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Archive for the ‘Vertical’ Category

Arch Trellis Squash Melon Cucumbers

Get those fruits off the ground! An arched trellis saves space and is magical! You can build one easily yourself. It will make shade when covered! Keep it narrow? Read more!

Kinds of squashies!

Summer: Zucchini, crookneck, Pattypan/scalloped, loofah.

Zucchini Squash Costata Romanesco Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden

 

 

Select heat tolerant Moschata type varieties or super productive types like Costata Romanesco! In the image at left, you can see that Italian variety makes a zucchini at every leaf!

Super Vibrant Crookneck Squash!

Besides different varieties of squashes, there are different sized plants! Zucchini, for example comes in the traditional vining type that will easily take up to 15′ in length, and in container or dwarf varieties that travel very little. Both do get good 1’+ wide leaves, so you still need to allot ample space!

Fig Leaf Squash, Chilacayote ~ Cucurbita ficifolia, a Mexican cuisine favorite!

 


Smooth south of the Border summer squash Chilacayote, aka Malabar or Fig Gourd, Cucurbita ficifolia grows 10-15 pound fruits, the vines are 50-70 feet and can produce 50 fruits. The fruits can be eaten young and tender or harvested at full maturity like the one in the image at left. See more!

Japanese Winter Squash Black Futsu


Winter
squash favorites are grown in summer but harden for winter storage! Winter squash, aka Waltham or butternut, and also Acorn and Pumpkins. Pumpkins are cosmic Beings, of course. There are tons of other exotic colors and forms including warty Hogwarts types like this Japanese Black Futsu Squash!

Plan for Companions!

Plant potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugsRadish with cukes & zukes to trap flea beetles and repel cucumber beetles.

Preplant the companions so they will be up to do their jobs when your seedlings are starting and especially before your squash (and cucumbers) start blooming.

Planting!

Start planting from seed in a SoCal warm winter in January after average last frost dates for your area. They are frost sensitive, so keep your seeds handy just in case you need to replant after a late frost.

Squashes grow best in full sun, days at least 70 degrees and nights to dip no lower than 40 degrees. They like rich well-drained soil, high in organic matter, and require a high level of feeding. Zucchini, in particular, produce a lot and get hungry!

PreSoak your seeds overnight 8 to 10 hours. 60 Degree soil works though they do better when it’s warmer, 70 – 95.

Spacing depends on what kind of squash you are planting, whether it will be going up a trellis. If you are in a drought area, make a basin as big as the anticipated feeder root growth area expected. Make the basin lower than the surrounding soil level so moisture is retained. Put in a 5′ tall stake where your plant root grows from so you know where to water when the leaves get big and obscure the area. Water only there unless your plant’s leaves get dusty. If they need a bath, preferably spritz them in the morning so they are dry by evening. Mulch the basin well. Replenish time to time as needed.

If you don’t trellis your butternuts, put an aluminum pie tin upside down underneath them. The tin reflects light and heat up to the squash, and keeps it off the ground so it won’t be nibbled or damaged.

Pests

The mighty pests of squashes are squash bugs and cucumber beetles. Plant potatoes, insect repelling herbs, and radish among your squash. Let them grow up through the squash plant leaves wafting their scents adrift through warm foliage discouraging the pests. Check out this IPM page.

Ants/aphids and whiteflies may put in appearances. Hose away until they are gone. Sprinkle the ground with cinnamon to repel aphid-tending ants. Remove any yellowing leaves throughout your garden that attract whiteflies. Water less. Remove unhealthy leaves that may lay on the ground and harbor pests or diseases. Thin some leaves away to improve air circulation.

Lay down some Sluggo or the house brand to stop snails and slugs. Two or three times and the generations of those pests will be gone.

Remove pest attracting weed habitat.

Diseases

Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties:

  • Cucumber: Diva
  • Yellow Summer Squash: Success, Sunray, Sunglo
  • Zucchini: Ambassador, Wildcat
  • Pumpkin: 18 Karat Gold, Gladiator

Otherwise, when you install transplants or your seedlings get about 4 to 6″ tall, treat them with your baking soda, powdered milk, aspirin foliar feed as prevention!  Water the soil not the leaves or blossoms. Avoid harvesting plants while they are wet. Water in the morning so plants can dry before damp evenings.

Equisetum (Horsetail) tea is the sovereign remedy for fighting fungus — especially damp-off disease on young seedlings. Spray on the soil as well as plant. Chamomile tea and garlic teas are also used to fight mildew on cucumbers and squash. Compost tea inoculates your plants with a culture of beneficial microorganisms.

Harvest

With zucchini, check your plant frequently and look carefully! Overnight a monster can occur! Wait three days, and….OMG!!! Harvest when the fruits are small if you know you won’t be able to keep up and you have already given so many away people stay away from you now!

Store your Veggies under the bed!Storage

Winter squash and pumpkins, potatoes prefer room temp! Store them in clear containers so you can see what’s in ’em! Tasty veggies all winter long!

There is in-your-fridge storage, can’t wait to eat it! Extra summer squash love hanging out in the fridge, but not for long! They are more soft than carrots or peppers, so give away what you won’t use asap.

SAVING SEEDS!

Squashes from different species can be grown next to each other. Separate different squash varieties in the same species by at least 1/2 mile to ensure purity. Experienced, home, seed savers grow more than one variety in a single garden by using hand pollinating techniques. Squash flowers are large and relatively easy to hand pollinate.

