Hello again! As many of us are at breakneck pace in the garden as the weather starts to slowly but surely warm up, I wanted my next post on DIY stuff to be all about the ways to save cash in the garden by DIY’ing it, from small to large. While my husband and I now live on 5+ acres in the country, we’ve basically brought some of our urban homesteading lessons out here to the farm, and have even managed to surprise some neighbors at our ingenuity when repurposing items and finding ways to get what we need and still not feeling (usually) like we’re living an episode of Hee-Haw. From reusing cedar fencing in our kitchen remodel to all the things I’m about to show you in the garden, there are so many things that are great to ask yourself when gardening, “can I do that myself?”
First up? Berries!!! On the left: This the trellis I made for our marionberries, thornless blackberries, and boysenberries that I’d dug up and brought over from our garden in Portland when we moved out here to the farm. Pounding wooden 2×2 stakes we found in the barn into the ground, then attaching leftover plastic clothesline cord (from building our clothesline last fall) with eyehole screws (I have used and reused these for SO many projects over the years!), I came up with this design to ensure that the berries could be easily trained to climb through and around these tough cords. On the right: My beloved five-year old blueberry bushes also made the trip out here, and after quickly learning that birds LOVE them – as do ducks! – back in the day, I originally tried draping netting over the bushes in our old garden, only to realize they were both useless and aggravating as hell since they easily tangled. Then last week I saw this article in Sunset Magazine about Natalie Coughlin’s fruit & veggie cages and decided to make my own scrappy version of it to protect my blues from the birds (so far – knock on wood – deer haven’t gotten this close to the house and I spray the stinky Liquid Fence everywhere as well…but birds could care less about stank!). It was a wee bit of a challenge because of where these bushes are placed (direct sun yet sheltered from some of the wind we get here on the coast) in front of our hothouse, as I could not create a top back frame for the hardware cloth to attach, so it’s just draped, but other than that it’s survived one windstorm. How do I access the berries when the arrive? Well I used 3′ hardware cloth (leftover from duck coop/run building) on the sides and the front lower half, but for the top half I used bird netting (yes, that stuff I just mentioned hating!) as a screen that I just rolled up and pinned on each side, so I can easily unroll it when it’s time to pick!
In this set of pictures there are several things going on when it comes to our garden that we’ve DIY’d as usual. First is clearly the fact that we are raised bed folks! With my crappy back and ducks that share the garden space who taught me that even with clipped wings they can jump into an 18″ tall one no problem, this time my beds are a luxurious 2 feet deep, 4 feet wide and 12 feet long – and I have NINE of them, woo hoo!! These were 100% free – made up of 2×6’s that were our dilapidated second-floor deck that we deconstructed! How did I fill them? First, all fall and winter I put garden scraps, ugly bushes, everything we were cleaning up and/or tearing out to make this place our own – even the Christmas tree was sliced up and buried at the very very bottom of a couple of them! Then we added big piles of poopy duck straw (thanks ladies!) and finally got a delivery from Trails End Recovery of soil, the only thing that was paid for (and wayyyy cheaper than buying by the bag. Duck straw also is our mulch (my tomatoes were in heaven back in the City thanks to this) and “stinky duck water” that acts like a compost tea. Since we live in a windy, rainy place here on the Oregon Coast (double what Portland gets…although winter and summer temps are milder), I wanted to make sure things didn’t blow over, get drowned, or shiver too much so after Pinterest-ing like crazy, I finally decided upon making each raised bed into a potential hoop house. We did not have the energy or funds to build a big fancy greenhouse or hoop house like one of our neighbors, so instead I invested a TINY amount and got 7′ lengths of 1/2″ PVC pipe (around $1.25/ea), galvanized pipe clamps, a few row covers (shop around – it’s amazing how many there are and how wildly prices vary – these ones are the ones that protect while still allowing the warmth of the sun and a certain amount of precipitation…also I only got enough for 4 beds because I knew I wouldn’t need all beds covered at the same time, since we don’t plant gardens in one fell swoop – so when my peas got to a point, I moved the cover for those over to the new squash seed bed, for example), and snap clamps (buy the latter in bulk – worth it! you can also cut PVC pipes in half I’m told but I was too chicken to get that meticulous with a slippery pipe, haha). I also built a super basic pea trellis (just enough to get them high enough to reach the hoops) with four pieces of scrap wood, eyehole screws, and pieces of wire that had wrapped around the hardware cloth in the packaging (smart husband saved those!), and used more of that bird netting to go over the Hood strawberry raised bed so that they could enjoy the full Oregon spring sun and rain while keeping demon birds from attacking my delicious berries!
