Small space gardening

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How to Grow and Dry Herbs

If you’re a newcomer to herb planting and harvesting, here are some quick tips to get you off to a good start. This post is specifically about basil, but the process would be the same for many of the most commonly grown herbs.

Meet my basil plants that live on the south side of my house. They replaced some ailing spirea bushes, and look right at home among my other foundation plantings. The sun there is brutal, but they appear to be happy and well-adjusted because they’re getting the required six to eight hours of sun per day. The photo is actually of two plants, planted a foot or two apart that have mingled together beautifully.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’re hoping to plant your herbs in a tiny space or a small pot, I hate to burst your bubble, but you might want to re-think that idea. Basil, as well as most herbs, when given enough room to mature will grow to the equivalent of a medium-sized bush.

I have a tiny suburban yard, so I have to get creative and be practical with my limited space. I like to use my little slice of the planet for plantings that are not only beautiful but edible too. There’s no reason why basil can’t be used as a foundation planting.

Many people have the standard evergreens, spireas, boxwood and such around their foundations, but here you can see from left to right are a tomato plant, a barberry bush, and some basil instead. Not pictured, to the left of the tomato plant are pickling cucumbers that grow up onto a trellis to save space, and to hide an ugly air conditioning unit.

 How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Another view from left to right shows barberry, basil, burning bush, onions and peas (in the upper right). Also planted in this area are beets, a pepper plant and some red cabbage. All of this in a tiny side yard!

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

OK, back to the herbs. The best time to harvest herbs such as basil and oregano, is before they flower. Once they flower, it takes a little more time to prepare them because the blooms need to be snipped off. But it’s not a big deal to cut the flowers off with a pair of scissors, and the herbs will still taste just fine. If you look closely at the top of the stem in this photo, you can see there are no flowers forming yet.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

When the flowers form, it’ll be obvious because they’ll look like…well…flowers. Basil blooms can be pinkish/purple or white.

 How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Basil can be harvested in the spring in zone 5. The stems can be cut at the ground, and new ones will grow right back. If harvested in fall, basil will return in the spring.

After it’s cut, I remove any grass, weeds or critters that may be mixed in, and then give the stems an extra shake for good measure. I don’t use any chemicals on my basil since nothing insect-wise or disease-wise ever seems to bother it. That being said, I don’t soak the leaves in water before I dry it. Mother Nature’s rain keeps the basil clean enough for me, and a little dirt (protein) never hurt anybody anyway. (I do inspect it for dirt, but it seems a little counterproductive to me to unnecessarily wet down something that’s supposed to be drying out.)

If you cut a large amount of basil, and lay the stems in a ginormous pile, you won’t live long enough to see them dry out because, yes, it’ll take that long. I’ve also heard that they can mold if they take too long to dry, but I’ve never had that issue. I spread them thinly on a cookie sheet for drying.

A more efficient way to dry herbs is to tie the cut ends together, and hang them in small bunches so the air can circulate on all sides. I don’t have a good spot for hanging herbs, but I wish I did so I could be all glamorous like Martha Stewart.

Drying them in the sun is a no-no because they’ll fade and lose their flavor. I’ve read that you can dry them in the oven, but why? I prefer to go au naturale.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Within 24 hours, you can see in the photo they’ve wilted quite a bit, but they’ve got a long way to go. I flip the stems over, and fluff them up often so the bottom leaves will be exposed to the air too.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s the basil after two weeks of drying time. You’ll know it’s ready when the leaves crumble when you rub them between your fingers–anywhere from two to four weeks. You may be wondering if a person might get tired of having a pile of wilted leaves on their kitchen counter for weeks. The answer is yes. But I do it anyway in hopes of being a tiny bit Martha-glamorous, a little more healthy and a few dollars richer.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

To strip the leaves, I hold the cut end of the stem, and pull my fingers down the stem to the tip and the leaves come right off. If you try to strip them by going the other direction, the small branches can prick your fingers. I strip them directly into my food processor bowl.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s what’s left when I’m finished. The stems go into the compost pile or my worm-composting bin.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Now the leaves are ready to be chopped. Some people believe they have more flavor if left whole while stored, and that they should be crushed when you need to use them. I’m thinking a shriveled up leaf is going to have the same amount of flavor whether whole or chopped, but more importantly, they take up much less room in if they’re chopped. You be the judge.