Squash must be fully mature before harvested for seed production. This means that summer squashes must be left on the vine until the outer shell hardens. Chop open hard-shelled fruits and scoop out seeds. Rinse clean in wire strainer with warm, running water. Dry with towel and spread on board or cookie sheet to complete drying. Allow to cure 3-4 additional weeks after harvest to encourage further seed ripening. Their viability is 5-6 years.

Culinary Treats!

Nutrition varies considerably from a green summer zucchini to a butternut winter squash! Calories, vitamins, etc. Here is undated information from a non commercial site that may get you thinking.

Asian Winter Squash Kabocha Stew BowlKabocha Squash, aka Japanese pumpkin, are considered an aphrodisiac in some cultures! It makes a lovely Asian Winter Stew Bowl!

One of the most unusual squash foods is Squash Blossoms! Delicious fried or stuffed! Zucchini flowers are a great source of folic acid and are often “prescribed” for those who are lethargic, anemic or pregnant! You may be given a choice of male or female flowers. Both are edible but you’ll find that the femalesZucchini Squash Zoodles Kale Pesto Edamame Recipe are slightly more robust (with larger innards and a little zucchini for a stem) which just means they’ll need to cook a little longer. If you have the universal problem of more zucchini than friends who will accept them, then harvest the females! Tromboncino, Italian for Little Trumpet, summer squash make excellent squash blossoms for stuffing!

‘Long about late June, July, gardeners are starting to seek new ways to enjoy their Zucchini! Try ZOODLES! Here are 28 cool summer recipes on how to deliciously enjoy this common veggie in unique ways!

Pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie! Make Tasty Zucchini Chips. Stuff anything and everything! Broiled, Zuke-Cilantro soup, cornbread, fritters, rollups, pancakes, kabobs! Sticks, pickled, lasagna! Crispy fresh slices in salads! Simply steaming squashes is one of the all time summer garden favorites!

Summer Squash Pattypan Green and Yellow

One way or another, Squashes just keep you smiling! 

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

Read Full Post »

Design Your Beautiful Summer Garden!

Designing your garden is an intricate and intimate process depending on a lot of factors. It will ‘look’ like you as you are at the time of your life that you do it. If you plant from seed, it leads to making a pretty accurate seed list.

Some of your choices will be the same as what your family always did. Or, you may be a permaculture type doing a Food Forest guild system. There is no right way. You are you, your situation unique. You may be the same the rest of your life, only influenced by drought, deluge, seasons or climate change. You may be research oriented and enjoy trying out new plants and practices from across the world, allowing volunteers the birds bring to grow. You might decide to leave an untouched wild area in the name of freedom or magic, or rest a section of your garden each winter! Or plant it to green manure!

Choose a sunny place with easy access to water! Bioswales may be part of your water capture plan. In SoCal consider a centuries old technique, a water saving Waffle GardenGreywater distribution location may determine where fruit and nut trees will be planted. Then how will their mature shade affect the rest of your garden? Use dwarfs?

Garden Design Slope HillsideMake your garden a shape that flows with the area, whether that be simply the space available, or contoured to the land. Use slopes and hillsides! (Image by Arterra LLP Landscape Architects) Grow permeable windbreak shrubs to slow wind. If you don’t have outdoor space, but do have a sunny doorstep or balcony, put those containers to work!

Layouts can be any design you want! Circles with cross points, spokes, concentric, spiral! Squares like a formal British royal garden. Wild like a cottage garden or food forest garden guild. Beds in blocks. Straw bales wherever you can put them! Terraced on a slope! S curves along an existing path interspersed with ornamentals! Maybe you would like to add a greenhouse this year, or you need a shed and convenient workspace.

Put in pathways – straw bedding, boards, gravel, pallets, as suits the spirit of the location, are safe and make you happy to be there!

Where is the summer and winter sun path? Where will you plant tall to short? A full 6 to 8 hours of sun is best for almost all veggies. You can do shade, but it’s slower and fruits are not as big or plentiful.

If you choose to make your own compost, select an easy access area for composting, near the kitchen, if you will be using it on an ongoing basis. Plant compost speeding herbs like comfrey or yarrow right next to it. Plant pretty calendula or borage to hide it and bring bees and butterflies! If you use straw layers, leave space beside your composter or compost area for a bale staked in place on its end.  See more

Also choose an area, maybe near the compost, for your worm box if you will be growing them for their valuable castings. Mine take full sun all year. See more

Decide if you want to do a no dig Lasagna type bed or your soil is fine and you can just get to planting right now! But first, either way, install gopher protection wire!

Think about your choices for permanent residents! Plant perennial herbs by the kitchen door, at corner points or gates. The perennial Dragon Fruit along the fence. An amazing chayote needs tons of room. Artichokes are big, and grow 10 years! Set aside an all year area for flowering plants for bees, beneficials, butterflies and birds!

Where will biggies like that Winter Hubbard Squash, pumpkin, squash or melon, artichoke fit or is there really enough space for it per its production footprint?

What plants do you want? Will you judge by nutritional value first, return per square foot? Will you really eat them or has your family just always grown it? Will you be biodiversely companion planting or monoculture row planting?

Are you growing for food or seed or both? Waiting for plants to flower to seed takes time, and the space it takes is unavailable for awhile. But bees, beneficial predator insects, butterflies and birds come.

