In the Garden
I have always loved growing things, so I've always had a garden, even if my 'garden' was just a houseplant on the window sill. Now that I am bleassed with lots of growing space I've begun to plant the garden of my dreams, starting with a big kitchen garden. After several seasons I'm starting to understand a little more about what works in my garden and what doesn't. I try new varieties of all sorts of things every season, and when I find something I particularly love I, of course, want to share it. You can find some of my latest finds on our seeds page.
Easy Raised Beds
We have a huge gopher problem here, so raised beds are almost a must. After considering both cost and labor, I hit on the idea of using simple cement blocks to build our raised beds. They are inexpensive and available at any home improvement store, although since their dimensions are set you have less flexibility when it comes to bed dimentions. I started with a layer of hardware cloth on the surface of native ground, then used 8" x 16" x 6" blocks - 2 high - for the walls and 8" x 8" x 8" blocks for the corners. Then main blocks were filled with gravel and rocks to help keep them stable, but I filled the corner blocks with a topsoil compost mix where I then plant marigolds or calendulas. They add a pretty punch of color to the garden as well as repelling many insect pests. Stacking the blocks 2 high allows me to have at least a 14" deep bed, and since the blocks absorb heat from the sun, they give me a little jump on spring planting by warming the soil a bit sooner.
Double Duty Tomato Cages
One of my other favorite home improvement store finds for the garden is cement reinforcing wire. It is incredibly sturdy (you will need a good pair of bolt cutters to cut it) and the 6" x 6" opening is just the right size to allow for easy harvesting. Cement reinforcing wire comes in 5' widths, so a 56" length bent to form a cylinder and secured with zip ties or twine. Five feet is just right to keep rangy heirloom tomato plants from sprawling everywhere. Flat panels can also be used as climbing supports for cucumbers and melons. In the fall I flatten the tomato cylinders and use the panels to surround stands of fava beans for spring.