 How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s the finished product. Being a sort-of-hoarder, I’ve got a decent stash of spice containers that I save for storing my own dried herbs. It’s nice to have the containers if you’re giving your basil to friends too. If you put it in a Ziplock bag, your herbs could be mistaken for an illegal drug and you could find your little Martha-self in the slammer (just like Martha, in fact). Food for thought.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

As was mentioned earlier, the leaves shrink up considerably after they dry, and after they’re put through the food processor, they really shrink. So although you may cut several stems thinking that you’re going to end up with a crap-load of basil, keep in mind that you’ll probably be surprised when your crap-load of basil does not end up being a crap-load of basil at all. (I like the word “crap-load”). Just giving you a heads up on that.

And here’s my home-grown basil. I’m good to go until next year.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

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How to Plant Tiny Seeds

Planting small seeds can be a challenge. And there are lots of seeds in the gardening world that are tiny–lettuce, cabbage, onion and many varieties of flower seeds to name a few. These little guys in the photo are radish seeds, which are also small, and here are some pointers on how to plant them.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Radishes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They’re good for beginning gardeners because they germinate easily and mature quickly–only about 22 days from start to finish. They also don’t take up too much space, and other vegetables can be planted in their place after they’ve been harvested.

I’m planting mine in a pot because potting soil is nicer to work with for small seeds, and pests aren’t a problem in a pot. But if you’re planting in the ground, be sure to remove any big clods of dirt, sticks or rocks. You’ll need to break up the soil so you’re planting in fine, clump-free dirt.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Here’s the seed packet I’m using.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

The instructions tell exactly how to plant the seeds.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

They also tell when to plant according to the particular planting zone you live in. In zone 5, radishes will only grow in the spring and in the fall when the weather is cooler. If the weather gets too hot, radishes can be leathery or the tops can bolt and the radish will remain a skinny root and not develop into a ball.

These seeds are two years old, but they’re going germinate just fine. There’s no need to ever throw away unused seeds. I just stick my leftovers in a closet until the next year. Some gardeners like to refrigerate their leftover seeds, but I’ve never done that and have had no problems getting them to germinate.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

There’s no need to dig a bunch of small, half-inch-deep holes, fill each of them with these tiny little seeds and fill each one with dirt. Gardening is supposed to be fun, not an activity that makes you want to tear your hair out. There’s also no need to plant in rows and waste garden space. Instead, seeds can be scattered on top of the soil.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

After scattering the seeds, about half-an-inch of soil needs to be spread over the top of them, because the package gives half-an-inch as the seed-planting depth. Next, the soil needs to be firmly pressed down (without moving it around), to give the seeds good soil contact. I use a watering can or a spray bottle to water the seeds. If I were to use a garden hose, the seeds would be splashed all around, and could end up in clumps or on top of the soil for our fine-feathered friends to feast on.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Important tip–you must water the seeds every day in order for them to germinate. Every day. If they don’t stay moist, the seeds are just going to hang out in your garden soil and that’ll be the end of them.

Here are the seedlings after a few days.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

As you can see, they’re not perfectly spaced. But while they’re small like this, the crowded seedlings can be carefully dug up and transplanted into bare areas. Or if you don’t have a conscience, you can just pull them out and leave them on top of the ground to shrivel and die. (No pressure.)

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

They need proper spacing in order to grow, and a sunny location where they receive at least six to eight hours of sun each day. Here are some I planted in actual garden soil a couple of weeks prior.

 How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

As radishes grow, the tap root stays down in the soil, but the actual radish grows up and out of the soil. Onions grow the same way. The first time I planted radishes, I kept throwing dirt on them so they wouldn’t die. After seeing that trying to keep them covered was futile, I realized they weren’t going to die, and that’s just how they grow. Hello.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Here’s a pot with a pepper plant in the center, and radishes planted around it. After the radishes are pulled out, the pepper plant will have the pot all to itself and will have plenty of room to grow.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

I used the same method of scattering and covering seeds for planting this tray of lettuce.

