Taking the Necessary Steps in Becoming a DIY Home Gardener

To accomplish anything in life, you have to start somewhere. While the commitment to dive right in is necessary, knowing where to begin is arguably the most important part. Whether it’s deciding to tackle your own home renovation or even a simple endeavor such as gardening at home, you have to learn some basics if you want to taste success. Starting a vegetable garden at home is simple; all budding horticulturists need is a decent amount of space and the right materials to start laying the foundations. Before setting up your garden, here are a few things you should know.

IMG_2203It’s vital to give plants the sunniest spot as possible in your yard. If you live in a place with unpredictable weather then investing in a greenhouse, regardless of the size, may be beneficial. As a benchmark, experts recommend using smaller framed models that feature clip-in glazing systems, as this type of greenhouse can fit in almost any corner of the garden. The wonderful thing about greenhouses is that you’re no longer limited by the weather but instead can grow all year long. If a greenhouse proves to be too tedious, do-it-yourself gardeners can get inspiration from home bloggers on how to build a raised garden bed from scratch. Raised garden beds may not offer protection from bad weather but they do keep away some pests, including weeds.

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Once you have chosen the location and the material foundation of your garden, you can begin the fun process of planting. Not sure what to grow? The experts over at Thompson and Morgan have a list of the easiest vegetables to grow in your backyard. Of course planting is the easiest part. In order to ensure that you have a successful harvest, you will need to maintain your garden through watering and weeding. By not regularly cleaning your garden, you run the risk of entanglement or, worse, a gradual takeover of your plants. In terms of what to use when trying to get rid of weeds altogether, it’s better to approach this in a non-chemical sort of way by pulling out the roots using a shovel or trowel. On the other hand, if there are persistent wild plants with spreading wiry or deep roots, then there are some natural-based herbicides that can do the trick.

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It’s also best to cut the grass around the garden as this will keep your garden looking aesthetically appealing. Tending to long grass and dense flower borders, also reduces any viable areas where pests, such as slugs and snails, can hide and destroy your plants. This upkeep can be easily accomplished using your average lawnmower. By perusing through the extensive list of lawnmowers on Screwfix it’s evident how manufacturers have started to produce lightweight models ideal for the modern day gardener. These cordless mowers are ideal for getting into tight spaces and are easy to maneuver unlike the heavy duty mowers of the past. There are also plenty of eco-friendly electric options for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

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If you want to eliminate that kind of maintenance all together, you can opt to put a pathway made of pavers or woodchips in between your garden beds as suggested by Toby Buckland, a well-known English gardener, TV presenter, and author. For more gardening advice, including ideas about what to plant, check out his beginner’s guide in The Telegraph. The more you know, the easier it will be to dig right in. Happy Gardening!

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National DIY Day Celebration

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Happy Monday Friends 🙂 Yesterday, April 2nd, we celebrated National DIY Day by gathering with a group of awesome volunteers to build raised garden beds for a local community garden. If you are unfamiliar with National DIY Day, it is a day founded by Craft Box Girls two years ago as a way to bring people together and celebrate creativity. Last year, people all over the world were celebrating April 2nd, some as far as Australia!

As DIY Day Ambassadors we wanted to use our DIY skills for a good cause and so we teamed up with Zaman International, a non-profit humanitarian organization committed to addressing the basic needs and empowerment of marginalized women and children locally and internationally, to host the event. Since their foundation, they have provided essential needs to more than 180,000 clients in Southeast Michigan. In April 2016, Zaman moved into a 40,500 square foot Hope for Humanity Center in Inkster, Michigan. Aside from launching a Food Pantry, Zaman was recently accepted into the Feeding Inkster Community Garden Program which provides seeds, plant starters, garden tools (as available), and technical assistance for the creation and harvesting of a community garden. They are expected to ensure low-income community residents receive harvested, fresh produce in a timely manner. With not much viable land near their warehouse, we stepped in to build and decorate raised beds that will allow them to grow their fruits, vegetables, and herbs. We will be returning early next month to fill the beds up with 2 inches of gravel, soil, and plants but until then we just wanted to share a little bit about our first successful event. There were a few minor hiccups and delays but overall we are very pleased with the end result.

With a team of 10 volunteers were able to put together four 4ft x 8ft beds in just a few short hours. Two local Home Depots were generous enough to provide $25 vouchers to help with the cost of supplies like the screws, paint, and weed-blocker while the Craftbox Girls sponsored the cost of the wood to build the beds. A friend with a background in interior design and art, came up with a few cool designs that were easy to paint and added a fun splash of color to the garden beds. Scroll on down to see pictures from the event and be sure to check back in with us next month when we return to complete the project. If you’re feeling inspired and want to build your own raised bed for your dream summer garden, head on over to our very own post that covers just that. If there’s anything we hope people take away from National DIY Day, it’s this: The ability to create is part of what makes us human. We all have it in us and anyone can unlock that potential and  create anything, if only they set their mind to do it.

