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Monday, January 19, 2015

Building a Garden Gate

There are few structures in the garden more prominent than a gate. A good garden gate can invite a person into the garden, protect the garden from intruders, and becomes a feature to draw the eye. This weekend I put together a gate for my vegetable garden fence (which is still under construction). I managed to complete the majority of work on the gate over the weekend but I still have some odds and ends before I would call it a finished project.

All materials for this project were supplied by Lowe's and the Creative Ideas Network of Bloggers!
The material list:

  • Deck Screws: 1 1/4" and 2"
  • 4 - PT 2"x 4"s
  • 2 - PT 1"x 4"s
  • 2 - Garden Trellises
  • 4 gate hinges
  • 1 gate latch
  • Wood Glue

To begin building my garden gate I came up with the idea to build two rectangular boxes and insert trellises inside as a design element. I started construction with a few measurements. Due to the warping of my arbor I ran into an issue, the top of the arbor was 58 inches apart while the bottom was 59 inches. I based everything around the 58 inch measurement. You need to allow for the with of the hinges and a small space between the two gates so they work easily.

I began making the two gates by using 2x4's to create a frame. To connect the lumber together I used an angle drilling tool called a Kreg. It makes these nice little pocket holes and allows you to get a solid grip at an angle with your screws.

Before I screwed things down I used wood glue to help with the connection.

I clamped the wood down on the table and screwed them together with 2" screws.

Next I attached trim pieces to the opposite sides of the frame from where the pocket holes were. The 1x4 pieces help to create a stronger frame which connects the two side pieces together. Then I measured and cut a few inches of my trellises off. I drilled two holes on the bottom part of each gate door to allow the trellises to stick in easily.

The trellises have a little dragonfly design that I thought was neat! We have quite a few of them that float around the garden each year.

I attached the two gates with heavy duty hinges. I haven't completely decided how to attach the trellis to the top. I am considering cutting the top and drilling holes so that the entire trellis fits inside the wood frame area.

I still need to sand down the wood, adjust the frames so they swing easier, fix the trellis insert, and maybe stain the gate. This was all I had time to accomplish this weekend and I'm pleased with the progress! This gate should prevent the deer from waltzing though the front door to my garden. Now I just need to finish the design and the rest of the fence!

Last Month's Lowe's Project: Making A Garden Hoop House.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Timing Is The Root of a Good Garden

January 2015 is almost here and with it will come time to plan out your 2015 garden. We all know that for a plant to grow well it needs a strong root system. The same can be said for the garden as a whole. A garden's roots are stronger with a good plan and the root of a good garden plan is timing.

Timing a garden is probably the most important factor in a garden plan that determines success. To time things correctly there area two things you need to know:
  • The last frost date in spring for your area. 
  • How long seeds take before they can be set outside to grow.
The last frost date is THE date to base everything else around. The last frost date is the usual date of the last frost as averaged over time. It isn't impossible for a frost to happen after that but very unlikely. The safe planting date for frost sensitive plants is usually two weeks after the last frost date. This allows time for the soil to warm up before planting. 

starting tomato seedlings
Tomato Seedlings from The Dirt on Seed Starting Soil 

If you have the last frost date determined then you can figure out when to plant your seeds indoors. I've found that plants like peppers and eggplant need around 12 weeks to get a good start. Tomatoes need somewhere between 8-12 weeks. So for our last frost date of April 15th (Zone 6b-7 in TN) I begin seed starting at the beginning of February with my peppers and eggplant seeds. For tomatoes mid-February is usually when they get started. 

I've found that in Tennessee many greens will grow and thrive outdoors in early spring without much protection. Hardier plants kale, broccoli, pak choi, spinach, and many others can be planted throughout the winter and will grow well under a little cover. Lettuce tends to be more sensitive and needs put out within a few weeks of the last frost date. 

In all cases you should be able to easily figure out when to start your seeds by reading the back of the seed packet. It should tell you when to sow them and when you can safely plant them outdoors.

If you plan on covering the garden with a hoop house or other frost protection method you can adjust you plan to get them in the garden a little earlier. In this case you need to assess how much warmer the temperature is inside the hoop house area. This could shift your zone to one warmer in an unheated greenhouse which could gain you a week or two of growing time. 

The weather conditions can alter your plans. If warm weather predictions appear in the forecast around your safe frost date then feel free to adjust your planting according to your tolerance for risk! Look for night time temperatures to be consistently above 40 degrees to be safe for summer vegetable plants. 

The saying "Timing is Everything" was made for gardening! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have a Merry Christmas!

Have Merry Christmas!

And a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Seeds and Where to Find Them

By now you may have received your first seed catalog(s) in the mail. It's a fun time of the year for gardeners. We get to sift through the pages, read the descriptions designed to entice us, and dream of what we will plant next year. When the weather is cold and dreary the catalogs give us something bright and hopeful to look forward to!

Which seed catalog is the best one? That really depends on the gardener and what they are looking to grow. Seed companies exist with many different combinations of products from vegetables and herbs to flowering and ornamental plants. Most companies offer a wide assortment of seeds but there are a few that specialize in only a couple types of seeds like tomatoes or peppers. There is a seed catalog out there for everyone!

When choosing which company to order your seeds from look for non-GMO seeds. Companies that have sought to avoid GMO seeds have what is called the "Safe-Seed Pledge." They are taking in active role in avoiding the purchase of GMO seeds. I won't get into the specifics of why you should avoid GMO seeds as that is a rather large topic for discussion. I'll save that conversation for another day.

You also can get seeds from friends or save them yourselves. The only issue with these seeds is the resulting plant may have some variations from the original unless extra care was taken to avoid cross-pollination. Seeds saved from hybrids do not produce reliable offspring and aren't the best source for seed saving. Stick with heirlooms for seed saving for the most reliable results.

Below I will list a some of the most reputable seed companies around that I am VERY comfortable in recommending. The seed companies that I use frequently are marked (*). I will also add to this list from time to time so feel free to bookmark it and check back periodically. Also if there are any you would like to recommend please mention them in the comments. A couple of the links below are affiliate links and I greatly appreciate your support of GrowingTheHomeGarden.com!

Don't forget to check out a few of these garden seed posts for more information on growing plants from seed.

A Directory of Quality Seed Companies

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds* - heirlooms, herbs, and a few types of flower seeds. GREAT catalog with photographs you will drool over!
  • Botanical Interests* - Great seeds and very informative packets with hand drawn art. They have an organic line of seeds which is a great option. I order garlic from them every fall and use their organic line of greens frequently.
  • Johnny's Select Seeds* - A great company with a great reputation across the industry!
  • Renee's Garden* - Renee has some fantastic seeds which include heirlooms, herbs, and flowers. There is also an organic line available.
  • Seed Saver's Exchange - A non-profit seed saving organization that is dedicated to saving open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.
  • High Mowing Seeds - 100% Organic seed. Vegetables, herbs, and flowers. They also have cover crops that can be very useful for soil building. 
  • Sustainable Seed Company - Organic seeds and heirlooms.
  • Marianna's Heirloom Seeds - A Tennessee resident who specializes in heirloom, open-pollinated, and naturally grown seeds.