Deirdre's Garden Diary
My name is Deirdre and I’m a novice gardener. I grew up doing lots of yard work but have only been seriously gardening at my home in Fort Worth, Texas for about 10 years. I started this blog-diary as a way to record the changes taking place as I try to keep my garden growing. Even though it’s a record of my personal experiences I hope that it might also be helpful and entertaining for others who share my interest in plants.
This all began for me when I inherited my grandparent’s home. It’s a sentimental piece of property for me and has been in our family since the early 1930’s.
This is where I grew up and played as a child. I helped my grandmother shell peas from the garden and I played in the fields of bluebonnets that surrounded the house. It remains a nostalgic journey of trial and error as I introduce new plants and try to keep the large yard under control.
Searching for more plant and bug knowledge I went through the Texas Master Gardener program where I was introduced to sustainable plants and landscape maintenance. I learned how to better research different plants and bugs, and gardening developed into a full time hobby. As my gardening experiences grew I found myself politically motivated to be outspoken about the environment and so it seemed natural that I would begin making those changes in my own yard with organic gardening practices and growing more native, sustainable and edible plants.
In addition to my interests in gardening I am also an artist with an MFA in studio painting. I love taking photographs of the garden plants and wildlife, and lately I find that the weird and bizarre things I sometimes find in the garden have become subjects of sinister beauty for my recent work.
I hope you enjoy browsing the site and thanks for stopping by for a visit!
My Garden Projects
I finally got around to laying the brick paths in the vegetable garden.
Oh. My. God. It. Is. Taking. Forever!! …and I’m not even trying to make it perfectly level. I don’t want to mortar the bricks or place them permanently on the ground in case I want to move them someday or rearrange things, so I’m just laying them out as straight and even and flat as possible directly on my already sandy soil.
I had to dig the dirt out of all the boxes and move them up closer together so that there were no large gaps, and so that a full brick would fit snug next to all the sides. Moving all that dirt, and wood, and bricks, was killing my back so I have been doing a little at a time…like one box a week! I know, I know, tell me about forever. When I have all the bricks down, if I ever get them all down, I will dump some crushed granite over them to fill in the cracks and help keep the weeds out.
It really changes the way the garden looks. I haven’t got use to it yet. It looks a lot more formal and kind of sparse with the beds empty. Maybe it’s because it isn’t finished and I’m feeling anxious about it. I hope once Spring gets here and the beds are green and full, and there isn’t any grass or weeds around them, just pots of beautiful flowers and herbs; I will like it a lot more.
This is still on going, there are a lot more bricks to put down, but at least it’s started. Now I hope I have enough bricks to finish it the way I want, with the paths also on the outside edges. I will be adding some more raised beds this year also, so of course I need enough to go around those too. I must get back to the Habitat store and check if they still have the bricks in stock!
Project For Pennies
I found a really good deal on some cheap paver bricks at the Habitat for Humanities resale store. They have locations here in DFW where you can purchase almost any kind of building material that has been donated and the profits go to Habitat For Humanities charities. The stock varies from week to week since builders bring their extra supplies and donate odd things like old doors and windows, flooring or even bathtubs and light fixtures that they have pulled out of old houses when working to fix them up. Sometimes there is some really cool stuff.
I got lucky and found these bricks at one of their stores. The bricks were a good price, a VERY good price at only twenty cents each. They are multicolored and some are a really pretty orange and purple. I am on a tight and limited budget so I’ve been buying them a little at a time with each paycheck, 50 here 100 there. I think I almost have 1,000 now and want to get at least 500 more while they are still in stock (which is disappearing fast!).
I am planning on using them to make walkways around the vegetable beds.
I need to get it started though before they sale out of the bricks and I am left without enough of them to go all around the beds. I guess I need to go out and do some measurements and estimate exactly how many I need…but it’s hot out there! I’m going to put it off for a while longer and just keep buying bricks until they run out.
The compost bins are a year old now. I have already made a nice pile of dark rich compost for the garden and I am now working on my second “batch”, helped with my broyeur de vegetaux.
Just the fallen leaves raked out of the driveway can fill these three bins! The leaves in the front and back of the yard have to be raked and saved to put in later or mulched into the grass with the mower, which is what we usually do. As the pile breaks down I add more stuff, trying to increase the “greens” to balance out the large number of leaves. I never have enough “green” material! (See below for the estimated percentages)
I have some extra cedar wood planks so I think I’m going to build some top covers and possibly front panels that open up like a door to keep everything from spilling out. I do occasionally add vegetable and fruit scraps when I have them so it would be good to have an added barrier to help keep larger critters (opossums and raccoons) from going after the scraps of food. So far I haven’t had any problems …at least none that I have noticed!
