Benefits of Gardening are Beyond Just A Delicious Harvest

Salad Greens
For everyone wondering whether it was worth it to go through the hard work of gardening, this bowl of greens should be a good answer. Those who do garden know that home grown produce just tastes better in ways that can never really be understood if you have never done it. Home grown produce is fresher – literally you can walk out the door, pick it and go in and enjoy its wonderful flavor immediately. This is why I go through all the trouble of gardening. Because at the end of the day (or the middle for that matter), nothing is better than walking outside and picking your meal fresh off the plant.  In addition, fresh picked produce has more nutritional content. However, recently, scientific research has confirmed that the health benefits of gardening are enormous physically as well as psychologically.

According to a meta-analysis of 22 case studies on gardening (published in March 2017), those who participate in gardening can potentially be healthier than those who do not garden. In the US, approximately 117 million people, one in three, participate in gardening and it seems like to more are interested in joining the gardening crowd every day.  In what ways can gardening help?

INCREASES LIFE SATISFACTION
Nothing feels better than a satisfying day of gardening. I mentioned the joy of eating fresh produce, but there are other joys that can be found in gardening.  It is very satisfying to propagate, make more from some, as I mentioned in the propagation post. Whether you are increasing your blooming plant stock or increasing your edible plants, taking a plant from one to many is extremely satisfying. When you see your plants growing throughout a season, budding out in spring, turning beautiful in the fall, you have a sense of peace and satisfaction. I always thought this – now science agrees with me.

Onions and Garlic

INCREASES STRENGTH AND STAMINA
When I was on limited activities, my heart doctor said I could exercise daily by walking. I asked him if gardening was OK – and he said, “Even better.”  Now, I was banned from digging at first, but there were many things that I could do. And everyday, I felt stronger and had more endurance. While gardening is not exercise, per se, it is exercise because you are physically working in the soil, lifting plants, pulling weeds, stooping, bending and standing. When you first get started – or you begin again in the spring after a long winter inside, your muscles will tell you that you have, indeed, been exercising.

REDUCES STRESS, ANGER, FATIGUE, DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
And with no drugs to boot. I mentioned earlier that you get a sense of peace from gardening. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t always go out and feel like I am in Eden. There are days that I work really hard and build up a pretty big sweat. I often come in dirty and tired, wearing a lot of dirt on my clothes and in my shoes.But, at the end of the day, I feel a healthy exhaustion, sense of accomplishment, and not in the least stressed. So, I would have to agree with science. Gardening can reduce stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety – without any toxic meds.

One recent study looked at the impact of gardening on stress. In this study, thirty gardeners were asked to perform a stressful task. They were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Levels of stress were measured throughout the 30 minutes through salivary cortisol levels and self-reported mood. Both post-gardening activities led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but the decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. After gardening, positive mood was fully restored. After reading, mood further deteriorated.  While both reading and gardening reduced stress, gardening reduced it significantly more.  In addition to gardening, you might want to grow a garden that contains plants that can reduce stress and improve your mood.

INCREASES SENSE OF COMMUNITY AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
As mentioned in other posts, joining a local Master Gardeners has been a great way to meet very nice people with like interests. It has also given me the opportunity to learn something new everyday.  How much fertilizer do I need to add, is my soil pH high or low, do I need to add more nitrogen, home much lime do I need to add to soil for veggies, what is my square footage for gardening, what is my yield, what do I want to grow and where are just some of the calculations I have to make through the going season.  Yep, my cognitive function is stretched. In a good way.

HELPS PREVENT HEART DISEASE
Gardening would be considered moderate to high-intensity exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults need at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (gardening counts!) per week. In fact, according gardening burns more calories per hour than lifting weights.  Since it burns calories, gardening can be helpful in weight maintenance as well as controlling blood pressure.

GARDENING IS EARTHING IS GARDENING
What the heck in Earthing ? Well, Dr. Sinatra of the Heart MD Institute considers earthing to be the most impressive breakthrough in heart health. That is pretty important in my book. Earthing is, quite simply, getting your body into contact with the Earth – much as you used to run outside barefoot as a child. Remember the feelings you had coming into contact with the ground as a child? This contact with the Earth provides the body with a natural, but subtle energy.

You are a bioelectrical being living on Earth, an electrical planet. Your body functions electrically – your heart and central nervous system for example. According to Dr. Sinatra (and many others), emerging science finds that direct contact with the ground gives you an energy infusion from the Earth.  The energy infusion is powerful, restoring and stabilizing the bioelectrical circuitry governing your physiology and organs, harmonizing your basic biological rhythms, boosting self-healing mechanisms, reducing inflammation and pain, and improving your sleep and sense of calmness. As you can imagine, when these things happen, you feel tremendously better. The discovery of these benefits, and the dynamics behind them is discussed in a book Dr. Sinatra co-authored in 2014 called  Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever!  Says Dr. Sinatra, “We humans live on a global treatment table…but don’t know it.”

So, what does Earthing do for you ?

