The Vegetable Garden Chronicles Part 2: Taming the Critters

It’s official: We have a rabbit problem.

This month, we planted our vegetable garden. After only one night, our neighborhood rabbits moved in and two of our zucchini plants looked like this:

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After our discovery, we developed a quick plan of action to protect the remaining plants. After researching online, we found that the best method to tame a rabbit problem is to put up a fence. Although we are not fond of the green garden fence, it was one of the most inexpensive solutions for our garden.

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For around $50, we bought two rolls of 2ft tall green garden fence and 15 3ft stakes. Just a note: if you have a deer problem, buy a bigger fence and stakes. Deer can easily scale a fence less 8ft. For cottontail rabbits, you need to install at least a 2ft fence.

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FBFS_GardenChronicles 1-13After installing the fence, we discovered that we also have a squirrel problem. We noticed a few more nibbles after the fence installation.

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FBFS_GardenChronicles 1-17Time for Plan B. We read that sprinkling chili flakes in or around the perimeter of the garden will help keep critters out because they do not like the spicy flavor. It is important to sprinkle the chili flakes at least once a week because rain and time will cause the flakes to lose their effectiveness.

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So far, the chili flakes are working and we are keeping a close eye on our plants for any more nibbles. We will keep you updated!

 

 

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The Vegetable Garden Chronicles Part 1: Plants!

It is summer growing season! The threat of frost is gone and the weather warmed up in time for us to plant our vegetable garden this month. Last year, we planted our garden in May and faced a few days of frost and then we replanted some of our vegetables because our seedlings didn’t make it.

We learned a lot from our first vegetable garden and we are putting that knowledge into our garden this year.

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Before planting, we prepped the garden by adding two bags of Miracle Gro garden soil to the existing peat moss. Next, we sprinkled vegetable plant food all over the garden and mixed it in to the soil. Finally, we watered the entire garden and let it set up overnight.

Here is the layout of our garden. We planned the layout to make sure we could strategically fit all the plants. It is a little rough, but you get the idea. 🙂

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Before we started planting, we laid out glass beads to mark the location of each plant.

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We chose a variety of seeds and mature plants. We planted zucchini, watermelon, spinach, sweet corn, romaine lettuce, several varieties of tomatoes, yellow peppers, red peppers and green beans.

The watermelon, yellow peppers, zucchini, yellow tomatoes and grape tomatoes are mature plants.

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Our globe tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, green beans and red peppers, we purchased as Miracle Gro Groables seed pods. Miracle Gro advertises that their seed pods are guaranteed to grow. A few of our seed pods are already sprouting.

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Our beans appeared about two days after we planted.

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We also planted sweet corn as seeds.

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Once the seeds are more mature, I have two bags of mulch to spread through the garden to protect the plants from bugs and weeds. Look for more updates on our garden in upcoming posts!

Update: Spring has sprung!

(On Sunday I discovered that the tulips that I thought were Rembrandt tulips are actually more varieties of lily tulips and our Rembrandt tulips started blooming! See below for updated pictures.)

And we’re back. It’s been a busy few months and although it was not really planned, I took a break from writing to catch up/focus on myself and our home. Since I last posted, BJ and I started a new workout routine, we started eating a healthier, more organic diet, and we also completed a few projects around the house.

To kick off our new series of posts, I first want to start by mentioning that we will be adding some new material to Frame By Frame Style. With our new organic eating, I also purchased a juicer and I will share a few of our recipes for delicious juices and other treats we are making. I also plan to share tips and tricks and resources for eating organic. I’m not an expert by any means, so as I learn new tips, I will share them with you. You can also check out my Pinterest board A Cleaner, Greener and Leaner Living for pins on healthy eating and living.

Before we dive into the healthy eating and living posts, I have an update on our flower bulb planting last year. In the fall, BJ and I planted around 150 tulip and crocus bulbs in our front yard garden beds. Now, six months later, the flowers are blooming!