Will you be planting successive rounds of favorites throughout the season? If you plant an understory of fillers – lettuces, table onions, radish, beets, carrots, etc – you won’t need separate space for them. If you trellis, use yard side fences, grow vertical in cages, you will need less space. See Vertical Gardening, a Natural Urban Choice! If you plant in zig zags, rather than in a straight line, you can usually get one more plant in the allotted space.

Would be lovely to put in a comfy chair to watch the garden grow, see birds, listen to the breeze in the leaves.

Social at Davie Village Community Garden in Vancouver's West EndOr a social area, table, chairs, umbrella. Have candlelight summer salads in the garden with friends. This is at Davie Village Community Garden in Vancouver’s West End.

Plant sizes, time to maturity  There are early, dwarfs, container plants that produce when they are smaller, have smaller fruits. There are long growing biggies that demand their space, over grow and outgrow their neighbors! Maybe you don’t need huge, but just enough for just you since it’s only you in your household. Or it’s not a favorite, but you do like a taste! The time it takes to mature for harvest depends on weather, your soil, whether you feed it or not along the way. The size depends on you and the weather also, but mainly on the variety you choose. You can plant smaller varieties at the same time you plant longer maturing varieties for a steady table supply. How long it takes to maturity, and the footprint size of your mature plant is critical to designing your garden, making it all fit.

Vertical and Horizontal Spacing!

  • Vertical Space – More plants per square foot!
    • One method is to double trellis up! Cucumbers below beans!
    • The other is to plant in ‘layers!’ Plant an understory of ‘littles’ and fillers below larger taller plants ie Lettuce under Broccoli.
  • Horizontal Space – Give them room to thrive at MATURE SIZE!
    • Pests and diseases go right down the row of plants of the same kind that touch each other. You may lose them all ~ better is Biodiversity! Interplant with pest repelling edible companion plants!
    • Plants too closely seeded/not thinned, get rootbound. That lessens growth and production, weakens your plants since your plants are literally starving.

Look up each of your plant choices. Make a list – name, variety, days to maturity, mature spacing. The mature spacing gives a good indication how tall your plant might get and if it will shade out other plants. If you put your list on your computer you can click on the column to reorganize the list per footprint space/height or days to maturity.

Your purpose may be for your and your family’s daily food, as a chef for your clients, for a Food Bank. Fruit and nut trees may be part of your long term plan.

Now that we know how much space you have and your purpose for growing each plant, we can estimate how many plants of each you need, how many seeds you will need if you plant from seeds. Know that Mama Nature has her own schedule – lots of rain, no rain. Wind. Hail. Heat. Birds love picking seeds you planted and slugs are perpetually hungry. We won’t speak about gophers. Add to your number of seeds to account for surprises and gardener error. Get enough for succession plantings.

If you are a SoCal gardener, you may plant several times over a season. If you are canning, plant bush bean varieties and determinate tomatoes to harvest all at once. If you want a steady table supply all season long, also plant pole bean varieties and indeterminate tomatoes. If you have a Northern short season summer window, you may choose cold tolerant early bush and determinate varieties for quicker intense production.

Take into account the number of people you are feeding and their favorites!

Graph paper, sketches, a few notes jotted on the back of an envelope, in your head. It all works and is fun!

Here’s to many a glorious nutritious feast – homegrown organic, fresh and super tasty!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

Read Full Post »

Our recent 1″ rain in Santa Barbara was just a kiss! We aren’t out of the drought by a long shot, so keep clear about how you do your planting.

Efficiency Planting Kadazan Girls
Kebun Malay-Kadazan girls plants a fine garden! Peas growing vertically behind 3 cauliflower plants. Growing in front of cauliflowers are leeks, carrots, corianders (cilantro), lettuces and 2 poppy plants. Companion planting rules, good job! Interplanting confuses pests!

In my many meanderings I one time read that small area gardeners are far more efficient than commercial farms. Here’s how we do it! First, we don’t need extra space for maintenance and harvesting machinery. We can use that space for perennial herbs that deliciously spice our foods and repel bothersome insects, and grow lovely flowers that fill our hearts with their beauty. Some flowers are edible, feed the bees and attract beneficial insects! Total winners!

Plant more than one crop together, right?! Water one, water all!

  • On the summer trellis put cucumbers below, beans above. In the winter put beets, carrots or lettuces below, peas above.
  • Tuck small variety cabbages like Baby Cabbage Pixie or Red Express on the sunny side under taller variety broccoli. Snip off lower branches once the brocs have enough size. Or plant cabbies around the base of your pom pom top curly leaf kales once the bottom leaves are harvested.
  • Cilantro and Brassicas are very happy together.
  • Tuck table/bunch onions in between everywhere except by peas. Keep them AWAY from the peas. And that means all onions/chives/garlic.

Plant cleverly and timely!  Put radish and carrots together. One’s up quick the other keeps growing more slowly, down.

Instead of planting low return space eater crops, put in year ’round continuous producers! 