  • Defuses the causes of inflammation while improving or eliminating the symptoms of many inflammation related disorders.
  • Reduces or eliminates chronic pain.
  • Improves sleep in most cases.
  • Increases energy.
  • Lowers stress and promotes calmness in the body by cooling down the nervous system and stress hormones.
  • Normalizes the body’s biological rhythms.
  • Thins blood and improves blood pressure and flow.
  • Relieves muscle tension and headaches.
  • Lessens hormonal and menstrual symptoms.
  • Dramatically speeds healing and helps prevent bedsores.
  • Reduces or eliminates jet lag.
  • Protects the body against potentially health disturbing environmental electromagnetic fields, EMF’s.
  • Accelerates recovery from intense athletic activity.

What are the basics of Earthing? Making sure your body has direct contact with Earth will equalize your body to the energy of the Earth. In fact, if any part of your body is in contact with the Earth, all of your body becomes equalized with the energy of the Earth. As far as I can tell, you simply can’t garden without touching the Earth.

Obviously I like gardening. But as you can tell, increasingly gardening is being recognized by the scientific and medical community as a critical component in your health. You can walk, or run, or lift weights or any number of other exercises, but I can’t think of any that have the vast array of health and psychological benefits that gardening does.

So, if you are an avid gardener – keep doing it. If you haven’t tried gardening, there is no better time to start than now!

Three Section 10′ x 33″ Compost Bin for Next to Nothing

Completed Compost Bins

Compost bins can be beneficial in so many ways for your health and the health of the world. I looked at all the models out there, and most were too expensive for me to justify purchasing. But, the plans all looked pretty similar. I mean, basically compost bins are boxes – right? And a highly functional one is three compartments so that you can more easily turn the composting piles regularly.

The compost bins basically look like the below diagram:

Compost Bin Diagram
Now, what does this diagram remind you of?  Yep, me too! It looks like seven pallets put together.  So, I went out to my trusty pallet stack and looked for seven pallets that were the same size and hauled them to my “compost pile home” and began assembling them as per the diagram above.

The pallets that I use often for projects come from an office machines company that sells those big copiers to businesses. These pallets are great because the nails are easy to get out and the wood is hard and durable. And heat treated – so they are safe to use.

Pallet

I wanted the sides of the compost bins to have more gaps to allow air into the composting materials.  So, I knocked two of the slats out.  This is where it comes in very handy to have pallets that have “easy to remove” nails.

Slats Removed for Air Circulation

I used those two slats from each pallet to secure the pallets using 2 1/2″ exterior star-headed screws and my fav Makita impact driver to attach the pallets.  The pallets were attached at the top and on the back of the pallets.

Attached Pallets

After the pallets were attached on the top and the backs, it was a very secure compost bin that should last for some time. I even use it to make my hoops out of electrical conduit – and it doesn’t even jiggle.  All told – it took me about two hours and cost less than $5.00 since my only cost was the screws.

Pallets Nailed at Back

I have been considering fixing something to go over the front – but haven’t really needed it so far. The compartments are big enough that the piles work with the front open.

Ain’t she a beaut? Does anyone out there have any other ideas for a quick and inexpensive compost bin?

Finished Compost Bin

 

Cedar Tub Surround for Spa Feel in Bathroom

On those days you are beyond tired and ache all over, can you think of anything any better to relieve the stress than  long soak in the tub to escape it all for a moment? I certainly can’t. If I can read a book on my relaxation journey with soft and fragrant candles burning, even better!  The atmosphere in the bathroom spa is critical to relaxing and refreshing. Right, you guys?

Well, after adding raw cedar to the ceiling and part of the walls, painting the rest of the walls with a beautiful shade of sage clay paint, and adding a cedar bench and cedar vanity, the un-spa like, ugly white ceramic tub just didn’t fit the spa atmosphere.  We certainly couldn’t afford to upgrade to a luxurious claw leg tub and although not especially pretty, the tub was certainly still serviceable.

White Ceramic Tub

 

But – ugly tub that it was, I just couldn’t have it marring the spa-like atmosphere I was working to create. At that point, I decided a cedar frame around the tub would certainly bring a more spa-like feel to the bath. I had purchased a big bundle of odd sizes of raw cedar from a local lumber company for only $75.00 and had quite a bit leftover after covering the the ceiling and part of the wall. So – I thought – why not?  I will just cover the front of the tub with the cedar. Since I like love the smell of cedar, I decided more in the bathroom just couldn’t hurt.

Raw Cedar Slabs
Isn’t it gorgeous? It seems more and more small, independent lumber yards are opening that have some incredibly beautiful pieces of lumber. If you go visit these lumber yards, you can find incredibly good deals – like this stack of cedar that I purchased. Hint: Often, you can find these lumber yards on Craigslist.