 How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

This method of randomly sprinkling the seeds and adding soil over the top of them, is the best way I’ve found to plant small seeds. I also prefer sprinkling the seeds rather than planting in rows since I have a tiny garden. More seeds can be sown in a smaller area this way, and it’s especially beneficial if you have a container garden. I find that when I plant this way I waste fewer seeds, but end up with more vegetables.

I hope you find this method works for you too. Happy planting!

 How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings

You’ve planted rows of vegetable seeds, and now it’s time to thin your seedlings. If pulling out those precious baby plants makes you queasy, take heart. You no longer have to feel like a serial plant killer.

I’ve been re-planting my throw-aways for a few years now, and with great success. I’ve done this with pretty much every vegetable seedling there is—spinach, radishes, lettuce, green beans and cucumbers to name a few. In this post, I’ll be thinning and re-planting peas.

First let me stress that it’s a total waste of seeds to plant them closer together than what the package recommends. I used to think more is better with seed planting, but it’s not. And I strongly suspect I’m not the only gardener that has over-planted for fear of not having enough seeds germinate. And besides wasting seeds, transplanting your thinnings is another reason not to plant too closely or you won’t be able to get a spade in between the seedlings in order to dig up the ones you want to save.

I also used to plant seeds too close together because what was I going to do with all those leftover seeds anyway? May as well use the whole pack, right? Wrong. I’ve learned that you save the leftovers and plant them the next year. And the next, and the next…I’ve planted seeds four and five years old with no problems. I just stored the packets in a closet. No need to refrigerate them as far as I’m concerned.

So here’s what I’ve got. My peas are ready to be thinned to about four to six inches apart. At the moment, they’re about two inches apart.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If I don’t thin these peas, they’ll be a tangled up mess because the tendrils will grab onto the plant next to them instead of my metal fencing. Then I’ll have a glob of pea plants that are all stuck together independent of the fence. Once that happens, it’s all over. Trust me folks, you need to thin your peas.

I bought these bamboo stakes at a garage sale, and they’re perfect for peas to latch onto.

 Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

First, I stick them in the ground where I want my peas to grow. Then at the base of each pole, I remove some of the soil where each seedling will be planted.

 Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I put the excess dirt on this cardboard lid so I can carry it with me.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Now I very gently dig up the extra seedlings by pushing my trowel down into the dirt, three to four inches on each side of the plant, making a square in the soil around each one. Then I dig up the seedling and place it on my cardboard.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I use the excess soil I brought with me from the original holes to fill in each hole I create when I remove the transplants. I push the soil down firmly after I fill each hole with dirt.

Then I plant the seedlings into the original holes. Here they are!

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They now have four to six inches of space in between each plant to spread out and grow.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Since peas are considered a cool-weather crop here in zone 5, they’re going to bite the dust when it gets hot. They’ll quit producing, turn brown and be pulled out of the ground by yours truly. The beauty of that is, I can plant them close to other plants that will take over their space when they’re gone. In this case, my tomatoes will grow into their space.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I was fortunate enough to have a cloudy day to do this, which is less stressful for the plants. If the sun is out, it’s best to move them in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Unfortunately, it’s a windy day (we can’t have everything), so I used some twist ties to very loosely tie the taller transplants to the poles to keep them from flopping over.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Soon enough, the tendrils will grab onto the bamboo and they’ll climb on their own like this little guy is learning to do. FYI – since the tendrils aren’t very long, they need something small to grab onto. Lattice, for example is too large for peas to grasp.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here are a few other places I moved my transplants to. My front flower bed…

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I planted some in a pot with some cucumber seeds that haven’t germinated yet, but will take over after the peas are finished producing.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And in an empty spot near a dwarf lilac bush was another place to plant them.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’ve never planted peas, and are considering taking the plunge, I highly recommend the edible pod variety. They’re great for stir-frying if you pick the pods when they’re young and tender, and if you let them grow, the shelled peas are great eaten raw on salads. In zone 5, you’ve got until the end of May to plant them, or you can also plant a fall crop when the weather cools.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Happy thinning!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting

When the first warm days arrive in spring, I’m ready to get my hands in the dirt. Although some garden seeds can be sown outdoors now, it’s too soon to plant many of the common container plants in mid-April here in zone 5.  I can prepare my pots now though, so when the time comes, I’m good to go. It’s not one of my favorite projects, but it has to be done. Here are some of the pots that need tended to.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I started getting more into container gardening a couple years ago after finding a couple of large, killer pots at some yard sales that were ridiculously cheap. And since my yard is small, it gives me another avenue for planting so I figured why not give it a try. Now of course, I’m hopelessly addicted. No worries about bunnies, insects or crappy soil.

It’s a good thing my garage sale pots were almost free, because I was shocked, disappointed, frustrated, and then amused to find out how expensive potting soil is. It’s dirt, after all. In my mind it’s like buying water to drink when it comes out of the faucet for free. But I realize potting soil is a whole different animal, and is a necessity for healthy container plants.  Since I almost had to take out a second mortgage to buy lots of potting soil when I first started this adventure, I decided rather than dump out all of my potting soil and start over each year, I would amend what I have and save some money.

To illustrate why you shouldn’t re-use potting soil without amending it, check this out. Here’s what came out of my window boxes. It was just like popping an ice-cube out of an ice-cube tray.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasishoto IMG_4922.jpg

 Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Solid chunks like that one came out of every pot when I dumped out the soil. Here’s a clump of roots that came out of one of my larger pots after I shook all of the soil loose.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Plants aren’t going to be very happy trying to find their way through all those old roots. I promise.

It’s easiest to dump the pots into a wheel barrow, and remove all of the chucks and roots. Those go into my compost pile. I have a pretty large wheel barrow (!!garage sale find!!), but I could only dump a few pots at a time, or it would be too difficult to mix it all up.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The old potting soil can be amended with either some fresh potting soil, or as I’m doing this year, worm castings and composted manure. Here are some castings I’ve been saving from my worm bin.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

What you don’t want to add to your potting soil is dirt from your yard. I tried that one year when I ran short of potting soil. I thought just a small amount of “earth” mixed in with it wouldn’t hurt, but I was wrong. The soil became hard as a rock and the plants didn’t do well.

So now I have my amended soil ready to put back into my pots.

Some of my smaller pots that I love, don’t have drainage holes in them. I won’t purchase any more ceramic pots without drainage holes because plants don’t seem to like them all that much. I’ve tried drilling holes in ceramic pots with a specialized drill bit, but it’s nearly impossible to do. But since these pots are among my favorites, I still want to use them–drainage holes or not. I use Styrofoam peanuts in them to allow for some drainage space. Even though the pots are medium-sized, they’re still heavy, so peanuts are the way to go. Here’s two of them.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’s much less mess if you just put the pot right into the wheelbarrow (if you have one) to fill it.

 Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

For larger pots, I do pretty much the same thing. The lightweight “fake” pots are easy to drill through, and often do not come with drainage holes. After I drilled holes in the larger pots, I duck taped a small section of screen over the hole to help keep the soil from running out.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I know they look like garbage cans at the moment, but for the bigger pots, I add big chunks of Styrofoam and/or empty plastic bottles (with the lids on) so I don’t have to use so much soil. The plants grow just fine in several inches of soil–they don’t need two feet of it. And of course it helps keep the pots from getting too heavy. Also, in the bigger pots, when it’s time to refurbish your soil, it’s much easier to fish through and pull out large bottles and chunks of Styrofoam than it is to pick out a couple hundred packing peanuts.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I went to a local garden shop today for a few seed packets. I started some lettuce, radishes and onion sets in some of my pots.  I couldn’t help myself and bought a four pack of annuals for one of my smaller pots. Here’s my instant gratification for all my hard work. If it snows or freezes again, yes snow is a possibility–anything can happen in Illiniois–I’ll bring my one pot inside with me for safe keeping.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’re not a container gardening person, but want to try your hand at an in-the-ground garden, now in mid-April is the time to sow some of the cool-weather crop seeds outside. (See the “Planting Timeline” in the margin of this web page to find out what can be planted now in zone 5.).