  • Instead of that huge 7′ footprint artichoke for a few fruits a year, pop in some broccoli like All Season F1 that makes those nice 3″ side shoots all year long once the main head is taken. Marvelous nutrition.
  • Instead of corn that produces only 1, or 2, maybe 3 ears if you are lucky, plant a patch of forever feast low calorie massive Fordhook Giant chard. Amazing plant feeds an army. If you don’t need that much chard, plant gourmet ruby chard Scarlet Charlotte or brilliant yellow Pot of Gold! If a lot of chard suits you, plant them all! At home you can plant these among your ornamentals for bright winter color beauty!
Smaller yet quite productive varieties! These are better for when you like a veggie but don’t need that much. Look about for dwarf, patio, container varieties that use less water and are happy to nestle in among their neighbors. Improved Dwarf Siberian Kale is a good bet. It’s more open leaves make it less susceptible to mildew, and it’s easier to hose off aphids too! If you love cabbage, try some of those cute Red Express or Pixie Baby! They come in sooner, plant often for a steady fresh supply.

Plant two for ones!

  • Beets! Use the leaves in salads, steamed, in stews. Wiki says beets can be cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad. Pickled (probiotic) beets are a traditional food of the American South, and are often served on a hamburger in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Don’t forget Borscht! Plant the traditional deep reds, goldens, or those stripy pink and whites!
  • Carrots too! Steam or eat the greens in salads, eat the roots as you please! Try those spicy sweet heirloom Cosmic Purple carrots with bright orange inside! Or Purple Carrots F1, purple all the way through! If you want them faster, Thumbelinas are quick growers! If you like surprises, plant Renee’s Circus Circus variety pack!

And, naturally, look for those amazing Drought Tolerant varieties, and in summer, Heat Tolerant varieties!

Plant smart, save water!

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Pretty! Make the most of your vertical space! For us veggie gardeners, best plants are dwarf or bush varieties of vegetables and herbs, compact fruits like strawberries, patio/container types or determinate tomatoes! Plants that produce many fruits or flowers per plant are ideal. Little flowers get planted tight and snuggly. Veggies need more room between, access to more soil, to grow bigger and fruit well.

Pallet Garden Flowers
Sam West’s flower Pallet Garden in Sydney Australia

Where will your pallet live? Be sure balconies are safe for the wet weight and your neighbors won’t be bothered by your dripping! If you are a renter be sure it’s allowed, or that your owner association approves. All the better at your small community garden space! Free Standing can go anywhere! Put some feet on it. Make an L shape that supports 2 or more pallets zig zag style.


WHY Pallet Garden?! 

Pros:
Space saver if used vertically, more production per space available
Avoids soil diseases
Schools, apt dwellers with only a balcony, everyday gardeners with limited budgets and/or space can grow pallet gardens!
No expensive lumber costs because pallets are usually free!

On-the-ground version saves water, keeps plants moist, protects roots, holds soil in place.

Cons:
There are start up costs. Sometimes the pallet. Landscaping cloth, staple gun/staples, maybe other tools. The best potting mixes and plants.
Maintenance can be intensive. Watering, replacing soil, feeding dense plantings. Deadheading, clean up, plant replacement to keep it filled and fresh looking.


Flowers or Veggies, vertical pallets need a little organization!

Pallet Garden organization
Joe Lamp’l’s Garden Pallet at Mother Earth Living

Tall plants on top.
Vining types like lemon cucumbers, mini melons, at the bottom! If you aren’t doing veggies, put sprawling crawling creeper ground cover types at the bottom.


Choose it to use it! Upcycle! HT, Heat Treated (not chemical,) pallets are the ones you want.

Pallet Garden Heat Treated HT

Pallets come in different sizes, weights and variable construction! They can be rectangular or square, long and narrow, small or large.

If you get your pallet from a company, ask if it is ok to take it. Some pay a deposit and can only get it back when the pallet is returned. Check out your local recycling center, organic garden supply, Craig’s list.

If you will be growing edibles, fruits, veggies and herbs, be sure your pallet is food friendly. What was it used for? Is it imported? Chemical treatments to avoid bacteria and molds, prevent insects and fungi, aren’t good. Pallets made of wood dust and composite wood block contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Avoid stained pallets. When in doubt, don’t!


Pathways with Purpose! This size, long skinny pallets with wide spacing, are great for pathways with a worm farm underneath! Next season you can plant directly in the space that was previously your walkway or move the rich soil where you want it and do another path where you will plant next! Great for muddy terrain. If deeper mud, just lay pallets on pallets to get the height you want!

Pallet Worm Walkwaiy
Chris Cano’s Worm Walkway in Gainesville FL 


Vertical gives more space! Safe from bunnies but easy munchies for deer! Secure your vertical pallets so a strong wind won’t down them. Add T feet. In the ground use star pickets or strong stakes. Zip tie to your balcony.

Pallet Garden Vertical
bSq Design manages & revitalizes the life cycle of humble pallets!


Successful Pallet Garden Veggie Varieties!

Top 

Determinate Tomatoes: Celebrity, Fresh Salsa, SuperTasty, Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Patio Hybrid and Toy Boy are all great selections!
Peppers: Sweet Heat, Great Stuff, or Baby Belle. Candlelight hot peppers
Eggplant with smaller fruits, Okra
Bush beans or peas
Cabbage
Onions

Middle 

Lettuce mix: Healing Hands, Alfresco, or City Garden Mix. Spinach.
Strawberries
Herbs: Red Rubin or Genovese basil, sage, spearmint, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and cilantro

Bottom

Summer squash: Saffron or Dwarf Summer Crookneck, bush varieties
Cucumbers: Bush Champio, Salad Bush, or Spacemaster
Watermelons: Bush Sugar Baby or Golden Midget. Any mini melons.

