Planning the Structure of the Fall and Winter Gardens at the End of Summer

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We are dealing with a drought and heat in Houston. The large number of water main breaks has caused water restrictions, yet I am working on my plantings for a harvest later in the year. Part of this work is focusing on the structure of the garden.

Katya and I sit on the edge of the new garden bed, where we discuss my three sisters planting. We compare the leaves of the green onions that are behind me and the corn shooting up beside her. Then we move onto the flowers. I began this bed before the water restrictions were put into place, but I am still hoping for a harvest in October. I am looking more towards the structure of the garden though as I prepare for the fall and winter. Most of my projects have involved using recycled materials, then painting them to hide the mixture of items. The projects have been a cold frame, a solar oven, a few raised beds, an outdoor storage/workspace,a seating area, a stage, and compost bins. These are not all complete, but I thought that I would share what has been done so far.

Cold Frame

cold frame
I am into seasonal vegetables, but I thought that having a cold frame this year may be helpful for preparing for spring as well as having warm season vegetables during winter. The dimensions of the frame are based upon two factors: the size of the bed being converted; and the size of the recycled materials being used. This frame is not complete. The front will be a glass panel from a sliding glass door. The top will be a half inch thick single piece of glass that had been in a large aquarium.

Solar Oven

solar oven
This is my latest solar oven. The glass is from an aquarium again. The wood was found along the side of a road. The insulation is from an old car window shade and a spray foam can that was almost empty. The interior was sealed with plaster from an old art project. The front was angled to catch the later day sun. A stone paver was placed in the bottom as a thermal mass. I still want to paint this black. I use black cast iron dutch oven for cooking in here.

Raised Beds

raised bed
I have used slightly raised beds in my garden. I did not want to import dirt for my garden. I wanted to amend what was already here. I had only one large bed with purchased soil. I decided to make more raised eds in the last month. The one pictured will be the more whimsical. A plastic playhouse was not being used. Instead of throwing it out, I took the roof parts as the front of the bed; the body became the rear of the bed. Some recycled lumber has become the side. You can make a raised bed from anything, right?

Storage, Work, and Compost

The space has been a storage area, but it did become a bit disorganized after I had to take down the treehouse for my children. The reorganization of the entire garden is taking place, so this space sees items coming into the area, then out the next day. There is storage areas for pots and recycled lumber. There is a workbench for potting plants. Below this workbench is the compost bench. I have other compost areas, but I am changing my composting places as well. I am working on an earthworm composter too.

Seating Area and Stage  

seating areastage
The seating area was created by creating a U-shape with blocks that I already possesed. Pavers became the seats. The rear fence was the railing in the treehouse. The table/ planting box was made from decking material from the treehouse. My son wants a fire pit here, but I am not sure how that will work into the area.

With the treehouse gone, I also took the decking and supports to make a stage near the porch. I had to take at the landscaping in this location to fit in the stage, so I will have to redo the plantings. The stage serves as a seating area, hence the pillows. As we sit on the porch after dinner, the girls sing and dance. My wife wants me to create a frame for curtains. I am not sure.

Most of these projects were begun a week ago. I need a bit more material to complete a few. I need plants, but this will have to wait till I can water properly. I used another railing from the treehouse to create a fence in a front bed. I think that I will use this for vines. Hopefully the drought will end soon. I wanted to fill these spaces with plants again. 

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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