At the end of the season, or more often than not, the end of my patience, I pull up the dead and dying plants, take down any contraptions I’ve assembled, and put everything away until Spring. My structures don’t always go up right away, but when I find something that works, I stick with it. This year I wanted to experiment with shade gardening here in my very hot and arid Zone 7b West Atlanta Garden.
My early spring configuration consisted of a Hoop House for the Aquaponics System (APS), a grow bed on the eastern end of the cinder garden, and what would be the beginnings of a tomato bed, interplanted with various guords (Squash, Cukes, Melons etc), peas, herbs and marigolds. On this half (ok, 2/3) of the garden, I had a makeshift trellis system using PVC poles and strings. Also in this pic, an ‘A’ Frame that I constructed to cover the rock / soil garden. All of the PVC here was repurposed from various other building projects I had undertaken. (Some of them were even successes!) The hoop house, once raised had a bad lean to it, though it was much better than before, where it was uncomfortably short and difficult to work under. I knew that was a temporary set up at best, and essentially a dress rehearsal (if you will) with the fish involved. I had fully intended on re-working everything once I got out there and spent some time in My Atlanta Garden.
One of the (many) things I like about building my structures out of pressure rated PVC, is that I can continue to add on to those early structures as my plants grow.
For instance, now, deep into May, my Tomatoes are growing strong in the raised bed, the Aquaponics (AP) system and even in the wicking bed. The beans are putting out, and now the Squash are beginning to take off. One thing that I noticed, was that my quash plants were doing well, shaded by the AP grow bed set up on the Eastern end of the cinder garden. This area stayed cool and shaded until early afternoon, when the direct overhead sunlight and high 80 temperatures are high overhead and wilt my poor squash plants into squish plants. Once I emptied, cleaned and moved the growbed, this area received considerably more sunlight, turning it to squish even quicker. YIKES!
Before I was able to rearrange everything, I struck an extra piece of old lattice just to provide some afternoon shade for my now struggling squash. I knew something had to be done, and with the fish now deceased, this seemed the perfect time to clean out and re-locate the growbed, (somewhere, and somehow on grossly uneven terrain). I also wanted to build a cover for the cinder garden to provide shade for the squash, and even, I suspect, the tomatoes. Needing to raise the hoop house, I found a couple of tees and some 5′ long pieces to solve that problem (though it made the lean even worse). I kept telling myself it may not be pretty, but that it was pretty effective. (Even I have some pride though, and had to admit this was down right ugly.) Thankfully, I was blessed with a decent head, and realized some 2″ pieces of pipe would keep the ‘bow’ out of the 3/4″ pipe. And I know just where to find some pipe. It looked MUCH better after this quick fix.
I had attempted a few greenhouses over the past few years, just slapping together what I had, making as few cuts as possible to build what I had envisioned. Those structures came down as they (generally) were not very sturdy, or the wrong size for the plastic sheathing I had access too. All those peices are re-usable, however, and I now have a better idea how to build what I want in a way that is both stable and sound, as well as easy to cover with shade netting or plastic, as needed.
It took the better part of a day, though my idea of working anymore is to have more break time than work time. In my younger (more mobile) days, I probably could have constructed this in just a few hours (though I probably would have done it in the heat of the day, and received a good bit of sun along the way). Now, older if not wiser, I use the coolness of morning, the shade of the trees and the evening dusk to ‘piddle’ my way around the yard attacking projects of interst (that’s MY interest, btw, not the wife’s :-). Actually though, I need to say special thanks to the wife for helping me attach various hard to reach items, things where I needed octopi arms and for moving things I’m to old to move on my own anymore. So, Thanks Babe.