Thursday, April 17, 2014

Drip irrigation project, part two

Photo #1
Continuing our discussion (see previous post) of the new drip tape system we recently installed in our garden, I wanted to show you what we did on one of our 3' x 8' raised beds.

Photo #1 shows the supplies we needed: 1/2" tubing to make the manifold, 1/2" figure-8 ends to seal off each end of the tubing, Miracle Punch,  (3) tape x 1/4" barb fittings, roll of Aqua Traxx drip tape, (3) grip sleeve ends to seal off the far end of each drip tape line, and metal pins to hold the drip tape in place. Already attached to the bed (on the left) is a PVC riser and valve, and a 1/2" T compression fitting.

Photo #2
Photo #2: Cutting the 1/2" tubing for the manifold.

Photo #3
Photo #3:  Using the Miracle Punch for punching holes into manifold. Each hole will accommodate a connector (which are called tape x 1/4" barb fittings).

Photo #4

Photo #4: Attaching the tape x 1/4" barb fittings to the manifold. The next step (not shown) was installing the Aqua Traxx onto each barb fitting and tightening it to hold it in place.

Photo #5
Photo #5: Folding the far end of each Aqua Traxx drip tape line to seal them, using the grip sleeve ends.

Photo #6: The finished product!
Photo #6: Tada! The new set-up is ready to use. The process was very simple.

Drip irrigation project, part one

Photo #1: Getting ready to swap out the old T Tape for Aqua Traxx
Last year, my husband and I installed a new irrigation system on our raised beds. We've used soaker hoses on each bed for years but they frequently clogged with minerals, which reduced the amount of water coming out of them. We felt it was time to try something new.

We chose a drip tape product called T Tape, which we purchased from Dripworks. It worked really well all season long last year. Each bed has a PVC riser with a valve and hose attachment. On top of the bed is a manifold (a cross-piece made of flexible sprinkler pipe to which the drip tape connects) that 3 or 4 runs of drip tape attach to, depending on the width of the bed.

I've since learned of a new drip tape product they carry called Aqua Traxx; it's made by Toro and one of the owners was telling me they are really pleased with it. I was curious about how it compares to T Tape so the folks at Dripworks kindly sent me some to try. We decided to replace the T Tape on a 4' x 16' bed and a 3' x 8' bed.

The process of swapping out the T Tape was very simple. On the larger bed, we disconnected the T tape from the manifold and connected the new Aqua Traxx drip tape. On the smaller bed, we decided to make a complete manifold which only took a couple of minutes (see next post for details).

We took some photos to show the process we went through with the larger raised bed set-up:

Photo #1. The photo at the top of this post shows that we cut 4 lengths of Aqua Traxx to replace the pre-existing T Tape. It's sturdy but easy to cut with utility scissors or other cutting tools. Notice that the blue stripes face upward; there is a seam on the top from which the water weeps.
Photo #2: Adding grip sleeve end onto end of drip tape.

Photo #2. At the far end of the bed, I folded the Aqua Traxx tape twice, then slipped a "grip sleeve end" onto it, to keep water from leaking out of the end.

Photo #3. The finished Aqua Traxx set-up on the bed to the right. Very simple! Remember that you can click on any of the photos to view a larger image.

Photo #3: The completed drip tape system.
A nice feature of our new drip system is that it includes a pre-filter and pressure-reducing valve to provide even watering throughout the garden.

I should also mention that it's very easy to unscrew the set-up from each bed and put it out of the way while we prepare the soil each spring.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Plant a Row for the Hungry

Are you familiar with the Plant a Row for the Hungry program? That's where you plant an extra row of veggies in your garden to donate to your local food bank.

What you might not know is that the PAR program was initially created nearly 20 years ago by the Garden Writers Association, of which I'm a member. To date, more than 20 million (yes, million!) pounds of food have been donated nationally, to help folks in our communities.

It's easy to participate. Just reserve a row in your garden (or more than one row if you have the room) for planting some veggies. When you harvest them, take them to your local food bank or food pantry. It's as easy as that. When your turn in your harvest, please let them know it's part of the Plant A Row program so we can continue our tally of just how many veggies are being donated.