First, at the beginning of April the crocuses (or croci) came up and bloomed. We planted purple, white and yellow crocuses and saw all three colors bloom.

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photo 2-2The crocuses are gone and now our tulips are coming up in stages. A few are still buds, but we have plenty that are already blooming in time for Easter on Sunday.
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The first to bloom were the lily tulips. In the evening, they close like regular tulips but during the day when they are in full bloom they open to look more like a lily. Our lily tulips are blooming in a bright pink, bright orange and a white/pink variety.

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We also planted Rembrandt tulips. The Rembrandt tulips are very bright and have pointed tips.

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I took many pictures of our tulips and this is my favorite of the tulip pictures I captured. This is a peacock tulip. They grow a little taller than the other tulips and have a softer look. 
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Here is another look at our peacock tulips. Our tulips are still blooming so look for more pictures to come. IMG_0795

I’m really thankful that we are seeing our fall planting come to fruition. It was a harsh winter for most of the United States and the Midwest experienced cold temperatures that were below -15F (-30F wind chill). I wasn’t sure if any of our flowers would make it through the tough winter but they did and I’m so glad! They will be really beautiful for Easter this year.

How did your gardens fair through the winter?

Along with the success of our planting, we are also experiencing a bit of a rabbit problem. In our side garden, the rabbits have enjoyed our tulips a little more than I would like.

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Eventually, we would like to elevate our front gardens so I’m hoping that will end our bunny problem in the future. In the meantime, I just have to cross my fingers and hope they find some wild flowers to eat that are not in our yard… or maybe they will eat our dandelions instead. One can hope.

More posts coming soon! Stay tuned. 🙂

Summer Gardening, Part 2

In our last post, I updated you on our front flower beds. Out in the back yard, our vegetable garden is really taking off. So far this summer, we’ve harvested our first zucchini and fresh parsley.

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Our basil plant is getting really big. We need to start incorporating fresh basil and parsley into our meals so we can use more of our fresh herbs.

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One thing I’ve noticed about our vegetable garden is that it does not need much as maintenance as I originally thought. Other than continual weeding, watering and harvesting, I haven’t spent much time maintaining the garden. I bought plant food when I first planted the seedlings, but haven’t used it yet. The vegetables look like they are holding their own without the extra food.

Our corn is doing really well. I did have to stabilize the stalks a few weeks ago. They were leaning after a heavy rain storm so I put a big clump of dirt next to each stalk and although I was doubtful of my “temporary” solution, the dirt clump did the trick and the corn stalks have stood straight ever since.

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We are starting to see a few ears growing on each of our corn stalks. I can’t wait for fresh sweet corn. Out of all the vegetables we planted, I think I’m most excited to enjoy our fresh sweet corn. Hope it is delicious! fbfs_corn_2

The green beans I replanted are up and hopefully we will have fresh green beans to harvest.
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Our yellow pepper is still going strong. I’m not sure when we will see peppers growing, but I’m still hopeful.

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We have a zucchini and a spaghetti squash that may be ready to harvest in the near future.

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How are your summer gardens?

Lilies!

Our lilies are blooming! Our lilies are blooming!

Can you tell that I’m excited? 🙂

I love spring/summer garden posts. It’s hard work maintaining a garden (as most of you know) so it’s always nice to share the fruits of our labor with those who enjoy/appreciate gardening.

I planted the lilies pictured below right after we moved into our house three years ago. Each year, the lilies keep getting bigger and more beautiful. The first to bloom this year is our stargazer lily.

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I think the lilies below are called “razzle dazzles.” They are a deep rich red color, which I really like.

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One of our tropical lilies is also blooming. Our red lily was the first to bloom this year. We also have a bright orange tropical lily.
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We are still waiting for our orange tiger lily, day lily and orange tropical lily to bloom. More updates to come!

