Protecting the Strawberries Growing in Gutters

 I’ve been procrastinating doing this post that some of you have been waiting for, on the topic of how we’re protecting our strawberry plants from birds, squirrels, and other small creatures that may be drawn to our delicious berries, and have their fill of our harvest.  The reason I have been hesitant, is because I’ve come to realize I’m not thrilled with our solution, nor excited to share it with you.  I’d even go so far as to say that in all of the years Michael and I have collaborated together over creative projects, and problem-solving, this is one we just never saw eye to eye. Our visions and plans were completely different, and……being the clever guy he often proves to be, I let him do it his way.  As a result, well……I’ll just say he may have been having an off day. My idea was far simpler, and I think would have been easier for me to manage. (I may be wrong. I’d need to experience it, to know for sure. But it works in my head!)  Does this system do the job? [Read more…]

Strawberry Planting in Rain Gutters

 We’ve have grown strawberries in our gardens going for five seasons now, and we have thoroughly enjoyed it!
While strawberry plants generally comes back and produce for 3-4 years before they are done, we managed to squeeze one more year out of ours. This year however, it was truly time to start over. And so, we decided to really change things up and start anew, by planting and growing our new strawberry plants in rain gutters. We’ll be sharing with you this fun gardening experiment and the progress of it all, with any of it’s failures or successes, as we go along here. We know we can always make improvements if need be, as we learn. Meanwhile, we enjoy the process so much. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
This is the first post on our strawberry plantings in rain gutters, and we’re starting with the construction and set up of it.

000_strawberry-planting-in-rain-gutters
But before we dig into our new strawberry growing system, why don’t we briefly review our past strawberry growing years, of which we learned much and had much success with.  We’ve have many blog posts on our strawberries over the past years, but not everyone has been following us for that long. So allow me to mention the highlights, with links to the original posts where there is more info, since could be interesting or helpful information for someone.
If you’re just interested in getting right to the rain gutter method, just skip right down to that sub-headline.

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Our Strawberry Growing History and Links to Those Past Posts

When we built our new strawberry bed in 2009, with new plantings in it, it wasn’t 24 hours before we realized squirrels and birds were going to be a problem!
So that very first morning, Michael whipped us up a solution with his carpentry skills, that has served us quite well, protecting our strawberries from winged and furry creatures, every year since.
There was some real excitement over our first picked strawberry.
We grew some really nice sized berries in time, found out how helpful using some mulch was, and how to battle ants, all discussed in the post here.
We shared many of our lessons learned while growing strawberries.
And we certainly enjoyed our delicious berries, having many-a-strawberry shortcake, learning to make and can jam, and other treats such as Strawberry and Chocolate Nachos, and this beautiful Berry Parfait.

All of those links above open in a new window, so feel free to bookmark or pin them on your interest boards for later.

Anyway, while we got a great crop of berries every year, our 4th year was probably the most abundant, and so we thought maybe we could get one more year out of them. And also, we knew it would be soon time to replace all of our garden beds, but we hoped to get one more year out of them as well. So we went for a fifth year, which was less productive, and confirmed to us that it was time to start over with some new baby starter plants.

Strawberry Planting in Rain Gutters

Which brings us to this season.
As I’ve mentioned, our garden beds were needing replacing.  Last season, we had some wood rot and termite problems insome of them, but we got through one more season with them, and they served their purpose and got us through one more year. But this past brutal winter really gave them the last kick in the pants, and they literally just started falling apart as spring broke.  That’s including our strawberry bed. But since it was time to start again with new strawberry plantings anyway, the timing was perfect to start everything all over from scratch.

So we got planning all of our new garden beds, and already have them built.  We’ll be sharing the rest with you in another upcoming post.
But for the strawberry growing, we decided to try using rain gutters!

sg_ I had seen this photo somewhere, and I was instantly intrigued.  I believe another Facebook Page shared it, and then I shared it to our Facebook Page.  Many of us got talking about it, and we trying to figure out the construction of it, how high they were, and how they were protected from birds and such, if at all.
All I knew was I really wanted to try something like it.

I showed Michael, and he liked the idea too. But he got drawing on paper (as he always does, if you’ve noticed with our projects over the years), and had his own tweeks.  While I always have ideas of my own, and we collaborate a lot, I trust him in the final decisions where the construction goes. 

001_strawberry-planting-in-rain-gutters Here’s what he came up with. 
Using 4×4′ pressure treated posts, he cut them into 6 ft. and 4 ft. pieces, constructing 3 T structures, all screwed together.
They support four 10 ft. sections of aluminum rain gutters, with end caps, which were bought separately.
They are screwed securely onto the horizontal posts.
I just imagined them higher, even though I knew it would be difficult to tend to the plants. But he thinks more height isn’t necessary. So we’ll see there if it is is better in the long run, to make them higher. But right now, I’m glad I can just stand there at them, and do my gardening thing.

002 I planted a good many of our new plantings, but the sun was hit this day, and it was getting to me. So a couple of my helpers (also known as our kids) happily agreed to help finish getting them all done.

