Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Garden & AeroGarden

So this year I am hoping to do better at keeping the blog up with the gardens!

I don't think I'll rename it, but we currently have 10 cats, if you count the feral kitty we managed to get into the back room as she was having her kittens. She's been hanging out eating our food for months, Cosmos's best friend, but we couldn't catch her in time to spay her. And I spent all that money on a big humane trap but by the time it arrived she was already past heat and pregnant! Here's the kid, now age 13, petting one of the kitties @ 9 days old:

and 12 days old:

I have about 10 seedlings to plant in the standing beds but am mostly matting them this year. I hope to have time and money to do some work on them in the Fall and use more of them next Spring.

Meanwhile I have 5 (!) AeroGardens. 1 of the 7-pod, 4 of the 6-pod. One is still on the way. I have three planted so far. I've given over my long dining table to them, as we have a small round table in the other corner at which we can have meals.

I'm planning to tape together some poster board, then cover it with thin mylar silver reflecting material, to add light for the gardens and increase the whole sci-fi lab effect, haha.

Only the far left has tiny sprouts -- the bigger plants seen are seedlings in a box behind the gardens, that I need to get out and plant sometime today if it doesn't rain yet again!


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Aerogarden Seedlings - Update

It's been three weeks now and I'm really impressed with how well the Aerogarden 'seed starting' thing has worked. I have herbs, flowers, veggies (tomatoes and peppers and and eggplant) and fruits (chiqi huckleberry and sunberry) in there, and several empty spaces.

You are supposed to trim these so there is only one seedling per slot but so far I haven't had the heart. I added extra 'nutrient tablets' to the water yesterday so maybe that could help a little, make up for having too many plants stuffed in each tiny space.

I thought that having the light so far away would never work, and thought they would be spindly and leggy. But they are amazingly robust. And I might add, they are much bigger than they would be at 3 weeks in soil. The literature said it would be that way but I guess it still surprised me!

Here's a current pic as of today:

Aerogarden Seedlings Seed Starting for Gardens

Not bad at all!!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Aergarden Seed Starting

I've never tried this before. Aerogarden came out with a little foam insert, with sterile soilless plugs, for seed starting. The light seems a little far away, but then, their lights are brighter and more full spectrum than shop lights. Here's mine seeded, last night:

Last year, the 14 weeks of rain in spring annihilated my garden, and of course that of everybody around me. What a freakin disaster! I was almost afraid to go back into the garden again this year! But how many times can that happen after all.

This year I'm only doing container garden -- my big garden beds I am going to mat and let the weed seeds (from LAST year) die and then replant next year.


Monday, January 28, 2008


Well I ordered garlic from a woman online about 9 days ago but haven't got it yet. :-(

Despite that you are supposed to plant garlic in fall, I was wondering what would happen if I planted now -- since the ground is warm enough to plant, and yet, we are going to have at least a couple substantial freezes before spring arrives.

They say that garlic is planted and is 'dormant' until it warms up. Well, why can't it do that in my bed, no matter when it gets planted, if it has a good freeze and then warms up naturally with the weather? It sounded like a possibility.

A guy on gardenweb said another fellow did an experiment with this, planted end of December, and they turned out fine. A couple were slightly smaller I think he said. Well I figure even if I have "garlic-green-onions" instead of bulbs it'll still be good! I was bummed I hadn't got any in the ground in Fall.

So I found one little package of "italian garlic" (generic) heads in walmart, about five. Why not?

Last night I planted about 60 cloves in one of the beds, in a space about 1.5'x3.3'. They are about 1" deep and 3" apart. I couldn't remember what direction the pointed ends were supposed to be, doh! I put most of them down but some up and sideways so no matter what, some will work. ;-)

That's my first planting or wintersowing or anything!

I hope to get the first wintersowing batch done this evening when Ry is home and we are done with errands. I have 26 bags ready to go. I haven't gotten all of my seeds yet but I have most of them. I have a chart for what I am sowing in which #'d ziploc bag. I just have to wet it down bigtime, let it drain, which I think I'll do in the bathtub (with the screen on the drain of course), plant the seeds, close the bags, and then take the holding containers outside.

