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So with all this gardening that I’ve been doing, and upgrading the woodshop, where am I in Aquaponics?

Well, the bluegill are still living in their aquarium.  But I don’t have a completed fish shed, or much of a start on the greenhouse.  And the Fresno heat is coming, so it is going to be difficult to work in the blistering summer.  So I’m going to wait until late October to break ground on the aquaponics system.  When the heat has died off, and I can work without melting into a puddle.  

That’s also another reason why I want my aquaponics system indoors, in order to control the climate.  I figure if I use a swamp cooler and solar panels to run it, I can keep summer temperatures in the mid-80’s, instead of the low hundreds!  When temperatures get that high, plants start wilting, fish start succumbing to disease, and weeds get seriously out of control.

Ah.  Control.  That’s another thing… how am I going to control everything?  Sometimes I really wish I had a swimming pool I could convert into an aquaponics system.  Think of all that thermal inertia!

What I really need in my case is a system that watches water levels and quality, switches the filling and emptying of the grow beds, and keeps the inside temperatures level.  Near freezing temperatures in the winter are a problem, as are boiling hot summer days.  I also want updates that I can read on WIFI from a tablet or iPad, and SMS alerts to my cell phone for emergencies.

So for the last several months, I’ve been experimenting with Raspberry PI, Arduino, FPGAs, and with irrigation valves, to see if I can build a system that does what I want.  But it just wasn’t right… I kept running into problems with input / output and the limits of the electronics that need to be connected to an array of relays to make it all work.  I see where people in the Maker Culture have made their platforms do things in similar ways, but only after adding relay shields and other things.  

It finally occurred to me that a solution already exists in factories and manufacturing plants.  Instead of an Arduino connected to a bunch of relays, and hardened for a damp environment, I should instead use a programmable logic controller (PLC) that already has this functionality built in.  So I’ve been looking at various PLCs to work with.  Allen Bradley is the one primarily used in the USA, and Siemens PLCs are used in Europe.  However, I like and trust Siemens… so I’m not sure what I’ll choose as yet.  

I’ve also downloaded a PLC simulator, and have been refreshing my knowledge of ladder logic – which is pretty old and rusty.

I’ve also started creating a system schematic of how it is all supposed to work together.  At this point, I’m thinking of using the Raspberry Pi to interface the PLC to a generated web page on my home network that I can use to update the system through my iPad.  I’m still studying how to work that out.

But I have the summer to get it all figured out, because I’m breaking ground for the rest of the project in October, and I hope to have it finished by May of 2016!

I’ve been using my 12 inch miter saw clamped to a bench, and using a 2×4 clamped to that same bench as a part support.  It worked, but it really sucked.  I needed it all squared away.

I also had a second problem in that I don’t have a lot of shop storage.  So I decided to hit two birds with one stone, and create a great miter bench with built-in storage.

My first step was to design the thing in Sketchup.  Let me take a brief moment to sing the praises of Sketchup.  I really love this program.  I use ViaCad for other 3-D design, but when it comes to woodworking, I keep returning to Sketchup.  It has a short learning curve, it is intuitive, and it is darned easy to use.  It does have problems, it is not as precise as other CAD, y

ou are not going to get tolerances in the thousandths.  It doesn’t offer physics that let you rotate parts together to see how they work.  But for woodworking, or even designing a greenhouse, this program rocks!  If you want to learn more, check out the Sketchup website.

So here’s a snapshot of my Sketchup drawings.  First there is a basic cabinet carcass.  Then, I bolt the carcasses together, and screw on a tabletop frame.  Then I add two layers of 3/4 inch MDF to create a flat surface on top.  (Click on the images to enlarge them)

I built the cabinets out of 3/4 inch cabinet quality fir plywood, for about $28 per 4×8 sheet.  I think I used 3 sheets because I built four of these!

Here is what the finished project looks like.  The whole thing is about 14 feet long, with the miter saw installed between the cabinets.  If you click on the image, it will take you to an album where you can see my progress in building the whole thing.

