Archive for June, 2011

Mulch is the Answer

According to my new favorite book, How to Grow Fruits and Vegetables by the Organic Method (1961 Edition), mulch is the answer to all my problems. It controls weeds, helps keep moisture in the soil, adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes, and helps control pests. In the winter, it also helps keep the soil warm, although Lord knows we don’t need that help now…it was in the high 90’s today.

The weeds have been taking over our garden. I think that some of the manure we used is to blame. After I spent a while weeding, I had things around the garden plants in the Back Forty under control.

Garden Before Mulch

I decided that hay would be the best choice for mulch because it’s cheap and readily available. Turns out, hay isn’t exactly “cheap.” Hay (alfalfa in this case) is used for fodder and runs $19/bale at our local feed store. Straw is what we wanted. Six dollars a bale and way fewer weeds and seeds to boot. I laid a nice thick layer (3-4 inches) around the base of the plants in the Back Forty, and only used about a third of a bale. I didn’t put any mulch around the crawling plants (melons and zucchini) because they were already on the ground. I didn’t mulch any of the raised beds because I figured they would act as a control of sorts.

After Mulch

After Mulch Closeup

I’m hopeful that the mulch will help with the weeds, and also help reduce our watering needs during the heat of summer. If the plants I mulched around look like they’re doing well after a few more weeks, I’ll probably go to town and mulch everything.

To reward myself after all that work in the hot sun, I enjoyed a treat from the garden. Blackberries right off the vine. I love summer.

Blackberries

Dining Table –> Patio Table

The other day, I was complaining to my Uncle M that I could not find a solidly-constructed patio table – all the ones I come across seem rickety and expensive. He suggested that I just buy a round dining table and use that as a patio table. I’d never considered using “inside furniture” outdoors, because I figured it would get ruined in the elements. But the reality is that most of the official “outdoor furniture” I’ve had over the years has gotten pretty battered by the elements. I decided that as long as I could find something cheap that wasn’t anything special or heirloom-quality, I would go for it. So John and I popped into the local thrift store today. We found this table for $18 and brought it right home.

It’s nothing special – the top is just veneered plywood – but it’s the perfect size and it’s very sturdy. In its current form, it doesn’t exactly make my heart flutter. I think a little paint will improve things considerably. Still, I decided I’d rather have a functional seating area on my deck now than wait until I had the time to spiff it up. I busted out the drill and drilled a hole for an umbrella right in the middle.

Fifteen minutes later, I had my legs propped up on our DIY patio table and was very happily reading my new-to-me gardening book. By the way, I paid $2.50 for the 1961 edition of this book, but it sells used on Amazon for about the same price as our table! You can borrow it for free at Open Library.

Speaking of DIY, I guess at some point I could repair or replace our broken sun umbrella, but a quick fix with a spring clamp we had lying around is working so well that I don’t think I’ll even bother. 🙂

Cork Shelf Liner Tutorial (IKEA PS Cabinet)

A few months back, we bought the IKEA PS Cabinet in white. I like the all-metal construction of the IKEA PS Cabinet, but the metal shelves are kind of impractical. They get scratched up when you pull things in and out of the cabinet, and it’s also really loud. I decided right away that I wanted to install cork shelf liner to dampen the noise and prevent scratches. Here’s the cabinet before I installed the cork shelf liner:

I chose the Con-Tact Self Adhesive Natural Cork because it was readily available, not too expensive, and I’d had good luck with the Con-Tact brand in the past. The cork sat right next to the PS Cabinet for a few months, because I was a little nervous to tackle the project. I was worried that I wouldn’t get it straight, and that it would look wonky and amateur-ish. I finally tackled the project today, and although it took a little while to get the hang of applying the self-adhesive cork, I figured out a great way to get it to adhere evenly and I’m really pleased with the end results!

I wanted to share my method, but I found it impossible to describe in text and photos, so I decided to make a little video tutorial showing how to install the cork shelf liner. Honestly, I’m just so happy that it turned out the way I wanted! Hope you enjoy the tutorial!

FinchCam: Baby Finches Grow Up and Leave the Nest

I put together this video of motion-detect footage from the webcam we have set up to film the house finch nest in our deck. It’s amazing to see how the baby house finches get bigger and more feathered every day!