Tomorrow it is much colder, and Thursday it's supposed to snow!


Monday, January 21, 2008

Beds and Fills

I've decided to only worry about the four beds I have and the two beds I need to make for the arbors, for this spring. Blocking and mulching around the existing areas that need it (blackberry canes, grape arbor) I'll work to get done by end of summer. The other things I want to do - a southside blueberry bed, a northside flowerbed, and an herb bed off the front porch, I'll leave for the 2009 season.

I had to figure this in part so I knew how much compost etc. to drag in for the base beds. It's not really enough for an economical landscaper delivery but it's way more than I can do like in a car trunk.

After talking with people who make containers or beds a sort of soil specialty, I think I'm going to get more mushroom compost, along with a few amendments. I'm going to get a Ph tester and things to bring the soil where it should most ideally be.

It turns out that cauli has a pretty high Ph preference, though within the 'range' of most plants' top rating; daikon radish actually want a really high Ph, like 6.8-7! Wow, that's really high, since most veggies want 5.8-6.5 and I'm hoping to get it around 6.1 after some reading. (Humor: nearly every source differed on exactly what was best for any one veggie. And they were mostly all universities. So apparently there is no one answer, though most are similar.) Blueberries meanwhile want 4.0-5.5 in a Ph--really acid!

I think my daikon are just going to have to live in the veggie bed. I considered making one of the small beds just for stuff with a diff Ph but that isn't really enough to merit a whole bed. I'll do the blueberries next year with their own bed. There's probably a couple flowers that can grow in acidic soil, I'll find those to spice up the blueberry bed.

Seems like the garden proper is more than enough work for now.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Rykah's father moved in with us (as a roommate) in mid-2005 for just over a year, and took over my garden during that time and so it was he, not me, who was often outside and in the garage.

A small orange tabby turned up in the garage, about six weeks old, slightly too young to be away from its mother. It was definitely wild, and seemed to have been traumatized by something--it refused to leave the safety of our garage. Rykah and I had never even been able to see it, as it hid whenever we came near! But Lu put out food for it, and gradually drew it to him, and it gradually let him pet it, and it gradually let him pick it up and pet it.

After awhile we opened the house door so it could come in, and then I had Lu take it back to his room with a litterbox for a few weeks so it would have its own territory, not have to battle the other cats for box time or food, and it lived in his room for quite awhile, becoming a fully indoor cat. He named it Aaron, I can't remember why.

One day when I estimated the cat was about six months old, Lu finally was able to bring me the cat and really SHOW me more than just a head poking out over his arms. "That cat is female!" I exclaimed, astonished. I have never known of any orange tabby to be anything but male. I'm sure a female orange tabby is not as rare as a male patch calico for example (my cousin had one of those), but it was very unexpected. So we changed the name from Aaron to Erin, as that was feminine.

When I took her to the vet to get her shots and spayed (not that she would let me touch her, Lu had to put her in the carrier), the vet's assistant (who is his wife) mentioned that she had never seen an orange tabby female either. I hoped that spaying her would "mellow her out," but it's been months and I have seen no sign of it!

At times, if I am kind to her constantly, she will let me pet her, usually just once, sometimes a few strokes... I don't dare more or she freaks out and attacks. Sometimes she is very weird, and I can pet her a few strokes, back off and not be touching her or even looking at her, and she will literally jump out and attack me. Like Boo, our other orange tabby, she seems to have claws longer/sharper than all the other cats.

She is still half-wild. The current status (Dec 06) is that she had better get used to us or she will become a fully outdoor cat -- since a wild cat that draws blood has the petting quotient of a goldfish in my view--but even worse. :-)

Her saving grace, of course, is that she is one of the cutest things alive. I mean she is utterly adorable, loves to play, and looks (deceptively) sweet and innocent!


It was a cold Autumn morning in 2005 and I had gone to visit my grandmother. My aunt was there, and happened to mention that there were some wild cats living under my grandma's house. She said they had tamed the kittens by feeding them at least once in awhile, and they would let you pet them.

We went out to the backyard. It was bone-chillingly windy and drizzly outside, and my aunt clapped her hands and three little kittens, probably 8-10 weeks old, ran out from under the base of the house, skidding their little butts sideways in their rush toward excited thoughts of food. They sat in a perfect row and looked up at us. There was an all-white one, an all-black one, and in the middle, an orange tabby.

