Tomatoes and Cucumbers and Squash, oh My! Building DIY branch trellises for my garden, ORC – week 6

It has been raining a lot in Portland. For about a week and a half now it’s been rainy and the temperatures have dipped. It’s by no means arctic out there, but for this California girl, it is cold! I’ve been trying to sneak out into the garden to get work done whenever I can, but I draw the line at excessive rainfall. I really dislike being cold and wet. My motivation to do anything dwindles. Unfortunately, this is putting a snare in my One Room Challenge progress! I’ve lost whole weekends and lots of evenings to rain. Though some of my plants are loving the soaking, my hot season veggies and my roses are barely tolerating the dampness. I’m looking forward to the end of next week, when that summer sun returns (hopefully for the long haul!).

In the meantime, on my days I have been able to get in some time in the garden, I’ve been working on tackling the vegetables, getting every last start into the ground and figuring out a trellis system! I’ve been going a little rogue with garden spacing after reading Kitchen Garden Revival by Nicole Johnsey Burke. I’m planting everything close together and hoping to trellis it all upwards. That means a few measly tomato cages probably won’t cut it. The majority of my tomatoes are indeterminate varieties, meaning they will continue to grow and produce until they’re killed off by fall frosts. I only selected one or two determinate varieties (which grow to a certain size and then put out their entire fruit and then die). And I have over ten varieties of tomatoes, y’all. It’s going to be crazy!

At first I thought I’d use the same system as my raspberry vines – a series of tripod branches tied with jute string. Then I realized that wouldn’t really get the support where I needed it and it would use a massive amount of branches… which I didn’t have. Finally I decided on a modified, more linear system. I like using the natural branches for trellising for a few reasons: one, they blend in well with the natural environment; two, they’re free; and three, they look like they’ve come out of a fairy tale!

This raspberry variety is fairly good at supporting itself and I don’t have enough vines yet for them to need much trellising, but the tomatoes will definitely need support. Getting the squash to climb upwards will also allow me to get more plants in my small space. So here is the system I’ve come up with for a linear version of the branch trellis. All these branches were cut from my apple tree or my friend Erik’s fruit trees. They’re relatively flexible and the main supports are from 2.5″DIA – 1″DIA. I started by using a mallet to pound a branch into the ground on either side of my raised vegetable mound. Then once they were secure, I crossed them on top and tied them together with jute string. I did that at the opposite end of the mound and then used a long branch to cross the distance between these supports. Then I used slightly thinner branches (more like 1″DIA) to cross vertically in the centers of the horizontal branch. To finish off, I used the leftover smallest branches to create small horizontal supports along the sides of the trellis.

The whole thing is basically a long v-shape. It’s relatively flexible and I’m hoping it will hold up to the weight of the tomato and squash plants! I will definitely keep you updated. For now my tomatoes are still pretty small though. And yes that’s some cardboard that needs to be covered up with mulch.

The jute ties are pretty strong and do seem to be fine with a good amount of weight.

Overall, this is looking pretty good. It’s definitely a transformation from what it looked like just a few weeks ago. I like how it’s a vegetable garden, but more subtly so.

I’m looking forward to planting lots of winter veggies in these same beds. They won’t be climbers, so if there are any trellis repairs needed I can easily do them in the off season.

In this little area behind the last row of veggies, I’ve carved out a small spot for a bench. I can’t wait to come out here and gather a small harvest of fresh veggies and munch on them on the bench under the lilac tree. I’ll likely add a bunch pots and a few in ground plants here. I’m thinking of even planting an ever green clematis next year that can grow along the fence and add some greenery there.

And speaking of the bench, I picked up a few project benches on Facebook Marketplace last weekend! They’re heavy cast iron and will eventually need new wood slats, but I think they’ll work great this year after a little pressure washing. They’re just about 48″ long which is pretty perfect for a casual place for two to sit!

You can see I actually got TWO benches, because I am a garden addict. I think the second bench might just fit nicely in the backyard. Beyond these benches, I also nabbed two oak wine barrels this week which I plan on repurposing into rain barrels. I’m so excited for this because I love the idea of reusing the water run off to water the plants in the summer. While Portland summers are often toasty, we do still get the occasional summer storm. So I think I’ll be able to utilize water from the rain barrels year round. I picked up two for extra water storage; we certainly don’t have a shortage here in Oregon, so I may as well take advantage! When they’re functional I’ll be sure to share how I DIY’ed them.