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil–Really!

No excuses. Almost everybody has one square foot of soil. If you don’t have it in the ground, you certainly can have it in a pot. And that’s all you need to grow cucumbers. Ok. And sun too. You’ll definitely need sun. Six hours minimum.

So if you’re a cucumber fan and haven’t tried growing pickling cucumbers, why not live dangerously and plant some? I’ve grown them every year since nearly the beginning of time. The appeal for me is they have a great flavor without those pesky, chewy seeds, and they can easily be grown on a lightweight trellis–including a trellis popped into a pot. And to clarify, pickling cucumbers can be eaten raw just like regular cucumbers–they’re not just for pickling.

Last spring, I was planting in my side yard, and noticed a smidge of earth about a foot square that was empty. This gardener never has an empty spot of earth. Never.

So I decided to plant some pickling cucumbers in that little spot. Once the seedlings popped their little green heads out of the soil, and I could see they were going to be happy there, I decided I’d better come up with some sort of cucumber jungle gym for the little guys. I found some bamboo poles in my garage that I’d picked up at a garage sale the prior summer, and decided to make a simple obelisk-type structure out of them.

Had I given this a little more thought at planting time, I wouldn’t have planted the seeds in a row. I would have put the trellis in the ground first, planted a couple of seeds at the base of each pole, and pulled out the “runt” as soon as it became evident which was the weaker of the two. But the truth is, I didn’t plan ahead so I had to wing it. There now…we’ve all learned from my mistake.

 Small-space gardening / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Construction was as easy as it gets. Shove the poles in the ground, and tie them at the top. Incidentally, even my twine was a garage sale bargain, so this trellis cost me almost nothing.

This set up is a good way to go if you have trouble bending down because after the initial planting, you don’t have to search around on the ground for cucumbers. I grow my green beans vertically too–on my wood fence for that very reason (See my post “How To Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence“). I don’t have problems bending down, I just work smarter, not harder, as they say. Plus, the critters can’t get to the veggies as easily if they’re up in the air. If they want a cucumber, they have to work for it at my house!

Small-space gardening / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Since I wasn’t on the ball with the original seed placement, I had to keep a close eye on the vines as they started to grow, nudging them in the right direction so they each had their own pole to climb. If you don’t give them some guidance, and check on them often, you’ll have some major tangles on your hands. Those delicate-looking tendrils are like a plant version of a python. Once they curl around each other, they are not going to let go, and it’s hard to get them untangled without damaging them.

 Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This method turned out to be the best one I’ve tried for growing cucumbers. I had more cucumbers than I could eat from these four vines in one square foot of soil, and I can eat a lot of cucumbers. When planted on a vertical structure, the fruit is easy to see and harvest, and the open form ensures good air flow. Cucumbers are prone to powdery mildew (at least mine are), and good air circulation can help prevent it from attacking the foliage. Here are my vines when they were almost to the top of the poles.

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

“To each his own” is a phrase I use often. But I gotta say, it baffles me that there are humans on planet earth who don’t grow their own vegetables. Seriously. Shell out a couple of dollars for a packet of seeds or a couple of transplants, and you can have fresh, chemical-free vegetables all summer. I’ve successfully planted leftover seeds that are up to three and four years old, so it’s very cost-effective. My yard is tiny, so I plant a little bit of a several different vegetables; some in the ground, some in pots and many vertically. Vegetables are planted among my landscape bushes and flower beds. Here are some veggie pots from the past couple of years.

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I’m not suggesting everybody plant a huge garden or even a small raised bed, because there is a time commitment with a garden. I’m saying just try planting your favorite vegetable in one square foot of quality soil or a pot that receives at least six hours of full sun, and see where it takes you. Most folks get bit by the gardening bug, and go bigger each summer.