And, of course, it can be lovely to mix your favorite veggies, herbs and flowers! Dwarf nasturtiums at the bottom?

A big thank you to Growing a Greener World’s  Joe Lamp’l for a lot of these suggestions!


Herb Garden! Of all the pallet herb gardens I like this one the best. It looks good. It has a dual purpose. Behind it is a bug proof curtained patio sleeping/reading area. Imagine a summer afternoon gentle breeze, the heavenly scents….while you are snoozing. It is conveniently placed right outside the doorway to the kitchen area. It is attractive enough it could be indoors in a well lighted area.

Pallet Garden Herbs DIYShowOff

The tall herbs are to the top. There is a goodly variety of herbs ~ basil, parsley, rosemary, dill, oregano, thyme, peppermint, chocolate mint, spearmint, tarragon, lavender, plus another type of spicy globe basil.  Boards have been removed so they all have room to grow well. The garden has sturdy feet. This page DIYshowOff.com has the tutorial.


The standing, movable A-Frame! Some pallets are smaller, more lightly planted, less heavy, easier to move. Don’t water right before moving!

Pallet Garden A-Frame


The ultimate space saver, the Wall or hang them on your fence! If you are growing veggies, be sure they are conveniently reachable for tending and harvesting! They are great snuggled on the end walls of balconies or against balcony dividers between apartments for more privacy!

Pallet Garden Wall


Let’s Plant These Babies!

Pallet Garden Potting Soil

Get out your gloves! Nail bites and splinters are no fun. Hose down your pallet, maybe give it a scrub, with bleach to kill cooties or if you would like it a bit lighter color. Let it dry. Make any needed repairs, hammer nails down flush. Sandpaper where/if needed.

6 to 8 hours are enough, but veggies do best in full sun! Make your pallet garden very near or at where it will live. They are heavy, especially when laden with wet soil!

Choose your method! There are many online tutorials, so enjoy yourself, gather up ideas from experienced aficionados!

  • Make pockets out of landscape fabric. That leaves space for air flow between rows.
  • Cover the pallet back with single or doubled landscaping fabric or shade cloth. Leave a longer length at the bottom so you can fold it up around the bottom like wrapping a present ~ to keep the soil from falling out the bottom. Staple the fabric to any place it touches wood to keep the soil where you want it. Plant tight to hold the soil in place.
  • Some don’t trust staples and fabric, so nail plywood on the back.
  • If you are planting veggies, you need more space between plants, won’t be planting tight to hold soil. You could use a second pallet for parts, and build wooden pockets that won’t fail and allow air flow! Drill drain holes in the bottom pieces.
  • If you are doing a lay-on-the-ground pallet garden, staple landscape cloth around the sides to hold the soil in. Lay it down, fill it with your soil and plant!

Choose the very best organic potting mix enriched with tasty nutrients and that has good water holding capacity. Super ones oriented to container gardens will do the job!

If you made pockets, stand up your pallet and plant away. Otherwise, the easy way to plant is just lay the pallet on the ground and plant into it as usual. Fill it with premoistened potting soil, install your plants. Starting at the bottom, lift and shake a bit at each layer to settle the soil. Make sure soil is firmly packed as you move up. Fill in spots that settle.

Get out your staple gun again, and staple landscape fabric over the top of the pallet. This lets you fill the pallet completely with soil. It keeps the soil from falling out each time you water, and prevents weeds from growing around the plants in the top section of the pallet garden. Cut X holes where you will plant the top plants and plant them.

If you aren’t using pockets, leave your planted pallet laying on the ground for three or four days. 2 to 3 weeks is much better though, to let the plants get established and hold the soil in place. Depends on you, your plants, your pallet, space available and patience!

Carefully and slowly, gently water so soil doesn’t wash away. Add more soil where there is settling or roots get uncovered.

You can run a drip system through the planter if you like, especially if you planted densely. Water won’t get from the top to the bottom of a densely planted pallet. You can put the drip in at anytime, but it’s easier before you plant. Just drill holes in the side and run your line through side to side. One way or the other, water thoroughly. Check the bottom rows to be sure they are moist.

Water as needed. If you planted densely to prevent soil loss, there are a LOT of thirsty roots all packed together. Water frequently. And all those roots are hungry! Feed them regularly with liquid fertilizer, right? But not so much they grow crazy! You will learn the right amounts for your particular plants, soil and location from experience.


Paint ‘em or stain ‘em! This Pocket Pallet Garden of Strawberries is attractively stained and vertical. It is not needing to be tightly planted because the soil is safely held in the pockets! Each plant has plenty of soil. If you need more plants/berries, bind two pallets back to back, plant both sides, double your production! Place lenthwise north to south so each side gets plenty of sun. Feed lightly about once a week during production.

Pallet Garden stained strawberries vertical


Lay-down pallets! Rather than going vertical, many gardeners lay their pallets right on the ground! Strawberries and lettuce worked best for this gardener! And strawberries and lettuce are great companions! The boards act as mulch, keep the soil moist and protect the roots from losing their surrounding soil. There’s less weeding! When you are done at that location, pick up your pallet, give it a shake and move on! Start again with new vibrant soil! Make a strawberry pallet planter, or chard, or lettuce or mix them all up together! Spring is good to plant your berries, or in SoCal, the first week of November bareroot!

