I’ve been MIA for the past few months as I’ve been up to my eyeballs in post-season Little League baseball. Now that the Little League season is winding down, I’m excited to get back to The Lady DIY! I’m way overdue to post an update on the progress of our suburban vegetable garden; we’re now about two and a half months in, and my intention was to post every month or so. (You know what they say about good intentions.)
Considering that I haven’t had much time to devote to our little garden, there are some great things happening. We got lucky this year with the weather and actually got a few weeks of spring. (Usually, it feels like we go from winter to 100+ degree heat within about a two-week span.) The extra few weeks of gradually warming weather allowed the plants to get established before the heat of the summer arrived. It also helps that my mom is an amazing gardening and has been putting in time while I’ve been MIA.Read More
The plants are green and lush. The tomato plants are bursting out of their cages, requiring regular shifting of branches to keep them under control. I absolutely love the pole beans; they have overtaken the upright supports, and make for a gorgeous wall of green. The marigolds have filled out and continue to produce pretty flowers. One of the pumpkin plants is borderline out of control and is threatening to take over half of the yard.
As I mentioned in this post, I really wanted to have a successful zucchini crop this year to make use of my spiralizer. (Last year’s crop was a total flop, and I ended up buying all of our zucchini.) I’m happy to report that I’ve already harvested several zucchini this year, and enjoyed lots of zoodles and zucchini lasagna. The one challenge I’ve had is finding the zucchini before they grow too large (and get full of hard seeds); the pumpkin plant provides some amazing camouflage and those zucchini love to hide! You can find my favorite zoodle recipe HERE and my favorite recipe for zucchini lasagna HERE.
The pole beans have created what can best be described as a living wall in the middle of our raised bed garden. Not only do the plants look great, they are producing a pretty decent crop. My mom has enjoyed several meals with the green beans she’s gathered. At this point, we aren’t finding many beans anymore, but I can’t tell if the plants aren’t producing, or if the beans are just well hidden in all of the leaves. Either way, the pole beans are doing their intended job and providing shade for the pepper plants.
Speaking of which, we haven’t harvested any peppers yet, but we have some beauties that will be ready soon. I’m just waiting for them to start turning yellow and red. I’ve tried growing peppers for the last few years, and always had issues with sunburn on the fruit. I give a huge amount of credit for the success of our pepper plants to the pole beans and the shade they are providing.
Did you notice the teeny, tiny pumpkin in the photo above? We planted two different types of pumpkins this year – Baby Bear and Jack o’ Lantern. The Baby Bear pumpkin plant can best be described as out-of-control. From one plant, there are vines going every which way. They’re climbing through the pepper cages, and up and through the pole bean supports. One of the vines is already about 30 feet long. Mom and I have bets going on whether or not it will grow all the way to the house before fall.
There are a handful of pumpkins that are about the size of a large grapefruit and actually look like pumpkins. There are several more baby pumpkins, about 1-2″ in size.
As invasive as pumpkin plants can be, I find them incredibly charming. I love their giant leaves and those little curly cue, tendril thingies. They are easy-to-grow for beginning gardeners. The vines grow very fast – I haven’t done it yet, but I’m almost positive that you could measure new growth on a daily basis.
The tomato plants look amazing – lush and full of fruit. Unfortunately, every time I went to pick a big, juicy tomato, I was disappointed to find that half of it had been eaten. There were several tomato “carcasses” where only a tiny bit of skin was left behind. Who was to blame? This wasn’t the work of the dreaded tomato hornworm. It was something bigger.
A couple of our neighbors have fruit trees, which tend to attract the critters. Apparently, rats also seem to really enjoy tomatoes. (Who knew?) I had big plans for all of the tomatoes I had envisioned harvesting, and feeding the neighborhood rat population was NOT one of them. After finding what was probably the twentieth rat-eaten tomato, I went online to research solutions.