I ended up buying the barrels at the end of the sale day, so the seller threw in a half barrel for only $10 more. It’s now sitting in my parking strip for the season where it will soon be laden with tomatoes (I had sooo many tomato plants y’all!). One of my branches is so far from straight on this little pyramid trellis. It makes me laugh so hard. But! It’s what I had on hand for free and it makes sense to be a bit thrifty right now.

You may have noticed in that shot above we added some new signs to the window. Our house is avidly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement through donations, in person protests, and education. I’ve added another sign to the garden by the stairs to ensure all passersby are aware of our support.

By this sign I’ve also brought a bunch of extra old bricks from my stash to finish off the edge of the garden where it meets the driveway.

And yes, I do need to weed this part of the yard and the driveway. Again. Sigh. I’m wondering if pressure washing would help prevent all these weeds! My crumbly, cracked, and weedy driveway is a huge part of why I want my front steps to come in from the sidewalk and not from over here! These bricks are just laid here temporarily. Eventually I’ll place them all at an angle like the front edge of the garden bed.

Oh boy, I really do need a pressure washer. You can’t even tell there’s a sidewalk underneath all that dirt there! The lavender does look excellent though. I also was gifted this Sweet William plant from a neighbor. I love the deep red color of it. I plan on planting it right next to the path, for easy admiring.

I am still waiting for many of the summer flower to bloom and I am admiring the beginnings of the unripened blueberries. The plants are just bursting with berries and I can’t wait to harvest!

The raspberries are already starting to fruit. I expect a smaller harvest this year since I transplanted so many of these plants, but next year I’m hoping to have more than just snacking berries!

My roses are not liking the rainy weather we’ve had lately. I need to do some deadheading, but the blossoms just rot off immediately with the rain. Ugh. Come on summer, I’m ready for hot days, short skirts, and sunshine!

Oddly enough, my lavender plants don’t seem to mind the rain at all. They’re all bright and happy, full of purple flowers.

Don’t worry, the garden isn’t all flowers (though, we should definitely talk about how my foxgloves are now over 6′ tall in the comments!), I’ve still got boxes and yard waste bins and nursery pots over here in the area that will eventually be the future stairs! And no, I still haven’t dug in the path stones yet.

This pile of chaos next to the house isn’t even the worst of it however.

My porch is full of all sorts of messes! I’m hoping to get it all cleared off and remove the siding where the new stairs will be this weekend at the very least. During quarantine, we’ve been using this as a staging area for anything coming into the house as well as stashing extra gardening equipment and gardening cover clothes. Eek!

I really can’t wait for the stairs to go straight up to the porch here though. It’s going to be such an amazing view (even if I do need to move my bells)! I’m debating between putting the other garden bench up here, a new wood storage bench, or maybe just a simple rocking chair (leaving more space for shoes to be stashed since we are a no-shoes house). What do you think makes the most sense?

As we near the end of the 8 weeks, I’m beginning to stress about finishing all the projects for this One Room Challenge! Losing two weeks to rain has certainly not been helpful to maintaining my schedule. Plus I’ve committed to protesting for Black Lives Matter on the weekends, something that I think is more important than any home improvement project. In the end, I’ve decided to prioritize the garden itself. I will hold off on the staircase until the very end. Even though I think that project will be quick, I’m not willing to not finish the garden for the stairs. I want the summer growing season to be smooth sailing. All that to say, those stairs may or may not make the ORC final reveal. That’s okay. I’ve accepted it. They will still be completed this summer! In the mean time, I’ll just continue gorging myself on raspberries!

Have you check out the other participants in the One Room Challenge yet? You can click through links to all the posts here on their blog. There is so much good inspiration! I can’t wait to see everyone’s projects come together in the next few weeks!

Hope you have a great day, y’all. I look forward to getting out in the sun next week!

3 thoughts on “Tomatoes and Cucumbers and Squash, oh My! Building DIY branch trellises for my garden, ORC – week 6

  1. It’s looking good so far! I’d keep the shoes inside, just to keep spiders and the like out of them, but in a designated spot. But I hate the outdoors with a passion and have put my foot into a spider-filled shoe one too many times, so I might be biased. 🙂
    Just wanted to say thank you for not being afraid to share your opinion during this important time. I already respected you before, but you get mad props from me now.

    1. Aww thank you! And good note on the spiders! We’ve had shoes outside for a while without issue, but I do always shake them out before putting them on.

  2. Here’s hoping for good weather and a productive week. Super impressed with how it is looking and very jealous of all those berries.

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