Examples of vegetables that have a decent shelf life for food banks to store and give away include crops like carrots, potatoes, squash, onions, parsnips, peas, beans and tomatoes. They certainly appreciate donations of salad greens and herbs but they will of course have a shorter shelf life. Food banks will also accept fruits like apples, pears, peaches and apricots.

If you would like to know more about the Plant A Row program, please visit the information page on the Garden Writers Association's web site. There is also a brochure on the program available on the site.

If you'd like to know where your local food bank or pantry is, go to any of these links:

With your help, we can make a difference within our communities!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13 column

This young Chickadee mugged for the camera in my garden last summer.
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Bringing in the birds. It's about one of my favorite subjects, which is attracting birds to the garden. If you regularly follow this blog and/or my Facebook page, you know that I'm an avid birdwatcher.

Today's article covers the important needs birds have in order to be drawn to, and remain in, a garden. Birds do so much for our gardens: they eat a bunch of insects, they are great fun to watch, and we get to see them rear their young. It's definitely worth the trouble to make our landscapes appealing to them.

Happy reading!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wasp control

I'm one of those live-and-let-live kind of folks. I love animals and I do my best to embrace both the good and bad critters because I know they all play an important role in our environment.

However, there are some critters that cross the line with me. One that immediately comes to mind is the paper wasp.

I have a small greenhouse that I primarily use for growing and hardening-off the veggies and flowers that I grow from seed each year. Unfortunately, during the course of the summer, wasps build nests under the two planting benches. In early spring -- and throughout the summer -- they love to terrorize me while I'm in the confined spaces of this small greenhouse. It's not fun, let me tell you!

Now it looks like the Rescue! folks -- who are famous for those yellow jacket traps -- have, well, come to the rescue for me. As a member of the Garden Writers Association, I occasionally receive new products to test.

I just received a new TrapStik for dealing with wasps. According to the literature, they have been designed to "catch queen wasps in spring before they have time to build nests, and works from summer through fall to catch aggressive worker wasps." Sounds good so far.

What I like is that it doesn't contain any pesticides and there aren't any nasty odors. It is designed using their "VisiLure" technology, which involves colors and patterns that the Rescue! research team has discovered will lure wasps to it. It has a sticky surface, which is how the wasps meet their end.

Moving right along... I decided to hang the TrapStik from the peak of my greenhouse for a few weeks to see if I will get some relief from my wasp problem. I hung it late in the day yesterday. This morning, low and behold, there was a wasp stuck to it. Halleluia! (click on the above photo to view a larger image)

Update: As of Friday afternoon, the trap has caught 3 wasps and 1 fly. This is great!

If you would like to know more, here is information about the TrapStik on their website.

I intend to post again on how it's working for me but I wanted to let you know that these traps will be available in garden centers this spring so keep an eye out for them. And let me know how they work for you, too, OK? Thanks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Raised bed garden brackets, part two

All photos courtesy of Art in the Garden
I just wanted to do a follow-up to my earlier post about the M Brace raised bed garden brackets.

In it, I mentioned how it would be helpful if there were screw holes in the brackets so you could better secure the boards to the brackets. I just had pleasant conservation with the owner and designer of the M Brace brackets, Jill Plumb, and it turns out the brackets have screw holes on the inside for that very purpose. Cool!

I also thought I'd tempt you with photos of some of their bracket designs. You can check them out, as well as many more photos, by going to the Gallery page on Art of the Garden's website.

How about bumblebee brackets?

Sunflower brackets
Dragonfly brackets

New raised bed brackets, part one

As you know, I'm crazy about raised beds. In our garden, we have a whopping total of 26 of them!

I love how the soil stays loose in the beds, how the soil warms up earlier in the spring, how easy the beds are to prepare for planting, how little you have to do to grow plants in them and so on.

We have 3 different sizes of raised beds: 21 are 3' wide by 8' long; 2 are 3' wide by 16' long, and our newest 3 beds are 4' wide by 16' long. We use untreated lumber to make them and prefer using 2x10" boards.

This is what the channel on the inside of the bracket looks like.
I recently learned about a product called the "M Brace" that helps you build a raised bed without any tools. Intrigued, I contacted the company and they are kindly allowing me to test a set of 4 brackets in my garden so I can see how they work.

