Topsy – Turveys – GREAT SPACE SAVER

Our heat pump just happens to be located in the best place on our property for the food garden.  It takes up some prime real estate against the house with the best southern exposure that we have.   It is going the stay there but the space above it has just been hanging out there…. wasted.   That bothered me.

our 5 topsy turvys
our 5 topsy turvys

I occasionally attend a ‘support group’ that discusses how to successfully grow food in this area, and how to overcome the problems that come with gardening in the shadow of the a mountain in the pacific northwest.  No… really there is such a group!  We toured some houses.  One really impressed me.  This home is in  neighborhood of tract homes.  It looks like many of the other homes in the area, pleasantly landscaped from the street.  The back yard was a tastefully designed as a food garden.  Easy maintenance gravel paths with fruit trees, berry bushes , raised beds with cloches and lots of pots with root vegetable and lettuces.  It was not only beautiful but prolific.  She was successfully growing tomatoes and peppers in topsy turvys.  Tomatoes are peppers are hard to grow in this area because of our short season and wet and cold springs and falls.  She was having great success.  My goal has been to have a food garden that is beautiful and prolific all year.

topsy turvy 3I admit that I felt that topsy turvys  were a little too ‘as seen on TV’ for our garden.  Then…. I saw 3 of them at a discount store for $ 3.00 each.  Later I found a couple more new in their packages for $1.00 each at a garage sale.    Last year we hung tomatoes in the topsy turvys.   I learned several things from our moderate success last year.

1) don’t overfill with soil, leave about an inch at the top

2) make sure that you have very good solid hooks and chains, these can be very heavy

3) they are difficult to water (when they are over your head) so we put in irrigation


topsy turvy 2
3 way diverter

We attached a 3 way diverter to the faucet and bought a simple irrigation set from the local hardware store and set up a system to turn on the water and water them all at once.  Easy peasy.!


So the advantages of  topsy – turvys?

– Hang em high and the elk, deer and rabbits can’t get to them

– use irrigation for easy efficient watering

– the sun warms the roots better than it warms the soil around here

– they can be a very efficient use of space


This project probably cost us around $50.00

for 5 sturdy chains & hooks, 5 topsy turvys, soil, 5 tomatoes, irrigation system.


More later about how well they work.  I will compare them to the results compared to the  fancy new mini – greenhouse my husband built over part of one of the raised beds.






From ‘Free’ to Fantanstic – Free Grating makes a Great Gabion Garden Bench

One Sunday last summer we were on our way to a friend’s house to pick something up. We passed a house with this grating by the side of the road and a sign that said FREE. Needless to say… we backed up and loaded it up. Funny how sometimes things just seem to fall into place. Since the rock slide on our property in 2009 ( we have moved more rocks than most people see in a lifetime. A friend suggested that we make gabions. Well we finally made one.

gabion bench watermark1
free grates by the side of the road!
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putting the frame together

My husband can build anything. He doesn’t just build, he over-builds. He builds things to last. It’s amazing really, but I digress.

He cut the grates and wired them together.

Next he put it in place, leveled it and set it into concrete.

gabion bench watermark3
leveling the bench, then setting it into concrete.

After the concrete was dry, he removed the forms. I filled it with rocks. I used bigger ones against the grate and smaller ones in the middle. I stacked the rocks closely so there wouldn’t be movement.

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Great Gabion Bench – Done

He had some extra pieces of ironwood in the garage leftover from building the deck. He used that to made the seat. He placed boards to fit inside that grate to keep it from sliding. It is heavy enough that it just sits on top without requiring anchors. A coat of finish and its done. Lastly – we just need to finish the hardscaping and landscaping in that area, which we are working on this summer.

Supply list and cost
grating – free
wire to wire the grates together – we had wire and didn’t have to buy any.
2 x 4’s for forms – old wood sitting around – no cost
concrete – about $20.00 (it’s a pretty big bench)
rocks – free
ironwood – leftover from other projects


Blackberry & Raspberry Success!

What a difference a year makes!  Two years ago we put in the food garden including the berry bed. Berries gone wild!
2014 - june - berry garden update 4watermark
the first year they sleep – March 2012 – new berries are just little sticks
The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they LEAP
We gardeners all have seen this in action in our own gardens.
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– the second year they creep -2013 early summer, I planted lots of other things around the berries to cover the soil.

The berry bed is a concrete raised bed about 3.5 ‘ wide and about 15 feet long. There is a trellis and wire to hold the berries gone wild from taking over the pathways. 

raspberry flowers and berries
raspberry flowers and berries

I don’t know why we bother to read the suggestions about how close plants should be placed, but for whatever reason we keep reading and then totally disregarding the advice. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to plant double the recommendations for spacing raspberry varieties and the thornless blackberries.

2014 - june - berry garden update 2
the third year they leap! 2014

They are proving to be very vigorous.  Just how much trouble could these vines get into?  They are in a concrete bed… that’ll keep them fenced in… right?   Now – They are 5 to 6 feet tall and there are just a few hints of the raspberries looking to set up housekeeping outside of the bed.  Lots of buzzing bees are blanketing the billions and billions of flowers (ok – so billions is an exaggeration – but there are a lot!)

We are looking forward to lots of berries this year. Can’t wait to taste the thornless blackberries. More on that after the taste test.

Plant buying tip: We bought berry plants from local nurseries and Raintree. The plants from rain tree were by far the most vigorous, and they have an amazing selection of edibles. 

Growing tips: We mulched every fall with a compost / fine bark mix.  I also threw a few coffee grounds in the garden, when I thought of it.