DIY in the Garden for me includes planting, pruning, designing flower beds and winterization of tropical plants in colder climates. Springtime in the mountains is my favorite time of year as I talk about in my article Spring in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. The garden is a place anyone can feel free to try what they want with little worry of messing up. I love finding new plants and designing new spaces with whatever material I find and enjoy the fruit of my labor as they say.
DIY Fruit Trees and Small Gardens
Another simple green DIY that's fun and educational is a small garden and fruit trees. The most expensive things to buy at the store are produce and fruit. While you might not be growing exotic fruit year around it's simple to plant blueberries and fruit trees in most any climate. If you eat peppers and tomatoes regularly then I would suggest anyone pay a few dollars for a few vegetable plants at Home Depot or any garden center in spring and grow their own. One plant will produce all you need and if there are extra vegetables give them to your neighbors, like neighbors did years ago. Last year I planted a variety of fruit around the house. I started with grape vines that have taken off fast and planted strawberries along the side (grows like a weed), thorn less blackberries (great tasting and exceptionally easy to grow), blueberry bushes (expensive to buy and never as good as right off your own plant), peach trees (always better than the stores), and a few veggies. If you grow some items and neighbors or family grow others than you will never be without … get a freezer to store the leftovers. Some great tools to get any DIYer started can be found at Harbor Freight Tools and be sure to look for coupon codes online.
DIY Bamboo Gardens
Four years ago I planted my first bamboo that I had dug up off the side of the road. A type of river bamboo. Since then, I’ve purchased several cold hardy bamboo varieties that do well in TN. Beautiful bamboo and Nuda are my favorite bamboo for their color. I had also shopped for rhizome barriers to help control it, because it’s a running bamboo. Don’t underestimate bamboo and its tenaciousness. I had to move my bamboo without notice and placed it somewhere else that wasn’t designed to control it. Even with rhizome barriers in place, I still have rhizomes escaping. TIP: Rhizome barrier is expensive and hard to put in place where there’s rocky soil like TN. A raised bed with the rhizome barrier (optional) dug a foot down to save on retaining wall cost is better for controling bamboo. Two feet is a deep as bamboo will go in an area with a short growing season. My rock path was overtaken by bamboo. I had to pull up the rock, pour cement, and rebuild the rock path. I was amazed at how rooted it had become under the path in a short time. I would clip off one rhizome in the rock and three more would come up. I enjoy the benefits of having bamboo, and have plans for the larger cane in the future. It is useful for making gardening stakes, walking sticks, roasting at camp fires, but the larger cane will be useful for fencing, building and erosion control.
DIY Raised Flower Beds and Gardens
In East TN, digging a hole isn't done with a shovel. It's best done with a mattix or pick ax. Tilling the ground is almost out of the question unless you have hours to waste and a back of steel. Save time and energy by making this DIY raised flower bed with railroad ties from Lowe's or Home Depot. This is the easiest and best flower bed for the cost and size. As easy as it looks, simply buy four railroad ties or seven and have two ten foot squares. Don’t be afraid to pick through the ties as they are usually torn up and cracked. I have taken apart an entire stack looking for a couple of better ties. Then, get two 3 foot pieces of rebar (per tie) and some mending plates (optional, but they help keep the ends together). Slightly level the area you want your garden and you will be growing in no time. This DIY Garden is great, because you don’t have to worry about standing water in clay, excessive rock, bad dirt, and it makes keeping weeds out a snap, because mower clippings don’t usually get in, unless your clippings blow right at it. This is also a great way to frame in a play set or sandbox. For smaller areas I like using old tires (the larger the better). These work great for tomatoes or vegetables you have to dig up like potatoes or beets. Simply flip the tire and harvesting is done, then move it or put the tire away until next year. These gardens are fun to paint and decorate and the whole family will be enjoying your new gardening feat. I prefer these to planter boxes, because they are sturdier and more natural looking. Exterior accents carries tons of raised gardens made from recycled plastic that look like wall rock or wood. These raised garden frames are sturdy and light so that anyone can put them together with ease plus offer FREE SHIPPING .
DIY Garden Winterization for Tropical Plants
I've always pushed the limits of plant hardy zones. I've learned
in East TN if a plant is zoned for less than 6a I shouldn't waste my money on it. Plants like giant elephant ears and bananas that will die can sometimes be preserved for next year with a few tricks. Trees like palms and fig also can be protected for the first couple of years and then eventually can survive on their own. Storing bulbs indoor, leaf cages for bigger plants and heavy mulching are a
few ways to bring these plants back once the sun returns. These methods have worked well for me the last 6 years and can work well in your DIY garden when done right. Not all plants will be a success and some years are worse than others, so even though plants return the next year, that really cold following might finish them off. There are times when the main part of a plant dies
off and tiny plants grow from the roots that survive, so having a green house where you can help them get back to full size is crucial, otherwise your tropical plant will have a slow year and usually completely die the next. I have placed cages around my palms every year just in case. It helps them stay green,
often as long as January, where otherwise all the palms would have died off sooner. It’s important not to wait too late to prepare for winters cold. The first freeze can surprise you. Once the days shorten and leafs are falling the elephant ears will start to die off. This is when I will go ahead and clean up the flower beds. I cut leafy green tropicals (bulbs) down to a few inches and
cover with 4 to 6 inches of mulch or bring the bulbs in to dry out then store in peat moss in a cool place around 50 degrees. Garden centers are always generating different and cold hardier plants. Get tropical plants that have a chance in your plant hardy zone and some DIY TLC could give you surprising results.There are tons of options in packaged greenhouses that are great DIY projects for families.
The Dirty FYI on DIY Dirt
I have spent more money on dirt and mulch than the original mortgage of my house (it saddens me to think about this fact). When it comes down to it you don't need a $20 bag of potting soil to grow a plant, but it might help. Plants inside need more from the dirt than outside plants, which get most of what they need by growing roots further and deeper. Falling leaves, animals and polinating insects aid in this process also. I rarely buy "good dirt". Instead for most of my planting I like to buy a moisture retainer like Natures Helper, which contains a lot of fine wood in a loamy soil or peat moss and mix it with cheap top soil. This mix works fine for most plants and trees. Top soil comes in many varieties too, but most are similiar. I pick the lighter bags of topsoil (when dry) because they usually have less clay and debris. As long as you dig a hole twice the width and depth as the pot being planted mixing in some of the original soil your plants will do well, even tropicals with lots of water.