DIY Compost Bins

Part of our green house project was creating a compost system to supply nutrient rich fertilizer for our crops.  After a bit of Pinterest browsing, I came across an idea that used plastic barrels raised on a stand so they could be filled, rotated and emptied easily.  I showed the picture to the Hubs and he whipped me up these.

I placed them right behind the green house where they get full sun exposure and there’s extra room for the stand supports. Although they currently sit on a slight incline I plan to remedy that when I add gravel around the green house so that they sit level.

The design is fairly simple.  He cut a panel door in the side of the barrels and created holes for the metal rod to go through the center of each barrel.  In a stroke of genius he added a weight to the opposite side of the barrel from the door so that the hardware wouldn’t cause the barrel to always rest with the door upside down.  He also added several large bolts that protrude into the barrel from the outside to help with the mixing process when it’s spun.

I’m still figuring out the right ratios of brown and green material and haven’t been great about keeping it damp to aid in the break down, but it also hasn’t been very warm here this summer so I’m not sure that if I had I would see much difference.  Luckily there’s never a shortage of material to add to the bins so we’ll continue the trial and error method with a bit of research until I get it just right.

If you compost I’d love to hear your tips and tricks both for cultivating the pile and using the resulting material in your garden!  Leave me a comment with what works or what doesn’t for you – it might just be something that helps me decrease this learning curve. 🙂

Growing Strawberries Vertically with Strawberry Straws

Yesterday I shared the progress our crops have made in the green house during it’s debut season.  You may have spotted a unique strawberry planter in the background of several of those shots.  Today, I’m giving you a closer look at how those went together and are performing.

We started with a simple 4″ black pipe that the Hubs added a cap fitting to one end and drilled holes in on one side.  He then fastened them in the two corners of the green house where we don’t have the hydroponic shelves using simple clamp bands.

Here’s how they looked after they were put together and installed in the green house.  He kept the bands loose enough that I could still pull the tube back out to plant it, which sure made planting them much easier!

I love that they don’t take up any floor space in the green house.  Their placement on the wall in the corners make great use of an awkward space that wouldn’t work for other crops.  And it keeps the berries from sitting on soil where they could spoil as they ripen.

Once they were planted I realized I needed a way to water each hole of the planter without washing away the dirt each time.  I’d seen several versions of these planters on Pinterest where they placed a second smaller pipe with drain holes along it’s entire length inside the large tube so water would seep out along the path of gravity.  I’ve tried this system before with other set-ups and not had great luck so I decided not to go that route.  Instead the Hubs helped me create what I dubbed ‘strawberry straws’ – simple PVC pieces tucked into each hole near the roots of the plant.

They were super noticeable at first when the plants were small, but as they’ve grown the white ‘straws’ start to blend in with the flowers on the plants themselves.  And as you can see they are working great!

We’ve now got two of these vertical planters in the corners filled with strawberries and are starting to see blooms which give way to the developing fruit.  Hopefully we’ll have an edible crop to enjoy very soon!

And if they produce a decent harvest this year I may have the Hubs figure out how we can fit two tubes into each corner next season!  I’ll let you know when we get the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of our labor. 🙂

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A Green House Update

I’ll be sharing updates on the projects that have been going on while we were offline for the next several weeks.  So let’s jump right in with an update in the green house!  Temps were staying above freezing by mid-May so I went ahead and planted everything I could but kept it all in the green house as a safeguard against overnight frost.

During that time I tested out a DIY hack for heating the green house I got from a local gardening club – a crock pot of water!  It not only provided a bit of heat inside the structure it helped increase the humidity for the plants once I got things started.  It worked really well so I plan to do the same thing again next year, although we also picked up a small heater for next season at a garage sale recently.  I also ran a humidifier in the green house for several weeks to help the plants get off to a strong start.  That’s another little DIY I plan to do again next season.

Here’s how things looked at the end of May.  My much planned layout was working well – getting the food crops started and providing a bit of room for my flower pots to wait out the slow to arrive summer weather, including hanging baskets I put together myself with geraniums and lobelia.  I snagged the baskets at Lowes for just $5 each and they came with the coconut liner, so even with the cost of the plants and dirt they were a far better deal than the crazy expensive ones the stores and nurseries put together – most of which have color or flower combos I’m not keen on anyway.

The freebie metal bed frames I scored last season fit perfectly behind the tubs to serve as a trellis for the peas and green beans.  Since I could only get a couple of the plants along the back side of the tub I put a couple along the front as well and the Hubs cut me a couple extra pieces of heavy gauge fencing from some scrap we had sitting around to create a mini trellis for the other side.

I didn’t  realize just how much I had packed into this space until I started moving the flowers out to the deck and yard and suddenly had a lot more room – that is until the food crops really got going!  The Hubs installed a water barrel in the corner for easy watering and started putting together a hydroponic system for the tomatoes but got sidelined with our trip, so we’re just now finishing that project up.  I’ll share the details of that set-up soon.

Although not everything made it through the transplant and adjustment period, a good majority did and things are growing well now.  Here’s how things are looking now!

Not bad for our first season with the green house and learning the ropes.  We’ve already enjoyed peas and lettuce from our efforts several times and look forward to plenty more before the summer is over.  Tomorrow I’ll share a closeup look at the vertical space-saving strawberry planters we’re using and the DIY solution we came up with to water them, so be sure to check back.

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A Sweet Harvest

Raspberries2

Although they haven’t been around long, the freebie raspberry plants we added to the yard earlier this summer have been cranking out a pretty bountiful and sweet harvest recently!  We noticed a large batch of berries form on several of the plants about a month ago and patiently waited for them to fully ripen.

Raspberries

The first harvest (seen below) was fairly small, but within a few days another batch was ready (seen above).  While a few were still a little tart, the majority were sweet and juicy – perfect for a yummy, easy to eat breakfast during my morning commute the next day.

Raspberries1During the holiday weekend I picked a third batch that was twice the size of the first two!  Those were also promptly eaten for breakfast on my morning drive to work yesterday.  And there’s still more berries waiting to ripen on the bushes.  Hopefully the cold weather stays away long enough for them all to come in fully so we can enjoy a 4th or maybe even 5th harvest.

What’s even more impressive is that all of these came from just a handful of bushes.  Most of the bushes are still establishing themselves and focusing on lush leaf growth rather than berry production, so next year we should have a plethora of berries when those start adding to the harvest.  Guess I better start saving raspberry everything recipes now!