Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Velcro plant ties

I want to share a product that is miles above any other plant tie I have ever used. Velcro makes a two sided velcro tape (hooks on one side, loops on the other) that simply loops back on itself to securely hold your plants. This allows for a quick and strong connection that withstood some impressive heirloom tomato vines last year as well as holding my pea trellis firmly to the support posts.

Product details here:

I originally bought some last year on a whim to try out. While the ties are reusable, I increased the number of tomatoes from last year and used taller (and sturdier) stakes. The combination meant I needed more tape. Going back to the store I bought from the year before yielded nothing. Same story for several more big box stores and local garden centers. Figuring the product was discontinued, I tried twine, string, the stretchy vinyl stuff, and old rags. Realizing how superior the Velcro product was, I made it a mission to find more.

After finding more on a large e-tailer named after a river and paying unusually high shipping and handling, I found and purchased the product. A little further searching turned up the website above teasing me with such splendors as a belt mounted dispenser with built in cutter, but no e-commerce for direct purchase. In tired desperation, after searching for someone who would sell me a dispenser, I wrote an email to Velcro praising the product, bemoaning the lack of a local supplier, and practically begging them to sell me a dispenser.

To my surprise, I received an email back the next morning advising an e-tailer who sells all their home use products and a very generous offer for a free trial. Though I respectfully declined the offer, explaining that I already knew the product would be worth the price, I very thoroughly thanked her for the link which I will share with you here.

As a disclaimer, I receive NO, nada, zilch, nothing for promoting this product. This is something I use in my garden and in my searching is the best thing going for tying up plants to stakes and training on trellises. This concludes my no BS report.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Failed effort

I was hoping to provide a percentage result for germination of 14 year old bean seed stored in pretty poor conditions for future germination. I expected much less than 100% but did expect more than zilch, nada, nothing.

I can say the rains did not fall favorably, but due to the germination rates of the Okra planted next to it, can not account for a zero percent germination rate.

After growing tomato plants from 8 year old tomato seed, I was hoping to send a "don't worry so much just save seed" result. This does open my eyes a little bit to the benefit of providing SOME protection (air tight jar instead of an envelope) to the seeds to prolong their usefulness.

I stand by my stance to avoid overheating the seed and nearly anything should maintain viability for 2-3 years. For better germination rates or extended storage, vacuum sealing, air tight jars, and O2 absorbers are all beneficial.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wild Blackberries

Some of my favorite crops are ones that require little to no tending. This past weekend, my wife and I braved the ticks, brambles, and bugs to come home with some wild blackberries.

There are a few red ones that slipped in. In general the berry is ripe when the shininess has a very subtle change, the berry is purplish black (no red), and will pull off with a light sideways pull.

I would love to show the pictures of us in long sleeves and decked out for tick and chigger avoidance except 1. I would be sleeping on the couch for a long time and 2. I forgot the camera. Just imagine socks over pants with tape covering all joints and brightly colored long sleeve shirts.

We spent nearly two hours and came back with an ice cream bucket half full. My plan to be brave and wade out in the brambles as tall as I am almost backfired when I lost my balance and almost fell. After that, my wife's idea of picking from the edges seemed brighter, but didn't stop me from wading. *grunt grunt guy stuff* Luckily the worst of the damage was light scratches on the hands and a dozen critters that got around our best preparations.

The reward:

One happy toddler. (Pictures to follow. Taken with wrong camera.)
One blackberry pie.
Several upcoming blackberry smoothies.
We even got a bit of a workout when the truck refused to start in the near backwoods.

Planning to get more this coming weekend as there should be more ripe than during this picking.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bean trellis Part 2

After traveling this past weekend, I am now back to giving the garden more of the attention it needs.

In the previous post, the skeletal framework was assembled. To complete the trellis, I unrolled the fencing I had and cut it to the length of the barbed wire. (While I could have measured the length, I enjoy building with little to no measurements when I can get away with it. The most advanced measurement tool used thus far has been my foot!)

As a note, it is much easier to plant your crop after putting up the fencing. Wanting to get a head start, I planted first, then hung the fence with enough travel time in between to have true leaves showing. This required me to be very careful to not "bulldoze" my sprouts into oblivion. ;)

I figured the height of my foot near the ankle would be a good height to raise the wire off the ground. With binding wires precut and hanging loosely on the fence and pliers in my pocket, I carefully raised the fence, wrapped the wire around fence and rebar, then snugged the wire up to hold the fence in place with my pliers.

Fence sections 2-5 were essentially repeats of the above. The only difference is not having a foot to rest the wire against. However, loosely wrapping one of the wires around the rebar is a nice hold while the rest of the fence is put in position. Once it is positioned as desired, the wire can be tightened up.

My end results look like this:

(click to enlarge)

So what would I do differently?

1. I would use steel wire instead of Aluminum as mentioned previously.
2. I would make it taller. I calculated that it would be seven foot tall. This seemed reasonable to walk and mow under as I'm 5'10". In the scientist that can't tie his shoe vein, I successfully calculated the height of the trellis, but forgot that the height will rapidly decrease as one moves away from the upright leg of the right triangle. Ducking under rebar wasn't bad, but the height (or lack thereof) became very evident once the fencing was up! Dohhhhh!!!
3. The rebar on the ends tends to pull due to the weight of the fence. I suspect this will not improve once the beans get bigger. Solutions? A. Thicker rebar (maybe). B. Barstock or pipe instead of rebar (expensive unless using scrap). C. Ridgepole (reasonable). D. Guy wires on the ends (reasonable). I had considered using a ridgepole of some sort during the design process to tie all the rebar uprights together, but decided to "see what happens" without it. My favorite solution would still be D simply because I consider tension to be a much more elegant solution than compression whenever possible.

Now the only step left is to wait for the beans to complete my living sculpture! GROW GROW GROW LITTLE BEANS!!!