Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Layers and Layers

I made a few changes in my gardens this year. Last year I had two vegetable gardens, the front one and the back one.  Yes, we have a vegetable garden in the front yard, we are "those" neighbors. The back one was put in by the previous owner of the house, who also planted a few fruit trees, all too close to the woods, so that they do not receive enough sunlight to produce much of anything. 

The back garden was placed right next to the woods, all the veggies in it leaned and stretched southward toward the sun.  I'd tie up my tomatoes and all of the new growth would lean toward the sun and I would have to pull them back again, and again.  I decided to dig out the fence posts and put them around the front garden. I started digging, what appeared to be 4 ft fence posts were really five foot fence posts sunk really deeply into the clay soil to support a 3 ft chicken wire fence.  It took several sessions of digging while mumbling somewhat unrepeatable words about overkill in sinking posts 2 feet deep for a little chicken wire fence, to get all of the posts removed. The first session with my mom who was visiting. She removed the old chicken wire fence which was attached to the posts in somewhat creative ways, while I fought with the clay.

I finally finished digging the posts out a few weeks ago and moved them to the front yard.  enclosing an area that was twice the size of the garden, anticipating expanding it over the next couple of years.  I bought new fencing, knowing that it won't keep out the deer, but it will keep out the neighborhood dogs, some the the less creative rabbits and maybe even discourage the chickens a little.

As I'm writing this, I am looking out of the window wondering why when it comes time to take pictures for this blog, it's always raining.  I just chuckled to myself, realizing that I would be busy working in the garden and not blogging if it was a dry day.

So, having fenced in twice the developed area, and having decommissioned a decent size garden, I realized that I was going to need more beds than I currently had to plant half of what I wanted to plant.  The issue is with squash, my daughter has finally come around to the idea that winter squash is yummy.  She will eat seconds and then later scrape the bowl for the last bits as we clear the table.  I can grow it and know that it will get eaten now, but it takes up a lot of space.  I will be doing some three sisters plots with popcorn, pole beans and squash, but I want three different squash varieties, which hedges the situation if one type fails...which means that I need more garden space this year, not eventually.

I'm not digging into the soil because it is a slight slope and will erode and because the weeds we call a lawn won't even grow well there, though the weeds do well fifty feet away.  Mowing that section in the front gives me flashes of the beginning parts of The Grapes of Wrath, as the dust swirls and settles around me. This whole region was once tobacco farms and my yard is one of the flatter places around. I know it hasn't been farmland for at least forty-five years, but I think the soil is still destroyed.  No sense it starting with inferior material, I'm building up. I've spent the last few days laying cardboard and covering it with horse manure and the straw that I mucked out of the chicken coop. The cardboard will decompose and be worm food, adding to the soil.

The flower bed

Planting beds on the left are mostly from the last two years, the new ones are forming on the right.

Cardboard with horse manure, I need to make 5 more trips to the horse farm for the veggies and one to two for the flower beds. I need more cardboard!

Sugar snap peas, with bitty weeds.

I get my cardboard at the waste transfer station, here it is called the convenience center.  There are signs that you are not allowed to scavenge there,   Yesterday, my biggest supporter was working, she  started using the cardboard as a weed suppressor in her own yard last year after I explained what I was doing. She fished out a nice thick pile of furniture boxes for me, and even yanked off some of the big pieces of tape.  It feels less like dumpster diving if I have the enthusiastic approval of the people supervising the site. Some of the folks will just sigh and say I can take some, clearly wondering about the sanity of the lady in the square car with the weird gardening methods.

I have made five or six trips to the horse rescue farm to collect the manure in Rubbermaid tubs to tote home in my car.  I'm about half-way there filling in the new plots.  All this so that I can plant butternut, Guatemalan blue and delicata winter squash and still have space for crookneck and zucchini and tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, beans, popcorn, herbs, potatoes...lost control, yeah...

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