Grit Blogs > Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

Garden Expansion

A photo of Nebraska DaveIt's been awhile since the last post and where should I begin.  I hope all is well with everyone as fall enters the weather patterns.  Here in Nebraska it's been quite pleasant with 70s during the day and 40s at night.  The tomatoes and bell peppers are hanging on, but I suspect they will succumb to the first frosty night that looms up in the not too distant future.

My garden expansion plan this last week was brought to completion with only two new beds instead of three.  The area designated was not large enough for three beds.  Two will have to do until I can remove a bush to expand in the other direction.  So lets get started with the new expansion.

A trip to Lowe's, my favorite place, to pick up supplies was first on the adgenda. Of course, on the way home a stop at the Border's book store for a cup of coffee and an hour of reading garden-oriented magazines to get my project juices flowing was next on the list of things to do. Upon arriving home the first thing to do is to mow the grass down as short as possible. I used to be a proponent of double digging then I read about Ruth Stout and her method of no dig gardening. I liked that a lot better. Her theory was, in my words, don't dig, just pile it high, mulch it deep, and plant. I have a modified version that works for me.

Mowing Garden Bed Area 

The next thing to do is build the first patio block path between the beds. I just lay the blocks on top of the grass. Does the grass grow up between the cracks? Of course it does but a little weed whack every time I mow keeps things in check. Besides a little woodsy look, in my humble opinion, makes the garden look better. It gives the look of country instead of manicured urban city. So the stash of patio blocks stored on the sideyard for the last three years will finally be used. After piling a few in the wheel borrow, it just don't feel like moving too well. A discovery of low air in the tire solves the mystery. Ever notice how unexpected things just sort of pop up in a project.

Wheel-borrow-flat-tire 

Yes, I'm pretty old school. Most of my friends have air compressors and all the accessories. Me, I just have a tire pump that has served me for years of pumping up bicycles tires, car tires, and anything else that needs a little extra air pressure.

Pumping up the flat tire 

Finally back to the task at hand. The path is about 18 inches wide, which is just wide enough to be able to walk between the beds. Some plants try to invade this area like the tomatoes, but a good sharp knife keeps them in check. It just seems to be the right width.

Laying down the path block 

Next would be to bring in the timbers from the truck. Fourteen trips later the task was completed and the sawing began. You all saw (get it saw) that process in my building blog from last fall so I won't bore you again with that process.

Carrying Timbers to Backyard 

After hauling, carrying, sawing, building, and laying more block it's time to take a break don't you think? Ok there were many breaks over the two days that this project took. You folks know me too well.

Taking a Break 

Well, finally finished. There's nothing like a good project getting fininshed. As you can see I've already started piling it high with fall yard cleanup. There's enough to fill the two new beds as high as they can go. If not the neighbors have volunteered to contribute.

Finished Garden Bed 

The garden is winding down and the tomatoes and bell peppers still have some life left. I expect the harvesting will be soon finished. I hand dug some potatoes and ate them yesterday. Literally, I took my hand a pushed it down beside a potato plant and came up with ... potatoes. Imagine that. The potato harvest begins with great anticipation. I love potatoes.

Harvest Time 

So what have we learned from gardening this year. There were good things and not so good things. The tomatoes were definitely a success and will be expanded to eight plants up from four. The Bell Peppers were also a success and will be upped from three plants to eight plants. The onions were a funny deal. I planted them in early spring and they did well until about the middle of June. The tops died off and they were dormant until about the middle of August when they started new growth all over again. They now have bigger and stonger tops than before. I'm waiting a little longer to see if they will mature. What's up with that? I'm not sure about planting onions next year. The potatoes seem to be a success, but I've only harvested one plant. I will leave them in the ground as long as I can before digging up the entire lot for winter storage. The cucumbers were a success and they will have a full bed of eight plants for making dill pickles. A few dill plants will top off the whole garden experience for next year.

Remember the ideas about pole beans and morning glories on the trellis? Here's what pole beans look like without sun. It's kind of what all my plants used to look like before getting a little help from my GRIT friends. The lesson learned here is that a little more research is needed to find vine plants that grow in the shade. Anyone have suggestions? The Morning Glories turned out just about the same. Not to worry, I now know two plants that won't work on my Poor Man's Patio trellis. There's only how many plant species to go?

Pole beans without sun 

This would be what Morning Glory looks like with just a little sun. It did manage to produce a flower here and there. Still it's not what I had imagined it would be.

Morning Glory Flower 

So next year the garden and patio will be bigger and better than ever. How about your plans for next year? I'd love to hear about the successes and failures of this year. I am actually going to try to grow some heirloom okra from seed sent to me by a fellow blogger in Dallas, Texas. It's strictly an experiment as to whether it will grow this far north. I've never heard of anyone trying it before so it could be a total bust.

