Wednesday in the Garden: 05/17/2017

Today our second oldest child turned 10 years old. Having two kids in double digits makes me start to feel old.

We have had great weather the last week here in San Diego county. Traditionally the month of May is cool and has many overcast days. It is often called May gray, and that is followed by June gloom. The last few years we have not had May gray, but instead very hot weather. In fact, last year there was even some large wildfires in May. This year we are experiencing May gray, and even have had rain this month.

This is great weather for my plants. There is a perfect blend of low 70s temperatures, sun, and some natural dampness.

The pomegranate tree continues to flower.  Many of the older flowers have started to turn into fruit.  I think we are going to have many more pomegranates then we did last year.

I am finally getting somewhere with my tomatoes.  I lost many plants to pill bugs and had to start over.  In one of the pictures there is a clear plastic cup.  I had to put those over some of my seedlings to protect them from the bugs.  Eventually, I had to resort to using a little bug spray to thin their numbers.  In large numbers, pill bugs are seriously destructive to young plants.

I have a large artichoke plant growing in my yard.  It is a volunteer from my neighbors garden.  I have had many of the plants grow in the last few years, but didn’t know what they are so I pulled them up.  I really wish I had know what they were before.

The plants in my 8 year old’s garden bed are growing well.  He had one cauliflower plant get eaten by tiny green caterpillars, so I replaced those with some store bought chard.

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Somehow I got my thumb in the picture of my 13 year old’s garden.  His is also growing well, even the petunias are looking healthy.

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My newly minted 10 year old’s garden is starting to make a comeback.  His has been the bad luck garden bed.  First we had the miscommunication where he cut back most of the plants.  Then he had bug issues requiring more replanting.  I also put some chard and store bought flowers in his bed.

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My own garden beds are finally planted.  I am starting to see seedlings poking through the ground.  Since I got a late start, I planted mostly things that can deal with the heat that could show up at any time.  As the plants take on their individual characteristics I will put pictures of them up.

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I had to trim a few branches off my lemon tree so I could have a shed put in the driveway.  Since it is lemon season for this tree we now have many lemons.  Soon we will have many times this number ripe and needing to be used.  I think we need to do some lemon themed recipes.

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I also was able to harvest a few Pok Choy, strawberries and chives.  I am thinking a stirfry using the Pok Choy and chives would be good.  The strawberries are already gone.

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Happy growing to all my fellow gardeners.

-Joshua

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Wednesday In the Garden: 05/10/2017

May is a crazy month for us. Three of our children were born in May so there is always a lot going on. 

I guess that is why I missed the last two weeks with the Wednesday pictures. I also had a gopher and pill bugs eat some of my plants, so I had less to show anyway. 

Today I only have pictures of the three apples on my Anna Apple tree. I am really surprised by this tree. I just planted it this fall, and it is the only apple tree around. I didn’t expect any fruit at all any time soon, so having three apples is amazing. 

The next group of pictures are not garden related, but they did keep me from taking garden pictures. I spent much of the last two evenings building model rockets with the kids. We are driving 1.5 hours to the desert on Saturday to launch rockets and fly remote control helicopters. If all goes well we will have some videos of the rockets to talk about later. 

-Joshua

Wednesday in the Garden: 04/19/2017

Today I have a few garden pictures. The plants are growing well since the weather has been warm with a lot of sun. 

The strawberry plants haven’t died and are actually producing fruit. I think I picked this berry a day or two early because it was a bit sour. 

The almonds are big and fuzzy right now. As they mature they will shrink and turn brown. 

I think it will be time to eat this broccoli soon. 

Our pomegranate tree has so many flowers. I can’t wait for fall when we will have ripe pomegranates. 


We had more rain this year then any year in over a decade. Due to that we many flowers and green plants still. I tried to take some pictures while working this week. 

We have recently bought a new larger fish tank. We got guppies among other fish. One of our guppies had babies a few days ago. They are tiny and like to hide under a chunk of driftwood so they are not eaten.  I tried to get pictures but it was difficult because they move often and quickly. 

Can you see the baby fish? It is orange. 


-Joshua

Wednesday in the Garden: 04/12/2017

Today there will not be as many pictures as last week. While working in the garden, I had my two oldest come to cull their plants. I wanted them to cut out the extra plants that came up with some scissors. I guess I gave my nine year old bad instructions or he miss understood. His beet seeds produced a few plants per seed. I wanted him to trim each spot where the beets came up to only one plant. He thought I meant every square that he had planted. So he cut most of his beets and many of his carrots down. After I discovered what happened some crying happened, and I now felt like the worst dad in the world. I helped him replant where needed, and now I have to hope his plants still do well before the summer heat kicks in.

So here are the pictures I did get to take.

Our lemon tree is doing well so far this year.  I think Lynn is going to need to do a bunch of baking with lemons in the near future.

The Pomegranate tree continues to put out flowers.  I think we will have many fruits from this tree this year.

I am experimenting with strawberries in one of my raised beds.  There is some fruit on them, but I am mostly hoping they survive the summer.  I want to get runners off the plants and have a raised bed full of strawberries.