These are the materials I usually have in my bin:
“Browns” = Leaves 80%, old straw mulch 5%
“Greens” = Fresh cut grass and weeds from around the yard 2%, egg shells, fruit, and vegetable scraps 3%, coffee grounds and used tea bags 2%, cow manure 3%, dry garden molasses 5%
This is the most popular page of my Garden Diary. There are a lot of you searching for help on how to build a trellis! So I thought it was time I made an update for future visitors. The trellis I built three years ago is still standing today. The bamboo poles have shifted out of line a bit, they aren’t perfectly straight anymore and some of them have small splits or cracks at the bottom, but nothing that would cause me to want or need to replace them.
I did have to replace the cotton string that wove around it since the vines that have grown on the trellis have torn and stretched the original string, but that’s a small repair and other than that it’s holding up just fine.
The trellis has lasted through some very windy, wet weather so I think after this amount of time we can officially call this project a success! In fact, I’m still as much in love with my trellis today as I was when it first went up. It gives the garden a lot of charm, especially on a snowy day.
I hope you find what you are looking for here on this page. Good luck making your own trellis. I have a comments thread at the top of my homepage, let me know how your search is going. Happy gardening everyone!
I wanted to plant some peas and cucumbers but I needed something tall that the vines could trail on, so I decided to build a trellis from scrap bamboo sticks. I saw a picture of a trellis on an old Wills Cigarette Card from 1923 and it reminded me of similar types of trellis supports I had seen in the past. I thought it looked cool and I didn’t have any extra money to buy anything fancy, so I decided to try to make it from what I had around the house. I didn’t have to spend any money at all so it was the perfect option!
I tried to find more specific instructions on how to build something like this but I couldn’t really find anything detailing the different ways to stake plants.
So without any specific instructions, just this little three inch card with an image, I set out to build this trellis just by looking at the illustration and from the basic info that was on the back of the card. It wasn’t really that hard. The only bad part was my tendency towards procrastination in making decisions each step of the way. I was afraid I was going to do something wrong, but then I just said to heck with it and started putting it together. This was completely experimental and time will tell how sturdy this thing turns out to be (crossing fingers it doesn’t collapse). I will make updates as the trellis goes through the growing cycle. We’ll see how long it stands, a few months or a few years.
So here is how I put mine together…see what you think, learn from my mistakes, then use your own creativity to build one that is right for you without spending any money!
I didn’t have any long tree limbs to use, as seen above in the card illustration, but my mom has a lot of bamboo growing behind her property so I decided to try and use that instead…which I think is probably better since bamboo will should last longer and be more sturdy than tree limbs would have been. My mom has been cutting back the bamboo and collecting some of the larger sticks for a while and she gave me a large bunch of dried ones that were completely weathered and ready to be used. I’m sure you could also use ones that have been fresh cut and are green. I was just lazy and took the ones she had already cut. Getting them in the car to take back to my house was not easy since most of the sticks were over eight feet long.
Once home, I inspected the sticks and began to notice that some of the bamboo was better than others. I sorted through them selecting the best ones without any splits or cracks. Next I paired them up by length, tossing aside the ones that were too short or too long. I stored all the extras sticks to use later on something else.
Step Two: PICK A GOOD SPOT
Now I had to finally decide where I was going to put the trellis. Looking over the South side of the house where I get most of my sun, I settled on a spot and cleared the grass, weeds, dead leaves, and running vines from the area so that it was mostly bare soil. Next I laid the bamboo out in the space to get a feel for how tall they were and how long I wanted to make the trellis.
Step Three: MARK YOUR TERRITORY
Next I laid down two of the poles/sticks parallel to each other to mark the width and length of the area where I would build the trellis. I didn’t do any fancy measuring. I never have the patience for that! I just eyed it until it looked about right, trying to get it as straight as possible and an even width all the way down the length of the space.
I took a hoe and worked the soil loose in the middle of this spot. I had to pull out a lot of ground roots and runners under the soil. I even had to dig up an old tree stump! Leave it to me to pick the one spot where there is a hidden tree stump that has to be dug up and cut out of the ground!
Once all the debris was removed from under the dirt about five or six inches deep, I began building two side mounds by dividing the dirt in the middle and pulling it from the center to make a little hill on each side. This formed a trench in the middle.
Next, I laid all the sticks that I wanted to use in pairs out along the length of the trench. I spaced them out on the ground to see how far apart they might need to be and to determine how many pairs I would need total to make the trellis the length I wanted. This helped me get a feel for the spacing. This was a little tricky since I didn’t want to bother with exact measurements. I just spaced them by looking, about a foot apart, and ended up using nine pairs total. You could do more or less.
Step Four: GET IT UP!