Several people mentioned having luck with these solar-powered rodent repellers. They are intended for moles and voles, but the product description mentions rats as well. The repeller is a metal post, about 15″ long, with a small solar panel at the top. You stick a few of these in the ground around the area you want to keep rodent-free. The repeller emits a sound about every 30 seconds or so, and supposedly the rodents interpret this sound as a sign of danger and stay away. Not only are these a non-toxic and non-violent solution , but at only $19.99 for two, I figured they were worth a try.
I’m sure it’s some form of subconscious, passive-aggressiveness, but I jammed one of those repellers right next to a chewed-on tomato remnant. With a sense of great self-satisfaction, I thought, ” Take that, rat!” There *might* have also been a swear word or two.
We’ve had two of these repellers in the yard for almost two weeks now. I had read that it can take a few weeks for these repellers to drive the rodents away, so I was willing to give it some time. I didn’t see much of a decrease in rat activity at first, but I’m happy to report that I harvested an armful of uneaten tomatoes yesterday! There is still evidence of rat activity – I picked and discarded almost as many half-eaten tomatoes. I don’t think that these solar-powered rodent repellers are any sort of miracle solution, but this is definitely an improvement to our tomato harvest.
That’s it for now. I’ll keep you updated as things continue to grow (or not) and if the rat repellers seem to be working.
Spring is absolutely, hands-down, my favorite time to get out in the yard and garden. After a particularly wet winter in Northern California, our landscaping is looking especially vibrant and lush. I love seeing all of the bright green, new growth covering all of the plants.
The arrival of warmer days also mean that it’s time to get our vegetable garden planted. We have a fairly typical, suburban backyard, about three-quarters of which are occupied by our patio and pool. We have limited space left for a garden, so I rely on container gardening and a small, raised bed garden.
When planning our garden each spring, I always start with the tomato plants. Not only do we eat a LOT of tomatoes throughout the year, but with the abundant sunshine and HOT weather that we get during the summer, tomatoes are some of the easiest veggies to grow in our area.Read More
The biggest challenge with tomatoes and small-space gardening is crop rotation. Crop rotation is the practice of changing where you plant a particular type of vegetable (or vegetable family) from year to year. Basically, you don’t want to plant the same type of plant in the same spot each year, as crop-specific pests or diseases can build up in the soil. Although all vegetable crops can benefit from crop rotation, it seems to affect tomato plants more than other types of vegetables. I’ve never had luck planting tomatoes in the same area two years in a row.
The solution that I’ve come up with (and have had success with), is container gardening for my tomato plants. I purchased these large, resin wine barrels at my local Home Depot a few years ago. (They were less expensive than real wine barrels, and have held up much better. You can order a similar planter HERE.) I drilled holes for drainage, and a slightly larger hole so that I could run a drip line up through the bottom of each barrel.
Prior to each Spring planting, I remove all of last year’s soil from the barrels. (I typically just dump it into the raised bed garden, or spread it around in some other area of my yard that may need more soil.) Dump in a bag of fresh soil and a little fertilizer and the barrel is ready for this year’s crop!
Another unexpected benefit of using container gardening for our tomato plants is that they can be moved if needed. When Santa delivered a 10 foot wide trampoline for Christmas a couple of years ago, I was able to shift the tomato barrels a bit to make room.
The tomato cages shown were purchased from my favorite local nursery, Green Acres. They were a bit pricey, but after years of struggling with those inexpensive, flimsy metal cages, I was finally willing to make the investment. These cages are more heavy-duty, and the inverted construction (with the wider rings on the bottom), helps them stay upright at the end of the season when the tomato plants are large and heavy.
This year’s tomato plants are Husky Cherry Red, Chocolate Sprinkles Cherry, Celebrity and Better Boy. When choosing what type of tomato to plant each season, I typically aim for two cherry-type varieties, and two types that produce larger fruit.
There are peppers in three different varieties, two types of pumpkins, two types of beans, cucumber, cilantro, zucchini and an acorn squash I purchased by accident. Brady is my little farmer, and other than tomato plants, his one request was for watermelon. I picked up an Icebox Watermelon plant for him. I don’t usually have luck with melons, but as long as my kiddos are interested, I’ll keep trying.