Getting our garden on

Our vegetable garden is officially planted! But before I show you the finished product, let’s go back a week so I can tell you all about our crazy veggie garden adventures…

Two years ago, our backyard looked like this:

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It was pretty empty.
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Last year, we added a gazebo to our patio to help spruce up the backyard and to make it a little more functional.

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This year, we decided to add a vegetable garden to our backyard. But the big question was, where should we put the garden? In order to plant our veggie garden, we first needed to decide on a place in our backyard and then measure out the appropriate space. In my last post I mentioned our plans for the patio. In order to know where we wanted to put our garden, we decided to map out patio design. From the design, we were able to take a few rough measurements and place the garden in a location that would be incorporated into the patio design down the road.

After taking the measurements for the patio design and marking off the garden using spray paint, we then used a tiller to dig up the soil.Thankfully, one of our good friends let us borrow his tiller for this project. Using a tiller was a huge time saver despite our very damp and muddy soil.

Since our yard is mostly clay, we bought top soil to lay over top of the clay. We calculated that it would take 27 40lb bags of top soil to fill our space. That’s 9080 lbs of top soil! Much to my surprise (BJ wasn’t skeptical, of course) were able to fit all the bags in my car but it was definitely riding low. Good thing we only live a few miles from Lowes!

On the evening that we chose to till the current soil and lay the new top soil, a scattered thunderstorm came through and it rained for about 30 minutes. This of course, didn’t help because we’ve had so much rain that the backyard was already damp and soupy.Once it stopped raining, BJ started tilling while I made our dinner. Gotta eat sometime, right?

After dinner and tilling, we added the top soil and laid our organic garden mat.

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It was pretty late by the time we finished laying the mat so we decided to wait until the next day to plant. In the meantime, our seedlings were growing like crazy in their starter kit.

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Then, the next over the three days it rained and was cold… so fast forward a few days to Mother’s Day.

I spent several hours on Sunday, cutting holes in the garden mat and planting our seedlings. By Sunday afternoon, all the seedlings were planted. We planted red and yellow tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, zucchini, green and yellow peppers and a few herbs such as oregano, parsley and basil.

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Once the plants were in the ground, we covered the mat with peat moss and watered the entire garden.

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That night, BJ and I covered the entire garden to protect the seedlings from the potential frost.

After several days of planning, tilling and planting, our garden is complete. Now, we’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping our little seedlings make it! After this year, we’ll see what crops produced vegetables and which didn’t. Next year we will adjust our game plan based on our results. Since we’ve never planted a vegetable garden before, this year will be our baseline to determine what will grow and what will not.

Do you have a vegetable garden? What vegetables and herbs do you have the most luck with each year?

Patio Planning

We recently started planning out a patio design for our backyard. Currently, we have 10 x 10 concrete patio but we would like to add a more useful two-tiered patio made out of pavers.

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Before we started our design for the patio, we looked online at Houzz.com and Pinterest for inspiration and unique designs. We had some of our own ideas in mind but wanted to see how others designed their patios.

Here are some Pinterest pins of patios similar to our vision for the backyard:

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After we scoured the Web for inspiration and talked through our ideas, we came up with a plan of what we wanted to incorporate in our patio design (i.e. pergola, fire pit, gardens, etc). Next, we drew this quick rough design sketch using Adobe Ideas on the iPad (don’t judge our sweet finger drawing… we needed something quick… a more elaborate sketch is in the works).

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This sketch also helped us to decide where we are going to place our vegetable garden this year(more details to come). After the sketch was complete, we took a couple of rough measurements in the backyard so we could place the garden based on our sketch. That keeps us from having to move the garden or try to merge it in the design as an afterthought.

So what’s next? Our plan for the patio is to start building the two tiered section of the patio next year. In the meantime, we may add the fire pit this fall. With our design already planned out, we can add the sections as we want.

How do you tackle a large project like a patio? Do you hire a contractor? Do you do it yourself all at once? Or do you spread your project out and do it in smaller chunks over time?