Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Garden projects

We've been having the weirdest durn spring. The temperatures have been ricocheting between mid-90s as a high to low 50s as a high. Once or twice nighttime temps have dropped to a hair's breath above freezing (thankfully not below or I'd have lost a lot of stuff in the garden). Yesterday was beautifully warm and sunny with temps in the low 80s; this morning it's howling wind, chilly temps, and occasional rain dumps. Go figure.

But the garden is forging on, with the plants bravely facing whatever the fickle weather throws their way, although I think they're getting whiplash from the constant variables.

We needed to address a couple of garden infrastructure issues, particularly the means for climbing things to actually climb. The first of these were the peas. They needed a trellis.

The plants were beginning to flower, and those curly little tendrils were looking for something to grasp.

Don rustled up some sturdy fiberglass poles we had lying around. Where did we get these? No idea. I think they came off a salvage pile we harvested somewhere awhile ago.

Don hammered them into the pea beds so we could attach some fencing to them to act as a trellis.

Then I rustled up a small roll of three-foot-high fencing.

The roll turned out to be almost precisely the right length. All I had to do was cut it in half, then later trimmed off about six inches of surplus at one end. I strung up the fencing pieces and wired it to the fiberglass poles.

Within hours, the first tendrils found their way to the trellis. Climbing plants are truly amazing.

While I fussed with the peas, Don started another project: a grape arbor.

We'd been interested in trying grapes for a couple of years. Earlier in the spring, we stopped -- for an entirely unrelated reason (fish for Younger Daughter's aquarium) -- at a store in Spokane that sold pet and gardening supplies, and to my happy surprise they had a variety of grapes available in their gardening center at very reasonable prices, $7 each if I recall.

We ended up purchasing two each of two varieties: Canadice, a red grape suitable for fresh eating, juicing, or wine...

...and Himrod, another multi-purpose (fresh eating and juice) grape, this one described as either white/light green, or gold-yellow (depending on what source is consulted). Both varieties are winter-hardy.

I temporarily potted the grapes in five-gallon pots.

To build boxes for the grapes, Don used scrap lumber from an old barn we tore down and trotted home many many years ago.

He cut the lumber sized to fit an arching cattle panel (some people call them hog panels).

The idea was to take part of the garden fence which had been temporarily blocked off, and build an archway opening.

We peeled back the fencing and carefully measured, then Don drilled some holes with the auger.

Then he bolted an archway to a couple of pressure-treated 4x4s. Where did the fancy metal arch come from? A lucky find at the dumpsters several months ago. Apparently someone had a fancy metal structure, possibly part of a gazebo, that had come down in the wind. They had shucked all the structural components in the dump. Don found and carried home the parts since they were too pretty to go to waste.

(One of the many things I love about my husband is his creativity and ability to see beauty and possibility in what others call junk.)

We raised the frame and settled the 4x4s in the holes, and temporarily braced it into place.

Then Don started constructing boxes at the inside base of the arch.

Then he mixed some concrete, and cemented the 4x4s into place.

Next we stretched a cattle panel loosely across from box to box.

Then he U-nailed it into place on the rim of the boxes...

...as well as added a U-nail to the upright for added stability.

Then I filled the boxes partway, added the grapes, and filled the boxes to the top, gently packing the dirt around the grape plants.

One of the plants was long enough that I could twine it through the panel.

Eventually we'll add these fancy uprights in front of the 4x4s.

Don also plans to build wooden gates in front of the arch, though for the moment we've simply re-blocked it with fencing to keep the deer out.

Little by little, that's the name of the game.


  1. Seedless himrods are tough to grow. They take a lot of babying. Much slower growing than other type I've grown.

  2. We've had some odd temperature swings here in North Central Florida too. Usual mid June temps hover around 95, but this weekend we had two glorious, breezy, 80-degree days.
    And now it's hot again...oh well, I never bother to garden in the summer anyways! You can't water enough or pick off enough caterpillars to make it worth the sunstroke.

  3. Good luck! My grapes looked unusually wonderful for my sad garden for about a week. Then one lone deer found them....:-( Natokadn

  4. We did the cattle panel arches a few years ago. I have no idea where the wife came up with the idea but the sure work perfect and are sturdy enough to stay good for years. Ours are used for pole beans mostly.

  5. Winemaker from LuxembourgJune 21, 2016 at 11:43 AM

    Im winemaker, so a few tips and "reallllyyy???"s:
    - grapes are usually winterhardy(they are multiyear plants, pointing this out was "reaaaaaallllyy?"), but shortly after coming out of hibernation frost will still be bad, so if it often freezes at around may 15 you might not get a lot of grapes
    - every grape is multiuse(they have sugar in them, which makes them tasty and transforms into alcohol "reeaallly?")
    - keep the soil under the plants free from weed(around a foot in each direction)
    - you only get grapes from green parts growing from 1 year old wood (adjust your winter cutting accordingly)
    - protect the young plants from rabits!!!!
    - spraying could be necessary
    >if a non fungus resistant sort:
    beginning when they got their fifth leaf every +-ten days(before rain if possible)
    >if a fungus resistant sort:
    after flowering and when the grapes are around 1/6 inch diameter

    althought this could be unnecessary altogether due to your location.

    organic spraying(in europe at least) is sulfur + copper(ionic...if its blue its right) + phosphoric acid
    general tip: plant a rose next to them, they tend to be more prone to 1 sort of fungus so if their leafs turn gray ->sulfur! or baking powder(natrium-dihydrogen-carbonate also available as potassium version)

    -there exists water soluble sulfur btw
    -copper can be copper-sulfate but others exist
    -phosphoric acid is just a name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopotassium_phosphite

    if more information is needed, just add something in the beginning of a post, but pls be aware that im in europe and things could be different

  6. After babying my canadice grape vine for four years, watching it grow wonderfully, and getting a huge harvest of grapes, I ripped it out this spring. The grapes were so tart they were practically inedible. Nor did I like the juice they made. You may want to consider another variety. It was horrible to have to rip it out and start again. Thanks so much for your postings!

  7. That is one SWEET grape arbor! We did one years ago, and it seems that all the favorites we planted cross bred, into a blush grape... Oh well, still good;)

  8. How do they know? How do the pea plants know there is now something to grab on to? I've seen lots of plants. None have eyes with which to see.

    This is why I'm no longer a Materialist.

  9. Patricia, just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. It is one of the few that I know will be an enjoyable read each and every time even though I don't always agree with you I surely do enjoy how you express yourself. I have enjoyed your books as well.
    Blessing to you and your family,

  10. I love how you and Don take time to make your place beautiful as well as functional! Looks great!