As you can see, I don’t have shelves, or doors, or drawers installed in the bench as yet.  I really do need these because I have few places to actually store things in my woodshop.  Right now I’m experimenting with different ways of making and installing drawers, and figuring out how I want my layout to be.

Also, I’m trying to decide if I want to paint, stain, or otherwise protect these cabinets.  I’ll want to do that before I add drawers or doors.

I do not plan to add any facing to the cabinets.  I’m fine with the way they are.  Cabinet doors will use European hinges, and so will hide the plywood edging.  Drawers could also have facing that extends over the plywood edging.  I plan to use engineered wood for the doors and drawer fronts to avoid wood movement.

So, when you have a working mitersaw bench, what is the first thing you build using it?

 

I built a tool pegboard.  I’ve been needing one, because I have tools that are too unwieldy, or too unhandy to just drop into a toolbox.  My last woodshop had a 2 x 4 foot tool pegboard, and that was just a little too small.  This shop needed something bigger – so I chose a 4×4 foot pegboard.

I haven’t filled this pegboard with tools as yet.  I’ve put all the tools that I commonly use on it, and I’m waiting to see what else I’ll put on it.  As I turn to a tool more often, it is likely to win a place on the board.

Oh!  Something else I’ve found out.  I’ve had problems in the past with the metal pegs coming out of the pegboard when I pick up a tool.  The pegs you get from the big box stores are somewhat loose in the pegboard, and wiggle or come out.

In the past, I’ve tried to fasten these down in various ways.  I don’t want a permanent method of fastening down a metal peg, so instead I use hot melt glue.  It’s easy to run a glue gun into the holes, and add a peg.  Another dab or two of glue, and the peg stays put.  If I want to move the peg around, I can heat up the glue and remove it, then pull the glue off the pegboard.

Also in this image is my Porter Cable bandsaw that I picked up used from Craigslist for about $200.

My shop is shaping up.  But it is still messy, and I still have a way to go.

So as part of the setup of the South Garden, I tried an experiment of digging the garden out to a depth of almost 3 feet, and sifting all that dirt to remove the Bermuda Grass that infests that area.

Bermuda grass is tough.  It leaves roots that go deep, and it can spring up anew from its roots.  My goal was to remove all of that.  Also, sifting that soil allowed me to get rid of pest grubs that would happily eat my garden.

Somehow, I had this fantasy that I was removing weeds too.

So, here’s the deal.  Sifting through soil won’t remove weeds, or tiny weed seeds.  Maybe hard radiation would get rid of them.

BUT, it did dramatically reduce Bermuda Grass.  I’ve had very little of that.  I do however, have crabgrass.  But that’s much easier to remove.

I hate weeding.  That’s another reason why I’d like to go completely Aquaponics, indoor, with a non-soil substrate.

During planting I got the South Garden and the North garden set up for automatic drip watering.  I planted peppers throughout the South and North gardens, then planted onions, potatoes, carrots and spinach on the South Garden porch.

And I continued to train the grape vine across the porch in the South Garden area.

In the top image you can see the beginnings of the potatoes!  They’re off to a great start.

Next are my two half-barrels of onions.  They are also off to a good start.  They don’t seem to be crowded, and they seem to like the conditions.  I hope the barrels work out!

The barrels and the potato bags all sit on planks that are raised from the concrete porch on bricks.  The thought was that I could prevent damage to the painted concrete porch by allowing better airflow under it, and I could prevent overheating to the bags and barrels when the concrete of the porch heats up in the sun.

Following that is my raised bed planter that I’m using for carrots and spinach.  The idea here is to have a continuous harvest of spinach during the summer.  Fresh salads, sandwich filler – yum!

They are all sprouting very well.


I’ve planted the peppers in the South Garden.  Mostly Anaheim peppers, because they are tasty, but I have Cayenne and New Mexico in there too.

