Winter into Spring!

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I took a break, a long winter break from the garden. I worked in the garden every chance that I had from April until November and harvested the last of the herbs for Thanksgiving dinner. I was so happy to share fresh herbs in late November with my friends and family...  and then I was finished for the winter. The cold and snow arrived and for a few short months I watched the garden from inside of the house. Some of my gardener friends mourn the winter loss of their garden but I enjoy the reprieve and feel that this break strengthens my passion for gardening.  When the end of winter comes, I am renewed.

It is now March and I am back to gardening.  In my daughter’s classroom there are large south facing windows that provide a perfect growing space for both young minds and seeds. This winter I planted salad greens and bush green beans for the classroom, thoroughly enjoying the gardening spirit in her teacher. They were all fabulous, the different shades of green and the long green beans waiting to be eaten right there in the classroom! Late in February I ordered Parthenocarpic cucumber seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds www.highmowingseeds.com.  These are a variety of cucumbers that are seedless and do not require pollination by bees. They have at least four varieties; Picolino F1, Socrates F1, Saber F1and H-19 Little Leaf.  I planted one container for the classroom and one for myself. I agree with Charles Dickens, summer is in the March sun and in my growing cucumbers.

Unexpected Beauty

I took a short break from gardening as we put in a new patio...(that required way too much time!!!).  With that finished, I have returned to what I love most!  I was working in the garden this morning and have been taken aback by how beautiful the flowers produced by fruit and vegetables are.  I have never really payed close attention before.  Here are my favorites today; arugula, radish, potatoes and onion.

DIY Trellis

Now that spring is here and plants are growing upward, it’s a great time to think about putting in a trellis to support your plants.  My garden staff, otherwise known as my husband, has installed multiple trellis supports made of metal tubing that have lasted for years without any breakdown.

To make the trellis support frame you need:

 ¾” or 1” steel tube electrical conduit (cut to height and width you require for your specific box size)

2 pcs – 90 degree corner fittings (per trellis support)

2 pcs -4 ft long rebar (to hold the trellis frame in place).

Netting or string:  (Example  http://www.amazon.com/Luster-Leaf-869-Trellis-30-Feet/dp/B008JBV4CA/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1434466960&sr=8-7&keywords=garden+netting  ).

Assemble the Tubes and corner fittings to make a “U” shaped frame.  Then pound the rebar into the ground at the two points where you want the trellis support to stand.  Be sure to leave 12-18” of the rebar sticking up to support the trellis.  Slide the legs of the trellis frame over the rebar and VOILÀ!  You have a trellis support frame.

Netting can be easily attached to the support frame with twist ties, zip ties or string if you prefer.

If you prefer to avoid store-bought netting, you can also use twine or string instead. First, we mount screws on the top of the perimeter of the garden boxes placed approx.  4 inches apart, leaving about ½” of the screw head sticking up.

For your base supports, secure a piece of string across the width of the box, securing it into the screws on each side along each row of plants.  This is the bottom support (base) for your string in that row.

For the support of each plant, attach one end of the string to the top bar of the trellis support frame and the other end to the base string.  You can see my example here:

This process can be a bit more time consuming than installing a garden net, however, it is less expensive and you can customize the configuration depending on what you’re growing and the spacing required.

Spring peas and pole beans climb nicely up the string with minimal guidance.  Tomatoes work fantastically as long as the string is tied securely.  As the main stem of the tomato grows, gently wrap it around the string.  This eliminates the need for cages and assists the tomatoes that can grow 8-10 feet tall!

There are indeterminate and determinate tomatoes; here is a good explanation of the difference http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16937 .  Happy growing!

BEANS!

Throughout my gardening career I have always grown bush beans. I plant them close together in a raised bed, 9 per square foot.  I haven’t mentioned it before in this blog but I have been following Square Foot Gardening principals for a long time.  (see link) I will talk about that later in an additional blog post.  I enjoy bush beans and have been very successful growing them.  They grow to about 2 feet tall and usually provide a lot of beans.  They do have a shorter season and need to be picked quick or they become spongy.  Succession planting works well with bush beans.  Every 10-14 days I plant a few rows of beans ensuring beans throughout the season.  For more information on succession planting you can read here: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/eb370/entry_9894/  .

Last year I purchased two old metal arbors off of craigslist and my husband placed them in the garden.  One of them was put in the back of the garden where there is afternoon shade.  What to do about that?  I had been reading about three sisters gardening. This is a way of growing vegetables that was practiced by the Iroquois for centuries.  First corn is grown to 5 inches in a mound, pole beans are then planted around the corn and finally squash is planted.  The corn provides support for the other plants.   I’m going to try it this year!

Anyways, I googled three sisters and found this website http://appalachianheirloomplantfarm.weebly.com/ which showed pole beans and cornfield beans from many, many years ago.  This is my kind of heaven.  I quickly ordered two sets of heirloom beans and by the end of the summer I had so many beans I did not know what to do with all of them!

Pole beans come in many types and seeds can be purchased out of any seed catalog or here on my website!   They do require a trellis, fence or arbor to run up.  Half pole type grows to around 6 feet and full pole beans can grow to be 12 feet tall. 

National Hardware Show 2015

My husband and I headed out to the Las Vegas for the National Hardware Show to see what products are available for the gardenRN store and to see the new trends in gardening.  It was my first show as gardenRN and I did not know what to expect.  We arrived at the vast convention center which was overwhelming until we hit the Lawn and Garden Section.

Now, if you know me, you know I love to talk about gardening.  Here was my chance to talk to gardeners and sellers of garden supplies about gardening!  Rows and rows of people to talk gardening with!  I loved it and six hours flew by.  I cannot wait to get started on this adventure of ours!

While in Las Vegas we also went to one of my favorite places, the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.  Flowers upon flowers in the most beautiful setting. The following photos were taken at The Wynn, The Bellagio and The Aria Hotel.