Thursday, May 15, 2014

Making Raised Beds Out of Pallets

This spring I really really wanted more raised beds (rows aren't for me), but it simply wasn't in our budget. Luckily I found some beautiful pallets for FREE. It was super easy to make these raised beds! 

I made these (6 beds that were 4' x 6' and 5 beds that were 4' x 4') with the help of my toddler (except when sawing) in about 3 days. Sans toddler, it would have been an afternoon project. 

  1. It took 1 pallet to make 1 bed (approximately 4' x 4') or I could squeeze 2 beds out by buying fence boards for the sides (making the bed approximately 4' x 6' or 4' x 8' depending on the boards.) Each pallet was free and the fence boards run about $1.50 - $2.50 each, averaging $8 per bed or FREE. 
  2. My next step was to do a bit of deconstruction. First, I removed the boards on the back and saved them for spare parts. 
  3. Then I clumped the front boards into twos, by removing three of them and then placing them right next to another board (I left the end and middle boards nailed on, this gave me ample space for sawing later on.)
  4. Next I used the Saws-all to remove the pieces into neat sections of two. 
  5. Last (for the 4' x 4's), all I had to do next was to screw 2 strong sections from the front with 4 of my "bonus boards" from the back. That gave me a built-in corner piece. Done. 
  6. For the longer beds, I put a 1" x 1" piece in the center of the 2 fence boards. I just used scrap wood that we had in the garage. 
  7. Last (for the long beds), I screwed the long sides to the sides of the strong pallet chunks. Bam. Raised beds. 
  8. Another option for a FREE 4' x 8' bed would be to use 2 of the stronger front sections, screwed together (so they are end-to-end), and then to use the loose back pieces for the 4' end pieces. This wouldn't even require scrap wood, but it does use more pallets. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sucesses and Failures

Last year was my first year gardening, so I consider it a wild success. I doubt anyone else would, but I'm excited. Here's my review of last year's season. There were more, but here are the broad stokes. 

I'll start off with the failures. 
  • Obviously, keeping up with this blog has been a failing. I can try to make excuses by saying that it's winter, but I stopped before everything was even harvested, sooo.... Honestly, the last year has just been a doozy and my family comes first. 
  • My starts really struggled last year. I used grow lights and my starts were super leggy. This year I'm using a mix of red and blue lights and I'm really hoping for better results. Fingers crossed!
  • Frozen zucchini. I tried to save some and it was not eatable. I shredded and froze it but it was just not good in anything. I've heard this is amazing in breads, but my family did not agree. 
  • I actually had quite a few plants that didn't really do anything or that got eaten by slugs. Sadness. 
  • Onions were a mixed bag. Mine were sooo tiny, so kind of a failure, but they were also the best onions I've ever had, so I'm trying again this year! 
  • Rows - My last garden row didn't yield anything really, so I have opted to do all raised beds this year and moved them over by 4 ft, to get more sun. I don't think it's quite as pretty, but I'm hoping my yield will be better. Lots of people love rows, but I think I just prefer beds.
  • Soaker hoses. Ugh. BIG FAIL. These were expensive and really didn't work well at all for me. I used MORE water with them and they didn't have as big of a range as I'd hoped. So, they were supposed to offer water a foot out, but I found that only the plant ON TOP of the hoses did well. I erred on the side of caution and this ended up being expensive and not so great for the plants. I took all of them out and plan to water traditionally this year. 

Now for the good news. Successes! A few of my garden plans actually turned out better than I expected or at least as good as I expected. Yay! 
  • My GARDEN PLANNER. I LOVED this tool. I think it will also help me in the future to make changes. 
  • Peas. All of my peas did great. 
  • Salad. Yummy.
  • Zucchini. I actually had an over abundance. I was able to share with other families because my zucchini went crazy.
  • I had a really funny success, actually. A bunch of my sad tomato starts I decided not to use. I kind of tossed them over by the house and meant to put them in the compost. Then some hay kind of covered them and I forgot about them. Well, they they flourished. I got a TON of tomatoes! I found them when I was cleaning up my garden and they were at least as big as my "good" plants and very productive! This has led me to turn that side of my house into tomato beds. We'll see how it works out, but I'm very excited!!!
  • CANNING! What fun!!! I just started out with the smaller investment of steam canning. We did just a little bit to see how well it worked for our family. This year, I will do WAY more!!! 
    • We canned 14 jars of strawberry jam (gone almost instantaneously, I will do waaaaay more this year!) 
    • 42 jars of plum syrup - a HUGE hit!
    • 11 pints of applesauce
    • 11 pints of cinnamon applesauce - every one's favorite, next year most of my applesauce will be cinnamon or even cranberry
    • 7 quarts of applesauce - I think I liked the pints better, I'll use my quart jars for something else next year
    • 16 apple chutneys - I gave many of these away. I actually haven't even tried them yet. Everyone said they were yummy, but maybe they're just being nice. I used a recipe from America's test kitchen though, and they are always pretty dang good. 
    • 23 jars of apple butter.
    • 9 qts of sliced apples - I'd rather have applesauce, I think...
    • 3 qts apple pie mix - ended up too soft for pie mix. I keep meaning to try it in an apple betty though...
    • 5 qts sliced apples - For the baby 
    • I also froze 5 bags of sliced apples to make pies. I think that was waaay better than canning for pies. My hope had been to make my own canned pie mixes, but I felt the apples got too soft in steaming. 
  • Garlic. Oh. My. God. Delicious. Plus, I apparently didn't harvest all of it, so my garden has it everywhere already! WIN!!!  Seriously, I feel like I never knew garlic before...
  • The bunnies have been a fantastic addition to our family AND garden. 2 teeny bunbuns makes a perfect amount of compost and they're very cute and sweet. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Japanese Plum Sauce and Plum Berry Jam

