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Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

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Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/17/2013, 12:47 pm

Hello Everyone,
I joined the forum to get some help with my first garden. I built a blackberry trellis last year and planted 7 vines. It was very far from any water source and I got tired of dragging the hose out to it so I installed drip irrigation a few weeks ago. I am very pleased with my current setup. Since I put in an irrigation system I figured now would be the perfect time to plant a garden.
To start I did a little research. I kept hearing about square foot gardening, so I googled it, and that led me to Mel's book. SFG appealed to me bc as a newb I want to start out small. Also it seemed like less work than traditional gardening. I have since built 2 4x4 boxes. I went with 12 inch deep boxes in spite of what the book said to do. I did this in an attempt to prevent my cat and dog from using them as litter boxes, also I plan to do a lot of carrots for baby food. I made the mistake of using pre primed material for my grids. At first I liked that they were primed but then it rained and the primer was rubbing off on my hands which made me realize my mistake. I spent two days sanding and that catches you up to where I am now.
Today I plan to build worm towers and install them directly into the center of my box. I will have to modify my grid but it shouldn't be a problem. Also on today's agenda is drip irrigation. This is the main reason I joined the forum so I can research and get some help setting up my drip irrigation on the front end.
Sorry this has gotten so long I will try and wrap up now by saying I'm in zone 8a. I'm also a new dad and that is a big motivator for me doing this. My wife and I would like to make our own baby food from the ground up, and hopefully enjoy some fruits and veggies for us as well. I look forward to learning from and contributing to this community.
Thanks
StinkyFeetMendoza


Last edited by StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/17/2013, 12:51 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Spelling and lack of proof reading)

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  B00kemdano on 4/17/2013, 12:54 pm

Welcome from Huntsville!

And congrats on being a new dad!! I have a 3 and 5 year old, and they enjoy helping to plant the garden and watch it grow. They even help tend it sometimes. Wink

In a couple years, you'll be an ol' SFG pro, and you can have your little one helping, too.

I'm on my second year, so I'm still a newb, too. My only advice is to keep a journal! I made some mistakes last year, but I had some successes, too. Having a record of what I did both right and wrong, helped me prepare for this year. So far, I think I'm ahead of where I was last year because of it.

Keep up the good work, Stinky! Laughing

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Thank You B00kemdano!

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/17/2013, 1:43 pm

Thank you for the welcome Danno. I think a journal is a great idea. I was thinking I may even blog it. If I know people are following along with my progress I may be more likely to follow through.
One thing I didn't mention in my previous post is Mel's Mix. I haven't bought my ingredients yet. I have been looking around though. Seems like my only options in Montgomery are lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart.(the garden centers I called all pretty much carry the same thing as Home Depot, just more expensive) I'm guessing your shopping choices are pretty similar. How did you go about getting your mix? I really want to get it right. Darn vermiculite is expensive!

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  Nicola on 4/17/2013, 2:08 pm

glad you\'re here , StinkyFeetMendoza to the forum!
It looks like you have your "stuff together" and I think B00kemdano is right--you'l be an ol'SFG pro soon enough!
Have you checked the vermiculite database on here?
I know I bought some one year from a local pool construction company, which was probably not coarse, but it was locally available.
I'd love to see pictures, when you're able to post them--of the garden and the rest

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Thanks Nicola

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/17/2013, 2:21 pm

Hello and thanks Nikola. I'm not familiar with the vermiculite database, I will have to check it out. I do have a contact in the pool industry.I didn't even think of that, what a great idea. Do you think the fact that it is going to be fine as opposed to coarse will be bad? You said you have used it, are you happy with it? Thanks for welcoming me Smile


Last edited by StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/17/2013, 2:47 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added phrasing " will have to check it out")

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  Weedless_ on 4/17/2013, 4:00 pm

Greetings from Prattville!

This is my second year in Bama (moved from Atlanta), so I am still learning about what does well in this heat. This year, I'll be buying tomato and pepper seedlings because I killed most of mine trying to harden them off Smile. Autauga County has a Master Gardeners program, and they are holding a plant sale on 4/27 here in Prattville, so if you are interested in inexpensive seedlings that are well acclimated, come on up.

I typically try to grow everything from seed. I have two 4'x8' 10" tall boxes, no fancy irrigation system, I just keep my plants well mulched and the nature takes care of them just fine. I only make sure they are well watered in the beginning for good sprouting.
I grow peas, beans, onions, garlic, carrots, beets, chard, lettuces galore, arugula, trying asparagus this year for the first time (outside SFG), cukes, squash, maybe peppers this year, radishes of course, spinach, sorrel, basil. Tomatoes had bacterial wilt last year, but we managed to ripen a few and they were good. Back in ATL we grew pumpkins (got killed by SVB), musk melons and watermelons, all good.