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Fall Harvest Herb Bouquets

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It’s nearing the end of October and the weather here is finally taking a chilly turn. With all the things that need to get done, including preparing for baby #2’s arrival in a few short weeks, tending to our garden has been one of those things low on our priority list. We really wanted to maximize our harvest this year and preserve what has managed to stay alive but we are just so short on time that we have to be realistic. All those green tomatoes and jalapeños may not be jellied or pickled this year but we at least wanted to dry some herbs for use through the winter. When I found myself bringing basil in but not having the time to clean and dry them, I placed them in a vase on the kitchen counter until I could find the time to tend to them. To my delight, not only did they thrive in their new home but they gave off the loveliest aroma. As you can see, I got a bit carried away and started making more herb arrangements to put around the house. I guess some good can come out of procrastination 😉

If you need to bring your herbs in before they completely die out but can’t preserve them immediately, consider making small bouquets out of them. With regular water changes, they should last up to a week or longer. And the best part? They make such beautiful decor! The pop of vibrant green has really brought life to our home. You can use vases, teacups, jars; any pretty glass you have on hand. I made simple, single herb arrangements but the possibilities are endless.  So hold off on lighting those pumpkin spice candles just a bit longer and consider bringing the fresh scents of basil, thyme, lavender, or whatever else you grow into your home. Nothing beats the clean, natural fragrance they give off!

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Build your Own Garden Fence

If you read our previous blog post on how to build a raised garden bed on a budget, then you might be wondering how we have kept our harvest safe from unwanted visitors. Initially we went with a cheap fence made of galvanized poultry netting but after many missing tomatoes and half-bitten squash we decided that the next year we would spend a bit more to have a quality fence. We wanted a roomy enclosed space with easy access for us to plant but sturdy and tall enough to keep the demon bunnies out. I soon sketched out a blueprint for my imagined firewall and got to work making it a reality. I will warn you that it is a bit on the pricier side but it’s a sound fence that’s practical and aesthetically pleasing. Shall we get to work?

 

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Our sorry excuse of a fence

Supplies for an 12ft x 8ft garden fence
2.5 x 2.5 x 8ft  ($27.79)
24 2 x 4 x 8ft ($80.88)
1/2 x 4ft x 25ft Hardware Cloth ($38.98)
1 box Wood Screws ($6.26)
1 Fence Door Hardware ($15.98)

Tools
Staple Gun
Post Hole Digger
Miter Saw or Hand Saw
Power Drill

Directions

  1. Design a template for your fence because this saves you on both time and money. The desired size of the enclosure will dictate how much wood you will need and in turn how much you will spend. I can’t stress enough how important the planning phase is for any successful project.
  2. Cut the 2.5 x 2.5 x 8ft timber to 7 ft. 5ft of the timber is for the fence sections since the hardware cloth is only 4ft tall and the remaining 2ft is going into the holes you will dig to secure the fence.
  3. Using the post digger, dig seven holes (3 on each side and an extra one for the door) about 2 ft deep. I did not use cement to secure the timber posts because I find it unnecessary but feel free to use cement if you like!
  4. Once you have dug your post holes, insert the timber poles leaving 5ft above the ground. Make sure the poles are level by laying a 2×4 or a longer piece of wood across the posts while placing a level on top of it.
  5. The next step is to assemble the sides of the fence by using the 24 pieces of 2x4in x 8ft pieces to make rectangular frames:
    • Cut a total of four 2 x 4 x 8ft to a height of 5 ft (current they are 8 ft). These will be the vertical sides of your frame. The hardware cloth is 4 ft and that is your height unless you want the hardware cloth to be shorter.
    • Cut a total of four 2 x 4 x 8ft to your desired width. I cut mine to 6 ft because I needed the width of the fence horizontally to be 12ft.
    • Now that you have four 4ft and four 6ft pieces lay them out according to the design in Figure 1.  You must follow that design if you want to keep the fence sturdily joined together. This also keeps the ends from bending.
    • Lay the hardware cloth flat on top of your bottom piece of your boards (see Figure 2 ) and fasten using your staple gun.
    • Proceed by laying the top pieces of your board over the hardware cloth/bottom frame and join the boards together using wood screws (see Figure 3).
    • Flip the completed fence frame gently and screw the other side as well (see Figure 4).
  6. Repeat Step 5 until you have enough sections to enclose your garden. I needed to repeat the  step six times. If you are unsure about your calculations try attaching your fence side to the post first and proceed by building then attaching rather than building all the sides and attaching them at the end.
  7. Now you can attach the completed fence sides to your 5ft timbers posts using a drill and wood screws.
  8. Create a basic door using the leftover 2 x 4 x 8ft by cutting them until you have two 2ft and four 5ft pieces. Align the four 5ft pieces on the ground vertically and make sure the space between them is even. Place the two 2ft pieces one closer to the top and one closer to the the bottom, using wood screws to secure them. Last but not least cut a piece of hardware cloth to the size of your door and install it on the backside of the door. I used basic fence door hardware for the hinges and lock. Installation manual is included in the packing and is very straightforward.
  9. For an overall cleaner look, use mulch, wood chips or small stones between the garden bed(s) and fence.
  10. Enjoy the fruits of your hard labor without bunny or deer bite marks.
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    Figure 1 – Bottom, Top & Hardware Cloth

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    Figure 2 (Spacing for visualization)

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    Figure 3 (w/o spacing)

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    Figure 4 (w/o spacing)

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Build Your Own Raised Garden Bed

Spring is finally in the air here in Michigan and we are getting closer and closer to planting season, one of our favorite times of the year. Gardening for us is just so fun and fulfilling because it connects us to the beauty of nurturing and growth. If this is the year you decided to try your hand at gardening then starting with a raised bed might be the way to go. A custom raised vegetable/fruit/herb garden is not only easy to make but it takes a lot of the hassle out of gardening in terms of weeding and messes. It also makes for a beautiful backyard feature and less back-bending and back-breaking work.

