Monday, October 8, 2012

Pallet Garden: The Crop

Now that you know what a pallet garden is, you may want to know if it was successful. Well, success is defined by Google as: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose. And, now that the growing season is over, I TOTALLY feel like I can apply that to word to our pallet garden.

Oh. My. Goodness. Can I ever.  Let me start with what we planted.

Early in the year, Ashley and her son planted one of the gardens with cold crop vegetables. They planted: snow peas, broccoli, and cauliflower.  We were gonna plant some cabbage, but the dogs ate the babies before they got planted...

 These are the cold crop babies :)

After a month or so....

Peas galore!!! Ash even put up a little stick and twin trellis up for them! The broccoli also produced, but.... not in the typical grocery store fashion. I think she may have purchased a florette plant, cause that's about the size of the broccoli heads that came off it. They were sweet and delicious! Again, nothing like that store bought junk. The cauliflowers... those were duds... but hey! We'll take 2 out of 3!

Ok, so the garden was at that state at about mid-June. Our growing season here is a bit unpredictable, but I figured that was pretty close to the time we should plant out summer crops. So into the other garden went 3 bell pepper plants, a jalapeno plant (or two), and a tomatillo plant... that I grew at my house from a seed. At this time we also supplmented our garden space with a couple 5 gallon buckets with some holes drilled into the bottom for drainage (remember, we were on a budget!). In one bucket went a tomato plant and in the other another tomoatillo. We also threw in some leek and carrot seeds, just to see what would happen.

Second garden planted!! 

Well.... it happened to be a late season start.... and the plants (especially the peppers) looked all but dead... and then we forgot to water the tomatillo in the bucket... and I arrived one day to the top 8 inches of it hanging on its tiny trellis totally detached from the 4 inches of stem still in the dirt.... Ok... we weren't off to a good start....

But then something borderline miraculous happened - summer came! The next thing I knew, I was getting texts from Ash "you have baby peppers!!" and "the tomatillo is taking over the whole garden!!" She wasn't exaggerating... not in the least... here are a couple pictures she sent me:

 Baby peppers!

Huge tomatillo plant!!

All this in literally a month. As soon as it got warm the plants just exploded! So now, here we were, mid-September. I'd been letting them grow and get as big as possible before the freezing nights started... One evening it was warm and  t-shirt weather and the next I was walking around my house in a sweater and slippers. I figured it was time to pick... though I knew it was a bit too early for the plants... but either pick now, or loose the plants to the frost...

The day we picked with an almost 4-year-old in the picture for size reference :)

Here is what we got!

The harvest was insane!!! Eight pounds of tomatillos, 5 bell peppers, 2 tomatoes and a jalapeno (from a plant I thought had been smothered by the tomatillo and died!). It was amazing! I couldn't BELIEVE how prolific these plants were! So, as one could assume... we ate a lot of chile verde and green enchiladas....

So, that was what I thought was that.... but then... it started getting warm again. Like really warm. The nights were still cool, but not in the danger of freeze zone. Come to find out we were having an Indian summer. So, today, I decided to visit our little garden again and this is what I got:

That's right. That is another FIVE POUNDS of tomatillos, two bell peppers, two TINY jalapenos, a tomato and a skinny leek. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? 

This garden was the most fun thing ever. But the best part, was Ash's son excited about the veggies growing. He wanted nothing more than to show me the little tomatillo lanterns and that there was something inside them! or to pick snow peas and just eat them right off the vine. I wish I had gone over a bit more often and helped Ash with the tending of it - maybe caught the tomatillo before it took over and smothered everything else and weeded. But, it seemed to do just fine without us, just  being watered a couple times a week.

I attribute the awesome-ness of this garden to my construction skills and Ashley's green thumb. She attributes the success to her neighbor's soil that we used. I donno, and quite frankly, I don't care. This garden was a group effort and ended up being awesome in just about every way!

This was fun and I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pallet Garden: The Creation

This blog post has been a LONG time in the making. In fact, I've been thinking about THIS post since at least April - that's 6 months of waiting - six months of gathering pictures and pondering what exactly I should say - or should I say - how I would BRAG ABOUT HOW WONDERFUL THIS IDEA WAS!!!

I had been talking to my friend Ashley for sometime about putting in a garden at her house. She has a gorgeous acre of full sun property that was already the home to marionberries, apple trees, rhubarb and a huge fig tree. It seemed only natural to expand the selection!

Looking into the different typed of gardens we could put in - the raised bed - was our best option (see she has gophers and we needed to put a screen under the garden). Well, I don't know what research you've done on raised bed gardens but... I quickly realized they are EXPENSIVE! Ash and I are cheap, and this garden wasn't that big of a deal, so the project seemed to end before it began. but then it came to me one day, while working at CB's Nuts, when we received a pallet of product.

The Pallet Garden was created - in my head anyways.

I started collecting all the pretty pallets from CB's and Ashley and I quickly went to work staking out the perfect location (we ended up moving it.... but this was still how we staked it out).

Those are bricks we found on the side of the garage - they marked the edges.

Next step was carefully taking the pallets apart - the goal was to keep both the 2x4 supports and the nice top planks intact. Come to find out... this was much harder than we thought. Pallets are apparently put together with special, spiral nails - which make it almost impossible to remove them without damage. So, to compensate for strong nails, Ash and I employed strong boys - only took them two hours to tear apart two pallets.

We ended up with enough boards to make two 5x5 gardens, two planks high (about 10 inches). That means we had 4 center support boards and 16 planks. After that it was a simple cut and drill project!

Cut each center support beam into three pieces at the red lines. Discard the center piece.

 Then take those pieces and stand them up on end, skinny part down. Attach two boards onto the wide, fat ends (with the curves both pointing in) with three 2-inch wood screws. 

 When finished with that, attach two more boards onto the ends of both sides.

Once the garden is put together, its time to deal with the ground. Mark out where you want the garden on the ground, and start digging. Dig about a food down, for the entire area the garden will cover. Once finished, if you have moles, voles or gophers, lay down some chicken wire. Then just set your wood into the newly, dug hole. It should fit snugly. Then simply fill in the hole/garden with your garden soil. We used a combination of sifted soil removed with the hole digging, store bough compost and store bought garden soil starter (and to fill in the rest, we used some home-combined dirt from next door). The goal is to fill the garden to an inch from the top of the wood.

Green arrow: grass line. Black arrow: where the chicken wire goes. White arrow: how high to fill the garden with dirt after all assembled.

Awesome finished product!!!

Don't plant immediately, the dirt will settle and you may need to add more before planting. But I'll talk more about that in the next post.

So lets re-cap. Pallets: free. Labor: free. 1 box of 2-inch wood screws: $3.50. Purchased dirt: $20. So a 5x5 raised bed that would normally cost between $70-$200 (NOT including dirt), only cost us $23.50 and a little elbow grease! Plus, it was an awesome weekend project (well, one afternoon per garden).