Thursday, August 13, 2009

Copper Trellis out of well, copper plumbing things.

A few years ago, when I first bought my house, I crafted a 'privacy screen' to battle a crazy neighbor, out of copper. I have wanted to re-craft some nifty bit of copper as a plant trellis. On a recent visit to Annie's Annuals (heaven for flower lovers) I picked up a climbing vine in need of support.
So I got out the blowtorch and whipped up this trellis. Big magic! I love fire! I can send you the how to's about, well, how to, if you email me. It's not rocket science, but it is pyrotechnics.
The plant has been in the planter for about two weeks and has already begun its ascension.

Litchee Tomato

I picked up these wicked cool tomatoes from Love Apple in Santa Cruz.  I have them planted in 15 gallon nursery pots and I've been feeding them like a nut job.  They are covered in menacing thorns from stem to stern and although I have had no fruit yet from them, I'm anticipating a bumper crop if I can keep them fed and happy.  They are an interesting fruit in that they need a love...there must be two in order for them to do their thing.  I kinda like that...romantic veggie love....

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder.

No need to elaborate.  

Trellis for Butternut Squash

Butternut squash in a cage.  Yes.  Mr. 'Possum decided he dug the whole idea of squash in general.  He has a MUCH harder time garnering my squash when it's up high.

Upside down tomato experiment, year three.

Can you even believe that tomatoes have over-wintered three years and are still going???  Check this guy out!

So how are those SIP doo dads doing???

So here are some posted photos of the grow boxes over the past several months.  So far, so good.  I have a list of things I'd do differently if I go for this again next year....mainly around watering, (as in, gotta get automated with's not that I'm lazy, but I feel that the hand watering is not good on a save water level.  Has to be a better way.) and pipe location, as well as lime and added fertilization needs. These are from roughly May/Early June.

And the same boxes/buckets currently as they stand:

Pretty cool, actually, although I'm dealing with a lot of frustrating blossom end rot right now.  I have been adding hydrated lime to the boxes via the tubes, and it seems to have helped.  I think our weather this summer in Nor. Cal. has been off, ergo, it's a late summer of veggies.  In general, I'd say this has been the most successful garden experiment I've undertaken so far....each box or bucket has produced many tomatoes already (or cucumbers or eggplant) and I'm already planning next year's assault on the yard.
I will say: It is a pain to water these, and if I am going to do it again, I will absolutely stick these twerps on a drip system.  

What the heck am I growing???

This summer it's been 42 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  I can give you a list if you like, but am far too lazy to do it now.
Seven eggplant.
Six cucumbers.
White and yellow corn which will likely cross pollinate and become quasi-corn.
White turnips from Love Apple Farms.
Beets of various incarnations, about six varieties.
Lovely purple carrots.
Ten varieties of hot peppers.  I only grow bell peppers for my friend Paul, since I'm massive allergic to them....but I can eat roasted Anaheim's and Jalapenos any day of the week.  I'm looking forward to my jaunt out to Erickson Farms in Suisun to get my dose of fresh roasted peppers this next week! Yum....echos of Santa Fe.
What else?  
Black and white currents.
Concord grapes.
Eggplant...I think five brands.   'Though, the rosa bianca is my favorite.
String beans in six varieties.
Raspberries, blackberries.
TONS of, no a LUDICROUS amount of basil.
Butternut and spaghetti squash.
Zephyr squash and garden variety green zucchini, although the opossum have carried off so much of my squash I've barely had but three.
Nectarines---same story with animals, but these are being had by the local squirrel population.  Ergh.
Litchee tomato from Love Apple Farm.
Various herbs.
Tons of greens/lettuces.
I'm sure I'm missing something here. 

It is amazing what a small yard can yield.  I totally encourage even the smallest patch of dirt to PRODUCE!

SIP, with kind regards to Bruce of Green Roof Growers.

This summer's garden extravaganza began as a means of letting my overused soil rest for the summer.  But what to do about all of the tomatoes that will be missed if the soil is left unplanted?  Could I live without the abundance, the sheer glory of luscious red, green, and striped, or beautiful purple/black goodness?I think not!
So, on a mission was I for some sort of alternative....and I found it through Green Roof Growers.  They have a fab-o web site that delivers good information about crafting your own earth box type of thingy.  I highly recommend them, they are wonderful.
  Follow the link here and you'll end at their site.