I had a black cat, and a white cat. I had never owned an orange tabby. The idea of the poor kitties shivering in the cold wet was hard. He looked up at me and meowed, and I was so taken with him that I just picked him up on the spot and carried him through the house. My grandmother and aunt followed me saying, "Hey -- what? Are you going to take him home?!" and I said over my shoulder as I went right out to my car with him, "Yep! I'm taking him!"

We debated names for him and finally Rykah decided on "Boo," because first of all it was nearly Halloween and he was orange, and also because we had already come up with many "extensions" of Boo. We call him Booster (like a rocket booster), Boo-man, Boo-jangles, and we tease in that Yogi-Bear voice like, "Ehhh boo-boo?" and things like that.

He has always had a problem with his claws being longer and sharper than the others cats' for some reason, and poor Boo spent much of his young life with us, seriously hurting us, and then we would bleed and cry and get mad at him and he would be in disgrace. I don't know if maybe orange tabbies simply have longer nails than other cats. Anyway, he eventually grew into a teen and got neutered.

We have a love-stress relationship with Boo at the moment (Dec 2006). There are two other male cats and he is the youngest and least dominant. There are also five females, of which two are far more dominant than he and one maybe. He seems to really want "a place of his own" so to speak, his own territory. He loves Rykah fiercely, but he keeps going into her room and peeing on her bed and often all her clothes if they are anywhere available. Then he is in disgrace again!

I think he just wants her to be "his" and wants her room to be his territory. But now we have to lock him out of it unfortunately.

He is a very loving, sweet, sensuous kitty who would really like nothing more than to curl up with you in the sun and take a nap.


My friend Cindy is a psychic beacon for lost and wounded animals. You name it: birds, dogs, cats, and other critters simply show up at her house in a rural neighborhood, as if some light goes into the sky from wherever she is and they see it. As a result she has always had far too many cats and dogs etc. than anyone should have in her tiny house for sanity reasons. One cat who showed up was hungry and pregnant, and when it had kittens, she had three left and had to find a home for one.

She brought them over to us. One had a manx bobtail, the other had a regular tail, and one had a half-tail, with a crook at the end. Rykah got to choose, and she chose the latter kitten. We were going to name her Tiger, as she is tiger striped, but I decided on Tigris, like the Tigris river, as I thought that was a neat variation.

Tigris has a big butt and hind legs, apparently from her partly-manx heritage. She was not happy about losing her family, but I think the fact that my friend saw her weekly helped her adjust.

She is very loving and very possessive, but easy to offend, as if she feels innately "the outsider" and it doesn't take much to make her avoid us, as if she's had her feelings hurt. But once you make it clear to her that you are paying attention to her and you really do love her, she relaxes and then wants to sleep with you all the time.

She has a lot of "sheer personality", like some kind of "cat-charisma", and next to Georgia she is the most outdoorsy, hunting sort.


