Pipe + Netting Garden Trellis

We’re back from vacationing in Alaska, where the only projects I accomplished were hiking all over the place and not getting eaten by a bear.  Among many other things, we explored a glacier cave, which was literally awesome and only slightly dangerous.


Glacier Cave

I’m very glad to have experienced it, but I was also thinking “If I die in an ice cave collapse, no one will be able to say ‘Well, at least Marti died doing what she loved.'”  I mean, really, killed while hiking? Wearing pants that covert into shorts?  That is not how I am supposed to go. Death by spray paint fumes, or a freak rug avalanche, or a pizza overdose: then you can say I died right.  So, let’s get back to it!

As briefly glimpsed and mentioned in the post about building our raised garden beds, I rigged up a heavy-duty trellis structure for our vining plants:

  • I bought 3/4″ thin-wall electrical conduit at The Home Depot (only $11, which is much cheaper than I expected metal to be). The friendly folks at The Home Depot will cut the pipes for you (Menards doesn’t, by the way).
  • Two pull elbows ($7 total) to connect the three pieces.  The PVC sleeves on either end of the bed secure the metal pipes.
  • Finally, I ordered Dalen Gardeneer nylon trellis netting from Amazon ($9).

Raised Garden Bed

Trellis Netting

Garden Trellis

The net is loose and stretchy until you pull it taut and secure it.  I tied the loose ends and also used cord ties.

Garden Trellis Netting

Garden Trellis Netting

Garden Trellis Netting

All-in-all cheaper than metal cages, much sturdier, easier to harvest and plenty tall for high-climbers like pole beans.  Now that our first wave of lettuce and spinach are gone, the tomatoes are putting the trellis to use.

Garden Trellis Netting

Two other late-crop newcomers are the cucumber and French pole bean plants.  The latter isn’t coming out swinging, but I hope it perks up once its roots get stronger.

Cucumber Pole Beans

In other garden news, our broccoli was kind of a bust.  It looked hardy, but we got only a few small heads that immediately flowered.  So much space and nutrients consumed for so little food produced.


The lettuce has peaked but continues to keep us knee-deep in salads, and the kale crop has been amazing.  We harvest the outer leaves and the center keeps growing.  Mint, of course, is bountiful and irrepressible.

Garden Harvest

And, really, the best part of the garden is simply that it’s pretty.  Summer!

Backyard Garden

Lettuce Week: Monday

Get excited: it’s motherf’ing lettuce week.  Our garden has exploded within the last two weeks: the photo on the left was taken on May 13th, the one on the right on May 27th.

Garden May 13 vs May 27

Now it’s time to start eating the bounty.  The lettuce/kale/spinach in particular needs to be consumed before it goes to seed.  So, I have meals planned for each weeknight this week using produce from our backyard and will post links to the recipes I used.

Produce: Kale


Recipe: Kale, Apple and Pancetta Salad from Once Upon a Chef

No photograph of mine would be as nice as the one from Once Upon a Chef.  This salad is delicious.  I’ve made it before for people who don’t usually like raw kale (Hi, Kateri) or lettuce in general (Hi, Rodger) and everyone devoured it.

Photo Copyright Once Upon a Chef

Garden Netting & Wildlife Sighting

Breaking garden news!  The crime spree has ended thanks to this sweet net situation I rigged up.

Raised Bed Garden Netting

A friend suggested that my vegetable predator could very well be birds (instead of or in addition to rabbits), and seeing as how that stray cat had turned the bed into its litter box (I scooped out the very foul evidence of at least four visits), I decided to fully enclose the garden to protect against all comers.

Raised Bed Garden Netting

I picked up this Dalen Bird-X netting, which is really fine – so thin that it’s actually hard to photograph – and really strong.

Raised Bed Garden Netting

The four posts in the middle to which the net is stapled are loose in the PVC sleeves so that I’m able to easily remove them.  The net is simply draped over the two posts on either end and then stapled to a loose piece of wood to weight it down a bit.  I also used a few garden staples along the sides to pin the net into the dirt.  It’s been in place for a week now and I’m really happy with the solution.

Raised Bed Garden Netting

Raised Bed Garden Netting

This set up means it’s pretty easy for me to access the garden bed but very difficult for urban wildlife to do the same, which is good because as I was outside taking these pictures for you folks, I saw a rat saunter across the yard…

… or what I thought was a rat.  Eventually I realized that it didn’t move like a rat – I’ve never seen a rat high-step like this.

