Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How is built my raised bed greenhouse

I want to to explain how I built my simple miniature greenhouse in case anyone is curious. If I recall correctly, the total cost of material was under $100.

1.  I built my raised bed frame out of two 2x8s @ 12 feet long and two 2x8s @ 4 feet long. I simply screwed them together with 3-1/2" long exterior grade screws.  I use 3 screws per corner and make sure they are centered in the board you are going into the long way.  I drew red lines on the photo (below) to show where the screws are.

*As for the type of wood, I used cheap natural spruce boards but you could also used cedar or something.  Spruce is known to rotationally fairly quickly so I will have to replace boards as needed, but I would NEVER use pressure treated wood in the vegetable garden because of the chemicals they treat the wood with.

2.  Backfill with good soil.

3.  For the hoops, I used 3/4" galvanized conduit and bent it 180 degrees at approximately a 4 foot diameter. I placed them every 4 feet along the raised bed and used conduit mounts to fasten them in place with 1-1/4" screws as seen below:

4.  I covered it with 6mil clear plastic.  A 12'x25' piece was more than enough, but not enough to make two.  The corners can be a little tricky, so I took the slack at the corners I rolled it up tightly and clamped it in place. I used 2" spring clamps.

This is how I built mine and I would love to hear how you built yours.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I have already begun!

Yesterday, was the official kickoff to my gardening season!  I mixed up some seed starting soil mix tried out my new soil block maker to start some seeds indoors.  I did kale, broccoli, arugula and Swiss Chard. I also direct sowed some mesculin mix in my new mini greenhouse that I built last month.

It has been so unseasonably warm this week, that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to attempt an early spring garden. If it doesn't work, who cares.  It was probably less than a dollar worth of seed and a dollar worth of soil.

The mini greenhouse is being put to the test.  I felt the air inside it yesterday and it was probably 15 degrees warmer than the air outside.  I built it on top of my new 12"x4' wood framed raised bed.  The greenhouse itself is made out of bent 3/4" conduit and 6mil clear plastic.
The soil block maker was my other investment for this year.  I'm not going to do a full product review, but so far it seems to be working.  If you want to see how they work, check out: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/tools-supplies/seed-starting-supplies/soil-block-makers/hand-held-20-soil-blocker-9528.html#q=Soil%2Bblock%2Bmaker%2B&lang=en_US&start=1

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas wishes


I'm dreaming
Of a warm
So I can grow my food while it snows.

See the carrots glisten
And kale and spinach missin'
The sun
be-cause it is the sol-ol-stice.

I'm dreaming
Of a warm
While snow gets deeper every week.

May your carrots
May your carrots
May your carrots
Grow sweet, straight and lo-o-o-ong
And may all your greenhouses stay warm!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Dream Garden - Part 2

I've been dreaming of my ideal garden a lot lately.  A few Christmases ago, I was given a book called Mini-Farming- Self sufficiency on 1/4 acre by Brett Markham.


By simply judging by its cover, I figured that all I needed was 1/4 acre and I would be all set; I could quit my job and just live off the land.  Haha.  Of course, it is not so simple.  What he meant was that if you use the square foot gardening method using intensive planting techniques, you could potentially become self sufficient with over 10,000 square feet of raised beds gardens.

I did the math and it works out to about 227 of my 4'x4' beds.  When you figure in the space between the beds and also adding in some space for pollinator attractions and some decorative features, you're talking about close to or even more than an acre of land.  Not that that's a bad thing.  I would do it in a heartbeat if I didn't have to work.

Then comes the idea that maybe I could plant enough to sell some vegetables and plants to make a little money to keep afloat.  Then the daydreams just keep rolling through my head and the only thing holding me back is that first step.  I do need more land, but I can probably work that out with some neighbors to get started.

When I did my first part of my dream garden post, I neglected to mention the importance of sorghum.  As Eugene on The Walking Dead says, "Now that is a criminally underrated crop that could change the game of our food situation from scary to honky-donky."  Haha.  My kind of dry humor.  If I had chickens and rabbits, I would grow some sorghum for them.  Apparently it's a very sustainable, drought tolerant crop that is very high in micro nutrients.

Speaking of micro nutrients, I recently was inspired to start cultivating mushrooms from listening to a podcast series on Permaculture Voices.  It is a subject that is very intriguing to me since mushrooms are not even in the plant classification of organisms.  Another thing was now fungial mycelium can be used to remediate contaminated soils to nearly 100% restoration.