I hope your fall harvest days are all good ones that will be remembered all winter long.

Leave a comment to let me know about what's been happening in your dirt lately.

corner gardener sue
3/27/2011 8:48:43 PM

Hi Dave, I saw your comment on Chiot's Run, and came over to see your blog. There are not many of us Nebraska gardeners who have blogs. We usually till a new area out, and then work by hand after that. I remember reading a Ruth Stout book when I was in my 20s, and enjoying it. I was unhappy with myself for getting rid of it. Awhile ago, I got a different book of hers, but haven't read it yet. I am not able to make a new paragraph. I like your new beds.


allan douglas
10/17/2010 2:48:12 PM

Thanks for the advice Dave. If treated timbrs will last 6-10 years on the ground, they will probably out last me! I thought about building he walls out of field stone - would look great and s readily available, but would be a LOT of work. I think I'll go with the timbers. Thanks!


nebraska dave
10/15/2010 5:16:00 PM

@Allan, I’m glad you dropped by left a comment too. My yard has a slope but not as drastic as yours. My landscape timbers are treated. Some would say that chemicals will leach into the soil, but I don’t really think that much if any of the timber chemical will end up soil or in the plants. When I built my first bed three years ago, I used timbers from around a re landscaped flower bed which was three years old. That was three years ago. So the timbers have been in the dirt for six years and don’t have any sign of rot. I expect they will last many more years before a refurbishing is required. If more longevity is wanted, I would use the concrete retaining wall blocks. The initial cost would be more but they have no chemicals and would last forever. Have a great garden landscaping day.


allan douglas
10/15/2010 11:23:05 AM

I'm sure glad I dropped by! I've been planning my own garden expansion, but I have to add a twist to it - or more accurately, a slope. I live on a mountainside and the flattest spot I have is about 10 degrees of slope and goes up to about 30 degrees in my "yard". MUCH steeper in the forest. One of the things I learned this year is that a hard rain washes things away - dirt, seeds, seedlings. I'll need to terrace to get things leveled up, especially in the expanded area. I want to use landscape timbers for this. Do you put anything under the timbers to help keep them from rotting?


nebraska dave
10/14/2010 4:52:13 PM

@Carolyn, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. If I had more room to garden I would do as you do with just piling it up on the ground and having raised beds without containment. I have to keep the urban neighbors happy as well as garden so I’ve opted to have a little neater garden beds. So far the neighbors think it looks great. If their happy, I’m happy. I tried fruit tree in my other house 25 years ago and found that cedar rust is hard to control in apples, peach and pear trees only have fruit when the last frost doesn’t kill the blossoms, and it’s just too difficult to keep the critters out of the berries. I’m not a real fan of rhubarb which is a big hit here in the spring. Kind of picky wouldn’t you say? Well I’ve learned to grow only what I like to eat or it just gets thrown away. The weather here continues to be wonderful. The fall colors this year are bright and seem to be long lasting. We are still getting 70s during the day and 40s at night. As of yet we haven’t had a killing frost but it could come any day now. It’s time to start putting the garden to bed. Everything here that has water in it has to be drained and put away until next spring. All the hoses, timers, and automatic watering system parts have to be stored away. All the annual flowers will be composted and the pots cleaned for next spring. It’s a several day process. Have a great fruit and berry day.


carolyn binder
10/11/2010 12:50:17 PM

Hi Dave: Congratulations on your beautiful new beds! We also use no dig beds. We just built them in rows right on top of the lawn, and we grew heirloom tomatoes, garlic (yum!), beans, squash, basil and melons in them. They worked great. We just left lawn in between the rows, just wide enough to fit the mower through. A good mow and an occasional edging seem to take care of most of the weeds. We also use a heavy mulch of hay. I love mulching with hay, because it decomposes pretty quickly. This year, we are expanding with a few new fruit trees to add to our fig, peach and asian pear trees. I am hoping to get a small apple tree that I can espalier against our little guest cottage, and I would love to get a satsuma, which is a type of tangerine that does well here in north Florida. Thanks for your great posts! Carolyn www.cowlickcottagefarm.com


nebraska dave
10/6/2010 4:05:25 PM

@Shannon, it really is that easy. Those tomatoes and peppers are in last year’s expansion beds that I built the same way. The beds will be piled high with as much grass and leaves as can be piled into the beds. Over the winter the composting of the grass and leaves will moosh (I just made that word up. It mean smashed down.) down to about four inches which is the depth of the first timber. We have in my city a place called Omigro that composts all the yard waste the city picks up during the summer. Landscapers and the public can then buy the compost by the truck load. My truck will hold about a cubic yard of compost and will fill the two expansion beds with 8 inches of black gold compost. It costs about $30 for the load. When I picked up the load last spring it was still steaming and had just a slight whiff of barnyard smell. It was good stuff and made the tomatoes and peppers grow great. The final touch is to cover the beds with about two to four inches of straw to keep the weeds down. A straggler weed here and there can be quickly plucked out of the loose dirt and after the spring surge the weeds are pretty nonexistent. Have a great garden day