For keeping our ducks safe and sound, we DIY’d that whole thing as well. No spending a thousand bucks on a pre-made coop! The run: Again, used scrap 2×6’s to create the frame for their run (BTW, I hear someone saying “but what if I don’t have this stuff on hand?” Y’all, go onto Craigslist or social media to ask around! Most folks have tons of this stuff in their garages/sheds/barns/etc. that they’d be happy to part with – that’s how we did it in the city!), and only spent money on the hardware cloth (bottom half to keep evil raccoon critters out) and chickenwire (top half since ducks aren’t that tall), and the corrugated sheeting for the roof (in the City we got this for free, but we were new in the country and could not find a source so we splurged, as while the ducks don’t need it, WE wanted to walk in without crouching and stay dry as well. We buried the hardware cloth a few inches deep and also surrounded it with rocks on the property as an extra precaution). I made the door for free out of scrap wood and old screen door screen with two latch hooks and hinges (Rebuilding Center in PDX had tons of thingamajigs for literally cents). Easy peasy. The coop: zero cost! I used scrap plywood for the coop, scrap hardware cloth for the ventilation window up on the top left side, scrap cinderblocks for it to sit on (in case of rain or snow I don’t want the base getting soaked), scrap wood for the ramp (ducks CAN go up ramps – it’s a myth that they can’t!!!! Their ramp was actually steeper in the city!) with a piece of old roofing shingle stapled to it to make it less slippery, along with old paint that was left in the barn to give it some decorating love. Ducks don’t need to roost so you’re just building them a box with ventilation. We have a full run enclosed so that in the morning they let themselves out and also so we can go away for a couple days and they have food, water, and safe shelter no matter what (when we’re home they get to free range in the garden…no longer the whole property as I got tired of searching for them as they became more adventurous little explorers!). And finally, their feeder! No matter what DIY websites say, there is NO way for duck food and water stations to stay clean, as they are slobs, but this feeder I made (again, Pinterest inspired) comes close on the food side. Literally an old lidded bucket with holes cut out, then bits of flexible accordion-y piping stuff cut lengthwise to cover the sharpness of the just-cut plastic, with a rock on top to keep it from blowing over in the wind. This and an old bucket for water that is changed daily and boom! Done.
And last but not least, there are all of those miscellaneous things you could spend tons of cash on but really can probably build if you do a bit of research! Top left: This is our newest mason bee house that my husband put on the side of our garage by the marionberry patch – literally just wood with holes trilled in it (click HERE to get instructions – but by all means don’t waste your money buying little paper tubes and all that – they don’t need it, you don’t need to clean them, none of those things! We made our first one years ago in Portland and they come back every year happy as can be!). Bottom left: My cheap-ass DIY gate to the garden, woo hoo! I made 3 of these for various accdess points around the garden since it’s about 75×75′, using 1×4’s that I waterproofed, scrap leftover metal fencing (you can also use chicken wire) and poultry staples to attach them to the wood. Haven’t gotten around to making a latch so I just use a short bungee cord we had in the garage to keep it closed and hey, it works for moi! Right: And of course, our latest composter we built last summer, repurposed from my beloved DIY rainbarrel I built at a workshop way back in 2009! We knew we were getting a huge 1,000 gallon cistern so I breathed a big sigh and let my husband use it for the compost tumbler and it’s been great! Back in Portland we had two cheap YIMBY tumblers which rats easily climbed up and chewed through, which we’d gotten after they’d chewed through hardware cloth AND cedar to get to the giant wooden one Dan built. So far…so good!
So there you go…voila! What are you building in the garden this year instead of buying?