The following photos will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of how to's:

Two five gallon buckets or two 18 gallon rubbermaid tubs.  Procedure is basically the same for both.
A 1/2" drill bit.
A 1" circular drill bit.
A door knob drill bit for the smaller baskets.
A utility knife.
Ridiculous amounts of zip ties.
1" PVC pipe or drinking safe water hose (which I will use for all SIPS next season...PVC, while rigid, is the pits in terms of leaching nastiness into your hard won veggies...) cut to about three feet each.  I will make the pipe longer next year.
Landscape fabric.
Scissors to cut fabric.
Potting MIX, not potting SOIL.  Huge important.
Various organic fertilizers.  I use Cynthia Sandberg's of Love Apple Farm's concoction of potting mixes in the soil.  She is wonderful.  Check her out on line.  If you are ever in Santa Cruz, you have to take a class or, if the farm is open, stop in and scope out her fabulous operation.  I learned more from her in six hours than I've learned in six years elsewhere.  In fact, I'm signed up for two more of her wonderful classes!
Um, yes, back to bizznessss....
I think that covers supplies.  The most expensive things here, assuming you have all drill bits, is the SOIL and FERTILIZERS you intend to put into the mix.  I know the earthbox site will tell you it only needs a strip of fertilizer at the top and dolomite in the soil, but I am here to say, it ain't enough.  I mixed a ton of other goodies into the soil and it's paid off.  The only thing I'm still wrestling with is calcium deficiency.   But our weather here is a drag this summer, so...ah well....

This is the operation:  Two large five gallon buckets.  I got mine from Home Depot. I also crafted these same doohickies from two Rubbermaid tubs.

You also need a 1" drill bit.  That's the white thingy.  And a doo
r knob driller bit.  I suppose you'll also need a drill.  Oy....

You also need a pond basket.  For the smaller five gallon numbers, I used two small 3" basket which I picked up at my local very cool hydroponic store.  For the Rubbermaid tubs, I
 used two 5" baskets.  Super easy to locate at HD or any hardware store that sells pool or pond supplies.

So, next step was drilling the living daylights out of one of the bottoms of the buckets.  I used a half inch drill bit for the job.  I'd for sure pick up something that has oodles of power and ability to gnaw through pvc for this one.  

The following photos more or less show the process:

The two large holes were done with the door knob bit and the wee one is with the 1" bit.  The smaller hole will house the tubing for watering.

Now drill the hell out of the bottom with the 1/2" bit.  I set it all up in the garage and made an assembly line.  This will aerate soil later on.  Yay!

So, I drilled some holes around the openings and then zip tied the pond baskets to the bucket.  Worked well.  No problems....just kinda tedious.  Yawn.

Next step.  Grab the other bucket and drill a 1/2" hole about four inches up into the side of the bucket.  This will be your overflow hole.  
Then cut your pipe to be a few inches taller than the bucket.  Some sites will tell you to cut the pipe on an angle to allow for flow of water.  Me, I have no hack saw, ergo, I drilled the PVC with several holes instead.

Next step is to put the pipe through the smaller hole.  I ended up drilling a couple holes next to the sides of the pipe and zip tying, because I cannot get enough of zip ties, the pipe to the inside bucket.  

Plants.  Finally.

Potting mix.   MUST BE MIX.  If potting SOIL is used, it won't wick up through the pond basket.
So, now we come to it:  The planting.  Lord.  Thank heaven. I though it'd never happen!  Put one bucket inside the other....baskets into the largely un-drilled bits.
So, whatcha do here is, you mix up a bit of potting mix with water, then cram it into the baskets.  It should be about the consistency of mud pies.  Yes.  Mud pies.  
Then add more potting mix, and at this point, the bucket should be half full.  I added dolomite here, as well as several other goodies in the fertilizer department, and I watered the dirt.
Next, I filled the bucket with more soil, and dampened it again.  At the top, I placed about a cup and half of slow release 4-6-4 fertilizer on top of the dirt.   
I then cut a length of landscape fabric to go over the top of the dirt, and zip tied, (be still my heart---zip ties!) the fabric to the bucket.  FYI: it takes nine large zip ties to go around the bucket.  I'm just telling you this so that, unlike me, you can avoid having to figure it out each time!
I then cut an X where I wanted the plant to go, pulled the plant out and VOILA!  Planted.  Imagine that!
The final piece looks like this:

or if you are using Rubbermaids, (a process I will not explain..basically the same as the buckets but for inverting the other Rubbermaid and drilling holes in the bottom of the tote....I'm tired.  Give me a break, o.k?)
I will let ya'll know how it all turns out.

I just love a good garden experiment!