The decorative M Brace brackets are made from recycled sheet metal (that the developers say "is designed to rust to a really cool patina over time") and have channels on the inside that you slide your wood into. Yesterday, my husband and I assembled a bed to replace an old one that had rotted.

If you look at the photos, you can see how it works. We slipped off the old bed, then cut away some of the soil with a shovel so we could easily work around it.

We started with two 2" x 10" x 12'-long boards and cut each of them into a 3' length and an 8' length, for a total of 4 boards.
One end of the bed is done...

Checking to make sure the bed is level.
We set the corner brackets in place and then slid each board into them. I've since learned that you can build a 12" to 14" tall bed, so we could have made it taller. The nice thing is that the M Brace gives you the flexibility to make differently-sized beds.

Once the boards were in place, we used a level to make sure the bed itself was level and that it was level with its neighbor 3' away. And that was it!

A 4-piece set of M Brace brackets retails for $79.99 and you can locate them on their website, Art of the Garden.

One fun application for making beds with these brackets would be for a kitchen garden right off the deck or next to the house. Since the M Brace brackets come in a lot of attractive designs, they would really dress up your garden.

They also carry decorative brackets to build kid's gardens, like frogs and butterflies. Wouldn't that look cute?

One thing we thought of was how it might be helpful if there were screw holes in the brackets so you could easily fasten everything together (update: I just discovered my information was a bit out of date; it turns out they do provide the ability to screw the lowest boards to the brackets; see my next post for clarification). I realize the intent of this design is to be able to build raised beds without needing any tools, however, so I guess that would defeat the purpose! If you want to learn more about the M Brace, visit their website above.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6 column

This shows the 4 metal trellises attached to the cattle panel.
Here is a link to my column in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review: Trellises transform look of fence. I hope you'll enjoy this one because it was a bit of a departure for me. It's all about a fence idea I got from local gardener Julie Nesbitt, who shared her garden during last summer's "Spokane in Bloom" tour.

We knew of a troublesome area in our yard that would benefit from something as attractive as what she had done and are tickled with how it turned out.

Since there's only room for a single photograph with each of my columns, I thought you might like to see more photos showing the process we went through:

Photo #1
Photo #1: We trimmed back some of the roses behind the fence first and tore out the old field fence which had a large rectangle of weld-wire fence attached to the top of it. Yes, it kept the deer out but was less than aesthetically-pleasing, especially for the entrance to our back garden. What you're looking at is the new cattle panel we purchased at a farm store, which we had spray-painted black, and the painted metal fence posts.

Photo #2
Photo #2: This is a close-up of the heavy-duty wire my husband used for securely attaching the cattle panel to the fence posts.

The top photo illustrates the trellises that were put into place. If you click on the photo, you might be able to see how they weren't pushed into the ground but rather, attached higher on the cattle panel so our fence would be tall enough to (hopefully) keep the deer out. That makes our fence 7 feet tall.

Photo #3

Photo #3: This photo shows how we again used heavy-duty wire to attach the trellises to the cattle panel.

The whole process was amazingly easy and it looks so much nicer than what we used to have! I hope this project will be inspiring to you and give you some ideas for an area of your garden that needs dressing up.

I've since planted some climbing roses and can't wait till they're climbing on the trellises.

One thing I forgot to clarify has to do with the arbor gate seen in the photo above and in the newspaper today. Some might think deer could easily jump through that opening... and they could. But I hang wind chimes in the opening, which they don't like being near because they move and make noise. It works really well.

Many thanks go to my husband Bill for humoring me when -- after seeing Nesbitt's trellises -- I said, "Honey, can we do that, too?"

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Seed-starting update

This is what an okra seedling looks like! Nice root system.

I thought you might be interested to know how my seed-starting project is coming along, mainly so you know the timing of starting certain seeds indoors. Here's an update:

Artichokes: Started on March 1st, transplanted into pots about a week ago. Plants looking great!

Basil: I started a few indoors just for fun but intend to plant the bulk of the seeds directly in the garden in late May.

Beans, bush and pole: I'll plant them indoors about May 1st and transplant them into the garden about May 15th.