I’ve tried to offset them so they all get enough light.  Now it is all about weeding.

 

In the backyard, I’ve tried planting peppers, squash, beans, melons and zucchini in the raised bed planters.  The idea is that the beans, squash and other climbers are planted against the trellis, and the peppers are planted out on their own.  I have quite a few different peppers here, including Habenero and yellow banana.

And finally, the fruit trees are doing quite well.  I’ve added two Honeydew Tangerine trees in post in the back yard, along with a blueberry bush, and a cherry tree.

The trees in the North Garden are already producing fruit.  You can see the little Nectarines here.  They seem to be really liking life, and I’m going to have to prune them back this fall to keep them from over running the yard.

So far, so good.  But as the weather gets hotter, and the plants start competing with each other, and the bugs discover everything, it is going to get a little more difficult.  Here’s hoping all goes well!

seedlingsThis year we tried to grow our own produce from seeds.  I set up a light bar on a timer in our spare bedroom, along with a heating mat.  We planted lots of different types of seeds.  We planted just after Christmas.  By early March, our results looked like this.

And then we tried to transplant them outside.

That sentence has just made experienced gardeners wince.

The results were a disaster.  The new plants flopped around during the planting, and by the next day they had all turned white and wilted.  It was a total loss.

Here’s what I should have known.

When growing seedlings in greenhouse conditions, it is necessary to use a fan to circulate air around them.  It doesn’t have to be a heavy wind, but it does need to be enough to cause the plants to move a little.  And it should oscillate, so it is never coming from just one direction.

This air movement allows the seedlings to develop strength, so they are not so floppy during transplanting.

Next, greenhouse seedlings are delicate, and suffer transplant shock if they are just stuck outside.  To combat this they need to be, “hardened off”, by gradually introducing them to the great outdoors.  To do this requires about 7-10 days of gradually increasing exposure, in the shade for the first 3 days, and in the sun for the next 3, and finally late or early in the day leading to an overnight stay.

There are other methods to harden off plants too.

But without this “training”, a poor seedling raised in a sheltered environment has little chance of survival.  All my pepper plants died.  My squash plants were hit pretty hard, but they look like they may pull through.

But there is a lot of good news!

First, I cut a plastic 55 gallon drum in half to use as planters for my onions.  I got these drums for $11 each, used.  They were used to transport soy sauce before I got to them.  A little soap and water and all the soy sauce residue was removed.  I added holes in the bottom for drainage, and placed them on bricks next to my bags of potatoes.  I filled them with Mel’s Mix.

I had also filled my “Quick and Dirty Deck Planter” with Mel’s Mix, and planted a third of it with carrots, and two thirds of it with spinach.  The idea is to have fresh spinach all summer.

click for bigger imageThe spinach sprouted very quickly.

Since late January, I’ve been busy doing some pretty major work around the yard.

The goal is to always try to plant food.  I don’t always do this – we have succulents and pots of flowers on the porch to the East of the house.  I’ve planted lavender in the ground to the East too.

The house came with two orange trees.  The orange tree in the back yard was a nuisance, so I removed it completely.  The orange tree in the front yard produced a LOT of oranges this year!  About 300 pounds of oranges.

The house also came with a mystery tree in the front yard.  Here are some images of it.  I’ve done a little asking around and have discovered that the tree is a Glossy Leaf Privet, aka a Ligustrum lucidum.  I was hoping for an Elderberry, but unfortunately the berries on this tree are not edible.  They can be toxic.  The tree is somewhat invasive, and it tries to propagate by sending out shoots everywhere.  I’ve been keeping the shoots in check with my lawnmower.

So now I’m considering tearing out that tree and planting something I can eat there instead.  It’s too early now to decide – I won’t be able to order a decent fruit or nut replacement for it until late fall.

I’ve taken the time to update the layout of my house, and what is being grown where.
Click to make bigger

 

The blue spots around the house are potted plants.  You can see the cherry tree and blueberry bush in the back yard near the future deck.  You can also see the placement of my garden shed here.

