August Vegetable Garden Report: Still Green

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Urban-Suburban Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

The houses are lined up in perfect rows like cars on a factory lot, some with manicured lawns and colorful landscaping, others with chain-link fence, beware of dog signs and weeds in the sidewalk cracks. This is a well-lived-in neighborhood on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area where neighbors span the economic spectrum depending on street address. There are gangs of neighborhood kids riding bikes and playing with sidewalk chalk. And there are neighborhood gangs of kids carrying dangerous weapons.

But you can grow lots of fruits and vegetables here. 

Raised-beds of all sizes and filled with fruits and veggies.

Raised-beds of all sizes and filled with fruits and veggies.

 While traveling up and down the West coast this month on the annual Weekndr family vacation, we made a stop in the East Bay and witnessed an agrarian science project in full swing. A collection of raised bed gardens, cobbled together with scrap lumber, discarded containers, and other creative solutions, was alive with fruits and vegetables blooms.

lettuce

lettuce.

 There were tomatoes planted in a soil bag, peppers of several variety lined up in rows. The heads of lettuce that hadn’t yet been clipped were thick and bushy. Even shoots of corn sprung from two planters after the resident amateur gardener discovered how to start a plant from seed (in this case a corn kernel).

lemon tree

lemon tree.

strawberries

strawberries.

artichoke gone wild.

artichoke gone wild.

cucumber.

cucumber.

corn.

corn.

hot peppers

hot peppers.

Weeknd Project: Make a Tumbler Compost Bin

Build a tumbler compost bin with hardware store parts for a fraction of the price.

Here's how to build a tumbler compost bin with hardware store parts. It cost just a fraction of the price of store-bought one.

We started composting at the Weekendr house a few weeks ago. This year our yard will feature a sizable vegetable garden and common sense dictates that we recycle the organic scraps from the kitchen to make our own compost.

It’s a stinky endeavor, but we’re told by our gardener friends that it will pay off in spades. Everything from banana peels to kiwi skins to egg shells get put to good use.

After a few weeks of collecting kitchen waste in a mixing bowl on the back deck, it was apparent that we needed an industrial-strength compost bin to hold the rotting organic matter. I browsed the garden catalogs but prices for commercial compost bins are steep. You can expect to pay $250 and up for a good plastic tumbler compost bin.

I decided to save a buck and make my own with a trip to the hardware store. Here’s how I did it for under $50:

MATERIALS:

  • 20-Gallon Buckets (2)
  • Stainless Steel bolts, 3 in. long, 1/2 in. dia. (8)
  • Stainless Steel nuts, 1/2 in. dia. (8)
  • Rubber grommets, 1/2 in. dia. (16)
  • Metal Conduit, 4 ft. long, 1/2 dia.
  • Duct Tape
  • 2×4 Saw Horses (2) 
Two buckets, some bolts with nuts and rubber washers, a steel pipe, and a little help from Buddha.

Two buckets, some bolts with nuts and rubber washers, a steel pipe, and a little help from Buddha is all it takes to make a compost bin.

I spent about $40 on all the parts for this compost bin.

I spent about $40 on all the parts for this compost bin, not counting the 2x4 base that holds it.

I removed the rope handles from the buckets and used the holes for the 1/2-in. bolts.

I removed the rope handles from the buckets and used those holes to attach the 1/2-in. bolts.

The compost bin takes shape with the bolts on tight.

The compost bin takes shape once the two buckets are bolted together.

I didn't have a 1/2-in. dia. drill bit so I snipped a hole in the center of each bucket with wire cutters.

I didn't have a 1/2-in. dia. drill bit to drill the hole for the center pipe, so I snipped a hole in the center of each bucket with wire cutters.

A fast-moving baby puts the near-finished compost bin in perspective.

A fast-moving baby puts the near-finished compost bin into perspective.

I drilled holes in each end for air circulation and rested the pipe on a pair of 2x4 saw horses. Crank handle to come.

I drilled holes in each end of the compost bin for air circulation and rested the pipe on a pair of 2x4 saw horses. A crank handle will make this complete.

The finished compost bin. I cut a hole in the top for an opening and I still have to work that out.

The finished compost bin has a hole cut on top where the scraps go in.

I cut a flap lid on top for access to the bin. Right now it's held down with duct tape but I plan to come up with a better long-term solution.

I cut a flap lid on top for access to the bin. Right now it's held down with duct tape but I plan to come up with a better long-term solution.

 

I found an old rusty crank handle in the weeds while digging up the garden plot. It fits over the steel conduit perfectly! The compost Gods must be looking down on me.

I found an old rusty crank handle in the weeds while digging up the garden plot. It fits over the steel conduit perfectly! The compost Gods must be looking down on me.

The garden plot takes shape.

The garden plot takes shape.