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Stone Hill Garden

A Quick Trip to NC

I recently traveled to Havelock, NC for two months to train other Marines in my job field.  My weekends were spent driving around the area and admiring the gardens and colorful landscaping.  I found a some great picture opportunities for my digital camera, and a chance to show my wife and children this beautiful area. where I was previously stationed from 2002-2005.Bench 

One of the streets that I drove on provided an interesting find.  I spotted a home where the owners apparently purchased the front and back lots and used the rear lot as a garden.  I must admit that some jealousy ran through me for a few seconds.  The owners had also erected a bird motel consisting of numerous hollowed out gourds.  This is a great way to keep your natural insect control close at hand!


I even managed to find an elevated water barrel that was used to water a short row of vining plants.  This is something I have been seeing a lot of in gardening posts on various sites, and I am interested in trying this in the future.Water tower 

While my home in California, and most of the western US was in a drought, I was pounded with rain during the majority of my trip in NC.  During a trip to the local New Bern Farmer's Market in New Bern, NC, I was informed that there had been an incredibly long dry spell there as well.  I guess my arrival coincidentily marked the beginning of the much appreciated and needed wet weather.

  My time in NC was enjoyable, but it's great to be home again and tending to my own crops at Stone Hill Garden in sunny Southern California.  My summer crops did not fair so well with the intense heat, so I am hoping for a good fall/winter harvest.  Happy planting and picking to all, and feel free to visit us at FaceBook.

Reaching out to San Antonio

We recently took some vacation time and traveled to Texas to visit Tabatha's family.  While we were there, we decided to plant some trees in my father-in-law's backyard and start a potted garden for him as well.  The trees came first.  My brother-in-law helped me dig the holes, and boy did we get a workout!  I didn't know that just below the top few inches of soil was a whole bunch of rocks waiting to be dug out.  We worked hard and finally had three nice holes dug and ready for whatever my father-in-law would bring back from the store.  He delivered two small fig trees and a tall peach tree that would grow to provide fruit and shade for the backyard.   We set the trees, backfilled with garden soil, added a brick border, and topped the dirt with some wood mulch.  We were all very pleased with the results.  

 One of the fig trees 

 Peach tree 

After the trees were in place, it was time to work on the garden.  My brother-in-law had started some tomato seeds that he received in the mail.  I notice that the neighbor had some plastic 55 gallon barrels in his yard and I inquired as to where he got them.  Turns out that this guy is a truck driver for the local grocery store and is able to get these food grade barrels when they are emptied.  I told him that I wanted to get one to make a garden and he kindly passed one over the fence to me.  My wife decided that cutting the barrel into three sections to create a raised garden border would be our best option.  I used my father-in-laws cordless reciprocating saw to easily 'cut' through this task.

55 gallon barrel  

The tomato seedlings were transplanted to the newly created raised garden, and we added some bell pepper seeds and carrot seeds to increase the variety and yield of this garden.  We didn't use all of the tomatoes in the garden, so we put some in pots and placed them in the front room of the house where they get plenty of sunlight and should continue to grow.

Tomatoes in pots for the front room  

My wife's family was very grateful and excited about their new fruit trees and vegetable garden.  My brother-in-law has been doing an excellent job at taking care of his new garden and looks forward to enjoying the tasty food that it will provide.  Please visit us at Stone Hill Garden to see updated pictures and posts about this garden in San Antonio and our own garden in Southern California.

Stone Hill Garden's start to 2012

Tabatha and Shane head shotAfter a long delay, I am back to  blogging. We had a rather mild winter here in southern California. My unattractive greenhouse provided a great environment for our broccoli, cauliflower, and beets. We recently harvested the last of these items and have enjoyed the wonderful flavor that they have added to our plates. My children enjoyed helping me pull the cauliflower and were more than willing to pose for a few pictures.


 Picking cauliflower

I have removed the plastic from the dome greenhouse for two reasons: 1) The tape was not holding, and the plastic kept falling off of the frame, and 2) the weather here is nice, and we don't have to worry about any more frost.

Last fall, I ordered some seeds and have started tomato, pepper, cantelope, carrot, zucchini, and eggplant seeds. I had the brilliant idea of using soil that I saved from a failed attempt at starting seeds in the fall. Well, I had some unexpected sprouts come up in the soil that I had started some tomatoes in. Actually, I had about 12 of these sprouts pop up. The sprouts look like they may be a type of squash, but I don't remember trying to start any squash in the fall. I have nine of these sprouts left, and I am looking forward to them producing a harvest so I can figure out what they are. My only guess is that these seeds needed a cold spell before they would sprout. They deffinitely got their cold spell while the dirt sat in a bucket in my garage during the winter.