Love carrots?! They are not good in vertical gardens, but great in lay-down versions! Make a frame the size of your pallet, and lay your pallet on top of that! Then your root vegetables will have plenty of space to grow deep.

Pallet Garden Strawberries
Mavis Butterfield loves her pallet gardens and they love her!


Save-your-back raised bed pallet! Ideal for growing gourmet mesclun mixes to mow and munch!

Pallet Garden Raised Bed


Make a statement, tell a story! Leaning learning pallets! This one features bee friendly plants!

Pallet Garden Green Bee Education


Pallet gardens are as beautiful and variable as the creativity of the Gardener! Pallets can be used as privacy walls, to create patio enclosures, as windbreaks, fences, borders, dividers, compost enclosures, garden furniture, a potting bench, tool rack/holder, to build structures like sheds, greenhouses, decks, outdoor rooms! They enhance the art of gardening and can be garden art!

This beautiful pallet garden was at the 2012 Canada Blooms National Home Show!

Pallet Garden BSq Structure Canada Blooms 2012
bSq Design manages & revitalizes the life cycle of humble pallets!

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Garden Tower Terracotta

Want to expand your growing space, or you don’t have growing space?!

Vertical gardening in a 55 gallon barrel is a great solution! Cost-efficient, space-efficient! One barrel can be virtually an entire garden in itself – plant the sides in strawberries, lettuce, potatoes, herbs, carrots, beets, and hundreds of other plants, and a tomato and pepper in the top! In fact, an average 55-gallon drum can hold 72 plants in the sides alone, or fewer as you wish, depending on smaller or larger plant choices. Either way, it’s a good return per square foot.

No gophers, moles, or weeds, and few soil insect pests. Water usage is less because the system lowers evaporation since it’s enclosed. Water not used at the top trickles down to water plants below. A drain at the bottom collects any excess nutrient dense water, that is like a compost/worm casting tea, that you can pour right back on top of your barrel garden. Plants grow faster! 

Here’s the barrel building process! Select a clean barrel, make the pockets, set up a manual or automatic watering system, mix the fertilizer, plant, harvest, maintain.  

Get a food grade plastic barrel (if you are ok with plastic) from any food processing company, used on craigslist, from your local honey processor! 

DIY! Mark and make slits in the side with a buzz saw, open the slits with a soldering iron to soften the plastic, hammer a wedge in to open the slits to the dimension you want. OR, a jig saw, heat gun, crowbar, two by four. Use what you got. Some places you buy the barrels from will cut them for you for a little extra. Worth it for the long term investment you are making and the amazing production you will get from it.

The number of slits might be 48. If you are doing bigger plants, leave more space between the rows of slits around your barrel.

In the center install a 4 to 6″ worm tube! Put your worm food in there, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, stuff safe for them to eat. Drill holes into the tube so the worms can come and go, aerating your soil, leaving their castings as they meander. At the bottom of the barrel, make a hole that you can screw a plug into at the bottom of your worm tube. Put your barrel up on cinder blocks so when you remove the plug, the worm castings fall down into a container below. Put a cap on top of the tube to keep out critters like mice, and rain.

If your barrel will have a permanent location, sunny on all sides, you can attach legs, or put it up on cinder blocks. If you need to move it around or turn it for sun and shade, pop your barrel up on a plant dolly. Put the drum in its permanent location, or on your dolly, before filling the container with soil and plants because then it may be too heavy to move afterwards.

Check out Half-Pint Homestead’s video on how to make your own barrels! How to install automatic watering, a drip system in your barrels. John Kohler shows you how to set up a Garden Tower and plant your plants in it. He is a strong advocate of super soil with powerful amendments! And why not?! Makes a lot of sense. Lots of healthy plants in a small space are chomping up those nutrients right and left. What you put in is what you get back. The video is done in his inimitable way, quickly with lots of animation!

If you don’t want to build one yourself, get one in from a small company in Bloomington Indiana called Garden Tower Project! Their new custom terracotta colored, USDA food grade, UV-stabilized v1.1 Garden Towers are $269 (Feb 2014), versus the Tower Gardens, the tall white skinny towers, that start at $525 for a structure that grows only 20 plants. The foot print is about the same, but these don’t have to be anchored and your plants whipped about around a small diameter when there is high wind. And there are certain plants, like peppers, with vertical stems, that don’t do well in Tower Gardens. Garden Towers recycle your kitchen scraps, do worm composting, and your plants are grown in soil. 

If you are planting on a deck, balcony or rooftop, be sure the weight of either one can be accommodated safely. Be sure your water source is convenient and there won’t be water damage to your space or neighbors below or near you.

Plant placement! Smaller plants to the top, vining plants at the bottom. Put upright plants like tomatoes, peppers, bigger tall plants, carrots that need to grow straight, in the top of your barrel. Or plant the whole thing to strawberries! Perennials are not your best choice because they can become root bound. 

Maintenance is pretty simple. From time to time, you add some of your collected castings, and replenish your compost as soil settles, gets used. Replant when space becomes available.

In Eugene OR, the students are making start up barrels to sell, and getting a community garden going this year! Perfect!

Alex at Garden Tower Project tells the story pretty quickly and makes the big points!  It’s way less expensive and complicated than hydroponics. You can put them anywhere. Perfect for seniors, no weeding! Oh, and the barrels come in different colors – green, red, white and blue, and now, that lovely natural looking terracotta!