My carrots harvest this year was phenomenal, I didn't expect that at all, and they stored in a fridge for about 4 months. We did absolutely nothing other than dropping them into beds in November, let them overwinter, and pulled them out in the end of January. I just finished the last batch a week ago. They would have stored longer, but we ate them all. They were super tasty. And of course, you can pre-make all the baby food and freeze in batches, which will also work great.

If you are looking for good compost - look up Captain Compost online. He charges 100 bucks per truck load - it's so much cheaper than same amount of store bought, and his compost is amazing. My veggies were a real jungle with gigantic leaves. He uses trash from local fisheries, and saw dust, and horse manure, and other organic matter, and his stuff really works. We just plopped a truck load into our boxes, mixed in vermiculite and moss and that was it. He's to the east of birmingham. Worth the drive, trust me.

Good luck with your gardening, you sound like you are off to a good start. Keep me posted on your blackberries, I am planting some this year (thornless), would love to see how they do.

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  Weedless_ on 4/17/2013, 4:14 pm

Speaking of Vermiculite, we have a Farmer's Supply store here in Prattville that carries large bags of vermiculite (that's where I got it from). If you are interested, I can get you their phone number.

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Hello prattville, pike rd here :)

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/17/2013, 4:30 pm

Hi Weedless,
Thanks for the great info. I will definitely be looking up captain compost! I dont have a trailer, can he just put it in the back of my pickup truck? Where can i get these seedlings you mentioned? im guessing autaga county extension office? Good luck with your black berries. I bought mine from petals from the past in Jemison, Al, between you and Birmingham. They have an amazing setup and I love the fruit trees I've bought from them in the past. I typically stop there to look around for ideas when i drive to birmingham. Now you've got me scheming on how to get up to Birmingham for compost. I have heard that Maxwell AFB gives compost away for free but I can't find anyone on base who can tell me what's in it. I would be very interested in the name and number of the feed and seed store you are referring to. Thanks so much for the help!

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  Weedless_ on 4/17/2013, 4:54 pm

@StinkyFeetMendoza wrote:I dont have a trailer, can he just put it in the back of my pickup truck?
Yes, he has a small excavator or something like that, and he can load it up on a pickup truck. That's what I meant by "truck".

@StinkyFeetMendoza wrote:I bought mine from petals from the past in Jemison, Al, between you and Birmingham. They have an amazing setup and I love the fruit trees I've bought from them in the past. I typically stop there to look around for ideas when i drive to birmingham.
Oh, I want to go there and check them out!

@StinkyFeetMendoza wrote: I have heard that Maxwell AFB gives compost away for free but I can't find anyone on base who can tell me what's in it.
That's awesome. I didn't know.

@StinkyFeetMendoza wrote:I would be very interested in the name and number of the feed and seed store you are referring to
Here you go:
Prattville Farm Supply

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I called captain compost...

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/17/2013, 4:57 pm

He sounds awesome. I'm gonna try and get up with him This weekend. His compost sounds very rich.

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  Weedless_ on 4/17/2013, 5:39 pm

carrot

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  jazzycat on 4/17/2013, 5:42 pm

I got one of my compost mixes from a local nursery/landscaper that has their own blend, and they sell it by truckload. You can also check out horse stables (for composted horse manure, if you want that) or if there are any local farms. They might have some kind of compost for sale, like chicken/goat compost. Also, I got a lot of my mix from a local hydroponics store, and they had things that aren't available anywhere else. I'm completely new at this (this is my first year) so I'm just offering suggestions, not advice. What a Face

Welcome to the forum. There are some great people here with a lot of experience.

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  B00kemdano on 4/18/2013, 9:29 pm

Hey Stinky, Did you find some vermiculite yet? We have a few nurseries around town, and a prominent feed and seed store that all had the vermiculite I needed. The same places had different types of bagged composts. I found that if they were labeled "organic," then they tended to be 100% of that type of compost, be it chicken, cow, or worm poo, cotton burr compost (VERY plentiful in Alabama!), etc. Of course, even Lowes has bales of peat - that's the easy part!

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Hiya

Post  riverregion on 4/18/2013, 11:22 pm

Wound up on this forum after searching about sweet taters, and decided to join when I saw a bunch of fellow 'Bama folk. I've used the SFG technique going back a few years, but certainly wouldn't consider myself a pro. I look forward to learning quite a bit here!