As you can see, the pieces are a widely varied in width – but that didn’t really matter. I cut them all the same length – exactly to the top of the tub ledge.  I had to experiment with the arrangement of the pieces, but all combinations seemed to work fine. Once I had decided which piece would go where, I used a caulk gun to spread glue on the tub front. After a good deal of research, I decided to use Liquid Nails Marble to glue the wood to the tub front. I figured that if it was a good bond for marble to wood, then it would be a good bond for wood to ceramic tub surface.  It worked great!!!

I put a generous amount of glue on the tub, but not so much that it would ooze out the sides. Each piece had to be held in position for about 60 seconds. This was really the hardest part.

Tub Beginning

Looking good so far. I did not know what would happen when I got to the section where the tub dipped in – guess they thought it would be decorative.  But, what I decided to do was add a bit extra since the pieces at the right end of the tub would have a gap between the tub and the cedar slabs. You can see the interesting pattern that the tub is beginning to take.

Cedar Tub in the Works
At this point, it is getting close to finishing the front of the tub. Since cedar is naturally resistant to water damage, I wasn’t too worried about it being on the front of the tub. I did worry about water splashing between the tub and the cedar, so I decided to put a piece of cedar on the top and use caulk to seal it on the inside. This ledge made a good place to sit or rest my feet getting out of the tub.  It was also good protection for water splashing.

Photo of finished tub.

Once the tub front was completely covered, I rubbed on a thick coat of tung oil every 24 hours for three days. Tung oil needs to cure for about seven days to get really hard. The front was no problem as I didn’t touch it for those days. I had to be careful and wipe up the water on the top ledge and make sure that none splashed down between the ledge and the tub.  After 10 days, I added caulk to the front of the ledge to ensure that water stayed out.  Then, I took such a long, relaxing hot bath and soaked for hours in my spa bathroom.  It has been almost a year, and the cedar looks just as fresh as it did when I first installed it.

This may not be a project that everyone would want to do to their tub because the cedar is rustic and wood colored. I know that painted wood – and white are more the trend these days. I wouldn’t want to paint the beautiful cedar. But, this same idea could be done using bead board for a more tailored, currently trendy look.

I hope you have been encouraged to find ways to reuse and recycle when you are remodeling. While new can be nice, reusing conserves resources – of the environment and of your pocketbook. Making something like this also feels good and makes your spaces very personal.  What ideas have you come up with or what are you thinking of doing in your remodels that make the space very personally you?

Recycling Natural Materials & Getting Dirt From the Woods

If you are using raised beds for gardening, then you know that getting the dirt to fill them can be expensive. I know that once you have them filled, you can use the dirt each year just adding compost to the soil. However, always looking for a way to save money, I wondered if the soil on the floor of our woods could be scooped up and used for filling the raised beds. I noticed when I was working to get rid of some of the invasive vines (greenbriar) overtaking the woods and trees that the soil was rich and extremely full of earthworm castings. It seemed it would be an ideal soil to be added to our raised beds and the cost would be free – except for the labor of collecting it.

My friendly and very helpful extension agent said absolutely, the soil could be used for our raised beds. I began researching on the Internet and had no idea that the subject could be so incredibly controversial. There are basically two sides, those who say it is OK to collect soil from the forest floor and it won’t hurt the forest or woods, and those who think that anyone who does that is destroying the natural Earth.  It seems that both sides are adamant and spent hours and hours arguing their case. Neither side seemed to want to change their viewpoint. But, I don’t  want to get into the issues or take sides.

I do believe that finding ways to save money while using natural products is good for your health and good for the world. Let me explain why we used soil taken from our “forest” and did not feel guilty about it. This is our situation – we have 12 acres of land that had apparently been cleared sometime in the past – probably for the pine. It has grown out and is full of hardwoods and pines, lots of red cedar and an incredible amount of invasive Japanese privet and greenbriar.  If you do not know what greenbriar is, then you do not know evil plants, yet.  Roundleaf greenbriar is a very invasive, very thorny vine that in the past, was called “the devil’s wrapping yarn” because of its thorns and tendrils. Twisted in among the horrendous roots of the greenbriar are the roots of the highly invasive Japanese privet. They must have some sort of communication going on to protect each other because they are entangled so much that digging them up is a backbreaking chore.

The vines and privet are overtaking the natural wooded area and strangling the trees and natural shrubbery. While getting rid of the invasive plants, we gave the trees some breathing room and we scooped up the soil and hauled it to the raised beds.  Seems like a win-win to me.

Why am I bringing this up – not everyone has a woods for their back yard. But everyone an find ways to use the resources that are available.

For example – don’t burn your leaves in the fall, and don’t bag them up in those horrid black bags or paper bags to be hauled to the landfill. If you must get them out of your yard, put them in a bin for compost.  Composting will help you dispose of a large quantity of leaves and grass clippings efficiently and cost-effectively. The Iowa State University Extension provides detailed information about composting oak leaves for the home gardener.

 

In a nutshell (no pun intended), oak leaves are slightly acidic but using them as mulch shouldn’t really affect the soil pH. And shredded oak leaves are great for mulching your veggies, perennials. and even around trees and shrubs. Oak leaves are beneficial for increasing the organic matter content of the soil.  The mulching lawnmowers available to day are great at shredding the leaves to make them more usable.  Shredding the leaves will accelerate decomposition.