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Vegetable Gardening Gone Vertical - Trellis of beans and cucumbers!It seems like there is never enough space for Summer Veggies! Depending on how and where you go Vertical, plan ahead, think it through! Your water source, and how water will be delivered. Will electricity be available for a timer, will you set up a self watering system, or is it you and your hose? What about sun and shade, rain and wind? How much space will each mature plant take?

Beautifully done bean and cucumber container combo from digginfood!  On the ground, use a bigger trellis and weave those cukes up on the trellis, get them off the ground, and/or lay in deep straw mulch, to avoid wilts and have clean harvests.  Plant radishes in front to deter Cucumber beetles!

When choosing your materials, details to know:

  • Peas have tiny tendrils that grab onto things, even other plants that grow upright. Beans have no such constraints! The entire vine will grow around and through openings. If you want something that serves for both kinds of plants, choose something wiry and small so the peas can live there too!  Peas are SoCal winter plants; beans are summer.
  • Oh, and think about harvest – can you get that cucumber through the opening? A lot of wire fencing just doesn’t have openings a size you can conveniently get your hands through to tend your plant.  Think remesh.

Trellises & Cages! The old fashioned standards! Stick them in the ground or in your container, or across several containers! Anchor well, plant beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, even melons, to your happiness! Cucumbers below, beans growing through them to the remaining trellis space above! Trellises can be A-framed, or bent to an inverted U shape – run your melons up and over it, plant summer lettuces in the shade underneath! Cages can give a lot of support to big plants like indeterminate tomatoes. And you can buy them pretty now, in vibrant colors! Or, buy 2 panels of 4′ X 7′ remesh and bind them together lengthwise into a 2′ diameter cylinder. Or stagger and bind them together to make a taller trellis lengthwise.  Those will hold a lot of plant, one huge indeterminate tomato or a passel of pole beans or peas, so anchor them well in case of a major wind.

Fences – a sunny openwork fence is the next best thing to a trellis, and you don’t even have to anchor it; it’s already up! If the fence is not openwork, use some ‘S’ hooks and hang some remesh or wire fencing for your plants to climb. When the season is done, carry the remesh or whatever you got as a climbing frame, over to the compost pile and remove the finished plants. Put that wire right back up and plant again!

Arches & Arbors These are lovely, providing cooling shade over your patio or deck, or adorn the entrance to your home or garden area. Grapes are classic and oh, so, tasty! But you can do all kinds of fancy, pretty, specialty gourds as well. Add a couple of climbing roses for scent and beauty! A scarlet runner bean or two are superb accents!

Containers! Tons of options!
  • Put tall plantings in raised pots behind medium and short plants in graduated sizes in front.
  • Railings of balconies or decks are terrific for those specialty boxes made to fit. Concerns are water rotting the wood, or what the water drips on. You could put flowering herbs there, Mediterranean plants that need less water. Keep them trimmed by using them frequently, for yourself, and for gifts.
  • Traditional hanging container gardens – baskets, pots, boxes, but nowadays, reused plastic bottles too! Be sure they are wind secure, won’t damage any nearby structures. Know where the water is coming from and where it is going! Put water lover plants under the hanging containers to receive overflow from above. Water more frequently due to drying out sooner. Anticipate that a large plant will shade others when it grows bigger….
  • Vertical grow columns! These come in many forms. Be sure they are well anchored. Install your water and feeding system, soil, plants, and grow, grow, grow! Great for lettuces and strawberries.

BioWalls! In a manner of speaking, a wall garden is nothing more than a fancy container garden! Make your structure with openings the size to accommodate your plants’ containers. Set in your water and feeding system. Put in containers that fit into the openings! Add your planting mix, and plant! Voila, a vertical wall garden! You can take containers out to conveniently tend your plant, exchange for another. Clearly, there needs to be enough space between plants so they don’t damage each other when you take them out, return them. Make them your height so you can easily reach them to tend them. If your biowall is going to be a feature, know it will need a little more tending to keep it attractively vibrant.

Shelves are simple! No saggies! Use adequate support and use materials that won’t endanger your plants by sagging half way through the season. Instead of using one wide board, lay on 3 to 5 narrow boards side by side, on edge if possible, about an inch apart – that’s for drainage and drying so your wood doesn’t warp and rot out. Or, tilt the shelf/shelves slightly, down in front, away from the wall of your house if you are doing the shelves against your home, so the water drains off and away from your home. Leave a little airspace between the shelf and your home for air circulation. Wire racks, like old refrigerator shelves, make terrific shelving. Drier conditions keep mildews, molds, bacteria and fungi from forming. Keep your plants disease and pest free for successful harvests.

Untreated pallets! What fun! Usually you can get them for free! Stand them on edge, throw in some peat and soil, maybe some straw, plant both sides! Put them where you want them. Move them anytime, per season, or not at all! True space savers.

Roof! How vertical can you get?! Be safe. Water is heavy. Can the structure support it? Is it ok with the owner. Where will excess water go? Anchor plants well – no flying plants!

As one blogger says, ‘…believe me, with a little love plants can grow just about anywhere and on anything.’ Tis true.

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15 Super Tips for a Productive Summer Veggie Patch!

Asymmetrical Design

Whether you are tucking things into niches between ornamental landscape plants, planting a patio patch like in the image, setting up a first time summer garden patch, or replanning your annual garden, here are some great ideas to increase your production!

