"Harvest what you have"
Easy Up Fencing
Do you have little knowledge or talent for fence building? Perhaps you are focused on planting your garden and don't have the time to build a fence right away. If you have trouble with deer getting into your garden and need a quick fence to deter them, there is an option for keeping out the critters until you are able to build a permanent structure. Tulle fencing may not seem like a sturdy alternative, but it works wonders for deterring deer and more...
I can't remember where I first heard about this option, but we implemented it last year. It kept out deer, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. I even saw a hare attempting unsuccessfully to enter our garden area. It jumped, hit the tulle, and bounced right back on its haunches. It probably could have entered by crawling underneath the tulle, but it never attempted it. This year we will also be using it to deter the neighbors' cats from using our garden as a litter box. We added bricks at the bottom to help discourage the felines from crawling underneath.
This fencing method is super simple (if I can do it, so can you!) and only requires three items to build.
- Plant Stakes
- Office Clips
Why tulle? Tulle allows air, sun, and water to pass through it. You can put it around, or even over your plants without it blocking out the sun and you can water the plants right through it. In spite of its lightness, the look and feel of it deters some of the animals.
Finding the supplies:
You can find tulle at many stores. I purchased mine from JoAnn Fabrics and Walmart. It ran between .99/yard and 1.99/yard. I found the wider 72" tulle at JoAnn Fabrics. I was quite fortunate that their salesperson used this method of fencing the previous year and was able to give me a few tips. She put my initial doubts to rest by assuring me the tulle fencing works well. She said the deer don't like the feel of it on their noses and recommended the 72" wide fabric so we could leave the top to wave a bit in the wind as an extra deterrent.
Plant stakes and office clips are equally easy to find. Plant stakes can usually be found during spring in the gardening section at places like Lowes or Ace Hardware, or you can purchase them online. I found mine at Amazon.com. You can find something similar to what I purchased here. Office clips can be found at any office supply store and in many department stores. I found medium size office clips at both Walmart and Staples. They were under $5 for a pack of 15 at Staples in spring of 2023. They did have better deals online, so you can find a better price per item by shopping around a bit. Amazon had a much better price online than what I found in the stores in 2023 (see here).
Building the fence:
I set the stakes at each outside corner of the garden area. No tools were required. All that was needed was to push them into the ground. I found that twisting them back and forth a bit while holding very near the bottom helped the pointed edge to better work its way into the turf. I also set stakes in between the corners to help secure the middle of the sides and to keep it from sagging. Before erecting the sides, I planned where I wanted the ends of the tulle to meet so that I could easily unclip the ends to enter the garden. I wanted access at two points, so I cut my tulle into two sections. I ran one from the center of the tall garden bed to the gap between the two shorter beds, using an office clip to secure the tulle to each stake at the top and the bottom of the stake. I ran the second piece in the other direction, clipping the beginning to the same post as the beginning of the first piece and the end to the same post as the end of the first piece. This left me with the two pieces clipped together in the middle of the tall bed and the other ends clipped together near the center of the two shorter beds. To access the garden, I only need to unclip the tulle where the two pieces meet to make an opening. When erecting the tulle this year, I made sure to leave a couple of inches at the bottom on which to set the bricks and the rest I left at the top to flutter in the breeze.
These materials are durable, but not indestructible. Wind was the most detrimental factor to this set up. We had one really strong wind storm last year that bent a few of the stakes. We tried gently bending them back into position this year, but the stakes I purchased were hollow and broke from the metal stress. Nevertheless, I used them again this year by breaking off the bent part. They are somewhat shorter, but still usable. Also, one section of the tulle tore a bit in the last storm so I just trimmed it off. In spite of this, we were able to re-use all of our materials from last year and had enough stakes left over to enclose a bush on the hill and two more garden boxes that we added this year. We only had to buy a bit more tulle and a few more office clips for the new beds.
Would I change anything? This set up worked really well, though I would definitely prefer a sturdier stake. However, given the temporary nature of this type of fencing, the cost difference would have to be fairly minimal before I would consider making the purchase.