Speaking from experience, using a thick mulch of oak leaves on top of dense clay soil will encourage earthworms to gather and party down, leaving an incredible bounty behind. We raked all our oak leaves into a thick layer and topped the area with spoiled hay, planning to turn it all into the clay soil. Things came up – as they sometimes tend to do – and we left the layer of leaves and hay sitting there through the summer and winter. We were amazed this spring when we found a thick layer of beautiful compost. When tilled into the clay, it made the clay less dense and more beneficial to growing plants. No longer is that area of the yard impenetrable to shovel or root.

 

DIY Raised Bed using Recycled Corrugated Roofing Material

Harvest in Raised Bed

Raised beds are quite the gardening rage these days and they are beneficial for a variety of reasons. If high enough, they can save your back from constant bending over. This can be beneficial for the elderly or those who have back issues.  The type of soil you have can dictate the necessity of raised beds. As you know, my red clay soil requires raised beds for growing fruits, veggies – and, well, anything. One thing about raised beds is that they can be expensive to build and expensive to fill.  So, always looking to save money, I am always on the hunt for cost effective (cheap) raised bed ideas. I have tried several different ways to build raised beds, and one of my favorites is the one I built using (slightly rusted) corrugated roofing that for some obscure reason was left laying around in multiple locations on our property when we bought it.

I was frustrated with it sitting all over the place and was getting ready to ask my husband to haul it off.  I had really been delaying asking because I kept thinking I could surely do something with it  – old signs, bird house roofs, ????  That’s when I ran across an interesting raised bed idea from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Spark!!!  I could do the same thing – but use the rusted corrugated roofing sitting all over the property for a very inexpensive raised bed. So, that is what I did.

If you have read other posts, you know that the area I use for planting has a pronounced slope. The first semi-raised bed that I built was not sloped and I just didn’t like all the water running to the end of the bed. Since that first bed, I have built them level – which means there is a wide variance between the front of the bed and the back.  There are several ways to do raised beds on a slope including digging down on the high end or raising the end of the bed on the low end. I chose not to dig and adjusted the depth of the boards at the corners to achieve a level bed.

The first thing that I had to do was figure out where the top board would be on the front and on the back of the raised bed. For the first step, I hammered a stake at each corner of the bed and (since it was to be a 16′ bed) and in the middle as well. Using a line level, I marked the position that would be level at each corner and in the middle.  Then, I  measured each stake. To give you an idea of our sloping land, the front side of the bed is 15.5″ and the back side is 23.25 inches.

Using 4×4 treated pine, I cut the corner and middle boards.  Using 1x4x8 treated pine, I screwed the boards at the top and the bottom of each 4×4 “leg” using two 3 1/2″ star head exterior screws on each leg. I used two 8′ sections instead of a 16′ board for two reasons. First, I was planning on making two 8′ beds – but once I  got started, I decided making one 16′ bed would save resources, ie. less wood and less wasted space between the beds. And, I really don’t have a good way to get 16′ lumber home.

Corrugated Bed Frame

You can see from the slant of the top board how much our property slopes. I used a  standard and line level multiple times as I was building the frames.  It was very frustrating, actually, but I finally got the top boards level and screwed into the legs.

Next, I used 2×4 treated lumber every two feet to support the 1×4 frames. I screwed them into the 1x4s with 2 1/2″ star head exterior screws.  I also decided to put a cross brace at 8′ because it seemed a bit wobbly. You can see one side complete below.

Side of Raised Bed

In case you are wondering, I set the side boards on top of the soil. As mentioned before, I have hard red clay soil and I don’t think the bed will sink.  My husband was a little concerned when he first saw it, but decided that we would just put some braces under the supports if it does sink. So far, it has remained true despite multiple rain events.

After completing the supports for each side, I dragged the corrugated roofing material over to the raised bed. The sheets were in varying lengths and widths.  I had to decide whether to make the ridges run vertically or horizontally.  After much deliberation, I decided to have the ridges run vertically because it seemed more cost effective and easier cutting the pieces to fit. At first, I cut the pieces to match the slope of the land, but after several pieces, I realized cutting them straight worked just as effectively and was a ton easier.

I used my circular saw to cut the roofing material using a Diablo 48-tooth Steel Demon Ferrous Metal Cutting Saw Blade.  My husband didn’t think it would work, but it cut through the roofing like butter. However, make sure you wear safety glasses and preferably a long sleeve shirt because the sparks fly!!!!!

I tried to line up the corrugated sheet to the top of the board, so I ended up having to dig down a bit in some places to align the corrugated sheet to the top of the top rail.  I secured the corrugated sheet metal to the 1×4 frames with #9 x 1″ fine steel hex-head roofing screws and my fav impact driver.  The hex head made it easy to “grip” the screw as it went through the roofing. Even though they said the hex screws are self-drilling, I found it easier to pre-drill a hole first since the corrugated roofing was super thick – must have been industrial grade.