Silent Cosmos and the Ways of the World
Cosmos is the only cat I ever was so inspired by that I wrote a poem for him.
He came to me in a rather unusual way. It was 2001 I think, and I was working 100+ hours a week, very stressed out and exhausted. One day, completely out of the blue, I was overwhelmed with a feeling I blurted out to my assistant: "I really want to go to the local animal storage place and see if they have an adult male cat!"
I couldn't believe I heard myself say that. First off, although I do believe in being open to adopting adults, I would usually choose a kitten. Secondly, I would always choose a female cat, I am biased that way. Thirdly, I had a house of cats already -- the LAST kind of cat I would voluntarily choose to add to an existing house full of cats would be an adult male, as they are the most likely to have (or cause) problems with the others!
It seemed very weird to me and I said so. But, the feeling wouldn't go away. It bothered me a great deal all day. The next day, I decided it was the time to go see if maybe such an animal were available, but circumstance prevented it until the end of the day, and then the animal control fellow wasn't around.
I need to explain that our city does not have a 'humane society'. Or if it does, it did not then. Animals here have about 3 days to be 'found' by owners before they are either put to sleep or sent out to one of the outlying rural farms that usually tend to starve animals in the hopes that they will eat the local rats, mice and snakes. It also doesn't have any real facility for it. There is one long room, which is filled with cages floor to ceiling and a walkway down the side. Usually, at least half are filled, and most with dogs. If there are any cats -- which is rare, actually, except for an occasional wild bunch of kittens -- they are in a cage in the same room, the upper level in front. That noise of the dogs barking in this room that echoes like a bathroom is DEAFENING. It's a total nightmare for any cat. The police officer that runs that told me he usually tries to get any cats that happen to come in, out within a couple days for the sake of their sanity. But, there are seldom cats there.
So, that was a Friday. I had to wait until Monday.
I called Monday and left a message (I knew enough to yell into the answering machine, as he has to hear it over the dogs!) and then went that afternoon to see if he had any cats at all, let alone an adult male.
When I got there he said, "Amazingly, I actually DO have an adult male in right now, and I am SO GLAD that you want this cat because he is SUCH a GREAT cat!" He told me the story of the cat.
The cat had belonged to a family for probably 5-6 years or so, since kittenhood. And then one day the family packed up and left -- abandoning the cat behind. (People like that just make me want to..... grrrr!) So he was lonely and not used to being on his own, trying to forage food, getting in lots of fights for territory in trying to find food, and getting skinnier fast.
A man who had lived in an apartment across the street for years, knew the cat. He had often petted it over the years, and had talked to the family about it several times. He felt so sorry for it that he finally began putting some food out for it. He wasn't allowed to have animals, so he tried to keep it under wraps so his manager wouldn't notice, and he couldn't let it in even when it was miserably hot or freezing outside. But finally his manager DID notice, and told him if he saw the cat hanging around a week from then, he would evict the man for having a pet.
So the man called the officer who ran the city function that picked up stray animals. He did that Thursday -- the day I'd had that overwhelming urge. The officer was supposed to pick him up Friday, and when I went to get him, he was out to do the pickup, but the cat hadn't showed up so it didn't happen. When the officer came to get the cat, the man gave him the cat whom he'd tempted inside, and explained his story to him. They both agreed that it was a very mature and affectionate and "cool" cat and it was such a shame that first its family had abandoned him, and then once he finally found another almost-home, now he had to get taken from that too.
The officer told me, "It seemed impossible to hope that anybody would show up within two days and actually WANT to adopt "an adult male cat" -- I was so pleased when I heard your message!"
So funny enough, I had forgotten my checkbook at home, and I didn't have quite enough cash to pay the cat's fee. I was a few dollars short. I was digging through my purse for change when the officer found enough change and a dollar bill of his OWN to add so it could happen!
I took him home and I named him Cosmos, for the Night Sky, because he was pure black with just a little bit of star-white on his chest. I put him in the garage during the night while all the other cats were in the house (we had a couple others then -- and a rabbit!) and during the day I put them all out and brought him into the house, so they could all get used to each others' smell.
When I would open the garage door, he wouldn't come in unless I went out and got him and brought him in to sit by me, in the back room that was my office at the time (I was doing computer programming and project management back then). Once I did, he wouldn't leave me except to the litterbox or food.
When I finally brought all the other cats and he together, I thought that there would be a real problem. But there wasn't. Even though he was a gnarly old tomcat, with scars and fight-notched ears, he was a perfect gentleman to the other cats. And every time we have added another cat to our household, it has been Cos (as we call him) who finally makes friends with it and "shepherds" it and ends up sleeping curled up with it and being nice to it -- even the boy kitty. Even the rabbit! Cosmos sat patiently, if warily, while our rabbit sniffed around him and he didn't move a muscle until the bunny put his nose directly into Cosmos's nose -- at which point he slapped it upside the head, haha! -- but otherwise didn't move, and didn't pursue it.
So about a year later when we got another cat I realized that unusually for me, I had never taken him to the vet to get shots and such. We'd had our "primary" cat (a female) die and when I went to put Cosmos in the cat carrier to take him to the vet, I realized that it was the box I had put Yummy in (the cat who'd died) -- and he could still smell all that!
After having been abandoned horribly once, and then betrayed by the guy he thought was his friend who only brought him in to pet him to give him to some fellow who took him away and stuck him in a cage... now the family he finally thought he might open up his heart to, put him in "the death box" and was taking him somewhere!
The vet I use is outside town and quite a drive. I promised him over and over again, all the way to the vet's, "It is OK. You are coming home! I am bringing you RIGHT HOME after this! Baby nothing will happen to you, I PROMISE! I promise it will be ok! I promise nothing bad is going to happen to you!"
So I get him to the vet who says, "He has a serious case of Feline AIDS. He needs to be put down."
I refused. I said, "My grandmother is diabetic and we don't kill her for it, sheesh! He is not in any pain to my knowledge." The vet said "Well, theoretically he could give it to other cats." I said, "I will immunize them and hope for the best, and if I am wrong, or if someone else doesn't immunize their cats from this incredibly common illness, then that is just the way it is. He is FAMILY." The vet said, "I don't want to see him eventually get sick or be in pain, it is tragic when people don't want to harm their pets and so they suffer instead. I'd say he is old, maybe 7 to 9 years old by those fangs, already."
I said, "He is my friend, and I promised him that no harm would come to him here and I would take him back home. If he gets to seeming very sick or in pain, I will bring him in, but until then, I am taking him home." And so I did.
If ever there were an animal SO SENTIENT that you could almost believe they were "an enchanted prince," it is Cosmos. I love him more than any of our cats, even though I love them all. I don't know how to put it into words, although the poem was an attempt of sorts.
08/28/02 7:07am
Silent Cosmos and the Ways of the World
He was abandoned.
After years, his familyjust moved away without him.His grief was as silent ashis paw-steps, hunting for survival.
A surprisingly heavy bundle
of solid, furry muscled black grace.
His self-restraint over instinct matches
his maturity–; too odd for words.
He watches like a thoughtful human,
his sentience overwhelming form.
He could be one of those enchanted princes
immortal in fur.
The last human he owned
had him taken to the pound, where
he called for me to come get him.
He’d been just another inconvenience.
Did he find me? Or I him?
He accepts my fawning love,
not trusting a human to loyalty
but, pleased with the small favor
of having us for awhile.
A tragi-comic blood sport of grace
I am honored to call my friend.


