Garden Trellis Evolution

Here at the Light Homestead, we have always monkeyed around with the concept of vertical gardening, but to be perfectly honest – we haven’t done a great job of it.

There was our first attempt at holding back peas with small bamboo stakes (4 foot) driven into the ground vertically, and horizontal bamboo poles woven through the vertical poles like a basket. The peas brought those down by season end, and we had a mess on our hands where the peas outgrew the 4 foot poles.

We bought bigger bamboo poles, ran a top pole across the span, lashed it all together with twine, then ran our twine grids, and the peas and beans managed to wreck that too before the season was out, and once again, we had a mess on our hands.

We used the tripod style trellis, but didn’t really like how it worked.

We’ve used the one you can see in the header photo that the pole beans grew up on – we liked it, it worked really well, but it took up a lot of space, and was really difficult to set up initially.

So as we started laying down the plans for this year’s garden, we started seriously thinking – how can we do this differently? What can we do that will provide us with a strong enough trellis that won’t get battered in the wind, that is tall enough and strong enough to allow the peas to grow up it. Not to mention, something versatile enough design-wise to grow peas, beans, our vining heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, etc.. The answer came to us in Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening book.

Metal frames – he advocates steel pipe, but I decided ultimately on galvanized electrical conduit.

Thing 2 and I made a trip to the neighborhood Home Depot, and picked up the supplies we needed. Typically we like to scrounge up our parts and try to do it on the cheap, but unfortunately, the peas we’re supporting needed the support now. No time to scrounge.

Perusing the electrical conduit aisle, we found the lengths of 1/2 inch conduit that we needed (10 feet) for $1.95 each – not terrible. The connectors to give us our 90 degree connection though, those were outrageous. $4.45 a piece and we needed 6. BLECH! They were the only 90 degree connectors they had… we picked up the ones we needed to take care of the length for now until we come up with a better system (already got it figured out – and will detail later)

We picked up lengths of 1/2 x 3 foot rebar, and we were off.

We came home and made the cuts to the conduit that we needed to – the top bar to make it equal to 4 feet with the connectors needed to be 45″, so we cut three of those.

Then we trimmed down the pieces we already cut to 6 feet high, leaving us with about 3 inches of waste. Not too shabby.

We continued this process so that we had enough to do a 12 foot run (3 trellises)
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Began to connect the 90 degree connectors to the top bar (notice the two additional garbage cans for potatoes!)

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Once the top bars were all together, all that was left to do was connect the vertical posts on both sides of the top bar, drive the rebar into the ground on 4 foot intervals, sliding the vertical posts over the rebar anchors, and then lash the whole thing together with twine.

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Here the poles are up and sitting on the rebar over the center of the peas, really sturdy – I was pretty impressed by that.

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Once the twine was on them, they were very sturdy, and it should work great for the peas this year.

Here’s the problem.

At $2.78 cents each for the rebar pieces, $1.95 each for the lengths of conduit (took 2), and a whopping $4.45 a pop for the elbows (2 per trellis)… the grand total for a 4 foot length of this frame was $18.36. Even if you had access to lengths of 1/2 inch rebar, you’re still talking $15.00 a pop, which is pretty pricey for a trellis.

So, while these are nice – and I really like how they came out. I’ve already decided based entirely on cost, what I’m going to do for the rest of them in the garden is take 2 10 foot pieces of conduit, bend the last two feet into a 90 and pick up a butt connector for $1.78, that will connect the two together. (Total expense for the remainder of our trellises with that design is $11.78 -$5.56 if I can get 2-3 foot chunks 1/2 inch rebar free – and we get the added bonus of a near 8 foot trellis.) Quite a bit better price overall too – for an exceptionally sturdy trellis which can be removed each season and stored. Might look into putting some sort of nylon grid system on it that will last better season after season than the twine, but we’ll see.

What about you – what kinds of trellises have you used in the past? What has worked well for you?

Happy Sabbath!