This celery plant took a long time to sprout.  I had planted it in the fall, but it took months to finally start to grow.  I like the color of the stalks because they are such a vibrant dark green.  The celery from the store is always so much more pale then this. I wonder if that is because they are a different type of celery or just that the store bought is picked to early.

They pansies that we planted have started to grow.  I never grew these plants from seed before, so I am interested to see how they look as they grow.

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Our square foot garden raised beds are starting to look really good.  This is such a good way to grow a garden in the urban/suburban setting.

 

Hopefully, next week I won’t have my son kill his garden so there will be more pictures. I hope all of you that read this are having success with your gardens, and that you enjoy many tasty fruits and vegetables.

-Joshua

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Mahogany Plywood Dining Table with I-beam legs

Who builds their own dining table?  Only a crazy person!  Even worse is somebody that builds a table that weighs at least 400 pounds.

About two years ago our dining table started to look really worn out.  The table top had a thin veneer that was starting to disappear in patches. The seats were made of PVC faux leather, and large pieces of the material were breaking off leaving only the thin cloth backing left.

We started to look for a new dining table, but were not happy with the choices available.  Either we would have to buy something that would fall apart just like our old table, or we spend at least $3000 on something made out of solid materials.  So, I of course got the crazy idea to build my own table.

I started searching the internet for table ideas.  Somehow, I got the really crazy idea to use i-beams as the base for the table and bench I wanted to build.  Lynn isn’t able to visualize things in her head so I attempted to design the table using Sketchup.

I was able to buy the i-beams that I wanted at a local metal shop.  They cut the beams down to size for me, which is good because there is no way I could have done that myself.  The beams I bought had been sitting outside so they were covered in surface rust.  IMG_0961

Using my grinder, I removed most of that rust.  The metal underneath didn’t look new, but had a sort of aged patina look which is what I wanted.  To darken up the metal I cleaned it all with mineral spirits.  Then I sprayed with with a clear semi gloss enamel for protection.

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Knowing that this would end up being a very heavy table I had to come up with a way to attach the parts.  I decided to drill holes in the i-beams and the angle iron that the table top would rest on.  The i-beams and angle iron are then bolted together.  I used large bolts so the table and bench are strong enough to hold a lot of weight.

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As you can see from the dates in the pictures, I was able to get the legs completed over a year ago.  That is the point I ran into some difficulties.  I bought reclaimed wood to build the table top, but the wood wasn’t level and was more difficult to work with then I had thought it would be.  I was able to get the bench top put together, but was never able to make the tabletop work.  Periodically, I would try different ideas, but none of them worked out.

Eventually, I ran out of ideas for making the reclaimed wood work.  I was about ready to give up on making my own table, and Lynn was starting to talk about buying a new table.  Then inspiration struck me.  Why not use plywood to make the table and bench top?  I did a google search to see if someone else had done something like that before, and I found something I liked at a blog called Vintage Revivals.  They had created tabletops for a restaurant by stacking plywood.  They used 2 pieces of plywood and a strip of wood on the bottom edges to give the appearance of 3 pieces.  Ultimately, I decided on 3 pieces of plywood to make the tabletop higher and thicker since it matched the height of the reclaimed wood I originally planned to use.

Taking Vintage Revivals idea, I started looking into plywood.  Lynn and I finally decided on using African Mahogany plywood for the top and bottom piece with maple for the middle.  The total price for the wood and the urethane I used was about $450.  The store I bought the wood at cut it to size for me.  Each sheet of plywood was 4ft by 8ft.  My tabletop is 3ft by 7ft, and the bench is 15in by 7ft.  The bench needed one sheet of plywood and left just a small piece of scrap leftover.  From the table I have some scrap pieces that are 1ft by 8ft and some smaller pieces.  I will be able to use those to make a small shelf in our kitchen, and possibly a mantle for our fireplace.

I attached the pieces of plywood together with some heavy duty glue and finishing nails.  Once the plywood was attached together I used a sander to make sure all the edges lined up and were smooth.

Finally, I finished the table with polyurethane.  When I bought the wood I asked for suggestions on products for finishing the table.  One of the suggestions was a product from General Finishes called Enduro-var.  I was told it would amber the wood giving it a bit of an aged appearance.  There were other products suggested too, but I liked the idea of giving the wood the aged appearance.  I thought that would go well with the somewhat rusty looking i-beams.

Bringing the table into the house to assemble it was easier then expected.  The tabletop was the hardest part because Lynn and our oldest son had to work together to carry one of the sides.

 

There are a few minor things I wish looked better on the table. For instance, I was trying to move the unfinished tabletop by myself and put a small gouge on the top of the table.  The polyurethane did a good job of blending the gouge in so that it isn’t a major eyesore, mostly it just bugs me because I know it is there.

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Overall, I am really pleased with this table.  As built it cost under $1000. There is the cost of the reclaimed wood that I didn’t use, but I think I will be able to come up with a good use for that someday. I do think you have to be pretty crazy to build something like this because it is heavy and that makes it difficult to work with.  However, should you choose to do it you will end up with a solid table that should lasts for a long time.