I've used mostly a mix of composted lawn clippings/leaves, composted goat droppings, and topsoil for my initial beds and they've worked well, but I plan on adding a couple of beds and I will probably need more fill. I'll be interested to learn how the compost from CaptainCompost works out.

Again, Hello all!

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About to make my mix....

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/19/2013, 9:10 am

Hey river region welcome.

Hey Danno, yea I found vermiculite with help from several people here. Weedless suggested a feed store in prattville, so I figured I'd try the ones close to me before I drove up there. I got 3-4 cubic foot bags for around $40(Palmetto brand "high quality aggregate vermiculite". At Home Depot I would have paid $120 for that amount. I also bought 3-2.2 cu. ft. bales of peat moss(premier brand). I haven't got compost yet but I have good leads on two different sources. Both composts I'm looking at are a blended mix so I think just the one source would work, I prefer people opinions on that point. The compost I really want is in Leeds, Al and made by "Captain Compost". His compost is made from 7 ingredients including, white coconut, produce from whole foods, seafood scraps from a seafood market, horse manure, and I don't remember what else. But there and back would be a 4-5 hour trip which seems a little excessive. For my second source I contact Edwin Marty at EatSouth. They are an organization that teaches sustainable gardening. In fact they are giving a workshop on composting this weekend(ill put the details in a short post) Edwin recommended J3 Organics out of Birmingham. He said "They have the best compost I've ever seen". I can get this compost from Petals From The Past in Jemison, al. I have been shopping at this nurseries for about 18 months now and I like and trust them. They are also only about an hour away. I'm gonna ask Edwin more about their mix tomorrow at the workshop. I googled Edwin Watts and clicked on images. I was very excited bc one of the first pictures I came across had a SFG in the background. So he must know or teach some SFG methods.

My mix? I need to make 32cu ft of mix. For this quantity what is the best method for measuring out and mixing? My compost will be in 1cu ft bags if I go with J3, it will be by the truck load if I go with captain compost. Also what is the best way o fluff peat moss, I bought mine wet. I've kept it in the garage to prevent it from getting any wetter.

Sorry for the long post. Thanks or all the help guys

-StinkyFeet

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  B00kemdano on 4/19/2013, 2:59 pm

I was about to say "FLUFF YOUR PEAT!" but it sounds like you've got a good handle on that.

I have 64 squares, so I mixed nearly double what you're about to mix. I only went to 9" though.

Since I didn't buy everything at once, I mixed a little at a time. I used a bucket and put equal amounts of peat, vermiculite, and a mixture of whatever composts I found in the wheel barrow, and mixed it with my hands.

I think Mel's tarp idea would be best for mixing if you're gonna do the whole thing at once (...unless you have a cement mixer handy.) The tricky part would be to make sure that you know how much of each you're putting in. If I used the tarp method of mixing, I'd probably still measure it all out with a bucket. What a Face

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  Weedless_ on 4/19/2013, 3:49 pm

There are two ways to go about it. I tried both, and they both worked well.

For my first garden in GA, I had three 4x4 beds, so I dumped everything on a large piece of tarp. First I tried Mel's recommended method of pulling and lifting corners of the tarp and mixing this way. Not so much, I lost my patience very quickly. I ended up rolling my pants up and doing a little mel-mix-dance on a tarp for 30 minutes to mix it all together. Then I used a bucket to transfer my mix into the boxes. Needless to say, the long soaking bath is warranted after this, but I lost 3 lbs of weight just from that exercise.

For the second garden in AL, I had two 4x8 boxes. I dumped my partially ready compost from the compost bin on the very bottom, covered with a layer of brown leaves. Added some coffee grinds we've been collecting and left to overwinter.

In spring, I dumped captain compost into them. Then on top of it, I laid in equal shares peat moss and vermiculite side by side, so I had a nice visual of the different ingredients. Then I just used a garden rake to mix them all together. Since all ingredients are different color, I could see very well when they got well mixed.
Second year, we went and got more captain compost and just dumped it on top of the mel's mix, because it does settle a lot due to decomposing and peat moss contracting. The less you mess with the soil in the boxes the better (after initial mixing).

Then I just feed them with compost tea a couple of times a year, and also pour all my raw milk whey in the boxes in winter to add nutrition.

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Compost workshop

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/19/2013, 3:49 pm

Hey guy's,
I know most of y'all are probably very experienced composters but i figured I'd share this anyway. I came across this while looking for compost. It's a composting workshop this weekend in downtown Montgomery put on by an organization called eatsouth. You need to call to reserve a space and there is a suggested donation of $10. Here is the link to the info: (apparently as a new member I can't post a link, just google "eatsouth events" I've been trying to post the link since 8am Sad I hope it's not too late)

I don't think I will be able to make it but I'm trying...