I wanted to add a final thought. I have no illusions that this fence is the perfect deterrent. We have not had a deer jump the fence, but that is not to say that a deer couldn't jump the fence. What I do know, is that it is a deterrent and that it has helped protect our garden for the past two seasons.
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Tulle "fencing" around the garden beds.
Orange mint hanging to dry
Why Grow & Forage Herbs?
Adding herbs to your preparedness plan only makes sense. Are you planning to “bug in”? If so, you will want to be able to grow your own food. Growing herbs is an easy way to begin even if you have never planted your own garden. Herbs can be planted directly in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers. Many of them can be grown in indoor containers year-round. Are you planning to “bug out”? Then learning how to identify and harvest plants in your area will be crucial. What can be used raw, what needs to be cooked, and what can be dried for later use are all good questions to investigate now before you find yourself needing this information. If circumstances become dire, having a way to add flavor to your food will help avoid food fatigue (a condition that can develop where, even though hungry, a person may not eat when given the same thing to eat over and over). (1) (2) This can be especially helpful with the young, who may not have yet developed the self discipline to eat if the food is bland.
Three Ways to Preserve Your Zucchini Bounty
So, you planted a few zucchini plants and now you are drowning in zucchini. What can you do with the harvest once you have eaten or given away all you can? See below for three ways to preserve your bounty and enjoy zucchini throughout the year...
We have frozen shredded zucchini for many years and use it in many baked goods recipes. I just shred, package in freezer bags, flatten, and pop in the freezer. Later in the year, I take one out to thaw, drain the liquid, and use it to make zucchini bread or chocolate zucchini cake. It works best if you freeze the shredded zucchini in the quantity you need for your recipe so you do not have to measure once it is thawed.
I started freezing zucchini this way when I heard about a recipe for summer squash soup with basil. We love basil, but not everyone in the family loves zucchini. This soup, however, was a hit with the whole family! Because the recipe calls for the soup to be pureed, it is easy to substitute frozen zucchini for fresh. This way, you can have summer squash soup year-round. To freeze, just cut your zucchini into chunks, measure the amount for your recipe into a freezer bag, and pop it in the freezer. I like to drain the liquid off before using, but it isn't necessary. Click here for a link to the recipe.
These are simple to make and are a healthy alternative to store-bought potato chips. To make these, just slice your zucchini thin, toss with a tiny bit of olive oil (this part is optional - we have done it without the oil and it turned out fine), season with salt and pepper (or any other seasonings you like), and put into a dehydrator at the temperature recommended by the manufacturer for vegetables. Alternatively, if you do not have a dehydrator, you can dry them in the oven. Just line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake on low (around 235 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You will need to monitor the chips closely and take them out as they become crispy to avoid burning them. These can be eaten right away or stored for several weeks in an airtight container.
This was a new idea we tried this year. It is very easy to make. Just dehydrate (in the dehydrator or in the over as per above, just don't add oil or seasonings) thinly sliced zucchini. If you are drying large zucchini, it is best to remove the seeds and peel first since they tend to be rather tough. When it is fully dry, blend in a blender until you have the consistency of flour. Store in an airtight container and use within six months. You can add oxygen remover packets to increase the storage time if desired.
This is good to mix with regular flour for added vitamins. Since it is gluten free, I plan to only substitute about 1/4 - 1/3 of the regular flour in the recipe with zucchini flour. I also plan to try it as a thickener in soups and sauces, where a little extra vegetable flavor will complement the dish.
Zucchini can be substituted for cucumbers in many canning recipes. The texture, however, is a bit different. Since relish calls for diced vegetables, relish is one of the best ways to disguise zucchini in a canning recipe. Simply substitute zucchini for cucumbers in your favorite relish recipe and process per the recipe's instructions.
Bread and Butter Pickles
This is another recipe that we enjoy making with zucchini. As stated above, the zucchini doesn't turn out as crisp as the cucumbers, but the flavor is still fabulous. We only use zucchini in recipes that call for sliced cucumbers rather than whole or spears. Again, just substitute zucchini for the cucumbers in your favorite recipe and process per your recipe's instructions.
The humble, versatile zucchini