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Gardening Up

Posted by tinako on August 28, 2012

I like to garden.  I like to see things grow, I like to eat stuff from my garden and I used to have a huge garden.  Most people who know me are amazed to discover I do not have a vegetable garden at home.  But I can explain…

I hesitate to call this a garden.  It grows puny garlic really well.

My yard of 10 years has lousy soil, heavy clay that perma-puddles in spring and turns to concrete in the summer.  This area used to be home to brick factories.   It grows grass, myrtle, and hosta well.  I’ve planted a couple good-sized flower beds with more or less success, mostly in dappled all-day shade that would not grow vegetables.  But the few areas I’ve tried to grow vegetables, despite dumping yards of peat moss and leaf mould and compost onto them every year, are underachievers to say the least.  One year I planted tomato seedlings, and at the end of the summer they were four inches high.  Literally.  That was the year I gave up.

This is my cottage garden.  Foreground is piles of dried seaweed mulch.

I’d normally be more persistent about something that matters so much to me, but I spend my summers mostly at my parents cottage.  They have great soil; I stole a patch of lawn right next to the beach, and it gets full sun from the break of dawn to after dinner.  I water it from the lake and I mulch it with washed-up seaweed and grass clippings.  The only other input is last summer’s compost pile, added in every spring before planting.  This small garden is a bounteous riot of good eats.

Even better, my daughter has started planting Roma tomatoes in three-gallon nursery pots which I bury for her in the beach rocks, a few feet from the shore.  I dig down a foot to the water level and the pots sit on that – no watering!  I pay her market prices, $2 per pound, for all the tomatoes she can produce, and I cook them into sauce which I freeze.  The first year she paid back what she borrowed to buy bagged compost, which she reuses by storing the pots for the winter, and she has made a lot of money.

But having to say goodbye to my still-producing garden on Labor Day is just too darn sad.  I want a garden at home, and even better, one I don’t have to say goodbye to in the fall.

New raised bed which of course will be perfect.

This year I finally gave up on the earth and put in a raised bed.  It was surprisingly easy and cost $50.  I made a trip to Home Depot for three Douglas fir 2×10 x 8 footers and about 15 bags of top soil I think.  I wanted a 7 x 4′ bed so I had them cut two of the boards to 7′ and one in half.  I screwed them together on the lawn, then shoveled the accumulated compost that was heaped on the old garden onto a nearby tarp to get a flat surface.  I put the bed in place, used a few short 2×4’s cut to a point to stake in the long sides and corners, screwed to the 2x10s to keep it steady and level, laid down some weed barrier fabric, coming up the sides a few inches, and started filling it up.  I also got a station-wagon load of leaf mould (leaf compost) which the town provides free from fall leaf collection.  I just line my car hatch with a tarp and shovel it in.  So it was a bit of leftover compost and then half bagged topsoil and half leaf mould.

We have woodchucks so I fenced it in as before, only it is nice and neat attached to the raised bed using bent nails which can be easily swiveled to release the fencing and open it up for access.

The tomatoes on the left were in pots here all summer, doing so-so.  The Swiss chard in the middle I brought home from the lake, to see if I can keep them going, because…

My next step is a cold frame.

2 Responses to “Gardening Up”

  1. Congrats on the new raised bed!

    I’m surprised at the groundhogs. They’re normally burrowers, which would be tough in your soil! You must have the Popeye family of those guys!

  2. […] Not wanting to say goodbye to my garden in the fall, I’ve been building a cold frame to go onto my new raised bed.  You don’t at all need a raised bed for a cold frame, and as a matter of fact it might make the soil a little colder or dryer over the winter, but I was just sick of dealing with the clay here (back story). […]

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