Then again, there are people like Sheri, my best friend in the world who has never, to my knowledge, planted a single seed in her life. She’s not afraid of getting bit by the gardening bug. She’s afraid of getting bit by any bug–not an outdoor sorta girl. My friends Kim and Sam shamelessly wait for their co-workers to bring their overflow veggies to work to share. And my son, Ross, is a veggie lover and homeowner with his very own dirt, but I haven’t managed to persuade him to plant veggies yet either. To the non-gardeners in my life, I adore you, but I just don’t understand. Apparently you don’t need gardening “therapy” like I do!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in Redesign, please feel free to check her other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Simply My Backyard

It’s the dead of the winter here in Central Illinois, we’re in the process of getting several inches of snow and I’ve been reading gardening magazines all evening. I bought about fifty magazines at a yard sale this summer from some homeowners whose yard should have been on the cover of one of them. Those beautiful souls allowed me, a total stranger, to walk around in their private back yard garden that was one of the most amazing that I’ve seen. (Thank you, wherever you are!) I purposely stayed away from the magazines until now, because I knew I was going to need a “fix” sometime when summer seemed light years away.

I’m not so sure treating myself to the articles and gorgeous photos was such a great idea. Now I’m feeling anxious to get my hands in the dirt, and a little sad that I won’t be getting any yard “therapy” for a few more months. I’m thinking of all those outdoor projects that are patiently waiting for me–my wood fence that needs attention, my lovely stamped concrete patio that needs to be sealed and all those plants that need to be divided that, like my children, grew bigger and faster than I imagined.

I found some treasures for my yard at the end of the summer that never had a chance to shine, and were banished to an empty shelf in my garage. I made a cute, rustic potting bench from curbside finds at the end of the summer that no pot ever sat on. I refurbished a beautiful bird bath, also found on a curb last fall, that I’m anxious to place in the perfect spot in my yard (see it here!). My mind has been hopelessly stimulated now by all these dreamlike thoughts, and it’s 1:00 a.m.

So, my therapy substitute in an attempt to quiet my thoughts is going to be sharing back yard pictures from this past summer through this post. If you’ve never visited my blog before, here’s a quick history. I live in the city in a subdivision where the yards are tiny, and neighbors are on top of each other. (I love my neighbors, by the way.) My actual yard space, not including my patio, measures 14′ x 34′. When I moved here, the green in my back yard consisted of a lawn full of clover and some weeds around the deck. Not one tree, not one bush, nothing. I tore off the deck, and some very talented young men replaced it with a poured stamped-concrete patio. Then, I planted…and planted.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any pictures of the section of my back yard that is dedicated to vegetables only, but for the record, I did manage some bang up veggies this past summer. I also developed my side yard for veggies, but that’s a whole different adventure. The following pictures are exclusively from my tiny back yard after only four years. I would also like to mention that I purchase only small (young) plants in order to keep costs down, so this gives you an idea of how quickly small plants can grow in a short amount of time.

(For more photos and specifics of how I transformed my tiny yard, refer to my previous post, “ My Tiny City Garden—In the Beginning“.)

Before…

Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After…

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

< Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

< Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Simply My Backyard / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I hope this will add a little “spring” to your step, and give you a little taste of summer here on my blog. (Sigh)

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in Redesign, please feel free to check her other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence

I have the world’s smallest yard, and am always looking for ways to grow more veggies using every square inch. Here’s a great way to grow vining vegetables or flowers using a privacy fence, wire, string and some screw eyes.

Being a garage sale addict has its advantages. Last year I bought these nifty thing-a-majigs thinking they’d come in handy some day. And they certainly did! I’m not exactly sure what they were designed for–something to do with tv cables or some such thing. By the packaging, they appear to be from an era long before the invention of the television, but I’m sure if you look around at the hardware store you can find something similar. For five packages at 25 cents a piece, I paid a whopping $1.25 for the bunch. Not bad. I like these because they’re 7 1/2″ long, and will keep my vines away from my fence so they have good air circulation. We gardeners know that good air circulation means fewer diseases.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Also purchased at garage sales, is my stash of wires and strings that I can use for my fence “trellis”. My personal favorite is fishing line. I always pick up fishing line at garage sales, and I always run out of it. Oddly enough, I don’t fish, but I use it like most people use duck tape. For this project, I decided to use wire for the horizontal lines, and fishing line for the vertical ones.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I made my trellis for green beans, because you can’t have a garden without green beans. You just can’t. Beans come in bush and pole varieties, so be sure to read the package to make sure you get pole beans if that’s your veggie of choice for your trellis. You’ll be highly disappointed if you purchase bush beans because they will show no interest whatsoever in your trellis, and they’ll just hang out happily on the ground.

