DIY Gardening Tips From The Capital City Organic Gardeners

Our meeting in June was chock full of unique tips from the Capital City Organic Gardeners. Instead of having a speaker come and talk on one topic, CCOG gardeners shared their favorite gardening tips with the group.  This is what creating community is all about, we all learn from each other and come away  richer from our experience. So, without further ado, here is what we learned!

Pea Fence/Trellis and Wattle Fence

Joining the conduit at the corners.

Sturdy Pea Fence/Trellis

Eleanor had problems in the past with her delicate pea fences being blown over in the wind, so she decided to build a sturdy pea fence that was inexpensive and easy to disassemble at the end of the season. For about $10 she was able to buy the following materials: Two short lengths of Rebar (2′ by 1/2″), 1/2″ electrical conduit (store will cut pipe to size), two 1/2″ conduit corner connectors, and string. She simply hammered the rebar into the ground about a foot leaving a foot above the ground. Then, she placed the conduit over the rebar, joined the top bar with the conduit corners and then wove the string to make a trellis. This trellis design will NOT blow down in the wind, is easy to move and is sturdy enough for all sorts of vegetables.

Wattle Fence

Eleanor also designed a beautiful wattle fence to separate her yard from her neighbor’s driveway. It is about 2′ high and the only materials she purchased were 3′ the stakes she hammered about 1′ into the ground. She then wove green branches she cut from trimming shrubs around her yard. In the end, she had to get branches from friends to finish the fence, but the end result is inexpensive, lovely and should last for several years.

Pea Fence/Trellis and No Till Garden Beds

Judy's raised beds early in the season.

Judy took the  No Till  Gardening lecture that Dot Perkins gave last year to heart and redid all of her vegetable beds out at the community garden. She dug out the paths and used tha soil to make the raised beds. She uses straw in the aisles and landscape fabric in the paths to cut down on the weeds. No Till gardening is also know as Lasagna Gardening. This method gave Judy a great start on the season.

Another sturdy trellis design.

Judy also constructed a very study pea trellis as well. She designed her trellis as a box structure so that it won’t topple in the wind. Like Eleanor’s trellis, it is also easy to take apart at the end of the season. Removable pegs at the top hold it together.

No Till Garden Beds and Grassy Path Permaculture

Scott's long rows between grassy paths.

Scott also showed off his No Till garden beds. His method used only three layers. First, he dug out the paths and made the raised beds. Next,  he covered the beds with corragated cardboard or six layers of newspaper. Then he added about 3″ of chopped up leaves and topped it off with 6-8″ of grass clippings. The end result was hardly any weeds coming through in the spring, which is a HUGE accomplishment in the community garden where weeds run rampant. To plant, he simply teases back the top layers until he hits soil and then plants his seeds or seedlings. He planted grass and clover in the paths and when he mows, he catches the clippings and puts them back on top of the garden beds. This is a great example of using permaculture methods for gardening. Nothing goes to waste.

Pulling the top layers away for planting.

CCOG Inventor!

John shared with us an invention he is working on to measure conductivity in the soil. Good electrical conductivity indicates good soil conditions for healthier plants, bad conductivity indicates poor soil quality. It was exciting to see his work in progress and discuss its potential for helping farmers and gardeners determine their soil needs in and instant.

Rabbits: Not only super cute but helpful in the garden as well!

Waffle the Rabbit

Claudia brought her rabbits, Waffle and Nudge. (Unfortunately, Nudge would not stay still for a photo op, so Waffle is the star of this post! ) Rabbits make great pets but, contrary to their reputation,  they are also very helpful in the garden. Their manure is a fantastic fertilizer. One rabbit can produce enough fertilizer for 500 square feet of garden. Rabbit manure is a “cold” manure and will not burn your plants if you put it directly in the garden. It’s pellets are more like slow time-release fertilizer. Opinions are mixed as to whether you should let rabbit manure compost first before putting it in the garden. If you are uncertain, then compost the manure first before spreading it in your vegetable beds. Here is a link to more information about rabbit manure in the garden.

Voles are NOT our friends!

You need a box and a mousetrap.

Mary, our resident vole-catcher, shared her simple design for catching those nasty voles that love to chew on your potatoes (and just about everything else!). Lacking a reliable cat, Mary had to come up with something ingenious for her vegetable garden.  Here is her surprisingly simple solution:

Get a box and cut little doors on all four sides. Next, get a simple mousetrap. Put the mousetrap inside of the box, no need for bait. Put it in your garden (your potato patch might be a good place). Place a rock on top so it won’t blow away and check daily. Voles are curious creatures and love to get into small little spaces. They explore the mousetrap and, unfortunately, meet their maker. If you are squeemish about killing the vole, then you could try a Have a Heart trap, but just don’t release them anywhere near our gardens!

Speaking of Pest Management…

Laura does have a reliable cat that takes care of the voles, but her issue is what to do with the cat? Her cat loves to languish in the garden, especially on a newly seeded bed. The soil is so soft and nicely raked, what cat can resist such a pleasure? Laura has devised several methods that work well to deter the cat.

Tomato Cages and Branches over and around hills of squash seeds.

First, she had collected tomato cages over the years and had her husband clip them apart  into short cages or simply rings with little legs attached. She places these over the seeded areas and leaves them there until the plants have grown large. At that point, the cat does not damage the plants. Also, for added protection, she often clips small dryed out branches from her hemlock trees and sticks them in the bed as well. The cat doesn’t like the scratchy branches.

Hardware cloth cage deterd cat, eggshells deter slugs, Remay protects from sun.

Another method she uses is to create an actual cage out of hardware cloth to place over the seeded beds. In this photo you can see that she made a small cage to place over her lettuce seeds. She has also sprinkled a layer of crushed eggshells over the seeds to help deter slugs. Slugs don’t like the sharp edges. The cage method also is nice because she can attach a small square of Remay fabric over the top to create a little bit of shade for the tender lettuce seeds.

So there you have it! In one meeting we learned about how to make inexpensive trellises and create wattle fences. We saw the result of two member’s experiences with No Till gardening. We were able to oogle over two adorable rabbits and learn how they can help us in the garden. Vole catching adventures were shared and appreciated. An amazing invention for testing soil was demonstrated. We also learned how to deter lazy cats from messing up your freshly seeded beds in addition to learning a new method for deterring slimy slugs. Not bad for one evening’s presentation! CCOG gardeners turn out to be the greatest resource for the garden!

Here is a Power Point presentation from our meeting. CCOG Mtg June 2011


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