I have high hopes for the zucchini. Zucchini plants are famous for their overabundant production. After seeing dozens and dozens of recipes for Zoodles (a substitute for noodles, made out zucchini), I finally broke down and purchased a spiralizer last year. Ironically, last year’s zucchini crop was a complete flop and I ended up buying all of my zucchini from the grocery store. Hoping to avoid a repeat, I went with two zucchini plants this year.
Over the years, I’ve learned that peppers are prone to sunburn. With that in mind, I always try to plant something else that will grow up and provide some afternoon shade. Blue Lake Bush Beans and Pole Beans are planted on the west side of the peppers. As they grow, they should provide some shade as they cover the upright trellises. I’ve also planted one of the zucchini plants next to the trellis; I’m going to try some “vertical gardening” with zucchini this year.
I always save a little room in the raised bed for marigolds. Not only do they add color, but they play an important role in maintaining a healthy garden. They help repel some common garden pests, such as nematodes (microscopic worms that attack the roots of your plants), slugs, and the dreaded tomato hornworm. On the other end of the spectrum, they invite beneficial bees and other pollinators into your garden.
You’ve probably noticed the “cage” surrounding the raised bed. I like to add some organic fertilizer throughout the season, and particularly when I first plant each spring. (This fertilizer from EB Stone is my favorite.) My two dogs also like the fertilizer – it contains things that are REALLY appealing to dogs, like bone meal and dried chicken manure. My furry friends have no problem with digging up the garden that was just carefully planted. This only seems to be a problem when the garden is freshly planted, so I needed to come up with a temporary solution.
I went down to my local hardware store and picked up a roll of metal fencing and some rebar. I hammered a piece of rebar into the ground at each corner of the garden; the rebar act as the posts for the fence. Next, I cut four separate sections of fencing, about 2 inches longer than each side of the raised bed. I took one section of fencing and wrapped those extra two inches around a piece of rebar. The other side of each fence section is attached to the rebar simply using a twist tie. That way, I can easily open up any side of the fence when I need to get in.
Once the plants start to take off and fill in, I remove the fence and store it until the following spring.
In another corner of our yard, we have two artichoke plants that my mom planted a few years ago. It isn’t a very attractive plant – it looks much more like a thistly weed. But, I will happily sacrifice a little bit in the way of aesthetics to be able to enjoy homegrown artichokes. The summer temperatures in our area are a bit warm for artichoke plants, and they seem to do better when they have some afternoon shade. One of the plants is doing better than the other this year, and has already produced several large beauties. Two of the artichokes were over 1 lb. each!
There are a few containers of berry plants scattered throughout the yard. Raspberry Shortcake raspberries are a compact, thornless raspberry, and are great for container gardening. Bountiful Blue blueberries are another compact shrub, and are well-suited for containers. These fruit-producers can can even be grown as hedges!
Now that our container and raised bed gardens have been planted for this spring, I’m on to the next big project at our house – our front yard makeover! I’ll post updates throughout the growing season, and let you know which veggies worked and what didn’t grow so well.
One of my earliest DIY projects was building a dollhouse from a kit. I spent hours and hours painting, assembling, and crafting tiny, little accessories. I still have that dollhouse; in true DIY style, it’s still a work in progress.
My love of gardening also started when I was young. I loved helping my mom put new plants in the ground each spring, and watching how they grew. We had lots of edibles in our garden (including my absolute favorites, raspberries); even as a child, I could appreciate the satisfaction of eating something that I had planted. (And to this day, there is very little that compares to eating fresh raspberries that are still warm from the sun.) Read More
The increasing popularity of fairy gardens over the last couple of years is a match made in heaven of these two distinctive hobbies. I love seeing all of the creative ideas that people have come up with to personalize their own fairy gardens, as well as the tiny, DIY accessories tucked in among tiny, fairy-sized plants.
Unfortunately, my three boys have little-to-no interest in anything related to fairies. However, when I suggested that we plant a Leprechaun Garden, I found some willing and eager participants. My thirteen year old said, “That’s actually kind of cool.” I’m calling that a Mom Win.
As you’re moving the plants around, keep in mind how any accessories will fit into the final arrangement.