What a week! I am so happy that it is almost over! The house is clean, big pot of Chili on the stove, but Shannon got called back into work tonight until right at Sundown, so dinner is on hold for a bit. I put the finishing touches on dinner with a batch of buttermilk biscuits, which are really a delivery vehicle for some of our Jalapeno Jelly we canned last summer. For dessert I dug into the frozen blueberries and canned peaches to make a blueberry/peach crisp! (one of my favorites). Additionally – my brother-in-law, and Shannon’s sister are coming by to share dinner with us – so we’ll get a chance to have some good fellowship tonight too! Break out a few of the Chocolate Stouts, have some chili, biscuits, and crisp – good conversation. Sounds like a great end to a long and stressful week!

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing – have a wonderful evening!! 

Is it seriously 10:42?

I’ll make this the quickest update I’ve ever put on this blog.

1) Today was a long day. Kept going and going and going. What’s up with that?

2) Shannon got one barrel of potatoes planted! W00t! Potatoes.

3) I fixed the arbor in the front yard. Is there anything nails and zipties won’t do? (other than my grading? Seriously nails and zipties – get on that!)

4) Updated several sections on the blog – the “About Us” is up and running, as well as the “Our Faith” section of the blog is complete.

5) Taught the boys the fun of zipties by zip tying their hands behind their backs. Wait, what? No. That didn’t happen. (Yes it did…) Thing 1 is an escape artist… Houdini would be proud.

6) I have to work tomorrow – which means it’s time to sleep.

Out.
-Ben

 

You Say Potato…

Potato

I say KARTOFFEL!?! HUH?! Come on Germany – get with the program…

Realistically – whatever language you speak, and whatever country you’re from – the potato been there through thick and thin.

From its origins high in the Andes, to its subsequent travels throughout Europe, it has been a staple in numerous civilizations and cultures, and vilified in others. Due to its being part of the Solanaceae family, (to which Nightshade also belongs) it was blamed for many of societies ills, including famously by the French… leprosy. It has been so relied upon as a food source that in 1845, when the infamous Irish Potato Famine took 50% of the potato crop of Ireland, 2 million Irish people just disappeared – 25% of the population. 1 million died from the issues which came from the famine and another million emigrated to wherever they might start over… Dan Quayle couldn’t spell them… McDonald’s wouldn’t be what it is without them — the undeniable fact is –the history of mankind has been shaped by this humble little spud.

Here at the Light house – we like potatoes. We enjoy many different varieties, particularly the slightly more waxy and flavorful Yukon varieties – so when we saw that the local farmstand had Yukon seed potatoes in stock, (and we realized that we had a coupon for that particular farmstand – what can I say, we’re cheap!), we loaded up Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3 and made a trip over to pick up somewhere in the vicinity of 20 pounds of seed potatoes.

Did I mention that we like potatoes?

We’ve grown potatoes in the past on our property, and they did ok – the size was somewhat hampered, but we were able to get some very delicious, extremely flavorful Yukon’s two years ago from the plot out back, and being that Spring has now officially gotten started here in Salem – the process began to prepare for our potato crop this year.

Shannon started by cutting the seed potatoes into manageable chunks with a couple of eyes a piece, and let them sit a couple of days to “cure”. Essentially to dry out, and firm up a bit and let the eyes get somewhat set in their growth now that the potato itself was damaged. This basically consisted of leaving them out on the counter to air dry and firm up. You technically don’t even need seed potatoes… Now, store bought potatoes are sprayed with a retardant to prevent eye growth, but they will grow over time and can grow well given the right conditions (TRY IT!) – but if you want to guarantee growth – get yourself some seed potatoes.

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This Just In Shannon informed me it is very important to get ‘certified disease free’ potatoes – otherwise you can introduce stuff to your soil that is no bueno. Store bought potatoes… Not certified disease free. Grow at your own risk

Now we’ve got 20 pounds of cut up seed potatoes (this picture isn’t all of them) ready to go into the ground — BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

We are going to experiment a bit this year, because it turns out, growing potatoes is easier than you might think – those of you that live in apartments and condos, you can do this too – Shannon came across two articles in our back issues of Mother Earth News on growing potatoes in a barrel rather than in the ground, so we’re going to give it a shot.

