Monday, June 10

Cinder Block Garden Update: Summer 2013

Last year I wrote this post and this post about planning and setting up the cinder block garden in our back yard. I love the garden, but I've had to make a few small changes since then to make it work. Things are looking pretty good right now and I want to show it off a little. Plus, I've got some concerns, so if you're a master gardener please keep reading and give me some pointers!


Here's the garden last August


And here it is today

Initially we set up the garden to have interior dimensions of 4 feet by 16 feet. However, our backyard floods terribly when it rains and we needed a way to let out all of that extra water. So I bought a few extra cinder blocks, picked up a shovel, and got really muddy to rearrange things. Now we have a 4x9 bed and a 4x4 bed with a little ditch in between. It drains beautifully.




The other structural change I made to my garden was the addition of trellises for my butternut squash, cantaloupe, and heirloom tomatoes. This excellent post was a huge help to me in putting these together. They used cattle panels (available from Tractor Supply Co.) cut in half as 8 foot tall trellises. I was planning to do that, but found rusty wire mesh for crazy cheap near the cinder blocks at Lowes. I think it's used for pouring concrete, but I'm not really sure. All I know is that it's sturdy, has big holes, and would eventually rust anyway. Perfect! Also, these are a little shorter than cattle panels, which means they barely stick out over our fence. Michael pounded 2x2's into the wells of our cinder blocks, then we secured the mesh to the stakes with zip ties at multiple places. Super easy.




Last year we moved into our house around this time, so we missed out on prime planting season. But after some research I found a Tennessee Extension web article saying I could plant a garden in August and expect a hearty fall harvest. This article lied! Haha. I had no success from my tomato, bean, squash, and collard seeds I planted in the sweltering heat of August. If I had started from plants I'm guessing they might have fared better.

Also, my bright idea of writing on popsicle sticks for garden markers was a total failure. The ink quickly disappeared in the sun.

Oh well... I wanted to set up the garden then anyway so that it would be ready for the next season. And I only planted seeds that I already had on hand. So it really wasn't much of a loss.



The cinder block concept has really worked well. We only have occasional bits of grass pop up and those are easy to deal with. In Memphis when it rains it pours, so it's nice to have everything raised so it doesn't wash away. The wells are really nice for planting herbs and lettuces, although I have more space in these than I could possibly use. And the four foot width is ideal, unless you're short in which case it might be a challenge. All in all, I'm loving it.

This year I was able to start planting in the spring like a normal person, so I went crazy with planning the perfect garden. I used a plethora of websites, the most helpful being http://www.smartgardener.com/. This site is great for telling you when to plant seeds or transplants of each type depending on the weather in your area. It tends to be a little stingy with recommended plants per square foot, so I check http://www.mysquarefootgarden.net/ to figure out how many plants of a certain type can fit in my space. There are a lot of fun planting tips on that site, too.

After failed attempts at transplanting my own tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings, here's what I ended up planting:

  • 4 Waltham butternut squash (seeds)
  • 3 Honey Rock cantaloupe (seeds)
  • 3 Black Krim tomatoes (plants)
  • 7 Pic n Pic yellow squash (seeds)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes (plants)
  • 4 Clemson Spineless okra (seeds)
  • 4 Big Early Bell peppers (plants)
  • 2 Giant Marconi peppers (plants)
  • 2 Poblano/Ancho peppers (plants)
  • 4 Ichiban eggplant (plants)
  • Various herbs

I like to squeeze those plants in tightly! While this year's garden won't be as cost effective as I would like due to my seed woes, I'll have a much earlier harvest.

Without further ado, here are some glamour shots of my beautiful bounty in progress:

Peppers of different kinds


My first experiment with okra

Eggplant blossoms are really pretty!


Oregano

Mustard

Dill

Thyme

Roma tomatoes


Yellow squash almost ready to eat

More squash

Does anyone know how I can prevent sad, withery little squashes like the one in the background of this photo? I'm guessing it's from inconsistent watering?


Struggling Black Krim tomatoes

Pesky aphids

My Black Krim tomatoes are the only things that just aren't doing well. Two plants have beautiful, fuzzy green foliage, but aren't producing. Any blossoms dry up and fall off. The third one was barely growing and I had to prune it back due to brown spots (I'm guessing fungus?) on the top part of the plant.

I know they have aphids. Initially an organic insecticidal soap was really effective. But now it doesn't seem to be working for these plants, even though my Romas and other plants are fine. Do you have any tips for dealing with this? Since I'm pregnant I'd love to stay away from heavy duty insecticides. Thanks!