I’ve named my North and South gardens, and the South patio garden.  I also started work to mulch in areas of the yard that I didn’t want to plant in.

The most work went into the North Garden, and into the mulching of the fruit orchard to the North East of the North Garden.  Before I mulched in that area, I had to move the irrigation pipes and add a border.  You can see an album of me doing that here.

The North garden also requires soil amendment, as did the South Garden.  I’ve already weeded and amended the South Garden, and planted my first pepper plants there.  Weeding was pretty bad since I’d let the Bermuda grass take over there.  Removing that was back-breaking!  

More on this in my next update.

First, I’ve finished the raised grow bed in the backyard, and filled it with “Mel’s Mix” from the :Square Foot Gardening recipe.  Next up for this platform garden is the addition of a trellis system.  I plan to grow beans and squash in this thing, and I don’t want the Argentine ants to get them, so any part of the trellis that touches the ground will have a barrier of Tanglefoot on it.  The idea is to keep all fruits and veggies OFF of the ground, and have the only pathways to the garden blocked from the ants.

I may even sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the bottom of the thing.

I’m busy weeding the garden to the South of my house. (I’ll call it ‘The South Garden’ from now on – to make it sound bigger!) I’m doing this in preparation of planting lots of different kinds of peppers there.  Last season, pepper plants were a huge hit.  They grew well, pests left them alone, and our canned peppers were so delicious that we ran out before Christmas!  Totally not fair!

This year we intend to grow lots of meaty peppers for canning, and spicy peppers for spice.

Speaking of peppers, I dried the Serrano chilies that we grew last year.  I tried hanging and drying them in a ristra, but that didn’t work out too well for us.  So instead, I put them in our dehydrator, and dried them until they were light and easily crushed.  I then bought a very cheap coffee grinder, and ran the peppers through it to create my own Serrano chili pepper seasoning.  (Yes, the seeds too!) And it is wonderfully hot and tasty!  I love it in my “everything ramen”.  (I should post the recipe for that…)

So, what’s up next?

As I was digging out the South Garden, I kept looking at all this wasted space on my porch.  We have a wrap-around porch, and the South side of it gets very hot in the summer.  I’ve been wanting to plant cover in pots or planters there to catch the sunlight, and reduce the heat transferred via the concrete into our house.

I’ve already planted a grape vine on that side of the house, and am trellis training it to cover the upper area of that porch.  But I needed something for the lower area.  And since my motto is, “Plant food” – that’s what I did!  I planted potatoes!  You can see here the 4-bags of potatoes, (and you can see my work on the South Garden is in progress too.)

Potato grow bags are a good way of forcing potatoes to continue adding new potatoes to the plant.  If you’ve never used these before, here’s a site with a good explanation of them.  The two bags on the left in this image are seeded with Yukon Gold, and the two bags to the right are seeded with red potatoes.

You will notice that I’m not letting the bags rest directly on my concrete patio.  They are on boards that are resting on bricks.  This is to prevent moisture from accumulating under the bags and damaging my porch.

I do expect an ant invasion on these poor guys, and will have to keep an eye on them.  I’ll use diatomaceous earth here, and may try to tanglefoot the area – but possibly not… that would be a lot of tanglefoot!

I will be putting a critter net over the top of the potatoes because I have a very common, but beloved garden pest that might attack these things.  My cats.  They see these bags as “fun sized” litter boxes!

After I finished putting these on my porch, I realized that there was still another 3 feet of room to the left of these bags.  So I built a wooden planter.

This is what I’m calling a “Quick and Dirty Deck Planter”, and I’ve created a set of plans on how I made this thing.  You can download a PDF of these plans by clicking on the image, or on this link.  They’re free – have fun!

It’s “quick and dirty” because it took me about an hour and a half to build it from raw materials in my woodshop.  I also only expect it to last 3 or 4 seasons before it starts to succumb to self-composting.  (That means it will rot slowly).  I’ve got plans to make a better, more robust model of this, and use it in several places around my porch.  When I do, I’ll post the updated plans.