Katrina was the 'runt' of Rene's first and only litter, and born last.

She was not breathing. Her mom Rene looked at the still little form lying there, and looked at me, her very expressive little face seeming both sorrowful and worried. She nudged the kitten with her nose, and looked at me again, as if pleading with me to help her somehow.

Not knowing what to do, but having heard that sometimes kittens would start breathing if you massaged and cleaned them, I began stroking the newborn kitten with one finger and encouraging Rene to lick her, to just keep loving her and see if it helped. She did so, looking at me a couple times for more encouragement. Within a short time, suddenly the kitten began breathing!

She had some kind of ouchie on her eye when born, and it was crusted fully shut. When the kitten was about three weeks old, I held her and used a fingernail to try and loosen some of the scabby-crust, and her mom cleaned up the rest and she seemed just fine.

Katrina is pure white but for about 10 black fur-hairs. She is very nearsighted. Between being the runt and being nearsighted, she makes a "shy" impression.

The old man cat Cosmos watches out for her to some degree. When he eats, he will meow at her to tell her to come, and she will eat with him (the other cats, except Georgia who eats first, have to wait). If he did not do that she would not get to eat until last.

She was named Katrina by PJ, who used to call her "the little White Russian princess."


Georgia is Rene's first daughter. She is one of those cool looking tortoiseshell calicos that have many autumn-like colors scattered and woven all over and into her darker-fur body.

She likes to hunt, and is by far the best hunter of all 8 cats. She prefers to be outdoors most the time. She has a tendency to follow us if we walk somewhere such as a few doors down to the store.

One day Rykah's dad saw this squirrel at the base of the big tree, standing on its hind legs with its front paws up on the trunk, looking up into the tree and apparently "yelling at" Georgia, screaming sounds at her like it was really mad! She just sat there looking down at it like she was amused.

Although Cosmos is the alpha cat right now (Dec 2006), for some reason, he and Georgia always get snippy and slappy at food time, and he usually lets her eat first. So she must hold some rank!