Once all the roofing was in, I decided it would be nice to be able to sit down and work in the bed, so I used 5/4 deck boards along the top.

Raised Bed with Corrugated Steel
And there she is, ready to be filled with soil. Lots of soil. She isn’t shiny and new, but using materials that I had on hand, I was able to inexpensively build a 4’x16′ raised bed for 64 square feet of gardening. And, I think it has a lot of personality – a statement that I like to re-use and re-style to save money and save resources. And, as you can see at the top of the post, the raised bed was finished and filled in time to get a nice spring harvest.

What do you  have laying around that can be used in a different way? What can you re-use to save yourself money and the world resources.  Shiny and new is not always better and I urge you to look for creative ways to renovate the past.  Let me hear from you!!!!

 

Compass on the Kitchen Floor?

What every kitchen needs is a compass on the floor to ensure all members of your family and always going in the right direction.  Seriously.  As for directionally challenged me, the compass helps me to know which direction is which when I am at home. If you are one of those directionally challenged individuals, you know what I mean.  And, from an informal polling of my friends, many left handed people are directionally challenged. Not saying this is an excuse – but it is what it is.

Yes, I am digressing. So, when I saw a post from Domestic Imperfection on Pinterest about stenciling tabletops, I thought a stencil on the kitchen floor would look great.  My kitchen is already what I guess you could call eclectic, which to me means it has all the disparate things I like in one room.  The stencil on the floor would just make it more me.

I decided on a compass because they look really cool and I really am directionally challenged. This grounded me in which direction I was pointing whenever I needed the information for a project.  Actually the hardest part was probably finding a large compass stencil. After hours of searching on the Net, I did find one that suited me at iStencils.com. If you find one you like, the stencils go all the way up to 36″ – it is rare to find stencils this large.

Compass on Floor

Yes, you really do see blue on the floor.  I tried to stain it a royal-ish blue color and the pigment did not dissolve evenly in the tung oil. Oddly enough, with all the traffic in the kitchen, the floor has a funky patina to it that we really like. There is no way I could duplicate it – but until we decide whether we want a (semi) permanently blue kitchen floor, we are enjoying watching it develop character daily.

Although the tung oil finish is somewhat faded by this time, the compass still shows through nicely. The directions are really simple:

  1. Find a stencil you like and position it on your surface.
  2. Hold down – or even better tape down stencil in the correct position.
  3. Using a stencil brush, paint the area with white acrylic paint.
  4. Let dry and then remove stencil.
  5. 24 hours later, stain the area with your stain of choice. The acrylic paint creates a seal in the wood that prevents the stain from soaking in.
  6. Seal your area with the appropriate seal. In the case of the kitchen floor, I used tung oil.

If you would like detailed directions with photos, head on over to Domestic Imperfection.  If you want to create an environment in your home that is uniquely you, I recommend floor stencils.  For more conservative decorators than me, this would be great in a kids room, or sun room. Or the kitchen – like mine.

Why Every DIY-gal Needs her Own Makita Impact Driver

For the woman (or man) who loves to build, but doesn’t have the arm strength to hammer nails in consistently and efficiently, there is simply no better tool for you than the impact driver. While nails are wonderful (and nail guns are super – but that is another post), when trying to put together wood projects, a good impact driver and star head screws just cannot be beat.

Total disclosure here:  I am not a good hammerer. In fact, I am a horrible hammerer.  No matter how hard I try to hammer a nail in straight, it always bends.  Straighten it, and in a few more hits, it bends again. Often, I end up bending it all the way over and hammering it in on its side. This looks messy, and sometimes, does not hold as well as it should. I don’t know if my arm strength is the problem, because it seems like I keep hitting and hitting and hitting and the nail goes down 1 millimeter. Big nails into hard boards are a veritable nightmare.

PHOTO HERE – NAIL driven in crooked

I have seen great hammerers and marvel as they strike just a few times and the darn nail just goes in like it is supposed to and doesn’t even think of bending. To me, those guys almost have super powers.  They should wear a cape with a big “H” on their chests. That is NOT me.  So, I first I switched to a corded electric drill and then a battery powered drill.  The two different kinds have pluses and minuses.  A corded drill is more powerful but the cord is a real pain to work with, especially if you are working outside.  The battery powered drill didn’t have that annoying cord to wrestle and stumble over but was really, really heavy. That worked OK for a time – but, I began to have two serious issues. The first was that I had to hold the drill straight and the bit securely in the groove of the screw and press relatively hard for the screw to go all the way in. Again, something about arm strength or lack thereof, I think. It was really hard for me to do with a 3 ½” or 4” screw and I often ended up with a stripped Phillips head screw stuck half-way in the wood. If you have ever done that, you know what a nightmare it is getting that baby out when the head is stripped.