003_strawberry-planting-in-rain-gutters Although as I planted, I was wondering if the gutters were quite deep enough, having to plant right to the bottom, they seem to be doing all right!
As evidenced by home much we have seen them grow day to day, and by that little white bloom you see in the photo above. Which by the way, I cut off. Reason being, I really want to be sure the plants roots are well established, before the plant starts producing berries. So I usually remove the first flowers of every season, before I let them go ahead and produce berries.

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You can see they are thriving, and I am really excited to see how they grow, flow over, and produce.
The varieties we chose this year are compact plants. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

005_strawberry-planting-in-rain-gutters Michael drilled holes in the gutter towards the bottom, every 1-1/2′ or so, for proper drainage.

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In the past in our strawberry bed, we grew berries of the June-bearing and Ever-bearing variety. In time we decided we just preferred the June-bearing, so we ripped out all of the Ever-bearing.

This time, considering we are growing them in rain gutters, we decided to try more compact plants.
These will produce few, if any, runners.  So I’m not sure quite what to expect, in terms of spreading or filling in the gutters.  But it’ll be fun to find out!
I did put all of the plants in with the upper part of the biodegradable cup intact, so it may be awhile before we really see them go anywhere.

None the less, I’ve done some research, and I expect we’ll be quite pleased with the varieties we chose.  Both are ever bearing varieties though, which should give us berries throughout the season. But I’m a tad nervous only because it was the ever-bearing we had decided we were less happy with in the beds.  But we’ll see how they do in the rain gutters!

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The Lorans produce the typical white bloom, and should give us rounder, plump, juicy berries.

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The Tristans are a little more unusual. They actually produce dark pink blooms, and the berries are an off shape as well. They are a bit elongated, and kind of pointy. But I’ve heard they too are delicious!
I can’t afford to have any more outlinks in this post, as I’m already afraid it’s going to go to the spam folders of our subscribers. But if you are interested, do Google for more info on these 2 strawberry varieties. BonniePlants(dot)com looked like a great resource. Then use the search tool there.

We had impulsively picked up a couple of herb plants too. Which is new territory for us.
Since we had a little room left in the gutters, and no other plans for the herb plants yet, we stuck them in the gutters too.
I’m not sure how well they will do there, but we can always dig them out and replant them elsewhere.

009 So we’ve got some Parsley……

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……as well as some Oregano. (Which will be delicious, on Michael’s pizza.)

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So that’s concludes where we are at with our new experiment, of growing strawberry plants in rain gutters.
BUT, it’s not quite done!
As soon as we start letting the plants produce berries, we’ll have the next step to contend with:
UP NEXT on this topic:  Protecting them from birds, squirrels, and the like.
We do have a plan for that of course!  And we’re ready to go!
Be sure you are following us so you don’t miss that, the reveal of our other new garden beds, or the building of our chicken coop!
(SO excited to finally be getting chickens!)
Thanks for your visits!  Share your thoughts  or questions with us, if you’ve got some!  We always try to respond.

A Simple Palette Compost Bin and Learning Organic Composting

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I’ve finally jumped. We have built a simple compost bin, for the purpose of learning some organic composting, and it’s (hopefully) already cooking.

com·post
/ˈkämpōst/

Noun – Decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer.

Verb – Make (vegetable matter or manure) into compost: “don’t compost heavily infested plants”.

Synonym – fertilize – manure

For as long as I have been gardening, I have wanted to be making my own organic compost for our gardens.  Because we all know that what one is trying to grow organically, is going to grow best in healthy, rich, organic soil, that derives from organic compost.  While on the one topic I have learned a lot and made physical progress with gardening over the past several years, on the other, we have been buying compost in bags for the gardens. Reason being; every time I research and start reading about making organic compost, I get confused and overwhelmed with all of the info I am finding online. It just seems….complicated, and too specifically scientific, and . . . . I’ve just been afraid that while I have managed to make 4 beautiful and healthy children, I am somehow going to fail at making some good healthy dirt!

But then, I found myself inspired and encouraged, thanks to an online friend, when [Read more…]

4th of July

HaPpY 4th of JULY, Everyone!

Since I wanted some photos, to go along with our wishes for you,  I thought today would be a good day to show you where I put my painted American Birdhouse.  It’s out on the potting bench near thegardens!  So now you know! I’ve got a whole red-white and blue theme going on out there, and it’ll be there throughout the month of July.  Then I’ll likely change it up, to some other summer theme. 

 The birdhouse has held up very well in weather, despite the sun andrain beating on it.  Again, I credit that to the wax finish. It seems to be a great protector for outdoor wood, in my experience.

Have a safe and memorable celebration of our country, with your families and friends!

We’ll see you again soon.

 

 

3 Little Garden Chairs / Refinishing

 There’s been these 3 little chairs, sitting in our basement for years now.  One of my husband Michael’s clients offered them to him, knowing we had triplets, and thinking maybe we could use them.  They are about toddler size. So he brought them home, and they’ve been in the basement ever since. I’ve never been a primary-colors kind of girl.  I thought maybe I would repaint them or do something with them at some point, for the kids, or maybe as available props for my photography studio.   But, I was just never inspired to ‘have-at’ them.

