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Add some color to your vegetable garden

Vegetable gardening is a great activity to engage in, it is fun, nurturing and provides tangible results. Year after year many people take great satisfaction in producing their own fruit and vegetables at home. However sometime gardeners look to “spice” things up and create some variety in their routine. Planting less well known and visually interesting strains of vegetables is a great way to do this.

Thanks to the internet a real niche market has been carved out for adventurous vegetable gardeners. You can purchase luminous carrot or striped tomato seeds online through specialist vendors. This opens up a whole new interesting world at the click of a button.

Some vegetable gardens are now verging on art. Gardeners are pushing for the most aesthetically appealing vegetable patch possible. Some even carefully place their seeds so that the vegetables grow in set patterns. Imagine it like landscape design with vegetables!

Below are some of the cool and unique vegetables we’ve found for cheap just from browsing around amazon. All of these seeds can be picked up for under $5 and some are even under $1, so it’s by no means an expensive purchase.

Colorful Carrots

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  Solar Yellow
clip_image003  Lunar White
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Purple Dragon
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  Blood red


Beautiful Brocolli

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  Romanesco
clip_image011  Purple

Crazy cauliflower

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   Orange Cheddar
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   Purple


Tuneful Tomatoes

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Black sea
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Zebra
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Rainbow

So you can see that there is a whole world of fun veg out there just waiting to be grown. Why not get online and start searching around to see what you can find. Alternatively you can go to your local garden center and see if they have any interesting seeds in stock.

This post was written by Peter McAllister from SGM. They sell a range of garden equipment such as scarifiers and second hand lawn mowers.

How to setup cheap rain barrels

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Living in the rainy Pacific Northwest I have considered setting up some rain barrels to save a little on my water bill, but to also provide a water outlet to an area in my garden where one is not available.

The biggest inhibiting factor of doing this sooner was cost, typically rain barrel kits cost at least $100 and though as you can see below might be a little more aesthetically pleasing this is quite a bit of money to spend for something I am going to hide behind my garage anyway I went for a much cheaper option with a little do-it-yourself.

         

 

Materials Needed

Construction

Knowing Pascal’s principle I wanted to take advantage of all the height I could safely get.  I chose to elevate my rain barrels by taking cinder blocks 2 wide and 3 high.  I then place two 4”X4” lumber cut at 4 foot lengths to provide a few additional inches bust also provide some room for my connections which I will explain below.

Now I have a firm foundation not it is time to get these barrels hooked together so I can get maximum water pressure and access to the water in all of the barrels.

The caps on the barrels (pretty common) I picked up had a nice feature of including some nice threads on the inside of them.  This provides me a nice 1 inch thread I can get a nice tight seal.  The only problem these are sealed.

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Not having a drill bit just under one inch in diameter I used a pocket knife to carefully cut the inner cap off being careful to not harm the threads.

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Next I applied some silicon tape to the 3/4 in. Male Terminal Adapter and screw these into the lids and then attached the lid back into the water barrel.  Repeat this step for each of the barrels.

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Next cut two 1.5 inch lengths of 3/4 PVC pipe and place between the 3/4 in. Male Terminal Adapter and the 3/4“ PVC T connector.

Now cut two 2 inch lengths of 3/4” PVC pipe and place at either end of the T connector on both barrels. 

Next attach your 3/4” PVC ball valve to both ends (or 3/4” PVC end cap if you are not planning on adding any more barrels to your system.)

Finally measure the length between the remaining span of your water barrels and cut that to length.

Once you have everything fit as you like it use PVC primer/cement to make everything permanent except the connections between the T-connector and the threaded connector attached to the barrel.

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Now (with PVC assembly removed) flip the barrels over to their final resting place and prime/cement last connections giving barrels a slight twist to make sure you have a good seal in the PVC cement.

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Next cut a hole in the top of one barrel and be sure to place a screen between the rainspout and the opening of the barrel to keep mosquitos from making a home in your barrel.

In each of the other barrels you will need to add a hole for venting. I will I completely forgot this step and woke up confused why only one barrel contained 90% of the water after our first rain. Once I drilled a 1/4” hole into my second barrel I got a good blast of air in my face and the barrels equalized.

