Monday, April 30, 2012

Give it Some Air!

I am well overdue for a new entry! Here in Denmark, days without wind are fairly rare and having been brought up in Canada far from the coast, I must say that wind is not exactly my favorite of Mother Nature's games! So when I woke up today to a calm and sunny morning, I knew I just HAD to spend some time in the yard. I started by making breakfast and took it with me outside and sat on our "new'ish" sun terrace. I say new'ish, because the terrace itself has probably been there since the house was built (early 80's), but when we moved in (2010), it was surrounded by plants, bushes, overgrown this and that... and really was just a spider corner. So before I move on with my outdoor day, let me share with you the changes we have made lately.

We had been using the corner as a dump when renovating parts of of the house and it really was not pretty. So this year, my husband and I decided to reclaim that space. It is situated in the corner of the yard that receives the most sun. It was just a total shame that we were unable to sit there and enjoy it!

Notice all the shrubs and small trees where I'm standing and to my front-right.
Summer 2010 
So my husband and I started clearing everything up. I was dreaming of all the plants I could have there. I even managed to keep some spots for flower beds. (I had to negotiate, as my husband would put grass all over! hehehe)

We now have a new place to sit and enjoy the sun. That's where I was sitting this morning for breakfast, and it was absolutely lovely! I can't wait for the weather to be sure enough so I can put some life in the pots and flowerbeds!

April 30, 2012
April 30, 2012

As you can see, the fence to the main terrace has also been modified (last year). Everything was just so "locked in" everywhere. We needed to give it some air! The yard seems so much bigger and more appealing now. I can't wait to see it with more flowers and plants!

Now on to sorting out the front yard! It is in serious need of attention...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Nail Compost Bin

We have a backyard and we have the space. Why not build a compost bin? So that is exactly what my husband and I did. There's a lot of garden / yard waste that can end up in a compost bin and eventually become nice rich soil that can be used in gardening projects. :) Grass, dead leaves, small branches, wilted flowers ... cat poo. (because Tiana thinks it's normal for a cat to poo in the middle of the lawn as opposed to the flower beds like all the other cats).

Anyways... So my husband took out his tools and installed a workstation and on we went with the plans. We wanted a bin that doesn't require any nails and is easy to put together and take apart. We also wanted to have an easy way to add to it if we eventually want it a little higher. We chose to use larch wood, because it is resistant to rot, even when in constant contact with the ground. 

Each panel is 115 cm long. We cut gaps in each end of it, as to create an easy lock-in-place system. 

Gaps cut out at each end of each panel

When all the planks were cut out as planned, we gave them a coat of lin oil for extra protection. After 24 hour drying, we were finally able to put the whole together.
Each piece locks this way together, requiring no nail at all

Two opposite panels of the base row are half as wide as the others, so that all 4 sides of the base are sitting on the ground. The top panels have gaps only on their underside. This way, the top is left complete and smooth looking. 

Finished product.
Then we had to agree on where to place our new compost bin. The wild-and-so-far-unused corner of our yard seemed to be the perfect spot. So we cleaned it up and now have a dedicated compost corner. At some point, we'll probably add a second bin, so we can turn the content easier.

Cleaning out the wild corner

The compost corner
Sitting in this corner, the bin is easy access, while being out of the way so we don't need to be looking at it when we relax on the terrace.

Easy access while out of the way

The bin is intended for yard waste only, so it should not really attract rodents or anything. Although, I do have a friend who's compost bin once became a hedgehog home! Awww :)

My husband and I had a lot of fun doing this project together. Hey, we make a great team you know! :)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Self Watering Container

The sky today is covered and it is rather cold outside. (Don't tell anyone, but I saw a few snow flakes...) eeek! But that was not going to stop me from doing garden-related projects in preparation for warmer days.

Self-watering containers can be a real help when trying to grow vegetables in pots. Most vegetable plants need a constant water supply and can become very demanding during the hot summer days. (Which, I'm afraid, partly explains my previous years failures). Self-watering containers allow for a bigger gap between watering times and give a more constant and consistent water supply. This, in turns, leads (hopefully) to healthier growth and ultimately, delicious fresh home grown vegetables.

However, such containers can be quite costly to buy ready-made. Luckily, there are ways to make your own and it's not even that difficult! I tried this project for the first time today and am quite happy with the result.

Here's how to build such a container. (Base instructions from the book "Incredible vegetables from self-watering containers" by Edward C. Smith)

I used:

- A BIG plant container
- An old paint bucket bottom that fits nicely in the plant container
- Fine plastic mesh (small holes)
- Metal wire
- Plastic pipe (3cm in diameter)
- A saw for cutting plastic
- A metal cutter
- A Dremel tool
- a wood stick longer than the height of the big container

1. I cut out the bucket so I would only keep the bottom of it. This will be the water container. I then covered it with plastic mesh. I secured the mesh with metal wire.

Bucket bottom covered with plastic mesh

 2. I cut two pieces of plastic pipe. The small one is just a little taller than the height of the water container. The tall one is exactly the height of my plant container. I drilled a few holes at the base of each pipe. The small pipe will allow water to seep up to the soil from the water container. I will be able to refill that container through the long pipe.

A few holes at the bottom of each pipe

3. I cut out two holes in the mesh, so I could place the pipes. The short pipe should be towards the middle, the long pipe should be closer to the edge. I then took my wood stick and marked the height of the container. This will be my water gauge. 

Simple water gauge

 4. I placed the water container in the plant container and filled with soil, making sure to fill the small pipe, to allow water to seep up. And voila! I have my first self watering container, and I made it myself! :)

The hardest part of the project was actually to cut out the paint bucket. The rest was a breeze, and I am already planning to turn another one of my plant containers into a self-watering one. 

I am very much looking forward to the real test this summer, and hoping for a nice little harvest. :)

Monday, April 02, 2012

Herb seeds and paper pots

April is here (Waaahoooo!!!) and although it is quite fresh outside these days, I decided to sow some herbs and place them by a sunny window. With their germination time being between 10 and 30 days (depending on the herb), this will lead me to mid to late April. By May, I will hopefully have some healthy young plants to place outside in pots and/or beds. :)

I decided to try a new kind of sowing pots. Following instructions from "learningandyearning" (click here), I put together seedling pots made of newspaper. They are easy to make and inexpensive. When the seedlings are ready, we can even choose to just plant them where we want them, paper pot included! The paper will eventually decompose and disappear. However, it's important to remember that there are actually chemicals in newspaper, (thanks to a friend of mine for pointing it out)*** so I will probably be more inclined to remove the paper when the time comes.

For the time being, I don't think it is a big problem, as the seeds and eventual small roots will be taking their nutrients from the soil and the paper won't have time to decompose before it is planting time... I hope!?

One thing is for sure, I'm curious to see how it will all go and I'm eager to write updates about this little project! Here are the herbs I sowed today, along with their expected germination time. 

Oregano: 15-20 days
Parsley: 18-30 days
Green basil: 10-14 days
Red basil: 10-15 days
Chervil: 14-20 days

Update / Correction:
*** After verification on the level of chemicals in newspaper (thanks again to my friend for doing the research), it seems newspapers now-a-days are not as full as chemicals as originally thought. So there is no reason to fear planting the seedlings along with their paper cups. :)