She was named Georgia by PJ after the song "Georgia on my Mind".


Brynner is the firstborn and son of Rene. His daddy was a siamese apparently, as his lovely self attests to. He is very loving, lolling about like a ragdoll most the time.

He has the characteristic "siamese yowl" that he mostly uses at 4am outside my window when he has gotten stuck outside. He spends most his days asleep on one of the beds.

He sometimes gets the wild hair to chase Tigris or Katrina, which has made them both distrustful of him. When he gets really weird and stalker-like, his gorgeous blue eyes literally turn red (maybe blood behind the eye??), which is kind of scary!

He is nice to all the other cats with those exceptions. He is not the alpha male but he is more dominant (and years older) than our other male (Boo). He is probably the most relaxed and sensual cat for petting of all of them.

He was named by PJ, after Yul Brynner.


Back in 1999, I pined for a cat. We had two big dogs, but no cats.

Back then I was married to Ry's dad. I called home from work. "Honey," I said, "I want a cat. I love grey tabbies, and I like female cats. Let's see if we can find one at the shelter tonight." He agreed.

An hour later, he called me. "You won't believe this," he says. "The dogs were going nuts, barking like crazy, and I went out there to see what was wrong. It was pouring rain. I thought it was a tiny rat or gopher at first, but then I realized it was a tiny kitten in the corner, inside the wooden fence somehow, soaking wet, crouched and hissing and spitting and swiping claws at the noses of the dogs.

"So I picked her up, and I took her outside the back gate and set her down and walked away. But she sat at the gate and yowled pitifully. I came back to talk to her a couple of times, and then finally had mercy and picked her up and took her in the house. I dried her off and fed her, and then suddenly realized -- she is a female grey tabby! Exactly what you asked for!"

She "imprinted" onto Lu, who was at home with her, like a duck, and they were inseparable. She loved to stand on his shoulder, so he named her Rene (for Rene Descartes, to whom is attributed the famous saying, "We stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before").

The day I drove into Oklahoma several months later, she went into heat, before I'd had time to spay her--we had only guessed at her exact age. We ended up not being able to move into our rental house for a week due to plumbing, so she lived alone with a catbox and food/water except once a day when we visited for a couple of hours to begin unpacking things. And wouldn't you know it... she got out and was pregnant at the speed of light.

When she was near to giving birth, she came into my room one evening. I was meditating and praying, and she crawled up on my lap and sat there, purring very heavily. I laid one hand gently on her for awhile, then removed it and had nearly fallen asleep when I heard, "MEW! MEW!" and realized she'd begun having her kittens -- on my LAP!

I was able to place her and the kitten in the box with towel I'd prepared, and she had the rest. See "Katrina's" story for our little birth drama!

Rene had a fourth kitten we named Peacemaker, who looked a little like Tigris. He got his name because he seemed to be the goodnatured kitty that always made peace between the others. Unfortunately he disappeared when very young, and as he was our favorite kitten we were very sad!

In late 2001 when Lu had been visiting Rykah and was leaving back to Canada, we put Rene, Brynner and Georgia in hard cat carriers and shipped them on the airplane home to Canada with him. They lived with him until he (temporarily) returned in summer of 2004, when they came back to us!

Rene is so light in weight it seems almost unnatural. She has a very expressive face and is able to "look mad" and other emotions with remarkable clarity. She still bosses her kids, especially Brynner whom she slaps upside the head regularly whether he needs it or not (apparently she thinks he does!), which is funnier when you understand that he is about four times her size. He could just sit on her and she'd be helpless. ;-)

Rene is a study in extremes socially. Very intelligent. She has a tendency to go "hide" somewhere and come out not more than once a day for potty and food -- she virtually disappears for a week at a time in a cupboard, box or bedroom. Then suddenly she is there and insisting on being right on your keyboard and driving you crazy for awhile.

She is the queen as we call her sometimes, and the dominant female of our brood.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


While taking picture of the cats, Lu took a pic of Rykah as well. It was kinda blurry and slouching and I thought it wouldn't work, but I stylized it somewhat in photoshop -- only with a 'smart sharpen' to the extreme, which took her lipgloss (a present she got from a gift exchange in school today for Christmas), something red behind her, and the various colors of her mixed dark blonde hair, and made it kind of neat artsy looking, haloes and shadows and all. I think I'll add a tiny version of this to the nav bar.