Until of course, I was.

I know these are ugly. Please don’t leave! I promise you, it gets much better! We were hauling out all kinds of things out of our basement that needed to GO, for our yard sale. Michael put these chairs out there, and when I saw them I said, “Hey! We’re not selling these! I could make them into cute little garden chairs!”  Well then….there was my inspiration.  The idea hit me for the first time, and flew out of my mouth. (As most thoughts do, if you must know. But I’m getting better.)  As so as it was, I was finally inspired to do something with these 3 little chairs.

The challenge was the primary colors of paint that was already on them.  Yes, I was going to paint them anyway, but I was NOT going to NOT distress them. And I sure as heck was NOT going to strip them.  They didn’t mean enough to me, to work that hard.  I mean, I love to paint, and to sand, and even to wax.  But stripping off paint? Not so much. So the primary colors underneath were staying, and I was starting to imagine, they were going to look pretty cool when I was done!

I’ll say right here, that I didn’t take photos of every step of the process.  But I think you all know what painting and sanding looks like. I DID take a whole bunch of photos of the chairs all done though! Lots. Those are the more fun photos you all like to see most, right. Because there was no special complicated process. I will tell you just how I did it right now, which was easy as 1-2-3, and then you can see so many photos I had so much fun taking as well, simply to show you.

Since I had 3 chairs, I thought it would be perfect to use the cans of the 3 colors of Annie Sloan chalk paints that I still had: Provence, Versailles, and Paris Grey. So, 1) I painted each one those colors.  It was actually very scattered painting sessions over a period of a few weeks, and my girls helped some too when they wanted to.  2) Then I distressed them to my liking. (That means, a lot of sanding. ; )

3) Lastly, I waxed them with my Annie Sloan waxes.  It was especially important for them to be waxed, because I knew they were going to be left outside in all kinds of weather. So they needed some kind of protection, to preserve all of my efforts, of making them into cute little garden chairs around our homestead.  I did wax each chair one at a time, from start to finish.  First I did the clear wax all over a chair, let it set up a bit, but before it was completely dry, I worked in some dark wax where I wanted it, to give them a more antiqued, aged look. It kind of has to be done that way, because the dark wax is potent stuff. It only takes a little bit, and if the clear wax is too dried, it is hard to rub off – or even rub around, the dark wax. So that is always the little bit tricky part, as well as wicked messy and sticky and stinky. But I’ll tell you what, this point in my project process really proved even to me, how much I love furniture refinishing! Because it was also sunny and hot this day.  But I was out on our deck working away in the sun, sweating my a*# off (but wouldn’t you know it, it’s still all there!), but singing and rocking out to the music, with that nasty sock on my busy hands, and having a ball!

Or I might of been high on wax fumes. Hard to say. But it was fun! That much I’m sure of.

Not much chatting left. Just a ton of photos, and some tidbits I think you might like to know.

Here you can see a couple of things, that really make these chairs beautiful to me. Knowing the primary colors underneath were going to show, I was careful in deciding which paint color was going on which chair. So here is the (Annie Sloan) Provence, on the dark blue.  You can also best see in this photo, the dark wax work, that helps make the chair look more aged.

 And a bunch of photos, where I have this one right now . . . . . .

Do you love it? I do!! I love the color, and I love where it is, with the daisies and the white picket fence there.  What I don’t love, is our yard. You may have noticed the lack of real grass. We pretty much just have crabgrass, and fine sand. I don’t much like the cement steps either. But, we have decided to hold off a bit and not invest in our grounds anymore, until we make some other pretty big decisions.  So, we make due, with making ugly . . . pretty, best we can for now.

Next up, is the one that was yellow chair, which I painted Versailles.  It’s out front with the garden beds, next to the covered bench and potting bench . . . . . .

Again, you can really see the paint underneath, where I excessively sanded, just the right amount. : )  You can also see the dark wax work, which only adds some character to it, to me. And do you see where the paint dripped? Some may think that is some imperfection. But I see it, and it makes me smile and feel happy. Because it reminds me of the memory, that my little girl was helping me paint this chair.

 And lastly, is the red chair, that I painted Paris Grey! I really wasn’t sure where I was going to put this one. So I just stuck it under the apple tree, and it seemed to look like it was at home there. Funny thing is . . . . . . it’s not at our home. (Yikes!)

The apple tree is not actually ours, nor on our property of course. Just over the line, but we pretend it’s ours. The owner is not usually around at all, and Michael does manage the property. (My excuse to take such liberties.) But she’s coming tomorrow for a week, so we’ll see if I get my hand slapped, or she kicks it back to our side, along with the birdhouse. And if I get arrested or anything, I’ll surely let you know. Because we’ll need to collect some bail!  (You all would help me get out. Right?!  Say yes.)

Care to sit for a spell, in the cool shade of the apple tree?

See? I really go to town, with my sand paper!  This one even has a little broken piece. Again = love.

 I always say . . . . . . it’s the little things, that make me so happy.

Thanks for taking a stroll around my gardens with me. (We literally, walked around the garden beds.) I always love when you visit us here, so please come again. We invite you to join us on Facebook too.