1. If you have space, and are creating a back, or front, yard food forest, always start with your tree placements first! Determine which veggies grow well with each kind of tree. Santa Barbara Mediterranean Food Forests

2. Keep in mind veggies need sun! 6 to 8 hours, preferably 8! They are making fruit, and often many! That takes energy.

3.  Put tall plants to the north (see image below), so they won’t shade the shorties. If there is a partially shaded area, plant your tallest plants on the shaded side so they can reach up to get some sun; put the shorter plants in decreasing heights, in front of them so all get as much light as they can. When you are planting rounds, another batch every few weeks, start in the north or the ‘back’ – the shaded area, and work your way forward.

4. Trellises and tall cages are terrific space savers and keep your plants off the ground out of harm’s way – pests, diseases, damage. Your veggies will be clean, and have more even ripening. Cucumbers, beans, tomatoes. Squashes and melons can be trellised if you provide support for heavy fruits. Even Zucchini can be grown up through cages leaving a lot of ground space for underplantings. Harvesting is a lot easier and certain when those fast growing zuchs are up where you can see them!

Inefficient Single Row Planting

5. There are rows and there are rows! Single row planting wastes space! Compare the images. If you do rows, plant 2 or 3 different plants in side by side rows, then have your walk way, then another 2 or 3 plants together. Whether you do 2 or 3, or even 4, depends on plant size, your reach, and ease of tending and harvest. Plant taller or medium size plants, like peppers and eggplant, by twos so you can reach in to harvest. Plant shorter smaller plants like lettuces, spinach, strawberries together since they are easy to reach across to harvest. If plants in the rows are the same size, plant the second row plants on the diagonal to the first row plants. That way your rows can be closer together and you can plant more plants!

Attractive Multi-row Veggie Amphitheatre around the Eden Project restaurant!

6. Rather than rows, biodiversity, mixing things up, confuses pests, stops diseases in their tracks, because they can’t just go from the same plant to the same plant down a row. Since we are not using tractors, there is no need for rows at all, but they can be lovely. The curved rows in the image are behind the Eden Project restaurant outdoor seating! Truly garden to table!

7. If you need only a few plants, rather than designating a separate space for lettuces and littles like radishes, tuck them in here and there on the sunny side under bigger plants! When it gets big enough, remove the sunny side lower leaves of the larger plant to let light in.

8. Plant what you like, and will really eat along with some extra nutritious chards, kales.

9. Plants with the same water needs are good together. Like a salad patch – lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choy, bunch onions, radish, chards. Putting the things together that you will harvest together saves time! Put carrots at the foot of pole beans.

10. Overplanting can take the fun out of things. Too many zucchini in hot summers, and you are going crazy trying to give away the over large ones you didn’t harvest soon enough. Too many green beans are labor intensive harvesting, takes forever. Planting green beans too close together is hard to harvest, and they mildew more with low air circulation. Overplanting is delicious when you plant lots of lettuces, carrots then harvest what you thin out! That’s baby kales, chard, mini carrots. These are the eat-on-the-spot-in-the-garden types!

11. Traditionally, and if you lived in the North with cold winters, you planted the garden all at once in spring! If your parents did that, you are unthinkingly likely to do it as well. In our SoCal Mediterranean climate, we plant all year though there are warmer and cooler veggie seasons. But each of these seasons are longer, and overlap! It is easy to get 3 plantings in succession IN EACH SEASON! Some plants will grow all year, mostly the ‘winter’ plants in our coastal gardens, for example, beets, broccoli, onions and cabbages. It takes strength to leave open space for successive rounds. But you can do it. Mark that space off, plant temporary fast growers, nitrogen-fixing fava, or lay down some soil feeding mulch like seedless straw. That space will be super productive when its turn comes.

12. Pole plants, have a lot longer production period than bush, like beans! Indeterminate tomatoes are true vines, can last all season long, but are susceptible to Fusarium and Verticillium wilts/fungi diseases. Might be better to plant determinates, limited growth varieties, in succession. That’s plant a few, then in a few weeks a few more, and so on. Let the determinates produce like crazy all at once, pull them when they show signs of the wilts. If you have only a small space available, or want to do canning, then bush plants are for you!

13. Plants that act as perennials in our climate are smart money plants! Broccoli’s for their side shoots, continuous kales and chards.

14. Special needs or companions!

  • Eggplants, though heat lovers, love humidity, but not overhead watering. Put them among other medium height plants.
  • Basils are great on the sunny sides of tomatoes, and go to table together.
  • Corn needs colonies – plant in patches versus rows! Every silk needs pollination because each produces a kernel! The best pollination occurs in clusters or blocks of plants. Consider that each plant only produces 2 to 3 ears, usually 2 good ones. How many can you eat a once? Will you freeze them? The ears pretty much mature within a few days of each other! So, if you are a fresh corn lover, plant successively only in quantities you can eat.

15. Consider herbs for corner, border, or hanging plants. They add a beautiful texture to your garden, are wonderfully aromatic, repel pests! Remember, some of them are invasive, like oregano, culinary thyme. Sage has unique lovely leaves. Choose the right type of rosemary for the space and look you want.

Please be CREATIVE! You don’t have to plant in rows, though that may be right for you. Check out this Squidoo Vegetable Garden Layout page! Check out the Grow Planner for Ipad from Mother Earth News! They may make you very happy! This is a perfectly acceptable way to play with your food.

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