Anyway, 227 raised beds!  That's a lot of space, but I can envision it though.  I would probably have to have a well drilled solely for the garden if I went that large.  Back a few weeks ago, when I had my great gardening day, getting ready for fall, I was beat by the end of the day, but I loved every minute of it.  I need to draw up some conceptual plans of this, and see what kind of property I can find to contain all of this.  Who knows?  Maybe I can even make it work with my neighbors, if I share the bounty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Backyard Composting

Composting is probably my favorite chores in the garden after harvesting  (of course).  My only problem is that I don't get enough natural compostable material from my property because I don't have any large trees.

A lot people I speak with complain about how they have to rake leaves and put them in bags and all that nonsense.  I would gladly take these people's leaves and compost them.  My goal is to get on a larger piece of land and own a truck so that I can make this happen, but for the time being in have to make other arrangements.

In the past, when I owned a minivan I would sneak around on the nights before trash pickup and fill the back of the van (and sometimes the front as well) with paper bags full of leaves.  I always felt like a criminal or something while I was sneaking around like that, but then after listening to one of Mike Podlesney's podcast interviews with Nikki Jabbour, they both confessed to doing the same thing, so now I don't feel so weird about it.

Another means I started this year was offering to clean up the neighbors leaves.  That worked out even better because nobody had to buy any bags.  I bagged them with the lawn mower and made a bunch of runs back and forth across the street to my compost area.  The leaf pile got pretty tall, I covered it will some finished compost and I winter touch it until spring.  Actually, I will need to  add some more leaves next weekend, because it looks like a big pile right now, but it is very fluffy still and it will shrink down a lot.

When I mention compost to non-gardeners, I get some strange looks because people don't know the benefits.  My wife is always worried that it is going to stink or attract bugs, but I have not had any problems with a compost pile except for a sore back after turning it.  It's so worth it though, when I get to smell that fresh dark earthy scent of fertility and I love to stick my hands in it when it's nice and soft and wet.  The plants love it almost as much as I do.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


I did nothing but watering today, but that simple act was nothing less than a great experience in gardening awe and appreciation for all that the garden was, is and will be.

In the office today, I watered the 5 plants that envelop the corner of my L-shaped cubicle workstation.  They were quite dry.  The science of how plants produce oxygen is not totally clear to me, but as soon as I sit back down after putting away the watering can, I could immediately smell a freshness in the air.  It may have simply been the smell of the soil, but like to think that it was the plants thanking me and releasing a burst of freshly produced oxygen.  If there are any biologists in my audience, please let me know in the comment section if I'm getting a little crazy.  Ha!

I got home as the sun was setting and realized that I hadn't watered my fall vegetables in a while.  It rained over the weekend, so it wasn't too bad.  As I watered, I washed off a leaf of spinach, mesculin and romaine.  It was like a spiritual experience as the sky was darkening and I was casting water upon the earth and tasting the produce of my love and care.  The smell of the wet, healthy soil on top of the crisp fall air in the moonlight was on the verge of overwhelming to me.   Those few leaves of green vitamin-rich vegetable landed heavily in my empty stomach and I could feel them in there like the lambas loaves in The Lord of the Rings.

 "One small bite can fill the stomach of a grown man."  - Legolas

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Slowing Down for Fall

It was an outstanding summer, but the low light seasonal blues are coming early this year.  As they say, "The higher the high, the lower the low".  Everything is slowing down in the garden, gar chard are just kind of sitting there. They're not really growing very much.  I should have planted them earlier.

I should look at the bright side though.  I was given a whole bunch of houseplants that a friend of the family was getting rid of.  Some of them will stay home and some will go to the office. They will keep me somewhat occupied for the winter.

Also, some big news on the home front: I got preliminary approval from my local department of Parks and Recreation to start a community garden!  Woot Woot!  I very excited about this opportunity, and I want to do it right, so it's a little intimidating, but I just need to keep pushing forward on it.

Instead of blogging here, I should be getting my materials priced out and listed.  So, I'm going to cut this short and get going on that.  Maybe my next post I can upload some pictures of my designs for the raised beds.  I guess I'm not really slowing down for fall after all.

Happy Fall y'all, and compost your own leaves don't put them on the curb!