One really nice thing about this planter is that it is raised 6-inches off the surface of the porch, on 6 legs that are easily protected by Tanglefoot.  I’ve already put this planter in it’s location, and put tanglefoot on its legs.  Soon I’ll fill it with Mel’s Mix, and having it grow some tasty spinach.  Since spinach can be harvested without killing the plant, I plan to have fresh spinach in my salads and sandwiches all summer!

So the sprouts are coming along, and I mentioned using sub-irrigation planters made of buckets on top of a raised grow bed. This was to combat the ants that have given me so much grief in the past.

When I was at Lowe’s, I was re-designing the raised grow bed in my head yet again, I just couldn’t get over the cost of the buckets!  About $190.00 new, or a lot of time and effort to pick them up used.  I wanted to complete the grow bed this weekend!

And then I realized, to make a grow bed, I only needed a grow bed – not buckets!

I’ve used the Square Foot Gardening method before at the Cherry Plum house, and it worked great – except for the ants.  I could do the same thing on top of the platform.  Let’s see, the platform will be 4 feet by 8 feet, so I needed three pieces of 8 foot by 12 inch boards.  This cost me $30.00 for those boards – MUCH cheaper than 64 buckets at $3.00 each!

The platform is made mostly out of 25 2×4’s, which cost me $2.10 each at Lowe’s.  Actually less than $40, because I have some 2×4’s in my shop left over from previous projects.  I also needed am 8-foot 4×4, which was also just sitting around in my shop (on my new wood storage rack!)

Here’s what the design looks like.  First the bones made of the 2x4s and the 4x4s for the feet.

Then fully framed up.

As you can see in the completed build, I used 2x4s to strengthen the places where the 2x12s were joined at the corners.  This is because 2x12s from big box stores tend to split down the length of the board – usually right in the center of the board.  Almost every 2×12 I’ve purchased has done this.  I guess builders are okay with this.

I also used 2x4s to “tack” the 2x12s to the bed along the long and short ends of the board.

So the first thing I did was put down 6 bricks on the Fresno hardpan dirt in my backyard.  I leveled these bricks.  Next I built the platform, and hauled it out to the bricks, and checked the level.

This isn’t sufficient for a permanent installation – if I thought this was permanent, I’d put in real footings for the legs, and make sure that it will remain in place and level for the next 20 years or more.  Instead, with Fresno hardpan, this is probably sufficient for the next 3-6 years, depending on rainfall.

You can see from the stripe on each leg, that I’ve already applied Tanglefoot to the legs to deny those ants a highway to my crops!

Next I added the 2x12s, and tacked them into place.

I’m using 2 1/2 inch screws on any place that’s critical, like the joins and the places where I’ve tacked the 2×12’s.  I attached the platform 2x4s to the platform using a nail gun.

You can also see in this photo that I’ve increased the rigidity of the frame by adding triangular braces on the outside legs.

In my last image, I’ve added an old tarp to the inside of the grow bed, and draped it over the outside.

Mostly I want a way to keep soil and water in the grow bed, and prevent it from quickly leaking through the wood.  It will still leak, but not until the tarp begins to fail, so not at all at first.

I also wanted a way to let everything drain, so I added a drain pipe to the bottom of the grow bed.  This is just a few pieces of schedule 40 PVC that I had lying around my shop.  I drilled holes in it, and stuck it through the side of the grow bed.  I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not, but I’m going to try it!.

So, how much weight can this thing hold?  I’m going to be filling it with wet dirt after all!

Well, each 4×4 post is a column that can easily support up to 7,000 pounds, or 42,000 pound in total over a balanced load.

That leaves the 2×4 spans.