The benefits of this method are several fold:

1) Space Saving. Takes up so much less space than the traditional method. Could be grown on a balcony very easily…
2) Allegedly the yield is greater, because as the potatoes grow up, you cover them again with compost/mulch/sawdust and they will put out a new potato cluster under that layer, keep layering, keep growing!
3) No digging? Say what?! Just tip and sift!

Tonight we prepped the two 32 gallon garbage cans we’re going to use for this purpose by drilling drain holes in the bottom of the garbage can.

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All that is left to do now is get the garbage cans to a nice sunny place, put them up on bricks – lay down a layer of compost/mulch, plant the potatoes, lightly cover them and wait. By the end of the season we should be up to our elbows in delicious potatoes!!

As I look more and more at the craziness of the world around me, North Korea’s saber rattling, the economic slide of this once great nation, it’s easy to watch the news and get a little anxious about the future, but actor James Earl Jones, reflecting back on his early life – I believe said it best, “Even during the rationing period, during WWII… We didn’t have the anxiety that we would starve, because we grew our own potatoes, you know?”

If it’s good enough for Vice Admiral James Greer, Mufasa, AND Darth Vader… It’s good enough for me… 🙂

By the littles…

<rant> There are times that I feel like the ‘Little’ part of “Little House on 17th Street’ is very apropos. 

I want so badly just to sink the money and DO IT. Be done. Just drop the greenbacks and do this place up the way we want to. Add on the master bedroom and bath, redo the yards, just flat go buck wild. Just make it the place we want. RIGHT NOW. 

… but we’ve approached this project by the little’s  A little here, a little there, as money allows, as time allows. It’s maddening at times, but it really is the wisest course of action. Time and money – that’s all it comes down to right? 

So why is there so little of both? 

I think my frustration stems from having what feels like a half a million projects going all at once, and as we get materials, we progress on one. As we get time, we progress on another, when we get money we can pick up the needed items to progress… and it moves the whole process forward a little at a time… but it’s like Home Improvement ADHD.

Everything’s started – but next to nothing is finished.

Currently on my docket…

Front Yard:

  • Replace the drain lines from the house to the street
  • Move the dirt into the beds
  • Gravel the pathways
  • Replace/repair the arbor (which blew over in a windstorm last night)
  • Build the raised beds
  • Plant the part of the fence between the yard and sidewalk
  • Plant the garden beds
  • Much, Much More…

Rear Yard:

  • Replace the pieces of side fence that rotted out and blew over.
  • Put in the Retaining Wall to separate ‘lawn’ from pathways.
  • Burn out the weeds that have encroached on our pathway.
  • Re-gravel the back area.
  • Dig out the side yard to drop the level of dirt to prevent fence from rotting out in the future…
  • Gravel the side yard area.
  • Remove the hazelnuts
  • Pop the stumps
  • Gravel in over the top of where the hazelnuts were
  • Garden. Ack.
  • Trellises for the Peas.
  • Weed and Plant, Weed and Plant, Weed and Plant.
  • Dig out back area.
  • Replace drain field.
  • Put in urbanite for patio.
  • Finish the Chicken House
  • Permit the Chicken House
  • Get the chickens out of Tom and Lindsey’s hair.
  • Mow the Lawn (No seriously.. YIKES)
  • Move all the piles of stuff strewn on the lawn preventing me from getting to the lawn.
  • Burn the whole place to the ground. (Wait what?!)

That doesn’t even include all the stuff we’re trying to do to the house…

The fact is – while doing things ‘by the little’s  is probably the wisest course of action, it can at times be the most stressful and most frustrating option.

</rant>

I suppose you score touchdowns by moving the ball, and as long as the ball is moving – you’re winning. I guess I should just focus on moving the ball. A little here, a little there. 

Eventually – this Little House on 17th Street will become the home we have dreamed of… 

Right now – it’s just a headache.