Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Raised Veggie Bed

This has also been dubbed the "veggie coffin" by my husband, due to its narrow width and long length!! LOL

This is the first of 2, maybe 3 raised vegetable gardens we're building this year. I use the word "we" very loosely. I'm supervising and helping to hold boards, lay the level on the boards to see if it's level and square (which apparently is more important than I thought), and handing the screws to my handy man. Boy! Is he ever handy!! LOL This one, we built out of wood left here by the previous owners of our home. Most of these boards were warped and twisted, so getting them screwed in straight to make the thing level and square was quite a chore. My HM (handy man) did most of the grunt work while I stood around looking at the birds. This particular bed is 30" wide x 9.25' long x 18" high. We used 3 2"x6"x10' boards on each side and the ends. HM used some kind of scraps to make the support stakes. (I was busy during that portion of the building, so I missed how he did it and what he used.) Did you know that 2"x6" boards are actually 2"x5.25"? Yep! HM told me that. Not sure why they're called 2"x6"s if they're not actually 6" wide, but I didn't make the rules so leave it to a man (probably) to round it off.

The next one we build we'll use new UNtreated lumber, white pine in variety because it doesn't rot as fast as other woods. The boards are all nice and straight, cut not from the center of the tree, but from at least one ring from the center and out to the edge. Didn't know this was so important until I took a trip to Lowe's with the HM to buy lumber for veggie coffin #2 (and potentially #3). Apparently, the center portion of the tree will also make the board rot, so you want to avoid those pieces. Knots in the wood pieces and splitting boards should also be avoided. Lowe's was a very educational place!

First of all, you want to situate your bed in a sunny location. Most veggies need LOTS of sun. Here in Texas, we have plenty of that for more hours a day than you want. We chose a location just outside our enclosed sunroom, free of overhanging branches from the nearby oak tree, but not free from the overhanging cable, telephone, and electric lines. I don't plan on getting near those, so we should be okay.

Then, determine how big you want your beds to be. We went with this width because you can easily reach across the width of the bed from either side without straining or walking to the other side. We chose this height because it would be deep enough for the veggies that like more than 12" of dirt and it wouldn't require us to bend over so far. We decided on this length (actually, HM made this decision) because that's how long the boards were and he had to cut something off the end of one.

Next assemble your supplies: wood (UNtreated), saw, sawhorses, screwdriver with the appropriate size bit, exterior screws (they don't rust), level, tape measure, pencil, square (one of those "L" shaped things or something similar that's at a 90º angle), and a small sledge hammer or mallet. This gave HM an excuse to use his power tools, something he needs to do more of. HM has this really cool DeWalt power screwdriver thing that has a built in level on it so he knows if he's drilling straight into the board or at an angle. Straight is mucho better than angled.

The level on the power screwdriver/drill:

BTW, that white cord you see hanging from the handle of the drill holds the key to lock/unlock the bit in place. The bit is the metal attachment you put in it to drill or screw in screws. They come in various sizes, kinds, and various other things. NEVER go to a home improvement store or specialty tool shop with a man looking for bits unless you take reading material along. Trust me. I spent 3 (THREE) hours in the Grizzly tool showroom with HM one day. He spent 2.99 hours looking at various bits. BORING!!!

Some tools:

That thingie to the left of the scrap piece of wood is a square, a level, and a ruler all in one. Pretty nifty little gadget! I've used it a time or two myself on my craft projects. HM shares his nice tools with me. :=)

Once you've figured out the dimensions of your bed, it's time to start the fun stuff! With all building projects the most important rule of thumb is to measure TWICE and cut ONCE. (This applies to both wood and fabric, by the way, so all you stitchers pay attention!)

Measuring...(Check out those muscles in HM's forearms *swoon*)

Cutting... (man with power tools!!)

While your HM is doing all the hard work, do something frivolous like this:

Tell him how much you appreciate all his hard work! And if you don't have a handy man or a man handy, I'm sorry. It's so much more fun when someone else gets to do all the muscle work!

On your end pieces, mark the drill holes (approximately) and then drill the holes for your screws.

Now the fun really starts!! Pick your spot and place your boards near it. Measure against any standing structure to be sure the bed is square to the structure. (I would not have done this. I would've just started building the doggone thing, but HM is a bit anal about his building projects.)

The boards are not secured yet and the stake is barely in the ground.

Once again, measure....

Once you've determined the bed is square to the structure, start pounding the stakes in and screwing it all together.

Sometimes you have to push on the stake to get the board secured tightly.

See the warping we had to deal with??? Both boards were screwed in at the bottom. We really had to work to get that warped board secured tightly.

As you go along and add boards, make sure it's level or else your water will run off to the lowest point. Not a good thing.

While HM is doing all the grunt work, observe spring springing in the great outdoors.

Also take time to check out what's sprung up in the abandoned pots sitting on your back porch.

When it's all said and done and the sun has begun setting on your workday and you've had to run inside to get a sweatshirt because it's turned chilly, step back and admire the work you've accomplished.

Then, 2 or 3 days later, after the project is completed admire your handiwork again. Be sure to take lots of pics to share on your blog, too!!

Next time, we'll discuss filling the bed.


Friday, March 13, 2009


We've had almost 4.5" of rain since Wednesday. Can I tell you how happy that makes me? We've been so dry this winter and had begun to be in drought conditions. We had rain most of Wednesday, the light, gently kind that really soaks into the ground and waters it deeply. Today, we picked up almost another inch of the glorious wet stuff. Again, it was the nice, gentle kind of rain. Hopefully, this is just the beginning on the spring rains in Texas.