By the way, Ry has her own website at but so far there is only one page up on it. :-)


An Overview of the Garden

We got a few pictures last summer of the 'main' part of our garden. Not enough, and not on an ideal day -- is it ever?! -- a garden is an endless series of unfinished plans! -- but enough to post on the blog!

Our various beds are different sizes. The two "big" beds are L-shaped, 32" high on the end parts, 24" high on the long parts, 4'8" wide everywhere, and about 185+ square feet of soil total.

The two "strawberry" beds are split in half depth-wise and are 16" and 24" high, around 4'x6' each, about 48 square feet of soil.

Having sacrificed six solid years of major strawberry gardening to get a total of 5 pitiful strawberries out of it total---we will not be growing strawberries this year. I'm sure we get good garden karma for feeding the birds, rolypoly bugs, ants, and squirrels, but I'd like to use the garden for something WE get to eat now...! Or at least pretty flowers! :-)


We have a dozen, 32 gallon rectangle "tub" planters (two for each arch and one at each side of the garden) that are about 24" high and 3 square feet of soil each. (36)

We have about ten, 22 gallon round "tub" containers around the yard; they are each about 24" high and each about 2.5 square feet of soil. (22)

There's also a wide variety of other tubs, pots and containers around the garden area and backyard depending on the season. Plus hanging and sitting pots on the front porch and side.

All told there is probably about 350 square foot of soil space in the garden. Which, since we do a lot of trellising, and a square foot approach, means we can have a LOT of volume.


I also have little flower beds in both back and front yard that are only 8" high and vary in size. All but the little flower beds are in 1/3 of my backyard, on a space laid out with wood-chip mulch, so it's a nice little environment to garden in, and you can reach everything.

Garden Layout, Main Beds

The "garden props" aside from the cinderblock beds are:

1. Five 'cattle panels' bent in arches along the 6' wooden fence at the side. These panels themselves are four foot wide, 14 foot long, and they have a four inch "square grid" pattern, which is perfect for 'reaching through'. I bend them into arches which are 6 foot high and about 4 foot wide and 4 foot deep. You can walk inside them and pick stuff from inside, or from the outside.

They use 32 gallon dollar-store tubs as planters at the bottom of each side. I was told the freezing would crack the rubber-plastic but you know... it's been a few years and it hasn't happened. Get the cheap huge tubs of varying size from the dollar store, take a drill and put some holes in the bottom for drainage, and you have a good sized planter. I'm pretty sure the 32s ar storage tubs (they had lids). I also have some 22 gallon size that I think are squat laundry baskets, as they are round with rope handles on each side. Some plastic bottles from the trash and a couple dollar store big tubs and you can have a cool little container garden -- and using the "square foot" approach you can plant a lot more in that than the old-fashioned row-gardening might make ya think!

It's important in the summer to water planters more than you can imagine is needed, they dry out fast. If you don't have automated irrigation (I hope to get some!), this is really the best idea: get 2 litre plastic bottles or something similar, slice off the bottom. Bury it in the soil open-spout down. Each time you water, 'fill up' the containers with your hose. The water will drain into the soil at the rate it can absorb. It's not a mosquito issue because the water won't sit long enough for breeding. And in the summer when it's insanely hot, the plants really need water, and unless you plan on watering them four times a day, they won't get enough in this kind of garden -- these beds are not open to the ground, they are essentially really big containers.



2. A six foot diameter, ten foot tall, metal green arbor in the center of the garden. In the middle are various pots but I think this season we will put our birdbath in the middle! That would be lovely. Next to each of the three supports are small tub planters that grow stuff that trellises up the arbor. This thing is so beautiful! We gotta get a better pic of it. Despite all the warnings from people about a billion weed seedlings in veggie beds, we may vine morning glories or other viney-flowers up it. Maybe those snail-flower fragrant vines that are getting so popular, as they are such a long vine, they could almost reach the ground on the other side.