Let’s see, a cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds.  A cubic foot of moist dirt is about 78 pounds.  Let’s add over 20% “fudge factor”, and call it an even 100 pounds per cubic foot.  The grow box is 1 foot high, by 4 feet by 8 feet, or 32 cubic feet total.  So it may be possible that this grow bed is supporting 3,200 pounds of weight!

The longest unsupported 2×4 span is 4 feet.  And it is made of pine / spruce / fir. According to the MSR Lumber Producers Council span tables, a 100 psf live load on 2×4’s on 16 inch spacing a span of a little over 4 feet is safe.  This is just for the 2×4 joists.  I also have 2×4 flooring that is supported by the joists and by the posts, so the distributed weight is better supported in some areas than others.  But the whole structure will support the moist dirt plus fudge factor.

What is really interesting is that if the dirt is washed out, and replaced with just water, the structure will actually lose mass and become lighter!  So I’m not worried about the structure becoming too heavy in the rain, even if I didn’t have drainage!

I filled in the grow bed with “Mel’s Mix” tonight, and finished doing so in the dark.  So no pictures just yet.  I’ll try to get them this week.

Well, I finished the south wall of the woodshop.

It also had shelf brackets attached to the wall studs through holes carved out of the stucco.  Which means that I had to fill in the holes before painting the wall.

I already had everything in the middle of the room, and after a week of waiting for stucco to dry, I cleaned then painted the wall.

I’ve forgotten to mention – I use Valspar latex “High Hide” eggshell white paint for my shop walls.  Eggshell is more reflective than flat paint, but not as reflective as gloss paint.  White eggshell paint improves the lighting in the shop, making it brighter than if I were to use flat paint, or some other color.  I figure if I’m working with blades spinning at high speeds, it would be safer to be able to see where everything is!

So I finished painting the south wall, and the wood is on the north wall.  I will be building my miter saw table on the south wall, which will include floor cabinets that I built myself, and cabinets over the top that I’ll buy pre-made.  This should greatly increase my shop storage, and I won’t have to have as much stuff laying out.

I also plan to make a pegboard tool wall on the south side of the shop, near the toolboxes on the east wall.

I need to start planning on electrical sockets throughout the shop, and figure out where to put my swamp cooler in the south wall.  Summer is coming, and Fresno is known for being HOT!  I’d like to be able to work in my shop without melting into a puddle of sweat!

Also, I need to figure out my vacuum system, and look at my next projects.  As you can see from the photos here, I’ve stained one of my “Honey Do” projects – two wooden boxes that will become towel holders in our bathroom.  Since this photo was taken, I’ve mounted the iron work shelf brackets to these boxes.

My next big project for upgrading my woodshop is to tear out the 40-year-old home made cabinets out of the corner of the shop, then paint that corner.  The pegboard on the wall will come down along with the remaining wood that held up the old shelf on the wall on the back of the shop.

I’ll be forced to do some electrical work then too.  Some previous owner brought city power to that wall through standard lamp cord, and wired it to a wall switch that he nailed to the wall.  I’ve turned off that breaker, but even having that wire there gives me the willies!  It makes me fear for the rest of the wiring throughout the shop!

Once I get the last of the walls complete, I’ll be inviting an electrician friend of mine over to help me re-wire the shop.  I hope to pay him in craft beer,

Oh!  The table with drawers you see in the last photo?  I made that to be a project table / outfeed table for my table saw, and storage for tools.

I picked the last of the oranges from the tree.  There may be one or two stragglers near the top of the tree that I couldn’t reach with the fruit picker.  I’ll get them later as I do some clean up.

The oranges are mild, and fairly sweet.  They’re good eating.  I plan to dry most of these, but I’ve already snacked on a couple.  I delivered a baker’s dozen of them across my street to my neighbor who also grows food in his yard.  We do that from time to time.

This box is about 50 pounds.  When dried it will be less than 5 pounds.  My entire produce this year fits in a quarter of a 5-gallon food storage bucket!