Yard Rat

Driveway Possum

It’s a baby possum!

Driveway Possum

It was pretty adorable, as far as alley animals go.  It didn’t like that I was following it and kept wheeling around to do an open-mouthed hiss at me, but it was so young that it couldn’t even make a noise.

Driveway Possum

Eventually s/he moved on down the line and slipped under a crack into my neighbor’s garage.

Driveway Possum

See ya later, buddy.  

Tools for (Over) Planning Raised Garden Beds

The law of diminishing returns reigns supreme around here.  Every minute over 30 spent making dinner, for example, leads to 5 diminished units of consumption enjoyment. (For the record: Taco Night yields the optimal ratio of minutes spent-to-units of consumption enjoyment.)  Projects I find most satisfying, like the catio portal, come together with minimal hassle and no last-minute trips to The Home Depot.  Therefore, the risk of spending so much time and money on the raised beds I built is that I’ll be disappointed if they don’t produce a bounty of food.  What do you do to ward off disappointment?  Excessive, exhaustive planning!  Bring on the graph paper.

Square foot gardening seems like the right option for the space I have available.  There are a lot of guides online – basically, for each square foot, you plant 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants, depending on mature size.  Tomatoes and broccoli get their own squares, whereas lettuce can be planted four heads to a square.  This approach also seemed like the easiest way to sow seeds at different times – one square will be planted with lettuce now, another square in one week and so on until the end of May – extending the harvest and increasing the likelihood that at least one square of each crop will survive.  Once lettuce season has passed, that square will be filled with a second season crop, like bush beans.

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing(Image via MySquareFootGarden.net)

Download some free graph paper (I like the customizable PDF options on this site) and nerd it up on your ride home from work.  I myself take the #2 from Hyde Park – it would take a lot more than some graph paper to be a stand-out nerd on that bus.

Garden Planning Graph Paper

After this initial draft, I discovered the Kitchen Garden Planner on Gardener’s Supply Company’s website and put together a couple of plans.

Gardener's Supply Company Kitchen Garden Planner

Middle garden bed:

Gardener's Supply Company Kitchen Garden Planner

Back garden bed – I modified this one in Photoshop to show the single row of lettuce and spinach I planted along the front of the bed:

The best part of this planning tool is that it generates a gardening plan with instructions and tips for each of the plants you selected:

Gardener's Supply Company Kitchen Garden Planner

I placed an order through Burpee for an assortment of vegetables and herbs. My shopping process was heavily swayed by product proclamations like “Customer favorite!” and “It doesn’t get any easier!” and “If you kill this you should probably just quit.”  My selections included tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, snap peas, green beans, cucumber and zucchini.

Burpee Vegetables

It is with some shame that I confess that I made a spreadsheet in Google Docs to record and track the plants I plan hope to grow:

Garden Planning Spreadsheet

Sorry, clicking this image won’t make it any bigger. I reserve the right to confine the
width of my embarrassment to 590 pixels.

Jarrod and I also hit up Gethsemane Garden Center to pick up some transplants.  Buying and planting loose leaf lettuce that is nearly harvest-ready seems like cheating, like letting loose dozens of quail in front of your rifle and calling it hunting. But I was anxious to see some green in the garden beds and know that I’m starting a little late on my cool season crops.

Garden Plants

Back Garden Bed Plants

Back Garden Bed Lettuce

I’m experimenting with interplanting (planting a fast-growing crop in between a slower-growing one).  Broccoli and spinach, in this case.  I don’t have high hopes for that kale – I think it will get too hot before it matures.

Middle Garden Bed Plants

Do you have any tips for a first-time gardener?  Favorite can’t-lose vegetables?  I’d appreciate any advice!

Bloom and Grow Forever

One of the good things about knowing our future downstairs neighbors is that today we were able to help garden in our future backyard.  Jarrod, Kateri and I went to work while Cora supervised.


Why are those bricks in the middle?  Why are there ceramic tiles at the end?  Why did someone plant marbles?  Who knows.


The vegetables look puny now but they’ll thrive in this super sunny spot.



It’s going to be so pretty by the time we move in!  A really great thing to look forward to.