Once everything was arranged on the ground it was time to tie the poles together. I had one extra large bamboo cane that would go across the top and keep the trellis level and give weight to the sticks to keep them from moving around. The hard part of making this came as I was trying to get the large bamboo pole that went across the top to sit level on the sticks. This is a lot easier to do with two people, so find a helper if you can…don’t be stubborn like me and do it anyway because you can’t wait for someone to show up to help! That’s why I don’t have pictures of this part, my hands were full in holding all the sticks!
garden_teepeetrellisI started pairing the side sticks together by putting up the third set of poles inward from each end pair. So that means, with a total of nine rows I started by first putting sets #3 and #7 into the ground. This allowed me to get the top bamboo bar level across both sets before adding the other sticks.
To put the sticks in the ground I just pushed them in at an angle towards each other. I pushed them as far down into the ground as I could get it. I didn’t worry whether or not the tops were exactly equal in length. I just let them taper off naturally without cutting them to make them all exactly the same. I didn’t dig any extra holes either. The ground was already soft where I had worked it so they went in pretty easy.
Once I got the first two sets of poles firmly in the ground I tied them together with cotton string so they wouldn’t move around. Later I went back over them with the thick root vine runners that I had pulled up from under the ground. This gave it a natural look and really made it sturdy. I just kind of wove them around in a playful manner crisscrossing them and tying knots here and there. I had to stand on a step ladder to reach the top where the sticks were tied…but I’m really short!
Once I had sets #3 and #7 secure in the ground and tied together to the pole that went across the top, I repeated the process by adding sets #4 and #6 moving inward. I then put up sets #2 and #8 toward the outside. I put the middle set #5 up next and finished with the outer sets #1 and #9. When you first start tying the poles together around the top stick that crosses them, the structure feels a little wobbly, I was worried at this point that it was moving around too much, but as you add more sets of sticks, and tie everything together, it becomes more stable and is less likely to sway back and forth.
I had to step back away from it a lot and make sure that the sets were the same distance apart or that they were stuck in the ground at the same angle. There were a couple of times I had to re-adjust them after having tied them up…frustrating, but not a major disaster, and again probably a lot easier with a helper. Mine aren’t spaced perfect, but they were close enough for me!
The next thing I did was weave cotton string around the sticks/poles so that the pea vines would have some extra support in the middle spaces between the poles when they started to grow. This also helped bind the poles together even tighter so that they didn’t shift. I just wrapped the string and tied it in a kind of basket weave going in and out from one pole to the next wrapping the string around each pole as I went down the row pulling it tight and working my way from the top to the bottom.
Step Five: MULCH AND PLANT
The next day I went back over the soil and defined the center trench again, pulling the dirt back into two nice mounds that went around the poles. I packed the dirt down hard to help further secure the poles in the ground. I also added compost and fertilizer to the mounds of dirt on each side of the trellis.
garden_teepeetrellis_closeup1 I took some old boards and placed them along the sides to mark a boundary between the growing area where I would put the plants and the walkway around the trellis (see below). The dirt is raised slightly higher but not flush with the top of the board. This lets me run water for the plants along the outside edge and also in the center where the main trench will collect water.
To finish, I soaked the soil really good. Once the ground was wet, I layered double sheets of newspaper in the center of the trellis. I overlapped the seams of the paper bringing them up just past the bamboo sticks. I probably put down about five layers total. Once all the paper was down I filled the center trench with straw. This acts as mulch and will keep weeds from growing in the center area. It also holds in moisture to keep the soil from drying out. Later it can be dug out and added to the compost or fresh mulch can just be added on top.
Finally came the time to set out cucumbers and peas! When the plants begin to grow I will also mulch around the bottom of the plants to keep them moist.
I am very happy with my new trellis…especially since it didn’t cost me anything to build!
Below is a list of the edible plants that I have grown in my zone 8A garden.
- Peas & Beans
- Peppers – Banana
- Peppers – Bell
- Peppers – Hot
- Squash – Summer
- Squash – Winter
- Swiss Chard
~ Plant Index ~
These are the plants currently growing in my zone 8A garden in Texas.
I will update this list as new plants are established.
- Beautyberry Bush
- Catalpa Tree
- Crepe Myrtle
- Japanese Quince
- Oak Leaf Hydrangea
- Rose Bushes
- Rose of Sharon
- Star Jasmine
- Texas Redbud
- Texas Star Hibiscus
Perennial Bulbs-Tubors -Corms
- Day Lilies
- Oxblood Lily
- Spider Lily
- Tiger Lily
Hardy Perennials and Natives
- Betony (Texas)
- Blue Bonnets
- Turks Cap
Weak Perennials and Annuals
- 4 O’Clocks
Oddities and Invasive Pests
- Thorny Briar-Vine
- Tree Mushroom
- Slime Mold
- Web Worms