Early spring is the time to improve your garden. These Spring Gardening Projects make your life as a gardener easier and smarter! Get off to a good start in your garden and greenhouse. Every year Dave explores new ideas in our garden and greenhouse to improve our gardening experience. Let us show you around our garden and greenhouse and share some of the projects we have found most helpful as gardeners over the years. You will see links as I discuss improvements we have made to our garden over the years. The links go to posts that teach you how to do them.
Tuesday in The Garden Blog Hop Begins today!
Grab a cup, put your feet up and spend a bit of time with our garden club. Experienced gardener friends from all over the country are sharing their tips and ideas with you every other Tuesday. At the bottom of this post you will find links to our other contributors. Be sure to read them all!
Spring Gardening Projects
Spring is the time we get all excited about gardening. Until we look at all the work! This time of year the weeds outgrow everything else and mowing season hits. And the flower gardens need tending and are so pretty. Working the garden gets pushed back and then it’s a never ending battle to catch it up!
This was our experience for decades. We were always behind. By the time the weather got warm the garden was overrun with weeds. Dave would get the tiller out and we would plant and…the weeds outgrew the crops every time. Our harvest was still good. But the work to get it became defeating. We have made a lot of improvements to our garden in these last several years.
Our garden is manageable now and more joy than pain to work in. Some of these Spring Gardening Projects are big in scale but the pay back is HUGE in improved gardening experience and time and water reduction. Other projects are simple and cheap ideas you can easily do in a day or two with little work or money. How resourceful are you? Gardening is a perfect place to DIY and use up and repurpose things otherwise thrown out by you or others in your life.
Our garden is in U.S.D.A. zone 8a. We are temperate and wet here in Northwestern Washington State. These projects have helped us so much make our garden more productive and less work and worry.
Welcome to Our Greenhouse
We highly recommend a greenhouse. Do you really have to have one? No. We did without for decades and we managed. But a greenhouse will make your garden life easier. For us, growing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in our greenhouse is extending our growing season by several months, giving peppers the heat they love, and helping Dave get control of tomato blight.
We tried Winter gardening in the greenhouse. It is pretty expensive here. We have a very low light index. Lights and heat for the greenhouse make for very expensive winter produce. So we are three season greenhouse growers.
Dave built our greenhouse three years ago on an old barn slab. It’s a good sized greenhouse at 17 x 33 feet. It has a shed roof and natural venting built into it. He built a raised bed about 25 x 4 on the concrete slab and plants in that. I discuss our greenhouse design further in this post. Dave built it to grow his tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. They do love it in there! He uses plastic 1/2 55 gallon barrels for containers when he needs extra growing space. We also installer a horizontal trellis up high to use our vertical greenhouse space. The cucumbers love growing up there but it’s a bit of a headache to water.
Automatic Watering System:
Chris Benedict, a Whatcom county co-operative extension agent here in Whatcom county showed Dave an automatic watering system he had made. Dave was immediately entranced! The company that supplies the parts is WaterTecna. Dave bought the parts he needed and made his own automatic watering system for the greenhouse raised beds.
Automatic Watering systems are a great Spring gardening project. You want to put these in before you plant. The plants create a bit of an obstacle course to work around when putting the system together. Tender young plants can get beat up when you are moving the lines around.
Automatic waterers made a huge improvement in our time management and water conservation in the greenhouse and outdoor garden! I don’t have a post on automatic watering. You will have to design a system for your unique garden needs. But it is pretty easy and worth it.
The picture shows the automatic watering lines running along the surface of the outdoor garden beds. Dave chose not to bury his water lines so he can easily adjust their positions as necessary during the growing season. These lines are sliced on the bottom to allow a drip of water into the soil periodically.
For the tomatoes this watering system is particularly important. Our tomatoes contract vermiticulum Wilt pretty much every year, no matter what we do to stop it. That nasty fungus is spread through the soil. Sprinkler Watering can increase the spread of spores if the water splashes the soil up onto the tomato leaves and stalks. Watering at the roots with an automatic system releases water in drips directly into the soil. It keeps the dirt and water off the plant leaves and stalks. Dave has pretty much conquered tomato blight and blossom end rot in the greenhouse. His outdoor tomatoes always get the blight because he still can’t control the rain 🙂 If you don’t want to install a fancy automatic watering system, put in soaker hoses!
Our Outdoor Garden:
Winter this year blasted us! After several mild winters 2016-17 had snow on the ground for three months! It’s now March 8 2017 and we still haven’t shook off the wet and cold. Often by now the spring planting is done. We are a full month behind! It’s so cold the weeds and grass haven’t even started!
Dave’s poor tomato and pepper seedlings are Germinated, sprouted and ready to transplant on his lunar cycle Calendar. He decided not to heat the greenhouse last winter so he will be keeping his tomato and pepper starts in our house until he deems the weather warm enough to get his starts out there. That could be several weeks yet. It’s cold here!
He’s planted broccoli and kale shoots under his cold frames outside. Those are tough plants. It’s so cold we are not sure if they will survive the transition from house to garden bed. Even with his homemade cold frame! Asian greens are going in soon too. We hope they don’t rot from all the extreme rain!
Raised Garden Beds:
The largest scale expense and labor project. But SO worth it!