PHOTO STAR HEAD SCREWS

The first fix was to switch to star head screws.  Someone at the local hardware store recommended that I use star head screws because they could not be stripped like Phillips head screws. Now, I believe that I could strip one given the right circumstances, but using them is incredibly superior to Phillips head screws and I highly, highly recommend them for all your project.  However, the second problem became a genuine issue that almost put a stop to my woodworking projects that required something to be drilled or screwed. That obstacle almost stopped me from doing just about everything I enjoyed doing.

The pad of my thumb became so sore and inflamed that I did not have the strength to tighten or loosen the rotating collar enough to secure the drill or screw bit. In other words, I could not get the chuck tight enough to hold the bit in or, if it was tight enough, I could not get the chuck open to remove the drill bit. It was so bad that I had to eventually get two wrenches and use them to tighten and loosen the chucks. When I was working on a project that required frequent changes, I was sometimes in tears from the pain when trying to do it by hand, and frustrated when I had to resort to the wrenches. Projects took me five times as long and weren’t even fun even more.

PHOTO – WRENCHES ON ROTATING COLLAR

I knew there had to be a solution, so I started looking around for alternatives and that is when I read about impact drivers.  After long hours of research on the web, I finally decided on the Makita 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion 1/4 in. Cordless Impact Driver. The reviews were great and the price was reasonable.

At first, I couldn’t figure out for sure if these impact drivers could also drill – but I figured just having something that was powerful and could screw would be worth the investment. OMG, the difference was incredible and I started a romance with my new driver.  That sounds kinky – but you know what I mean.

To start, the bits slip right in with no tightening required. Thus, I could easily and quickly switch back and forth from drilling to driving – once I figured out that the driver could do both.  The instructions say you can even change bits one handed.  I haven’t mastered that, though. But, I can quite easily switch from one bit to another with two hands totally pain-free over and over. There are other benefits, as well. The impact driver that I purchased is significantly lighter and smaller than the electric drill.  That helps when I am working on big projects for many days, as I don’t get as tired or sore.

PHOTO – DRILL BIT SHOWING HOW TO LOAD IT INTO IMPACT DRIVER

And, man, does it ever do a fantastic job. I don’t have trouble with the longest screws into the hardest wood. I am not sure how it does what it does – according to the lit, it “hammers” in addition to screwing. That is where the impact comes in. And it works fantastically. It is just the right size for me – but every bit (no pun intended) as powerful as the huge drill I had been using. It also has a bright LED light that shines where I am working which really helps me see what I am doing. The LED light is so bright that I used it for a flashlight once and it worked great. (Told you I had a romance going with my impact driver).  And the battery recharges fast, so if I forget to charge it at night, it doesn’t take long for it to be ready to use the next day.

After several months using the Makita impact driver, the romance was still going strong. I liked the fact that I could be independent and didn’t have to ask someone else to finish screwing the screw in. I liked that it was small and compact and didn’t tire me out using it for hours at a time. I like that I was no longer in pain when I was putting together projects. I liked it so much, in fact, that I asked for another one just like it at Christmas. Now, I don’t have to switch back and forth between a drill bit and a driver bit, and I can tell you, I am in tall cotton!!!!

PHOTO OF TWO IMPACT DRIVERS

So, for you gals out there that are building – whether it be shelves, tables, compost bins, wooden signs or any other projects, I highly recommend you invest in an impact driver and I highly recommend the ….  Major warning, though. If your man sees it, he will become addicted to it, also. Without fail, my hubs will grab my impact driver first, before he uses his large, HEAVY electric drill.  And, at Christmas, my brother decided it was time he invest in a new impact driver and took all the relevant data on my little friend.  You will not be disappointed with this baby!!!!

Ten Functional & Funky DIY Trellises for Your Garden

Title Photo

An important part of veggie gardening is figuring out how to get those climbing veggies to go up instead of out.   AKA vertical gardening, using trellises takes your veggies up and gives you more fruit and veggies in a smaller space. If you live in the country, growing your fruits and veggies up also makes it less likely to run into a snake as you are digging through the vegetation to pick fruit.  So you definitely want to find some way to go up. Your veggies will love you and you will love them (after you eat those yummy gifts from the garden).

There are many choices out there that you can buy, but as always, I like to look at recycling, reusing and building as inexpensively as possible. Some of the trellises below use new materials – but you can find much of this material used and if you buy, the trellises are very inexpensive and will last for many seasons.

Cattle Pen Trellis

This is one of my favorite trellises and hubs promised he would make it for me this weekend. Normally, I like to build all the garden stuff myself, but I am giving in and getting help since the cukes and melons need to go into the ground NOW.  This trellis will allow me to plant melons as well as cukes and beans.  Can hardly wait. For full detailed directions, check out https://www.weedemandreap.com/make-trellis-raised-garden-box-combo/. We took the idea from this trellis and built our own with a few tweaks. If you would like to see the changes we made, click here.