3. Copper tubing (1.25" hollow plumber's tubing) frames the 'big' bed on the right side, only the 'long' portion of it. Army parachute cord (thick, slightly stretchy, never biodegrades, essentially indestructible except by knife) is what we use as the ties. We use the copper framing and ties, some anchored to stakes in the soil, for the tomato plants that grow in that section. We get very high straight-line winds in NE Oklahoma, and sometimes hail and major downpours, so every tomato plant has to have decent anchor or the first major storm would wipe out the crop. The pepper plants on the other hand are difficult to kill. Except occasionally by critters like rabbits and turtles (the high beds at least minimize those!).

See the pic above under the "beds" info for the copper framing and round arbor pic.

4. We have a 16 foot long, 8 foot high, 4 foot wide "grapevine arbor" made of 2x4s (some treated, some not) and chicken coop fencing. Ugly (we didn't build it! we are innocent!), but workable. We just planted this a year ago, 1 year vines, so we will not see a crop for another year or two. We have about 8 different varieties, seedless and regular, a variety of colors.

Garden Layout, Main Beds

Outside of the garden beds and props we also have a few "thornless blackberry" bushes we just put in a year ago.

January is WINTER SOWING! This is for the seed-starting equivalent of 'compost whackos' -- people who, just as the weather hits sub-freezing, just as you are as far from any garden season as humanly possible, ya suddenly get obsessed with gardening! You just can't wait! You can't stand it! Winter Sowing is all about starting lots of seeds outdoors during winter, so that come spring you have lots of seedlings that, while small, are already "hardened off" and used to the weather.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cinderblock Garden Setup

Back when we created our garden it was just a novel idea. Here's a few pictures from its construction.

If you can carry bricks and shovel and bend over, or can pay someone who can, it's easy to make. Just drop some heavy-duty landscaper's fabric (it allows water through, but nothing else) at the bottom to prevent weeks etc. growing up through it. Then put some 1/4" steel hardware cloth down to prevent critters from burrowing up underneath it. Then use cinderblocks to create a square, rectangle, etc. a few bricks high. Fill the bottom few inches with large gravel to allow drainage. Then fill it up with topsoil and compost -- or google "Lasagna Gardening" for the best way to layer a deep garden!

We do organic gardening, so we don't use any kind of pest killer.

First we put down black landscape mat. This lets water through, but nothing else. It is not biodegradeable.

Then we put down hardware metal 'cloth', to keep the rodents from burrowing up under it.

Then we put down rock. In the bed shown here, we had a ton of old/broken planter pots around from the landscaping, cheap plastic, and we decided to use those as some spacers, to save on a little soil. The other beds don't have that.

Then when the first beds were done, and the arches were in place against the fence, and the whole area between them had landscape mat and mulch for a nice walkable area in the middle, it was ready to plant.

Since then of course, we added a big round arbor in the middle, and we may put our lovely white birdbath in the middle of this spring... we've added a couple more beds as well.

Notice the white tubes sticking out of the pots. We originally made all the pots rather like the "earthbox" (google it) which is a fabulous way to garden in containers. (If you can't use a drill on those monster plastic-rubber tubs for holes, use a cheap sawdering iron.)

But we have SUCH a mosquito problem in this region, that was a nightmare. All the mosquitos went down the tube, nested VERY happily in the water container at the bottom, and literally... well it was just horrible. It was literally walking into a heavy, thick swarm you couldn't even breathe in and that just attacked you 500 at a time. We cleaned out the rain gutters of the house which were breeding them (the leaves from fall make a sort of cover for water that often sits for quite awhile), we removed the water-layer of the earthbox-type planters and just made them all soil instead.

Now, if you do NOT have a mosquito problem, I recommend the home made earth box approach, especially for summer. If you do, then ANY standing water is a disaster. The "water bottle" approach I mentioned in my last post isn't an issue because the water will not stay in there long enough for them to breed. Funny enough, we have no conscience about killing mosquitos! Anything that eats US is fair game. Bugs that do our species no harm, we have no reason to punish any more than necessary.

This year (2007) we also hope to get some 'toppers' -- flat brick tops that you put on top of cinderblock to make a nice neat flat edge.