Monday, June 25, 2012

Creepy Critters

Today, as I sat working in my office, which overlooks our courtyard, I spotted some motion out of the corner of my eye that registered as unusual.  When I looked up, I saw a 4-5 foot long snake slithering around the courtyard.  I'm not too afraid of snakes, unless I know they are going to bite me or are poisonous.  I don't think this one is dangerous, at least he doesn't look like it.  I still hope he doesn't slither up on me ever.  He stayed put for me to get a few photos.  

I thought we may end up having a National Geographic moment on our hands, but the snake slithered on by, leaving the lizard to see another day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Building Raised Garden Beds

Learning to be a Central Texas gardener means learning that there is a layer of rock just a couple of inches below the topsoil.  I guess this is why I normally only see raised garden beds in this area.  This also meant that to start my own home vegetable garden, I needed to build my own raised vegetable garden beds.  Lucky for me, my wonderful husband Jon was also willing to help out with the project.

STEP 1:  Select a location
We selected a sunny spot near the back fence that was out of the way of any mowing/dog fetching zones.  
STEP 2:  Select size and number of beds
Next, I determined that we could adequately fit about five 10x4ft garden beds in the area, but opted to start with just four, with the option of adding another one later if the whole project is successful.
STEP 3:  Buy building materials
We bought our supplies at a local Home Depot.  We opted for cedar 2x6 planks, as they last longer than pine, but they are not as permanent as stone beds (good just in case we have to move and the next owners want a pool in the back yard instead of garden beds).  The Home Depot Lumber center cut the planks to the lengths we needed for the 10x4ft beds.
STEP 4:  Build frames
We did a little online research such as looking at this site to make sure we made the beds correctly.  We wanted to build all the frames prior to putting them in the selected locations so that we could get the layout just right.  Jon started doing the drilling, but I quickly took over the drilling job as he started to prepare the plots.
STEP 5:  Prepare the plots
Jon rented a tiller from Home Depot for 2 hours to dig up the plots where we were going to put our beds so that our plants would have nice loose soil to grow into.  Again, the rocky ground did not make for a fun tilling time, but Jon is a trooper.
STEP 6:  Secure beds
After the frames were built and plots tilled, we were ready to put the frames in their selected locations.  To keep the beds from shifting location, especially because they are on a slight hill, we drove two stakes per bed into the corners of the beds as far down as they would go (until they reached the horrible rock layer).
STEP 7:  Fill with dirt
We grossly underestimated the amount of dirt required to fill four 10x4ft garden beds.  We started with about 20 bags of compost, manure, and peat moss from Home Depot which only ended up filling a few inches of the beds.  We ended up ordering a delivery of 3 square yards of garden dirt from a local landscaping company (which equated to about 40-50 full wheelbarrows).
STEP 8:  Plant!

The whole projected ended up costing about $500, but should last us for many many *fruitful* years to come.  Thanks again to my wonderful husband for all his hard work!

Jon working hard to loosen the soil.
Empty beds waiting for more dirt.
Yay! Dirt was delivered!  Then followed the daunting task of shoveling it all.
Filling the beds.
Getting it done!
Jon did a lot of manual labor, but so did I!
Completed raised garden beds ready for some plants.

Starting My Texas Garden

Welcome to my gardening blog!  

I have recently purchased my first house in central Texas, USDA zone 8b.  Our house sits on 0.75 acres, plenty of space for a nice home garden.  It is my first time truly gardening in Texas (I grew up in the chilly north of Southeast Wisconsin), and really my first time truly gardening in general since it is my first place that I've been able to do whatever I want with the place. 

I have a lot of learning ahead of me, both in learning how to be a good gardener, but more importantly - a good Texas gardener.  I thought it would be fun to journal and blog my successes and failures along the way to document my learnings.  Hopefully I will even learn some helpful tips and tricks from readers along the way.  I hope you enjoy!