Raised Garden beds have been a game changer for us! Structure, weed control, soil amendment, space saving, efficient planting… yeah they are a great idea! Dave has slowly added a raised bed or two a year out in our garden. He has three small ones out by his shop. His old tractor tire makes a mini raised bed by our compost pile. We just moved the compost pile. Now our garden has a new 4 x 4 raised bed full of deliciously rich composted soil! lol. Now what is he going to plant in it?
He built a ginormous (10 x 30 feet) raised bed for our raspberry vines behind the garden. Raised beds give our garden structure, make weeding easy, contain invasive garden plants and help with pest control too. We actually bought good topsoil and mixed it with our nasty, heavy clay dirt. Now Dave keeps the beds refreshed with our compost and other soil amendments.
We HIGHLY recommend them!
We started Lasagna Gardening last year and we love it! Our garden bottom is so much easier to manage with plastic and deep mulch layers. We grow our corn, beans and squash and some root crops with this method. Our garden is reaching a new level. We can get our focus off the weeding and manage other aspects of planting and organically managing our food crops.
Are you creating a new garden?
Stop a minute and consider these few things about where to put your new garden. Gardening is a process that improves over time. After all your hard work you want to know you chose a good garden location! Raised beds are a lot of work and expensive to build. Put them in a good location and they are worth it! Getting your garden plan done can take years. Start in a good spot!
After you pick your garden spot, Build a healthy Garden Soil in your garden plot. The healthiest nutrition from your garden vegetables comes from good soil that makes lovely organic veggies. Our wet clay isn’t good for gardening. We have purchased many many yards of topsoil and amended it with compost and other methods to make it a good growing medium.
Graveled walkways between raised beds.
When you build your raised beds take the time and the little extra money to put in weed free gravel paths. We put a layer of landscape fabric down around the beds and graveled over that. How EASY it is to walk and wheelbarrow around those raised beds now. A nice level graveled walk replaced the uneven muddy, slippery, clay ground surrounding our raised beds. Replacing weeds around the beds with gravel paths reduces the plant diseases and pests too! Slugs hate crawling on gravel 🙂
I envisioned a cute mailbox painted with a garden theme for our garden tool box. I had seen many versions on Pinterest and was so excited to get the small tools into a dry place right in the garden where I can always find them. My practical man decided this garden tool box he made from scraps was a much better Mother’s Day gift for me. He was right! This post shows you how he made our garden tool box from scraps and leftover paint he had lying around. He did buy the hinges but that’s it. It’s lasted several years now and we love it! All the small tools fit in it and keep dry 🙂
DIY Cold Frame:
Dave made this cold frame out of scraps of Triple Poly he had left from his Greenhouse project. At the price of those panels it makes sense to use up every little piece. He did! This post shows you how he simply glued the cut and measured pieces together. This frame gets a bit hot inside so he props is open some to let the breezes flow through as needed. He uses the bungie cords to tie the frame down in high winds.
DIY Strawberry Towers:
Strawberries get scraggly and invasive in a garden row. We use strawberry towers and other containers and a square portion of one raised garden bed to grow our strawberries. The towers keep them contained, easy to manage and mobile throughout the garden season. If you want to grow strawberries in a small space these towers are perfect! Strawberry Towers are easy Spring gardening projects that can save you space, weeding, and time.
Dave has planted his strawberries into these towers for several years now. The towers are holding up just fine and strawberries like them too. The strawberries are actually outside all year in these towers and survive!
Dave could have painted his towers to make them cuter. For him, that’s just silliness. He is a practical man. Our DIY Strawberry Towers Post will give you instructions. Including beauty tips 🙂
POTATO TOWERS reduce potato diseases and keep the Spuds where you can find them!
We made Easy DIY Wire Potato Towers and potato barrels last year.
This year Dave is planting potatoes just in his Easy DIY Potato Barrels. He has them made from last year and enjoyed planting in them. Potatoes love to grow in barrels. Both methods help contain the potatoes and reduce “volunteers” all over the garden. They also help reduce soil borne diseases and facilitate garden rotation because they can be easily cleaned, soil replaced and moved around every year as necessary. Again he had old fence wire laying around so he repurposed it into his potato towers. Cheap and easy! These 55 gallon barrels were also a gift. Keep your eyes open for free things that can be used for gardening projects. You will find them!
Hoop Gardening with raised garden beds has been an incredible help for our garden. Dave uses plastic over the hoops to protect his baby pepper transplants in the spring. The hoops are useful to hold cold hardy plants through the winter as well. Unless it’s windy. High Winds blows the plastic off the hoops!
The hoops on the beds support plastic to protect the plants as needed. In the summer Dave uses the hoops to support small hog wire trellis’ for his pepper plants.
Our weed war post describes how we have tackled weeds organically. We are making progress with the methods and projects we are showing you today. If you are frustrated by an overwhelming garden, consider some of these time saving projects.
Spring is a good time to plan your garden projects out. Get started on these projects before you plant! Most of these projects can be done throughout the year. But early Spring is such an exciting time! Get started now and have a better garden experience!
It’s a process putting it all together. Our garden has developed from a muddy piece of ground we found very frustrating to work with. Dave spent the last five years diligently building it into a garden we can easily manage. Vegetable Gardening produces your family’s food. Teaches the kids so much, provides a better quality of life through food and it’s a great hobby. Make it work for you. It’s so worth it!
Be Sure to go read all the other blogs in our Tuesday In The Garden Blog Hop! Read more great ideas from experienced gardeners from all over the country.