Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Garden(s) Update

I was away from home for five days visiting my parents on Jekyll Island, Georgia.  Since my schedule is now my own—at least for the time being—I took advantage of not needing to ask permission for time away, and made an extra-long visit around Mothers’ Day.

I know that the real gift for my mother was just being there, and going to church so she could show me off, but in the meantime, my brain had conceived a somewhat outlandish plan for a more tangible gift.  I was admiring the casket raised planter bed that Miss Chef and I had constructed on our patio, when it struck me how much my parents might also enjoy one (minus the feline inspector). 

Planter box 04 (34)

My father in particular has complained about what he calls the “poison dirt” on that sandy barrier island they now call home.  It grows sea oats and live oak trees pretty well, but most of their attempts at gardening favorite flowers and vegetables have had frustratingly high failure rates.

So, after checking with Miss Chef to make sure I wasn’t being completely irrational, I recruited her to help bring home another load of wood and supplies from the local big-box home improvement store.  Having been through the routine once, I went ahead and cut all the wood and pvc piping to size, then loaded up my car with this “kit” and drove it all five hours south.

I did some things in a slightly different order this time, putting the first level frame together without the posts, so I could add the hardware cloth immediately.  This way I didn’t have to turn over the completed box at the end, because all that wood screwed together is pretty darn heavy.

This is as far as I got on my first day of construction.


You can’t see it, but the hardware cloth is already attached to the frame.  I was a bit nervous at how slowly it seemed to be coming together, since I had to stop and dig out and grade the area of lawn where we’d decided to place the planter.  I hadn’t calculated that into my timeframe, and was worried about how long it was going to take to put in the rest of the 126 screws that hold this thing together.

However, once I got the posts in and started attaching the boards, I got into a good pace, and the sides grew surprisingly quickly.  Finally, after another 5 hours of work, I had it all put together. 


You can see I also included the 1” pvc “sockets” to insert pvc hoops to support a row cover.  This version is not quite as well built as the one I had Miss Chef’s help with, but I’m a bit proud of having designed and constructed it more or less on my own.  Dad did help where he was able, and if nothing else, it was nice to have someone to talk to while I drilled and screwed my way around the frames.

The next step was for all three of us to drive onto the “mainland” to buy nonpoison dirt, as well as some plants.  Dad and I decided to put several inches of chunky pine bark mulch in the bottom to aid in drainage and lessen the amount of dirt we had to buy.  Also, since I recently had a training session with Friendship Gardens, I added some peat moss to the mix to help it retain moisture.

A little bit more muscle work to get it all in the box and mixed together, then it was time for Mom and Dad to plant!


On the near end, Dad has three tomato plants, and Mom filled in the rest with flowers.  It’s a very nice little focal point right outside the back door.  I’m glad I seized the opportunity and made this happen, but it was a lot of hard work.  I told my parents they better grow some damn good tomatoes to make it all worthwhile!

So, that’s the first Garden of the title…now I had to go back home and see how my own garden had fared for five days without me!


The planter box doesn’t look much different, although there are a couple of teeny tiny cayenne peppers forming. 

Looking over the main bed, I was reminded that May is the best month to enjoy my North Carolina garden—the mornings are still cool enough to enjoy putzing around, and the weeds and bugs haven’t gotten into full attack mode yet.  Even though our temperatures are still more like summer than spring, we did get some rain while I was gone, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good everything looked, and how much it had grown!

Here’s the last Garden Update photo, from about two weeks ago…

Garden 04 (30)

…and this morning:


This is why I like to do garden updates throughout the growing season.  I know that it’s growing, but it seems so slow that I’m always amazed to see the contrast when I put photos side by side.  (The cat is about the same size as before, though.)

That big frondy thing in the very front is one of three fennel plants, and it’s the smallest of them.  Right behind it is a broccoli plant.  I doubt that poor exhausted one I highlighted on my last post is going to make it, but I did harvest my first head from another plant today.  I’m also still pulling up radishes, but I went ahead and let all the lettuce bolt.


Might as well start inviting pollinators, and they are cheerful little blossoms.

The peas have finally started flowering, right on schedule.


That’s another benefit to obsessively blogging about my garden.  I was getting worried that my peas were growing and growing, but not putting on flowers, until I checked last year’s posts and saw that they didn’t bloom until mid-May.  So we’re right on track for another decent harvest—fingers crossed!

The carrot-and-onion patches are looking particularly lush right now.


When I come down to ground level, I feel like I’m alongside a tiny little forest.  I’m tempted to find some miniature animal figurines and pose them in here for pictures!  I didn’t thin the carrots quite enough, but I’m hoping to pull some out as baby carrots, leaving the rest enough room to grow.

I’ve also got three bean plants, a couple of cucumbers, three bell pepper plants and a squash plant just getting started.  I’m interested to see how well I planned the transition from spring garden to summer.  I feel like my summer bed will be a bit sparse after the broccoli, peas and onions are done…but that will just give me extra room to start planting for fall!

Oh, and lest you think vegetables are the only thing I’ve got growing, I picked these from the front of the house to cheer up Miss Chef when she had a nasty headache.  The lacy green foliage is actually dill, so I guess I can’t totally break free from the veggie bed!



  1. Bet your parents were thrilled, both with the visit and the flower box!
    Your garden is thriving! Not fair - snow here.

    1. Yes but...I'm also covered with mosquito bites from the knees down!

  2. What an awesome gift for your folks ... labour is a true gift from the heart.

    PLEASE if you are so moved, please do a miniature scene in your garden. But only if you are so moved :) I love miniature anything. Ahem. Please ignore this comment if you were simply being rhetorical :)

    1. I'm tempted, very tempted...

    2. Let's see, how to bribe you ... :)

  3. Hey! You did a great job! I would love it if my children came and built me a planter box! Your garden is looking good and MY you do grow attractive cats. The squash plant is taking over here and the strawberries have not survived the heat and the wind. However! Guess who just got a composter???? Oooooooooo....

    1. Sorry about the strawberry plants, but gardening is one big experiment to figure out what works--even negative results are still results. I sure hope you show off your composter in a post soon!

  4. What a thoughtful present you made for your parents Alison; you gave them some of your time to make something they both will enjoy...And your garden is triving, under the supervision of the cat!

    1. We have squirrels this year for the first time ever, and I've already asked the cat how she'd feel about being left outside overnight to protect the garden. She'd be much better at it than Rosie, I suspect.


Thanks for dropping by--please share your thoughts!

"Every time we get comment mail, Rosie wags her tail!" (Seriously, you should see that puffy thing go.)