Wire Fencing Trelles

This inexpensive trellis has directions at The New Home Economics. While they used welded wire fencing, I am thinking it could be done with chicken wire as well. Although you might need to add more braces.  They provide detailed directions complete with a shopping list of materials needed: https://newhomeeconomics.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/how-to-inexpensive-garden-trellis/

DIY Garden Trellis

This trellis is simple, but highly functional. While it is not really funky in my book, it does have nice clean lines and will look great full of veggies. I like that it is easy to set up and take down to store. Simple to follow directions at: http://www.frugalfamilyhome.com/home/gardening/diy-bean-pea-cucumber-trellis

A-Frame Standing Garden Trellis

This one is not quite as easy to build as the one above, but has great functionality.  The site has very detailed directions, photos to follow and a shopping list:  http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/8315/diy-a-frame-veggie-trellis

Squash Arch

An arch for a trellis is a fantastic choice for your veggies. Not only does it look beautiful when full of veggies or fruits and can be a focus in your outdoor landscape, but it is highly functional. You can find detailed directions complete with photos on how to put this together: http://getbusygardening.com/building-squash-arch/

Teepee Trellis

This beautiful trellis is made out of saplings and could be tied together with vines. We have some of those horrible thorny greenbrier vines that are incredibly strong. I wonder if they could be used to tie up a tee-pee like this one.  The site doesn’t provide much detail on building it, but not much is needed. I think it fits the funky designation as well. Inspiring photos of how the teepee trellis could be a focal point in your garden are included on the site: https://serendipitylifegarden.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/vertical-gardening-teepee-trellis/

Bike Wheel Trellis

Definitely funky, but very functional as well. Shouldn’t be too hard to find some bent old bicycle tires. At http://www.kvpermaculture.org/blog/permaculture/bike-wheel-trellis-hard-luffa/ you can find more information but not detailed directions on how to put this together. Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out, though.

Colorful Obelisks

I had to decide whether the obelisk would be a functional or funky trellis and decided it was really both.  They look striking in the garden and are entirely functional – for flowers, veggies or just good looks. Several sites out there have directions on how to build an obelisk, but at Momma D and Da Boyz you can get detailed directions on how to build this obelisk trellis for less than $10.00. I enjoyed seeing photos of Jennifer Desrochers actually building the obelisk!!!  You can get the details here: http://mommadanddaboyz.net/2014/06/12/obelisk-trellis-for-10/

Chevron Lattice Trellis

This chevron trellis adds a bit of class to your garden and can be functional as well. I think flowering plants would look nice on this, however, I wonder if they would just cover up the nice design. I have to think about this one, but I do like the look in the garden area.  Detailed tutorial can be found on the site: http://www.remodelaholic.com/diy-chevron-lattice-trellis-tutorial/

Crib Trellis

Yep – this trellis is made from the side of a crib.  Kim does a great job of explaining how to get the trellis into the ground. So, if your baby outgrew the crib, don’t get rid of it. Recycle it. I would think as your child grows up, they would enjoy seeking their beloved crib in the garden.  Or, just pick one up that you see laying around ready for the trash.  Good photos found here too: http://reposhture.blogspot.in/2012/05/crib-trellis.html

Climbing Vine Post Trellis

Lowes got a good one here. This trellis is relatively easy to build and adds a nice look to your garden. Could be a weekend project, easily. As per Lowe’s, instructions are provided: https://www.lowes.com/creative-ideas/lawn-and-garden/climbing-vines-post/project

Cedar Trellis

Isn’t this sapling, branch obelisk trellis peaceful looking as it blends perfectly into the outdoors?  I want to pull a chair up and dig into a good book as I listen to the birds chirping, woodpeckers hammering the trees, and the wind rustling the leaves. Yep, this will definitely grace my outdoors in the near future. The wood we have most of here is cedar. And I do like to chop those down because they suck the water away from the oaks in the summer. Won’t they look nice refashioned into an obelisk in my garden? And, they should last quite a while too. Not to mention smelling really good while I am making them.  Details here:  https://karmaperdiem.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/upcycled-garden-trellis/

I hope these examples of trellises will inspire you to go out and build one or more, just as they have inspired me. Trellises are so necessary if you are gardening and give you much more space/yield per square foot when you go up instead of out.  They also make veggies and fruit easier to pick and keep your hands from rooting around among the leaves and finding a snake. (Yes, that has happened to me. He was friendly and ran from me as I jumped/screamed – but still, I would just rather not run into those guys). If you use some of the examples, you can help the Earth by recycling and reusing. And, you will help your garden to look fantastic, too. Now that is a win-win for everyone.

If you build one of the examples or have something else you have used for a trellis, share with us. The more ideas, the more inspiration.

Build SUPER EASY, super FAST greenhouse benches for less than $5.00

 

Greenhouse Bench

An open greenhouse area with plants on the ground can work fine, but the addition of benches increases usage tremendously and can be a real back-saver, too.  If they cost next to nothing to make, then you have a real winner. My car garage/pallet greenhouse has been in place for several months and I decided that benches would facilitate watering (my back) and give me more space for organizing plants.  To save money, I went back to my stack of pallets and fashioned all the benches that I needed using pallets and scrap wood. For all the benches, the total cost was less than $5.00 (for the screws).