Beets: Will be planted directly in the garden around mid-April.

Cabbage: I just planted them indoors today as I forgot to plant them at the end of March. Still plenty of time, though.

Carrots: Will be planted directly in the garden around mid-April.
Tomato and artichoke seedlings are coming along.

Celery: I plants them indoors about March 15th; they have true leaves now and I transplanted them into larger pony packs today; I won't plant them in the garden until mid-May.

Chard: Will be planted directly in the garden around mid-April.

Cilantro: Will be planted directly in the garden around mid-May.

Corn***: Will plant them indoors around May 1st and transplant into the garden in mid-May.

Cucumber***: Will plant them indoors around May 1st and transplant into the garden in mid-May.

Leeks: I planted them indoors on March 1st and am giving them "haircuts" once a week so they focus on developing a good root system.

Okra***: I planted them indoors on April 15 and just transplanted them into larger pots today. They'll go into the garden in mid-May. By the way, I started them in those seed plugs I wrote about recently ("Seed Starting Update, Part 2") and the top photo shows you the root system they have already.

Parsnips: Will plant them indoors in mid-April.

Peppers***: I planted them indoors on March 15th and transplanted them into larger pots today. They'll go into the garden in mid-May.

Pumpkins***: Will plant them indoors around May 1st and transplant into the garden in mid-May.

Young tomatoes sitting next to a sunny window.
Salad greens: Will plant them directly in the garden in mid-April.

Spinach: Will plant them directly in the garden in mid-April.

Squash, winter and summer***: Will plant them indoors around May 1st and transplant into the garden in mid-May.

Tomatillos***: I planted them indoors on March 15th and transplanted them into larger pots today. They'll go into the garden near the end of May.

Tomatoes***: I planted them indoors on March 15th and transplanted them into larger pots today. They'll go into the garden in mid-May.

*** Keep in mind that I will be giving all warm-season crops frost protection in the early days and watching the weather forecasts like a hawk!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mystery rose problem

I think you'll agree this is a beautiful rose. What you're looking at is a Rugosa rose by the name of 'Therese Bugnet'. I've had it for about 20 years now and just love when it's in bloom.

Last year, however, I started noticing that the upper half of many canes were dying. I just figured they snapped during a windstorm or something along those lines and proceeded to prune off the dead canes.

This shows some of the damage.
By the end of the garden season, I started noticing that many canes had swollen areas on them (see photo at bottom). After doing a bit of research, I initially thought it was a type of canker, which is caused a disease. However, I've recently learned that it's likely caused by cane borers. Fortunately, the treatment for both canker and cane borers is essentially the same.

According to the Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Management Handbook, I needed to "cut and destroy infected canes well below the infected area." This also means disinfecting my pruners in between each cut.
More damage, but on a different rose.
I finally took care of it today and am so discouraged by how many canes I had to remove. But I know I'm doing the right thing. I had a little mantra I was using so I wouldn't forget to dip the pruners into a pail of bleach and water each time: "Clip... Dip.  Clip... Dip." That worked pretty well.

I'm hoping the rose will come back from this huge setback and I intend to really watch for any more swollen areas on the remaining canes this season. I'm hoping I've nipped the problem in the bud, though.

I should also mention that two other roses of mine had a couple of swollen canes. That's so frustrating! So I clipped those off as well, continuing with my "clip... dip... clip... dip" mantra.
This is a cane with the swollen area.

But the painful lesson I learned is that I probably spread the disease last year by pruning off all the dead canes without sterilizing my pruners. So this is just a friendly reminder that, if you have a disease problem, disinfect your pruners every time! Also, we're not going to shred the canes I pruned off today to go into our compost pile, but will be sending them off on our next trash day. I guess I just have to learn things the hard way sometimes!

If you want to get a better look at the swollen area of the rose cane pictured at left, click on the photo. It's pretty alarming to see something like that.

I've heard that cane borers were a big problem on Rugosa roses last year and that the gardeners who care for Rose Hill in Spokane's Manito Park were dealing with this, too. For some reason it's heartening to know I'm not the only one dealing with this!

One last thing: since the water and bleach solution can cause metal blades to rust, be sure to dry them off afterwards and then spray them with a lubricant like WD-40.