This was my rain gauge yesterday morning. (Happy, happy, joy, joy!)

We've finally warmed up to 39º, a big improvement over the 38º we've had for most of the day! LOL I'm happy with the rain, but not so happy with the temps. I drug in all my tender plants that are waiting to be planted and all my winter sown jugs. They probably would've been okay, but some have sprouted and I didn't want to chance the young sprouts.

After the rain ended, I went and checked out the flower beds. The pincushion flower (scabiosa) I planted last fall has bloomed. It's a very delicate pink and very cute!

The pink Texas salvia that survived the winter put out its first blooms, too!

Here's a different view, but not as easy to see the blooms.

My Autumn Joy sedum is taking off again! It's already bigger this year than it was last year. This is really easy to grow, too. You just take a piece and stick it in the ground and it grows.

Lastly, the first buds on my poppies!!

This afternoon, my husband and I planted 8 more jugs of seeds. This time, I planted:

a Butterfly/Hummingbird mix
Sunset Coneflowers
Purple Coneflowers
Butterfly Weed (orange)
Drummond Phlox (old seed, so I doubt any will germinate)
White Rock Rose
and something else that I can't remember

I'm hoping that this planting is as successful as the first one!! Next year, I'm going to buy seeds in the fall and plant early January.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Evening Stoll through My Garden

The past week, we've had awesome temps, so things are really starting to green up (including the weeds) and I've been itching to get outside and get some dirt on my hands. I'm also gearing up for the spring plant swap. Hope to be able to get some great things as well as give several things away.

The Texas Gold Columbines are really taking off. Starting in February, they start putting out lots of new, green growth in preparation for their annual profusion of blooms. Found my first buds almost ready to pop today! Sorry for the blurry pic, but I was so excited to find the buds!

Among the leaves of covering among the columbines, Pigeonberry is starting to show its leaves.

As always, the Four Nerve Daisies are strutting their stuff.

The daylilies have really leafed out! They look so mature this year, like real clumps! LOL

The poppies are growing. Can't wait for these to set buds and bloom. I threw these out late fall last year. Not even sure how big they get or when they bloom, so it'll be interesting with them. Sometimes the best gardening is trial & error.

This Hummingbird Sage (aka Texas Sage, aka Salvia coccinea) survived the winter and has buds on it. They're about to pop!

This is a very prolific bloomer and seeder, so I got TONS of seeds leftover from last year's harvest. If you're interested, I'm happy to share.

Lastly, my winter sowing project has been a hit! At the beginning of February, I started about 13 milk jugs of seeds outside. I wrote about it on my gardening blog if you want the blow-by-blow description. Out of the 13, only about 4 or 5 don't have anything peeking out yet. I'm most excited about the one pink skullcap seedling I saw today. Here's a peek into a few of the jugs today.

I think these are one of the salvias I planted. These will definitely need to be thinned!

This is a low growing mix from Wildseed Farm. I have no idea what's sprouted in there! LOL

Here's the container of Gaillardia, better known as Blanket Flower.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Winter Sowing Project

Starting seeds for your gardens is a lot cheaper than buying seedlings or more mature plants. However, starting seeds indoors is a pain in the patootie. You have to provide consistent water, light, heat, and hope that the gnats and spider mites don't take up residence in your soil and on your seedlings. Mold starts growing on the soil, which kills the seeds. Last fall, at the plant swap I attended, a couple of the ladies were talking about winter sowing. It sounded simple enough, so I decided to give it a go.

In winter sowing, you start your seeds after the winter solstice in the dead of winter. You leave your seeds in milk jugs (or whatever type of container you choose) outside, so that the natural life cycle of sowing seeds in your climate is mimicked. You can fill your entire landscape with plants you've winter sown. Winter sowing allows your seeds to start growing earlier, thus producing flowers earlier. For some perennials that normally don't bloom until their second growing season, you'll often get them the first season if you winter sow.

I chose to use milk jugs, rinsed of course. I asked my husband to drill some drain holes in the bottom and some air holes in the top of the jugs. Then we cut the jug on three of the four sides so that I could fill with dirt and seeds. I used old metal blinds, cut, to label the plants. If you use a plain #2 pencil to write on the blinds, it won't fade and you'll know what seeds you have in the spring.

Here's how I did it.

Step One: Drill drain holes in the bottom of your milk jug.

Mark used his drill and drilled 7 or 8 small holes in the bottoms.

Step Two: Drill vent holes in the top of the jug to allow in air and water. Discard the lids.

Steps Three & Four: Draw a cutting line about 1/4" below the bottom of the jug's handle. Cut it three-fourths of the way around the jug. Fill with about 3" of potting soil.

Step Five: Water the soil and sow your seeds. Cover with about 1/4" of soil and tamp down. Insert label on the INSIDE of the jug. If you label on the outside, use a paint pen as everything else will fade and you'll be stuck with a bunch of unknown seedlings.

Step Six: Tape the sides closed. I used duct tape and cut it into small strips. I placed one strip on each corner and one or two pieces on each side.

Step Seven: Water and place on the east side of your home or yard. This allows the jugs to get morning sun and afternoon shade. When things start heating up, you don't want the seeds to fry. Make sure you place them in the open so they can get any rain that falls. If you put them under the eaves of your house, they'll not get any rain. If you're in a drought like we are, you'll have to water them about once a week.

Step Eight: Wait and watch!!

I started these a week ago, and I noticed some seeds sprouting when I checked on them today!! Oh joy!