My Red Japanese Plum Tree is simply amazing. 

This year it has produced:
10 quarts of picked plums for us, friends, and family to eat 
(probably more considering all of the "drive by" picking we all do)
9 jars of Plum Berry Jam
42 jars of Plum Sauce/ Syrup

First of all, obviously, the plums are delicious. They are such a treat for the whole family! 
Second, jam. That is all. Yum.
Third, Plum Sauce/ Syrup. This stuff is delightful. The baby and I had it on our yogurt this morning. I also think it would be amazing on French Toast or Crepes. We also use it on toast as kind of a thinner jam. There really isn't a "bad" way to use Plum Sauce.

I also have a Golden Japanese Plum tree. I'm excited to see what it brings this year!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Tiny Tasty Dinosaurs

7 Heritage Chicks! They are so ridiculously cute! These guys are in a chicken tractor right now, but if I decide to be a chicken person, we'll build a coop and have a much bigger run for laying hens. 

Just to be clear: these little guys will be for eating. This is actually kind of a scary/ sad/ hard experiment for me. I feel very strongly about ethicaly raised meat, but like most people, I don't want to actually DO it. So this is me, trying to have integrity. These "trial birds" are rooster chicks, and they are for meat. In the meantime, they have a very nice, sweet little life hanging in the garden side of the yard. I move their tractor around, they get organic feed, fresh yummy water. We're only a week in, and I'm not gonna lie, it's already a little emotional for me. 

In these pictures they are a little wet, because they accidentally got spinkled. Poor boys were not happy! 

Monday, July 22, 2013


The garden is in full swing and we are geting to eat out of it every day!  

I got about 5 pounds of potatoes from my first barrel. They were fabulous and went into and amazing potato salad for my hubby. It was a far cry from 50 pounds, but I also didn't finish filling it with dirt, so who knows.

Chicken broth complete with medicinal herbs for my sick little boys. 

This is the best soup I've ever made, but let's be honest that isn't saying a lot. Then my hubby agreed, and I thought that was sweet, but he's eaten street food off a road stand in rural Africa from a guy who couldn't speak English, sooo.... yeah. But when my mom said it was the best soup she's ever had, I was pretty excited. Since I didn't use a recipie there's really no redoing it. My grandma taught me everything I know about chicken soup, so here's to you grandma! 

To end on a sweet note, Japanese Plums. We have more of these than we can eat, so I'm thinking jam! We already ate all of that yummy strawberry jam anyway. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's Getting Bigger!

My bun bun area... 
I really need a better place for the straw, but I haven't found it yet. :-/

My peas had to wrap around!

In the rows I have: cauliflower, salad, yellow squash, delicata squash, zucchini, broccoli, a few stalks of corn, 5 types of onions, technicolor cabbage, kale, cosmic (purple) carrots, rainbow carrots, parsnips, and cucumbers.

My purple and black pole beans (scarlet?) I didn't plant the flowers. They volunteered.

5 varieties of beans, 2 of beets, chard, and something that I can't recall but is clearly planted in a row, lol. 

My littlest helper!

3 varieties of sugar snap pea, 4 types of tomato, and garlic.

Purple, Red, Gold, and Russet potatoes!

About 2/3 of the garden area (missing herbs, raspberries, strawberries, and pumpkins)...
Don't mind the hoses. They go to the soaker system. I just haven't buried them yet. 

A table for snacking in the garden.

Some extra corn and the cucumbers (not in that order.)


Friday, June 28, 2013


The biggest reason why I wanted a garden was to feed our family less processed food and to know exactly where that food was coming from. So, with our first strawberry harvest, we made jam. Delicious strawberry jam with only 3 ingredients: organic berries from our front yard garden, organic lemons, and organic sugar. This yielded 3 jars of the best jam I've ever had. 

Now, while I want to learn to can, I'm not set up for that just yet, so I did refrigerator jam and froze/ gave away the excess. 

Needless to say, my boys are in love. No requests for store bought jam here!