-Joshua

 

 

 

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Wednesday in the Garden: 04/05/2017

Spring is my favorite time of year.  All the plants are starting to grow like crazy, and the sun is shining but not overly hot yet.  Living in San Diego County, our spring is a bit different.  Today, the temperature were already in the low 80s.  With a lot of sun and good temperatures I have many plants growing.  I like to document the growth of the plants for my own enjoyment as much as showing them to other people.

I am going to attempt to put up garden pictures every Wednesday.  Some of them may be taken on other days, but doing one day of pictures is better then a barrage all the time.

 

My pomegranate tree has tripled in size since I bought it. It really likes our warm dry weather.

 

For me one of the scents of spring in our area is Jasmine.  It is another plant that does really well in our climate, so many people grow them.  Mine is doing well, and getting close to covering the wall I have it growing up.

 

The California Poppies continue to flourish.

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This Creeping Black Sage is my first native plant to start to grow and flourish.  It has done well with the extra rain we got this year.  One of my long term goals is to fill my yard with native plants to attract bees and humming birds.

 

My newly planted apple tree has blossoms though I don’t expect any fruit.  I just think the flowers look nice.

 

Last year I got 3 almonds from my tree in its second year in my yard.  This year looks to be a much better year.  I was able to count over 20 almonds growing on the tree right now.

 

This poor little blood orange has been in the ground for 3 years, but has been been eaten twice in that time.  However, it keeps on trying to grow.  This year it seems pretty happy and is trying to put out some oranges.

 

The raised garden beds I planted with my sons last week have many plants sprouting.  I hope all of them do well.  Some of them like cooler weather, but I let the boys plant what they wanted so they would enjoy the process.

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Madhu Ras Melons in foreground, beets in background
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Cauliflower on left, carrots in middle, beets on right, corn in the back
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Cauliflower and corn
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Many carrots sprouting
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Marigold, beets, and corn
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Dill and corn.  The orange things are from the neighbors pine tree
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Cilantro and Corn

I hope that anyone that reads this enjoys the pictures, and that your garden adventures are going well.

-Joshua

Easy Raised Garden Beds

One of my gardening goals for this year is to get my oldest three children more involved.  I want them to learn how to grow their own food, and not just eat what dad grows.  I think it would be sad for them to grow up without any ideas how to grow plants, and think that it is a hard thing that only a select few with “green thumbs” can do.

Since I needed to build three garden beds, I wanted to make beds that were quick and easy to put together.  Fortunately, I saw a product at Home Depot that happened to do exactly what I wanted. It is an 8in x 8in x 6in block with slots that a 2×6 board can slide into.  There is a small hole in the middle of the bricks that a piece of rebar can go into to help hold the bricks together or stack them to the ground.  Each brick costs $2.97 at my local store.

PlanterWallBlockI also bought my redwood for the sides of the bed at Home Depots.  I wanted each bed to be 4ft by 3ft.  Of course, Home Depot doesn’t sell boards in those sizes so they have to be cut down.  Home Depot does do limited cutting for free, mostly to make the boards fit into customer’s cars.  I bought 8 foot boards that I had them cut in half for me for the 4 foot side.  I also bought 12 foot boards that I had cut in half for transportation.  I have my own table saw so I cut them into 3 foot sections myself.  I had to pay for one cut at Home Depot, so I paid 75 cents for my wood to be cut.

Getting these blocks and having Home Depot cut the wood for you is an easy way to build a raised garden bed.  If you don’t have the ability or tools to build your own garden bed I highly suggest doing it this way.

Once my boys and I put the beds together, we filled them as close to the Square Foot Garden method as we could.  That is 1/3rd vermiculite, 1/3rd peat, and compost.  Vermiculite is very expensive so I never quite make the 1/3rd on that.

Then I let the boys plan out what would be in their garden beds.  I bought a few new seeds for them in addition to letting them picks seeds from my collection.  We made a grid on paper and wrote out what seeds were going in each square foot.  I want them to remember what what they planted and see the different stages of growth for each type.

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Corran doesn’t want to grow vegetables because he doesn’t want to eat them.  I grew corn last year in one of my raised beds, and it actually did pretty good.  I picked a blue corn because I liked the color.  We ended up with a number of ears, but they were not particularly edible.  Corran does like corn so he picked a yellow sweet corn to fill most of his bed.

matthias gardenMatthias really likes carrots so he mostly went this those in his bed.  The Madhu Ras Melons are a type of honey melon from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  They are supposed to be from India and grow well in hot dry areas.  Our summers are very dry and tend to be fairly hot.  Hopefully, this melon will do well here.

ian gardenIan’s garden has the most variety.  He wanted to do corn to be like Corran, but does enjoy a few types of vegetables that he really wanted to try to grow.

I was able to plant Ian’s garden about a 5 days before his brothers.  Our weather has been nearly perfect for sprouting seeds so all of his plants have sprouted.  He is very excited about his garden, and the plants that are growing in it.

 

-Joshua

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