nebraska dave
10/6/2010 2:51:15 PM

@Cindy, thanks for the thoughts about what to put on the trellis. As you know from my blogs, its semi permanent and could be moved if needed. I didn’t know if it would work out so that’s why I built it that way. I kind of thought perennials would have to be the answer for shade vines. I’m not quite ready to go there just yet. I have one more thing to try next year before the decision will be made to move or not to move it. We have a wild nasty plant here that I just call bind weed that seems to grow just about anywhere. It has grown up on my side yard many years and literally covered the yard where the shade resides. Maybe I could cultivate a few sprouts of that in a pot next year and see what happens. It would be my potted xeriscape. This plant just doesn’t seem to need water, light, any kind of good soil, or pruning. It just grows big and fast. It sounds like the perfect thing to cover the shaded trellis. Now if I can just keep it under control. If it gets away from me, it could devour the neighborhood. So next year if you don’t hear from me for a while, it could be that I’m trying to hack my way out of the front door. Have a great autumn day in the garden.


s.m.r. saia
10/6/2010 9:02:33 AM

N. Dave, those are some good looking tomatoes, peppers and potatoes! I really like your raised beds, gosh, is it really that easy? Will you put soil or compost on that this coming Spring? It's great that things are going well and that you're scaling up. My experiences after three years have convinced me that I need to scale back a little. I'll probably post about that in the near future. My pole beans - the scarlett runner I mentioned to you - grew like crazy and put out beautiful scarlett blossoms - and not a SINGLE bean. Not one. I have no idea why, so I can commiserate about the pole beans!


nebraska dave
10/6/2010 7:56:41 AM

@Mountain Woman, thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. The work around the Urban Ranch is more of a labor of love and pleasure than hard work. Being retired, of course, has its advantages. I can work a little, rest a little, drink a little (coffee that is), and enjoy the process. It’s been a wonderful two years of retirement and I expect it to only get better with time. This fall weather here has been wonderful. The temperatures are still up in the 70s during the day with sunny skies. The temperatures at night keep creeping toward that fateful killing frost temperature. We’ve had one day that the morning temperature was 39, but after that they have been back in the 40s all week. It’s definitely time to think about fall garden cleanup. I’ll have to drain down my watering system and make sure it doesn’t freeze up and break the system pipes or tanks. That was indeed one of the great successful projects of the summer. The summer seems to have passed by too quickly, but as I reflect on it a lot was accomplished during the summer and fall months. I hope that your summer memories are filled with wonderful things as mine was. Have a great fall day in the woods.


cindy murphy
10/6/2010 7:40:30 AM

Morning, Dave. Your raised beds look great! I bet you're pleased to have one more of your fall projects crossed off your list. I'm not sure about your onions. Do onions go dormant in the middle of summer, or will they be mushy when you pull them from the ground? I dunno...this is the first year I've grown onions. I planted them both in the spring, and sometime around mid-August. I know it was too late for them to grow to mature bulbs, but I like to use them as green onions in salads, salsas, on sandwiches, and as garnishes for soups and such. I'm not sure how much longer they'll last - we've had frost the past three mornings. About your arbor....every vine that I can think of to grow in shade is woody; it'd work, but you'd need a much bigger pot), and the vine would last year-to-year. If you wanted to go with annuals, you can get something that trails down, instead of climbing up. Or since the arbor doesn't look permanently attached to your patio, you could always move it to your raised bed area, and grow your pole beans there. It might be kinda fun walking under a bean arbor on your way to pick your tomatoes. Much to plan for for next year, huh? Enjoy your day!


mountain woman
10/6/2010 5:26:42 AM

Hi Dave, You remind me so much of Mountain Man who is always hard at work. Your new raised beds are going to be beautiful. It's amazing to see the role of sun in the garden and how it affected your plantings. I'm glad you had successes. Here, I'm still nursing our garden along and I'm producing cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes still because unbelievably we haven't had a frost. Next year, I'll have a bigger greenhouse thanks to Mountain Man who thinks I deserve a better greenhouse and I'm moving into commercial production (well, farmer's markets). I've had a lot of success this year using beneficial insects which was fun. Anyway, it's always wonderful to see your urban ranch and it's beauty because of all your hard work.