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It's official!

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/23/2013, 9:42 am

I have a garden Smile. I spent the weekend getting my MM ingredients together, mixed, and put into boxes. I did the tarp method using a 5 gallon bucket. I mixed the ingredients 15 gallons at a time and it took me about an hour per box using this method. I think it looked really good, I think even Mel would have approved Smile

I went ahead and put some seedlings and nursery plants in my boxes. I put in 1 tomato, 1 cucumber(I assumed incorrectly 1/sq so I'm going to pick up another) 6 okra(I might pull some up,but I had free seedlings), and 16 radishes. I wanted to speak to my alabama friends before I planted but I was way too excited.

In my remaining space I want to plant watermelon, cantaloupe,sugar snap peas, and carrots. I was told to wait about two weeks on my melons or they wouldn't produce much fruit. I already have my watermelon and cantaloupe but they have been sitting out in the cold, did I hurt them? Do I need to get some new ones?

My wife and I don't eat our veggies like we should. A lot of it has to do with the fact we don't really know how to prepare it. I have a list of stuff we like and would like to try growing ourselves. I wanted to share the list with you to see if y'all could give me any tips on what grows well together. The stuff we are interested in trying is as follows:
-corn
-Lima beans, butter beans, are they the same thing?
-blackeyed peas
-okra
-cabbage
-carrots
-lettuce, all kinds
-snow peas
-sugar snap peas
-cantaloupe
-watermelon
-broccoli
-asparagus
-onions
-garlic
-basil (I'd like to have a nice herb box with all your basic kitchen herbs someday)

I know I don't have room for all of this now but I'm just throwing it out there so mayBe you experienced guys can help me organize my boxes.

Also I've been taking pictures as I go, I look forward to sharing my progress once I'm able to. Thanks for all the help, and thanks for following me this far Smile sorry for the long post

-StinkyFeet


Last edited by StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/23/2013, 9:45 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : iPad auto correcting in the wrong words)

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  B00kemdano on 4/23/2013, 10:28 am

@StinkyFeetMendoza wrote:(I'd like to have a nice herb box with all your basic kitchen herbs someday)

I have four tabletop SFGs and one bed on the ground. One of the tt is all herbs! I love using my fresh herbs when I cook.

As for how to prepare veggies, a little butter, salt and pepper and you're all set for most of them!

Last year, my lettuces were pretty successful, we used them on burgers, and had enough to make salads. We used carrots and radishes from the garden in the salads. I love squash and zucchini, and we grew a bunch of those, too; I like to slice those up, toss them with a little olive oil, some thyme, salt and pepper, and grill them.

This year, I hope that my maters, peppers, garlic and onions work out, I'd love to make some salsa. Oh, and some cilantro from that herb table!

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  jjlonsdale on 4/23/2013, 1:31 pm

As far as preparing vegetables for eating, this is THE go-to book in my kitchen:

http://www.amazon.com/Vegetarian-Cooking-Everyone-Deborah-Madison/dp/0767927478

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. It's not just a bunch of recipes -- she EXPLAINS WHY you ought to do certain things to certain vegetables, and takes you all the way from the very basics of each food up to more complicated gourmet things. This is my veggie cooking bible. I take notes in it and everything. There really is no better resource for learning how to make veggies tasty.

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

Post  Weedless_ on 4/23/2013, 4:40 pm

@B00kemdano wrote:
As for how to prepare veggies, a little butter, salt and pepper and you're all set for most of them!

I completely agree. If a vegetable is freshly picked and is ripened outside, it tastes so good, you don't really have to do much - steam, boil or stew in butter, maybe add some lemon juice and basic seasoning, like salt and pepper, and you are in business. I saute most of my vegetables in butter - spinach, kale, asparagus, chard, cabbage, carrots, squashes...

Root vegetables can be cut up like french fries and sauteed in olive oil with a few thyme sprigs, and some salt. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic, and you can eat them cold or hot -- this is for turnips, celery root, beets, sweet potatoes, add some red onions, and you are in business.

Roasting is the best hands-off way to deal with harder veggies -- mix them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of lemon juice, and place in one layer on a foil lined baking sheet or roasting pan.
Roast for about 25 minutes at 350F degrees, shake once or twice in a process. This goes to all and any vegetables, especially brussel sprouts, carrots, sweet potatoes, golden beets, turnips, and such.

Roast soft veggies, such as tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, eggplant, squash and zucchini for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees, peel the skin off eggplants, and process all in a blender to a salsa consistency, add some stock or water, cook for 20 minutes, add 1/2 cup cream, and you got yourself a fantastic roast vegetable soup.