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Lastly you need to add an overflow preventer, for this I drilled a one inch hole and then added a Hose Barb Adapter (5/8” Barb X 3/4” MIP) and a small length of 5/8” plastic tubing returning to the drain (with screen attached to keep bugs from coming up the tube.

To make sure you do not have any leaks (and being so excited to see your hard work in action) you can throw your onto your roof and let the water run for a few minutes to make sure you do not have any obvious issues such as leaks at any of your connections.

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I also added a 3/4 in. Slip x MHT PVC Fitting which allows me to directly connect a garden hose or automated drip irrigation system (see upcoming post..)

So now I have the ability to capture up to 110 gallons of water, since I am only capturing one half of the water from the roof of my garage which equates to 196 square feet.  Given for every inch that falls on a square square foot of surface area equals 0.6234 gallons so this means with just a single inch of rain these barrels will be over flowing providing weeks of water for a small vegetable garden.

Zucchini Muffin Recipe

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This is the time of year when you have more zucchini in your garden than you can deal with.  You neighbors are closing their blinds when they see you coming up the street, here is a delicious option to make use of some of the fruits of your labor.

You can use this same recipe to make a large loaf of bread, but I like the muffin option since it is easier for my kids to grab a snack without having to pull out a knife to slice it up.

Zucchini Muffin/Bread Recipe

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups finely grated zucchini (2 medium or 1 large zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Stir flour, sugars, spices, baking powder/soda, salt, and oats into large bowl.
  • Combine eggs and vanilla to a small bowl, beat and add to larger bowl
  • Squeeze out liquid from grated and combine to large bowl until well combined.  Add chocolate chips and stir until well incorporated
  • Add batter to 9”X5” loaf pan or into 24 muffins.
  • Bake for 60 minutes (bread loaf) or 45 minutes (muffins) and allow to cool for 10 minutes before attempting to slice/consume.

Growing vegetables gardens in stumps

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Many people may have heard of guerilla gardening where eager gardeners will make use of an abandoned lot and start a little vegetable garden on the down low.  Here is another take on a similar idea but a little more out in the open.

My brother-in-law lives in a condominium that unfortunately does not provide much space for an outdoor garden with the exception of several potted plants on a patio.  Looking for a what to expand his garden and get some sun loving plants in the ground he found a great location in some rotting stumps in a common area.

First he dug out some of the rotten wood with enough space of the desired plant to grow.  Next he filled the area with some good quality soil, plant, and water and let nature do the rest of the work.

So far the results look great with some cucumbers ready for picking…

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And some nice ripe tomatoes on the vine.

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Now one of the disadvantages of growing outside of your own land is you may end up with some fruit missing from people passing by but definitely a great way to bring a little more life to your neighborhood.

Picking strawberries and raspberries

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I like this time of year when I can quit my second job to support my kids strawberry and raspberry habits.  At $5-6 for a half pint at some times throughout the year can be a great cost savings to pick these for practically free year after year.

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My oldest was previously the biggest consumer but now out youngest (now 16 months) is taking in her share of the berries and has been enjoying the fresh local berries.  We actually can not go anywhere without providing her with her strawberry fix.  Not sure what we will do in a couple months when we stop producing.

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For my area still is a little early for raspberries but the conditions have been working out and have been enjoying these for the past couple weeks as well.  I did not actually plant these raspberries they snuck in under my neighbors fence which a little precautionary raspberry control I have let them thrive on my side of the fence as well.  I am actually considering to let them spread farther down my fence for even larger yields.

Opening day at the local farmers market

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In my area today was the first day for our local farmers market.  As you can  see from the picture above I picked up some asparagus, spinach, lettuce and a few yams.  Well I also picked up some kettle corn for the kids and some fresh flowers for my wife…I did pass on some leeks, Swiss chard, bak choy (plenty growing in my garden) as well as radishes and rutabaga which I do not personally care for.

Now before you head out to your local farmers market you might find the selection somewhat limited compared to your local grocery store, so don’t expect to see raspberries or tomatoes during these first week (unless you live much more south than me)  What you will find is great local organic produce with the only thing fresher is picking them out of your own garden.

If I have you sold on running down to your local farmers market but no idea where to find it, just go here and enter your zip code to see where your closest farmers market is, you may also notice as I did there are also some pretty close farmers markets open during the weekdays which I may need to visit to get my fix of fresh veggies in the middle of the week.

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