to the ground. I ran out with baskets and was going to pick the fruit and then take out the tree.

“Slow down”, my husband said, “let’s just think about this a minute.” So I stand there tapping my foot impatiently, knowing I’d have to do something with all those peaches right away. He headed for the garage saying we were going to pull the tree back up and strap it together.

Ha! I thought he was delusional. This was a young tree but it was already big, at least 12′. I tried to budge one side of it and I might as well have tried to lift our deck. But back he comes with pulleys and come-alongs and bungee cords and ropes and boards and a drill? Then he reaches down and smooth as can be he lifts one side up and braces it then pulls the other side up and braces it. He straps them together tightly and supports those heavy limbs. Then he gets out the drill and drills two holes through that poor tree. He used bolts and nuts and things and bolts the trunk together in two places. Poor tree had surgery with no anesthesia. I thought that by the next morning all the leaves would be wilting and the fruit would began to drop.

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Bolts in split peach tree with little hollyhock plants coming up everywhere

Except for the support straps still in the branches, you’d never know anything had happened to that tree. The fruit stayed on and ripened and was delicious. Now the tree will grow around those bolts and it’ll be impossible to tell what once happened. Isn’t that amazing?

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Early Elberta Peaches getting ripe...finally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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by Eliza Osborn

Gardening On A Shoestring

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Foxglove grown from seed.

Gardening is a hobby that is time consuming and can get expensive. But it doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are many ways to have a beautiful garden without spending much money. Shoestring gardening can be done easily, following these simple tips and gardening how-to’s.

Most of my garden was created by shoestring gardening. I grew some perennials and biennials from seeds. All of our Purple Cone Flowers (Echinacea) were grown from one packet of seed, which took a little longer but I sure got a lot of plants for $1.89. The Foxglove (Digitalis) growing all through our garden came from one seed packet. Both of these plants reseed themselves, as do many other beautiful flowers.

Some of the other flowers I’ve grown from seeds are Delphiniums, Zinnias, Cosmos and Hollyhocks.

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Echinacea grown from seed

 

This is just one way to have plenty of flowers without spending a lot of money.

Growing fresh vegetables from seed is super easy and cheap, cheap, cheap. Check out more ways to garden on a shoestring and have a beautiful, productive garden.

 

 

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Hollyhocks grown from seed

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Cosmos grown from seed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zinnias grown from seed

 

 

Now Is The Time For Training Young Fruit Trees

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Limb spreaders in the plum tree

Newly planted fruit trees tend to want to grow with the limbs going straight up. To create good scaffolding and to open up the center so that sunlight can get in, the tree must be trained. There are many methods of doing this, such as hanging 2 liter bottles, that contain a little water, from the limb. This pulls it away from the vertical growth and away from the other limbs.

An easier way are by the use of long plastic sticks with notched ends so that it is easy to wedge between the limbs. These can be ordered online (I got mine from Starke Bro) and they come in different lengths for different sized limbs. It is also possible to use long wooden sticks that you can just cut notches into.

The idea though, is to create a good shape to the tree, with good support so that later, when it is loaded with fruit it will be able to withstand the weight without having the limbs break.

Growing Lots of Veggies in Small Spaces – It’s Time To Build Your Raised Beds

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Raised vegetable bed ready for planting

Since our yard is less than 1/4 acre, and there were so many things we really wanted in the yard, we didn’t have a lot of space to grow vegetables…and we really wanted to grow vegetables. So, we tried the raised bed method and it has been a great success.

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Raised vegetable bed with tomatoes and corn

The raised beds not only grow vegetables in abundance, but they look neater in the yard and make it easier to take care of the plants.

You will be amazed at the variety of vegetables that can be grown in raised beds. Last year we even tried corn. We did the ‘3 sisters’ thing of growing green beans to climb the stalks and the squash to grow all underneath.  We’ve also grown lots and lots of sugar snap peas and English peas, Swiss chard, lettuce, beets, okra, rutabagas, cucumbers, collards, turnips, spinach, bok choy, carrots, kale, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini.

Stepping outside to pick fresh vegetables for dinner is so much more fun than running to the grocery store.

We only have three raised beds which measure 16′ by 4′ and they don’t take up a lot of our yard space. If you’re interested in learning how to build your own raised beds (yes, there is a right way and a wrong way), Click Here!

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Raised Bed Vegetable Garden and grapes growing on the fence behind it.

Since spring and summer come late here, we have to wait till mid-May to plant a lot of things, but our peas, lettuce and Swiss chard are all coming up now. Many of the cool weather veggies will finish early in the summer and can then be planted again in the late summer or early fall for a later crop.

 

It won’t be long before I can say goodby to the produce isle at the supermarket.

 

Gardening Perks

 

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Yellow lilies in front yard

An unexpected thing I enjoy about our garden is getting to talk to so many people as they pass by, some strolling, some on bikes and many in cars. We live on a corner just off Main Street in our little town of about 40,000 and so it feels like we live in Mayberry, with so many friendly people. Anyway, one day a man walking his dog stopped to talk and was telling me how much he appreciated me putting the names by the plants so passersby could know what they were. I told him I hadn’t thought about the people passing by, I was just trying to remember the names of plants and what was planted where.

I moved out here to the West almost 3 years ago and even though I’d gardened for such a long time in the south (zones 7 & 8), there were so many plants out here (zone 5b/6a and elevation ca.5000′) that I’d never heard of and didn’t recognize. Really, there were very few of the ones I was use to growing that would grow out here. So if you think you have to know a lot to be a gardener, then I’m living proof that you don’t. I started reading a lot, I now have 154 gardening books (I just counted out of curiosity), almost all second hand. I like to be able to look up anything I need to know about. I do use the internet a lot but I get a lot of help from books.

Back to the names on the plants…I use metal wire stakes with a metal plate to write on. They work great for helping me to remember the plant name and to mark the spot where it’s planted so in the spring when I’m looking for places to put new plants I’ll know that place is reserved for something that will be coming up soon.

When I have spaces to fill I like to plant annuals that have plenty of blooms to use and share, like Cosmos and Zinnias, which can grow quite tall if they’re happy. Last year I had a profusion of blooms along the sidewalk outside the picket fence on the South side  of our yard (our house faces West) and large areas covered in blooms inside the fence.I try to get everyone to come and cut bouquets from the zinnias and cosmos because it encourages more blooms and it makes people happy.

One afternoon as I was sitting on a little stool weeding by the front sidewalk a little girl, about 8 years old, came riding by on her bike and stopped to talk. She gave me one of my favorite compliments when she said, “Your yard looks like a flower forest.”

How could I not like that?

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Cosmos by sidewalk on south side of house

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Lavender and daisies in front yard by grape vines.

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by Eliza Osborn

Our Garden Gate
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