Cantaloupe

Basil

Parsley, sage, and rosemary with
butternut climbing behind them


Mint


Tiny butternut! I've got lots of these!


Butternut vines climbing on the right


One of several glossy, long eggplants

That's all, folks! I would love to answer any questions you have about my cinder block gardening experience so far. And I would really, really love any feedback you have to make my garden better. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 9

14 Weeks Pregnant

I can't believe that a) it's been a month since my last post, b) I'm in my second trimester, and c) I'm still not showing in a "she's having a baby!" kind of way. 

Not my most flattering picture! Feel honored to see it! : )


The Bump: I've always had a lower belly pooch. It's my souvenir from a time when I was a much bigger girl, and I'm okay with that. But I won't be sad when the baby is no longer just pushing it out farther. Let's work on a real bump this month, baby! Ok? 
How Far Along? 14 weeks
Total Weight Gain/Loss: +2.5 I've actually lost half a pound since this time last month, but between then and now my weight has been up and down like crazy. Generally, if I think I've lost I've gained and vice versa.
Maternity Clothes: Since I wear scrubs to work and loungy clothes at home I haven't needed to wear any yet. But even my loosest non-maternity jeans are getting uncomfortable and my dress options were seriously limited for the wedding we went to a couple weeks ago. No new purchases except a cheap, basic swimsuit from Old Navy. Now if I could just find the motivation to start swimming laps again...


Wearing a dress that's normally a little big on me for the Hairston wedding


Baby Related Purchases: We set up our crib and mattress yesterday! It hasn't really hit me yet that it's not just another piece of furniture. Also, I've gotten some great yard sale finds: a small swing/vibrating seat, a few pieces of clothes, a hooded towel, and a book.
Stretch marks: I already have them from growing up (thanks, fragile skin!). No new ones, though.
Sleep: Nonexistent. Seriously, I spend about half the night lying awake or peeing.
Movement: Not that I can feel - although the baby was dancing like crazy on my 11 week ultrasound.


A blurry picture of Baby Vaughan's quickly moving face at 11 weeks.

What I miss: Sleep! And ibuprofen - Tylenol does nothing for my headaches (which thankfully are less frequent now).
Cravings: I want to eat everything! And now I feel up to cooking again, which I barely did at all during the first trimester. My ridiculous appetite paired with a lack of serious weight gain is the best thing about being pregnant so far. I'm less finicky now, although I'm not eating a ton of meat. Weirdly enough, my cravings changed from Asian (Pad Thai, sesame chicken, spring rolls, egg drop soup, homemade stir fry) to Italian (pasta, pizza, garlic bread, salad with Italian or Caesar dressing) exactly when I started the second trimester. Oh and I love really tart lemonade (Chickfila or Simply brand) when I'm feeling queasy or tired of water.
Anything making you queasy or sick: I've eaten a little broccoli and eggs lately without getting totally grossed out, but they're still not my favorites. Earlier this week I randomly threw up for the first time in my pregnancy. No idea why.
Gender: My sweet coworkers are planning a gender reveal party for us on the first weekend in July! Can't wait!
Labor Signs: No
Symptoms: Mostly lack of sleep and awful acne. Although I still have occasional nausea, crazy hunger, headaches, and pee all the time.
Belly Button In or Out? In
Happy or Moody most of the time: I experience what I call "pregnancy anger" any time I'm slightly provoked. It's intense. I'm really trying to not hate everyone, and mostly avoid speaking when I'm in a bad mood so that I don't make everyone else hate me!
Worries: Along with the pregnancy anger I now have obsessive thoughts. My latest fixation is finding the perfect diaper bag for me, which I think is going to be this one. I spend hours researching them online instead of sleeping, when I go to bed I can't sleep because I want to check if there are new posts for them on eBay, when I'm at work I'm trying to figure out the best time to go to a store and check them out in person, etc. So I'm not worried about the baby, but about what will hold his/her diapers. Haha.
Best moments this month: a great 11-week ultrasound, going to Chase and Katelyn's wedding, spending time with coworkers and church friends, and being lazy around the house with Michael.
Looking forward to: MD appointment next Friday and gender reveal party a month from now
Size of Baby: About the size of a navel orange
What Baby's Up To: Growing hair, moving around, building a bigger body compared to the head.

I'm very aware of the fact that I'm pregnant, but somehow the fact that I'll be a mother in six months is not really sinking in yet. I think once we start setting up the nursery and I look like I'm carrying a baby instead of a beer belly it'll feel more real. Thanks for reading!