The Kids’ Gardens

After intending to for far too long, I am finally sharing with you our kids’ little gardens, today!

All 4 of our kids help in our family gardens at some point or other through the gardening seasons; although some do with more joy and ambition than others. There is always some weeding, dead-heading flowers, or picking vegetables, that needs tending to. I do much of it myself, but sometimes I could use another pair of hands, and the company is nice sometimes, too.

But just prior to the gardening season in 2013, I pitched the idea to the kids, of having their very own little garden.
I explained that they could plant and grow whatever they wanted, but they were also responsible for keeping it up. That meant keeping it weeded, watered, dead-heading their own flowers, and generally tending to it with love.  Not only that, but after their father built the frame base, they had to be a team and prepare the bed themselves. They all loved the idea, and each have had their own little garden ever since!

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It may have been more work than they anticipated, that first year!  Because although we have had loam brought in by the truck full for our other garden beds, we had a perfectly good dirt pile next to the driveway that we didn’t really want there.  It had been overgrown with weeds and grass, though. Basically, it was less of a dirt pile any longer, and more like a grassy hill, riddled with rocks! So they did work hard, like a team. The boys dug the hill up, pulling and shaking out the grass and weed clumps, and putting shovel fulls earth onto the handmade screen on the wheel barrow.  The girls sifted the dirt through, to remove all of the rocks, and then wheeled the barrow over to the garden bed, and dumped the dirt in.

That was the less than fun part. But they made the most of it, and it was good and done for many years to come.
Now let’s look at their gardens, today…. [Read more…]

Photos from Around the Homestead – May, June, July 2015

*Hello Friends!  First, there are a whole bunch of photos to this post here, so you really need to NOT scroll, and just let them load for a minute. Therefore, you might as well just read this brief intro, if you are one who usually just looks at the pictures.  😉

About the title: I always use the term ‘homestead’. So just so you know, yes, we do understand that we do not technically live on a true homestead, by definition. But we still have taken to the word. We are simply referring to our home and the little tiny property we live on. We’re going to keep using it, because it works for us.

Lastly, it’s been quite an unusual spring and early summer for us all.  Kind of tough, but it’s all good. I am finally starting to get around on my own two feet, following my wicked broken ankle and torn ligaments in mid-April. That kept any usual projects and activity off the table. But God has taught me much through it all, as I knew He would. Things like patience, Psalm 46:10, and all of that good and hard stuff. I didn’t realize how much transforming I had to do but, um….I see it in full color now!

Anyway, the photos are probably loaded now. Just some brief descriptions from here on out. Hope you enjoy……
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Gardening FAIL: Growing Strawberry Plants in Rain Gutters

I’ve been feeling an urgency to get this blog post update out, because I have been seeing ridiculous growing traffic on our Strawberry Planting in Rain Gutters post.  And I think we should let you all know, that growing strawberry plants in rain gutters hasn’t turned out so well for us.  And by that I mean….well, they are all dead. Big gardening fail. It’s true. Take a look for yourself.

01__strawberry-growing-in-rain-gutters-fail Are we missing any signs of life here, People? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
<Sigh.>
I had such high hopes. It was this photo below, that I saw online, that really had me daydreaming, about growing a wealth of strawberries from rain gutters, like this……
[Read more…]

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.

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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.

UPDATE:
Click HERE to see how these strawberry plants in rain gutters are looking one year later.