I do want to add one additional tree to my yard – I’d like a Murcott Orange tree, also known as a Honey Tangerine.  I’ve found several places online that deliver these trees as bare root stock, but not to California.  California has strict rules on mailing citrus plants into the state due to possible pests.  There seems to be a couple of resellers here in California that offer these, but they are expensive – over $50 a tree!

So this year I plan to try sprouting my own.  And the first requirement is good Murcott seeds!  

I’ll let you know how that goes. 

Since we got a late start last year, we purchased our garden plants from the local garden center.

This year we’re starting from seeds, and to do this we needed a place to grow sprouts.  Our previous attempts to spout seeds in an outdoor greenhouse at the old Cherry Plum house were not very successful due to poor temperature control.  (too cold, too hot, dead plants!)

This time we’re sprouting them indoors.  Although our current temperatures this week are in the high 70’s F during the day.  Seriously, what is with this weather?  Jan / Feb are becoming part of our growing season!  Still, it gets cold enough at night to halt the sprouting process, so keeping them inside and on a heated grow mat is a good idea.

So I made a wooden stand to support a 4 foot long fluorescent grow light, and put it on a table in our guest bedroom.  (Also known as “Wendy’s Crafting Room”.)  We then started planting.

Next we added plastic greenhouse tops to the flats, and a heated grow mat under them.  I added a simple timer to the light so that it gave a solid 18 hours of light per day to the seeds.

We had everything planted and set up on Saturday, the 31st.  As of today, February 3rd, we’ve already seen germination and sprouts.  The Squash are in the biggest hurry to sprout, but even the beans are showing signs of germination.

Next up is getting the garden ready to accept the new inhabitants.

Last year we grew a LOT of tomatoes.  They did well, but the trellis I built for them wasn’t strong enough to keep them supported.

Unfortunately, I’m not good with fresh tomatoes.  I have an allergy to them until after they’ve been cooked or dried enough for their proteins to unravel a bit.  And Wendy found to her disgust that she can’t eat them due to an ulcer.  So this year, no tomatoes.  (Well, maybe one).

If you check out the map of our house, this year instead of tomatoes on the tomato trellis, I’ll be planting other climbing vegetables.  Beans and squash maybe.  Although this spot only gets morning Sun.  Hmm… I’m actually not sure what I’ll be planting here as yet.

The garden area to the South of the house is going to become “Pepper City”.  It turns out that the Argentine Ant doesn’t like pepper plants, and stays off of them.  So this year I’ll be planting quite a lot of them along this area.  Our canning went so well last year that we’ve already eaten all the results!  We want more!  So we are planning on planting several of the very “meaty” types of peppers, along with some of the “hot” types that I love.

But I still want to grow a lot of other types of plants, and wasn’t sure how to keep them pest free.

I’ve still got plans to (eventually) build an aquaponics greenhouse, (once my woodshop is complete), so there’s space on the map where my “future greenhouse” will be placed.  It’s just a dirt yard at the moment.  And I really don’t want to create a garden on it.  So I’ve come up with a more seasonal solution.  I’ve decided to use that area to do some container planting.

My plan is to use 2x4s to build a raised platform that is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long.  It will be raised off of the ground at least 6 inches by 2×4 uprights at the corners.  The uprights will be a full 8 feet tall, and will allow me to cover the garden with shade cloth during the hottest parts of the summer.  The uprights will also allow me to build trellis supports for the plants.

I’ll plant the young plants into sub-irrigation planters, using a mix of compost, potting soil and vermiculite.  The problem is the buckets.  Both Lowes and Home Depot sell their buckets pretty cheap, just under $3.00 each.  It takes two buckets per planter, and if the stand can hold 32 planters, that’s 64 buckets, or 190 dollars!

I think I’ll see if I can get some for free!  And I’ll definitely recycle my planters!  I may also use some other forms of planter – plastic boxes maybe.

The idea of using a raised planting surface is that I’ll be able to tanglefoot the feet of the platform, and therefore keep the ants from moving in!  

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