Started from seed

You can check out our facebook page at to see current updates on our gardening and healthy living.

Our Half-Dome Greenhouse: Not Pretty, But Practical

Tabatha and Shane head shotThe final modification we made to our garden in 2011 was to add a greenhouse.  The cold nights were harsh on the plants and managed to kill the green pepper, tomato, and cucumber plants we had.  The beets, cabbage, and broccoli were surviving, but we knew they needed protection from the cold.  About a week after I finished the project, we received our latest issue of GRIT that happened to have an article on a D.I.Y. greenhouse.  I had to laugh a little when I saw the great design in the magazine compared to my half dome version that I built.

  My boys and I made a trip to the local Home Depot to purchase some 1/2 inch PVC pipe (schedule 40), T-connectors, 6 mil heavy duty plastic, and some wide Gorilla Tape.  I wasn't exactly sure what shape to give the greenhouse, so I decided to just start building and adjust as necessary.  The structure naturally took a rounded shape from the beginning.  The PVC pipe was very easy to work with.

 The structural support of our half dome greenhouse 

I added some short sections of PVC around the edge of the brick garden border.  I covered the tops of these pipes with some tape.  These sections of pipe will help to keep the plastic covering from rubbing against the bricks and tearing.

All I needed to do now was to add the plastic covering, or so I thought.  After I started adding the plastic, I realized that I had not accounted for a way to gain access to our garden after the greenhouse was finished.  At this point I was hoping that I would be able to just pick up the plastic along the center pole in the front and pull it up high enough to access the garden.  In the end, this actually worked!

 The finished greenhouse 

The back of the greenhouse is covered with an old tarp that was in our garage.  I staked down the bottom of the tarp and let it hang over the greenhouse.  I trimmed the tarp to fit the shape of the structure as I taped it down.  In the end it took me about 4 hours over 3 days to construct the greenhouse.  My boys helped me as much as they could.

 My boys finished planting the broccoli and cabbage in the new greenhouse 

  Now that the greenhouse is finished we started the new year by planting some seeds in starter pots.  Tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, and kale were our choice to begin the year with.  The boys got their hands dirty again and helped me with preparing our future food sources. The boys even planted some carrot seeds in plastic juice bottles as their own project.  If the project goes as planned, then the boys will be able to watch their carrots grow!

 My boys starting their carrot project Our first starter seeds for the new year 

The Beginning of Stone Hill Garden and Its Military Ties

Tabatha and Shane head 

shotI grew up in central Pennsylvania where gardening is a family activity. As a child I enjoyed earning a nickel for every potato beetle that I picked from the plants. My favorite part was enjoying the delicious ripe veggies as soon as I picked them and managed to wipe them clean on my shirt.

Tabatha had some exposure to gardening as well when she was a child. She also had some experiences with goats and chickens. Tabatha has always had a ‘green thumb’ and enjoys maintaining indoor plants as well as growing food in the garden.

Now we are all grown up with a family of our own. We started a small kitchen herb garden in 2007 and then decided to establish a potted garden on the patio of the house we were renting in Yuma, Arizona in 2010.

Yuma potted 

At the time we were both on active duty in the Marine Corps. It can be difficult to start or maintain a garden while someone is in the military. You never know when you could be deployed, sent away for an extended period of time for training or even told that it’s time for you to move to a different base.

In 2010 I volunteered to be relocated to southern California. We continued our gardening practices here in California and we have actually ditched the pots and put some tomato and pepper plants in the ground. I talked about gardening while at work, and this has rubbed off on a few of my fellow Marines who have decided to start a small garden as well.

boys celery 

We have involved our children with the gardening since the beginning. Gardening has been both entertaining and educational for all of us. I asked my oldest son to think of a name for our garden recently and he almost immediately responded with Stone Hill Garden. Both of my sons contribute to the gardening effort and they also enjoy eating the rewards that we have been blessed with.

We have recently moved to a new house and have transplanted veggies from our previous house. We transplanted 3 tomato plants and 4 bell pepper plants. Only the fullest tomato plant survived the transplant and continued to produce beautiful red fruit for us. 


The pepper plants did much better and we only lost 1 of them after the move. 

Bell Peppers 

My wife and I have been mentally planning out our gardening plots for the house that we have moved into. We have agreed to do more reading and be prepared to plant in the spring instead of just putting some seeds in the dirt on a random day of our choice.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with the GRIT community. Hopefully I can inspire some of the other military families to at least try a small potted garden of their favorite herbs and veggies that they can be proud of and share the rewards with their family or friends.

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