I planted my beans on the north side of my fence, and was concerned about whether or not they would grow since the fence will shade them all morning. So I actually planted my beans, and made sure they looked like they were going to grow before I went to the trouble of making a trellis. A benefit, I discovered, in planting on the north side of a fence is that the shade helps keep the soil moist longer. Here are my little babies.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

On the left in the photo below is bok choy which was temporarily sharing the space with my green beans. It’s a cool-weather crop here in zone 5, and was harvested throughout the spring and early summer, and then the green beans got the space all to themselves.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And this little guy is searching for his trellis!

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Once I was confident that beans would grow in this location, I decided how I wanted to space my screws to make a top row, a middle row and a bottom row. Then, I found a drill bit that was a tad smaller than my screws so I could pre-drill all my holes.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I made sure I placed the screw eyes so they would go through the 1 x 6 fence board as well as the 2 x 4 brace. I placed them about two feet apart.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They’re difficult to see, but this picture shows all my screw eyes installed. They’re easier to screw into the fence if you stick a screwdriver into the circle once you get them started. Then you just crank that screwdriver like nobody’s business, and you’re done in no time.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Then it was time to install the horizontal wires through the screw eyes. This process would’ve been much faster if I had just woven my wire into one screw and out into the next one. But I wanted to be sure that if I had a wire malfunction, I wouldn’t lose the whole trellis. So I tied my wire to each screw eye individually, cut it, and started a new wire in between each screw eye. This way, if my wire were to break, I would only have to replace one small section.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Then I checked my green bean package to find out what the spacing should be between plants so I would know how far apart to put my vertical fishing lines. I spaced mine about 6 to 8 inches apart. I would recommend not putting them any closer together than six inches because you want good air flow, you don’t want a tangled mess and you’ll have an easier time seeing the beans when it’s time to pick them.

I tied my fishing line to the top wire, looped it around the middle wire, and then tied it to the bottom wire. I must admit, while I was tying knot after endless knot, I was thinking there were many activities I’d have found more enjoyable, but we reap what we sow, right? And I was wanting to reap lots of green beans so I sucked it up buttercup, and “sowed” a bazillion knots. Finally, my trellis was ready for plants. I had more plants than wires in the beginning, but thinned them out so that each vine matched up with a string.

 photo IMG_3459.jpg

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Some plants latched on and wrapped around on their own.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Some plants needed some loving guidance.

 How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

As the vines started to reach the fishing lines, I had to keep an eye on them so that each plant twined around the string that was meant for it to climb. Once they grabbed on, I didn’t have to watch them quite so closely.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The vines even grew through and over my fence, and I was picking green beans from both sides! Next year, I’ll know that once the vines reach the top of the fence, I need to flip them over to the other side. Some didn’t make it over, resulting in some tangles which makes it more difficult to see the green beans hiding in the mess. Here’s the back side of my fence which faces my side yard.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I had a bumper crop of green beans this year, and gave away several bags of beans to my neighbors. And most of the green beans came from a row that was only 10 feet long. It worked out great because the area really was too narrow and shady to grow much of anything else.

Here’s a picture of an A-frame trellis I made a couple of years ago that I also grew green beans on. I love this one too, but the fence trellis is easier to harvest from. The trellis pictured below is a great alternative if you don’t have a fence. Refer to my post “How to Build a Simple Trellis for Your Veggies and Flowers” for instructions showing how to build one for your garden.

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

How to Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Summer is now coming to a close (sigh), and I’m happy to report that the wires and strings held up very well–not a single break in the wires or the fishing lines. And as is the case with most of my projects, I wish I would have done this sooner!

If you have an interest in home decorating, organization and spruce ups for your home on a budget, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and a Journeyman Painter in the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

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