Garden Helpers

After one season on the farm I found a few of my garden ideas just didn’t work well. The plant markers I made were great on paper but impractical in real life – I broke my little toe when I kicked one hidden in the grass! I like my plant measuring board, but found the wood/marker difficult to read next to brown soil. So I took a few days of these chilly days and made improvements.

First up: the plant stakes. I liked heft of shims, but the fragile points couldn’t handle hardened soil. They were great in spring, but hard summer soil made them deadly for bare toes. They snapped (as shims are designed to do!) when pressure was applied in the form of my little toe. Serious ouch. With a half box of shims on the shelf I wanted to come up with a better plan.

I decided to glue them together and form a solid rectangle (invert one against another). Once the glue was set I painted both sides and all edges this a dark red. Side note: always check the “oops” aisle at the hardware stores. I’m always finding high quality paints for a fraction of sticker price. Much better base coat for outdoor projects than simple craft paints. But I digress.

Once the red had cured – important with dark colors to ensure no bleeding onto a second color – I started lettering. I was going to create my own stencils, as I have with my farm signage, but the size of the letters made that problematic. I opted to go freehand and choose not to let it bother me that the letters are not uniform in size, shape, etc. The plan is to install these by hanging them from the teepee tops and other structures around my garden. They should be much easier for guests to see – and will save my toes, too!

The plant board took a little more thought. I saw the initial version on an episode of Growing a Greener World (check PBS for listings) and loved it. Field size – not backyard size – beds meant I needed a heftier version. First I pulled a piece of scrap wood from the pile. I just needed one long side to be flat – it will make smoothing soil and creating furrows simple – so this piece with a large crack was perfect. No way could this piece be used for coop fencing! I dusted it off and coated it with some leftover yellow paint – a sponge brush was perfect to get inside all the crevices. I wanted a background color that would stand out against brown/black soil.

Once the paint was dry I got out my measuring tape and started marking. Last year I found that most of my seeds are to be planted at 3″, 4″ or 12″ intervals. I made small lines with the numerical notations in pencil, then took a look at my craft paints. I wanted to make things as simple as possible when in the field, so I decided to make 3″ intervals one black, 4″ intervals in red, and 12″ intervals in white. I knew these colors would pop against the yellow and make work in the field much simpler this spring. As I go through my planting I’ll note on the seed packs whether they are red, black or white so next year will be even easier.

Painting it yellow also means the chances of it getting left in the field overnight are pretty slim…it almost glows when light hits it!


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