I had the option of building individual benches from each pallet and setting them up in a row, or attaching all the pallets together and then adding legs so that I had two long benches. I opted to make individual benches from each pallet for two reasons: 1) Wrangling the smaller units was much easier and more manageable for me. I simply don’t know how I would have moved a 12 foot long bench and 2)  Building individual units allowed more versatility for rearranging the benches in the greenhouse.  So, I built eight benches  29 inches deep and 32-33 inches wide.  Five benches were 32.5 inches high and four were 23.5 inches high (for the taller plants). I haven’t decided what to do for the “floor” of the greenhouse yet – but the plants are quite happy up on the benches now.  My back is so much happier, too.

I had one very large pallet made of varying widths of 2×4 boards – on the top as well as the sides.  I had never seen one quite like it – so I wrestled it onto my truck bed. I do mean wrestle, because that dude was incredibly heavy. Totally worth it, though. I found that I could make the legs for six pallet benches from that one pallet alone.  If you ever find something like that sitting around, grab it fast.

Pallet

The pallet above is an example of the types of pallets that I used for the tops of the benches. I found this incredible source for pallets from a large supplier of commercial copiers as I was driving around an industrial district looking for another pallet source I found on Craigslist. When I saw the pallets stacked up at the copier sales store, I asked some guys standing out back if I could take them. They were delighted. (So was I). Anyway, if you can find this type of source, grab all you can. They are heat treated – and HUGE bonus, they are super easy to take apart with just a  hammer.

BUILDING THE BENCHES
Building the benches was quite simple and we ended up building each bench in about 20 minutes. To begin, there was a large space in the middle of each pallet – which would not be good for the top of a bench because the smaller pots would just fall through. So, I knocked out one of the slats and screwed it in about midway between the gap.  Voila – the top of your shelf is done.

Each pallet had little pieces of wood on the top – I believe they were used to hold the office machine in place because they didn’t serve any other purpose that I could see.  Here’s my mom (she’s 93) removing those little pieces of wood.  Before you get upset at me for being a slave driver – she wants to help. And I like to keep her busy so that she is part of the renovating.  And – hey – if a 93 years young lady can do this, so can YOU!!!!

Preparing Pallet

While she was busy taking those wood pieces off, I had to figure out how high I wanted the benches to be.

In full disclosure, I grabbed four of the 2x4s that were about the same length and measured the shortest one. It was 32.5 inches, so I used that as the height for the taller benches. As it turned out, it was a perfect height to work with.

So, for the next step, simply measure and cut four legs the same length.

Legs added to bench
After the leg boards are cut, screw the legs into the sides of the pallet using two 3.5” screws on each leg.  The good thing about pallets is that they have that 4×4-ish brace at each end, so the legs were very secure when I used the 3.5″ screws.

Once the legs were attached and I stood it up, I noticed the shelf seemed to wobble a bit. To eliminate the wobble, I cut two scrap boards and attached them to the legs – as seen below. I used scraps that I had around for the side braces, and with one on each side, the bench was quite stable.  Whether I used a piece of a pallet, a spare 1×3 or 1×4 for the side brace, I aligned the tops at 10.5 inches (from the bottom of the leg). I did this so that if I later decided I wanted a second shelf, I could just slide a board onto the cross braces and have an instant shelf.

Side Braces on Benches

Wobble gone, shelf built in a very short period of time.  Ain’t she a beauty?  OK, I think all the varying looks of the wood  legs and braces makes for an interesting look. If you don’t care for this “eclectic” look, the benches would look nice and probably more “together” if painted one color. Or perhaps, the legs and braces one color and the top wood. I just needed them to be there and functional – so I will let you know later if I decide to paint them.

Finished Bench

Depending on the wood for the legs and the side braces, some of the benches ended up being fairly heavy. The greenhouse isn’t terribly far from where I was building the benches, but since I was trying to save my back, I decided to upend them on my wheelbarrow and take them to the greenhouse. I mention this because I want you to be able to do these projects, even if you are not terribly strong. Making the benches individually and using the wheelbarrow to move them means that I did not have to have a stronger person do the heavy lifting for me.  I am woman, I am strong. . .

Moving Bench to Greenhouse
In one day, I was able to build the benches (with the help of Mom), put these babies in the greenhouse for less than $5.00.  These are the deals that I like.  And, I had very happy plants and a very happy back.Yes, I think plants appreciate these little things we do for them.  See them smiling?

Shelves in Greenhouse
One last suggestion. As always, when you use pallets, you want to be very careful to make sure they are safe. Make sure that they are not coated with chemicals and don’t have chemicals spilled on them that would harm you or your plants.  For a comprehensive post on identifying your pallets and making sure you are using safe wood, go here.  In a nutshell, if they have an HT stamped on the wood, they are heat treated and safe to use.

Building benches for your greenhouse really makes them more accessible and usable. If you can build them quickly and inexpensively, that is even better. This quick project will provide you with an easy and cheap solution. What do you think of the benches? Do you have any other benches you have built? Share!!!