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You can go about this project a couple different ways but the instructions I have provided in this post are for store-bought wood from your local Home Depot or Lowe’s. For our garden beds, we upcyled wood panels that we had stored in our garage from our early basement renovation and we personally recommend this route if you have unused wood just lying around. There is something extra rewarding about repurposing items and reducing waste and what better time to do that than during the environmentally conscience activity of gardening. Of course you can always buy a raised garden bed but where’s the fun in that? Not to mention, a store-bought garden bed can run anywhere from $100-$250 depending on the size and material. If you buy the wood yourself, you can have a similar garden bed for half the price and if you go the upcycling route it will cost you nearly nothing.

Costco Garden Bed

Costco – $107.50 / one

Home Depot Garden Bed

Home Depot – $99.19 / one

Lowes Garden Bed

Lowe’s – $118.00 / one

 

Now that we have you convinced (hopefully) to build your own garden bed, here’s what you’ll need:

Supplies for an 8ft x 8ft garden bed
2in x 6in x 8ft ($60)
2in x 2in x 8ft ($7.50)
Weed Blocker ($9.97)
1 box Wood Screws ($6.58)
Patience ($0.00)
Green Thumb (Priceless)

Note: I did not include the amount and price of soil in the supply list because that will really depend on the size of your bed. If you are unsure, this soil calculator is super helpful!

Tools
Staple Gun
Post Hole Digger
Miter Saw or Hand Saw
Power Drill

Directions

  1. Design the layout of your raised garden bed based on the shape and dimensions you want. Our wood panels were 6 ft long so our garden bed ended up being 6ft x 6ft.
  2. If you chose a rectangular design and want to make cuts to the 2x6x8’s (or any other wood you are using), now would be the time to do so using a miter or hand saw. If you want a square 8ft x 8ft layout then just leave them as is. These pieces will be the side panels of your garden bed.
  3. Cut your 2x2x8s so that you end up with a total of six 2ft pieces (you’ll have some wood leftover). These will be the legs of your garden bed. You may notice that the garden legs are longer than the side panels and that is intended. The extra foot of leg is for planting the garden bed firmly in the ground.
  4. Next, you will attach the side panels of your garden bed to the legs.The first thing you want to do is lay out two 2x6x8 pieces horizontally and parallel to each other so that there are no gaps between them. At equal intervals, starting precisely from the corner, attach the garden bed legs (2x2x2) to the sides using your drill. You will need 6 screws to do this: 1 in each of the two panels for each of the three legs.
  5. Repeat step 4 using two more 2x6x8s and the remaining 3 legs.
  6. Now you can complete the garden bed by connecting the remaining panels perpendicular to the side panels with the legs to form your square or rectangle. Make sure that the legs are on the inside of the garden bed. Once you have put together all the boards, your garden bed should look like the final image in the 3D model below.
  7. Use the post hole digger and dig 6 holes for your legs, making sure you measure the distances accurately between the legs so you won’t have to struggle putting them into the ground.
  8. Now you can go ahead and place the garden bed legs into their corresponding holes.
  9. This is an optional step but one we found helped drastically reduce the weeds. Lay the weed blocker down at the bottom of the garden bed and use a staple gun to fasten it to the sides of the bed. Do the same thing across all sides of the garden bed making sure to cover the entire surface area.
  10. Fill your garden bed with the soil mixture of your choice and you are all set to plant whatever your heart desires 🙂

And for the visual learner…

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Now sit back and enjoy the harvest to come.

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Urban Jungle Bloggers: Botanical Zoom

Spring is just around the corner and what better time to zoom in on plants than now! Our house plants are very dear to us. So much so that before we had our baby, we talked about our plants as though they were our children. Yes, they were (and still are) that important to us! We didn’t really know anyone that took their plants as seriously as us until we came across the awesomeness that is Urban Jungle Bloggers. Urban Jungle Bloggers, hosted by the inspiring Igor and Judith, is a monthly series inviting bloggers to write and share anything and everything plant-related. Every month there is a different theme and this month is all about zooming into the hidden beauty that is often taken for granted.

So here’s to taking pauses; to setting aside the chaos of daily routines and endless to-do lists. Here’s to being one with the pieces of earth that coexist with us in our homes.

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“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”
Henry David Thoreau

There is something serenely beautiful about the way the sunlight streams in and filters through our plants. It illuminates the most intricate of details, serving as a reminder that within us lies an unimaginable and incomprehensible vastness. It is truly humbling.

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“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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