Gardener's Grapevine 2015.06.24


This past weekend was, as always, a time well spent freshening up both in the house and in the garden.

Sometimes it seems as if just keeping things taken care of is a nonstop job when you’re a homeowner. Our home is a 150-year-old Queen Anne​ Victorian. Victorian means, paint me, paint me, fix me. Old homes are a constant inhaler of primer and paint.

If you’ve driven by our home lately you’ve probably noticed the dire need for paint in some areas. That’s because we are contemplating changing the siding for a product called Hardie board siding. It is a constant dilemma for an old house owner—to side, or to paint the old cedar clapboard. Replacing clapboard with new is very costly as the cost of cedar continues to escalate. James Hardie developed a product called Hardie board siding which is a wood, concrete and polymer product. It is guaranteed to hold paint for 50 years. In 50 years I don’t think I will care if this old girl needs a new paint job.

As an advocate of nature I think about how changes I make and products I purchase will impact the Earth. Scraping and painting our house is a job that has to be handled carefully. Old paint is not a good plant food nor is it good for the environment, so when scraping old paint off it needs to be collected and not allowed to go into the soil. Concrete does not disintegrate or compost down, so is Hardie board siding a better option? It’s a dilemma for sure.

On the gardening front, Art is trying a new experiment he saw on the internet. It involves our potato plants and getting a higher yield from each plant. When the plants are started they are put in wooden square box frames approximately two foot by two foot. When the plants are coming above the soil another section of wooden framing is set on top of the previous frames and filled with fresh soil. This is continued until each plant has a total of four frames high.

When the plants grow above the fourth frame it is time to harvest the bottom frame. The front panel of the bottom frame is removed and the potatoes can be harvested. Supposedly you can harvest a bushel of potatoes off each plant. The theory is more harvest in less space. In any garden this is a common goal. We are up to level two, and I will keep you posted as to how well this works.

Art is a huge fan of trying new things in our garden. Last year he tried a different way to grow tomatoes that was amazingly successful. He built wooden V-shaped supports that run the width of our vegetable garden. Each support has slats running vertically and as the tomatoes grow they are tied to the vertical slats so they don’t droop and it’s easy to pick the fruit.

This method of supporting the heavy awkward plants makes it so air flows more freely through the plants and less rot is seen. We had an excellent harvest. He also runs a drip irrigation under the supports that waters each plant. This year we have more vegetables growing up these supports and I am curious to see the outcome.