Want to be fancy? Make your burgers, mix with a little bit of pre cooked rice, and stuff into either bell peppers, zucchini halves, or eggplant halves (scoop a bit of flesh out to give room to the stuffing).
You can either back that in the oven (45 minutes at 350F), or braise in a dutch oven, covered with tomato juice or a salsa like mix.

Finally, if you have a surplus of virtually anything, and you already shared with your neighbors and family, and can't stand to eat one more cucumber or zucchini, pickle them!
Mix clean water with 2 tbsp of pickling salt per quart. Add your vegetables to a clean jar, add dill, garlic, small chilies, coriander, dill, cumin seeds, pour your salty water over, add 2 tbsp of milk whey if you have any, cover with cheese cloth to keep the flies out. In 4 days or less you'll have best pickled anything (except cabbage which doesn't require water at all, but will need rubbing with salt). I have pickled cukes, tomatoes, chard stems, celery, apples (!), lettuce, lemons, carrots, beets, etc in my fridge on regular basis.

Good luck!

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What to plant and when?

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/25/2013, 12:32 pm

Thank y'all for the tips on cooking. And I'll definitely check out that book JJ. Im getting ahead of myself. I probably need to plant some stuff before I worry about how tp cook it Wink I really just mentioned that bc I'm embarrassed at how small the list of veggies we eat is. I'm not sure I've ever seen kale!

At this point I have 23 spaces unplanted. I'm going to use 6 of those spaces for watermelon and cantaloupe. And 1-2 spaces for some sugar Anne snap peas. And maybe about 4 squares worth of carrots. That leaves me with 11 squares if I counted my fingers right. Based on the list in my last post, what would go well with this or what would be easy for a beginner?

My compost guy said his compost is so rich I wouldn't be able to start seeds in it. What should I do? Did you find this to,be the case Weedless?

Also the radishes that I transplanted Monday are turning yellow. Any ideas why? I'm gonna post some pictures of them today if I can.

Also I was going to share pictures of my completed garden. Should I share them in this thread or post them in the gallery?

StinkyFeetMendoza

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Compost tea and trellises

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/29/2013, 4:48 pm

Hey Guys
I added some some stuff to my boxes, two more tomatoes, two squares worth of onions, 1 cantaloupe and 2 watermelons planted. I got some carrot seed germinating at the moment(two different varieties). I think I will do 4 squares worth at least. Im happy with the way things appear to be coming along so far. I also built a two square trellis out of pvc pipe and chicken wire for my peas.

Im currently searching the forum for good discussions on Compost tea and building Trellises. If you know of any great discussions or youtube videos please send me a link. I'd love to find a great compost tea recipe. Also Im wanting to make a trellis for my watermelons out of electrical conduit. My local home depot didnt have a very good variety of connector pieces so I was hoping you ghuys might have sources for materials. Also I was considering a modification to the electrical conduit trellis systems I have seen on the internet and would appreciate your opinions.

I was thinking I would have my trellises maybe 5 feet wide and maybe 5-6 feet high(im 6ft 5in). I was considering using a "hog wire" fence instead of nylon string for durability and support holding up my watermelons. I was also considering adding a T connecter to the center of the vertical bar in order to add another piece of conduit so as to fashion a shelf using conduit and fencing. I wish i could explain it better but it works in my head. Does anyone see any problem with this setup?

Thanks for all the help so far, Im gonna try to get some pictures up tonight or this week at the latest.

-StinkyFeetMendoza

StinkyFeetMendoza

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Garden Picture Progress

Post  StinkyFeetMendoza on 4/29/2013, 9:40 pm

Finally, I have gotten some pictures up for yall to critique. Im not very good with the computer and posting pictures to a forum. This is basically a first for me. So if I havent done this right please tell me. I feel like there has got to be a better way to do this. Im sure there is a way for me to imbed my image in the post rather than having to have you click on a link. I am sure I figure it out with y'alls help. thanks in advance. Sorry for the long post -StinkyFeetMendoza


The first 3 images are pictures of my embarrassing black berry trellis. A few of you asked to see pictures of them. I was told by the nursery where I bought them that it takes the first year to establish roots and that this year should be better. It is my opinion that this years vines do in fact already look better than last years.

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_1816.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_1817.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_1819.jpg

The next several pictures are of my garden in progress from construction up through today's planting of one more watermelon plant:

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_1823.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_1820.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_1821.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_1822.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_2010.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_2011.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_2111.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_2110.jpg

https://i83.servimg.com/u/f83/18/27/35/75/dsc_2112.jpg

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Re: Greetings from an Alabama gardening Newb

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