Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prelude to the Extra Credit. (or How I Spent my Summer Vacation)

I have been thinking about having a decent vegetable garden for many years. I don't know the first thing about gardening except you have to weed it. For a long time we had a garden in a terrible and shady inherited spot near our garage. We got bitter lettuce and deformed carrots out of it until I decided it wasn't my responsibility and my husband could take care of it. Well, that didn't work out too well and the area became a grassy mound. It's the scruffy bit on the left, at the back.

This picture is from June of 2008. We didn't have a drought last year.

Our back yard faces south--so we have wonderful exposure. I really don't know why someone decided to put it there. I wanted to put the garden closer to the house (and hose) and in a better place for sun. But first, this sidewalk would have to come out.

(Picture taken in April, 2009. Yes, that's snow in the shadows.)

As you can see, no loss really. What you can't see is a) the gate doesn't work very well and my husband has given up on keeping it square year after year. It's an "emergency exit only."

Secondly, there's a great dip where we had our old drain pipe dug up and removed many summers ago. The fellows who did it carted away too much of our soil--we had to ask them to bring some back! They did, but after a few years, when all had settled, we could easily see it wasn't enough. So, there was a dangerous valley in the sidewalk right at the front and I would trip while walking on it. Often. So, I wasn't too interested in keeping this sidewalk: and it was a perfect place for a few raised beds. I decided we'd do three this year--and eventually work up to four.

We got the sidewalk out by mid-May and the forms built, then we promptly ran out of funds. We needed dirt. Lots of dirt and we just couldn't afford it.

We had another problem too.
Remember this?

This was all the stuff left over from last year's landscaping efforts. There's concrete rubble, and cedar bush and tree bits. There's also some really inexpensive brick we bought at a salvage place. We wanted to take it to the dump: (well, except for the brick, of course) but we couldn't figure out how to get it there. We needed a hitch (which we planned to get for the camper trailer anyway) and a cargo trailer which we really didn't want to pay for--even to rent. And my husband really didn't want to pay the dumping fees, either.

And then the Jeep had its accident.

We did come up with a solution for our lack of dirt and too much rubble problem, but not in time to plant anything like a garden.

So, this evening, I ran out to take pictures of where we are, now, and what will be available for planting next spring. We may get one more form built before the snow flies but now need a roof rack (which has been unavailable from Chrysler since July).

(Above: you can easily see where the old sidewalk had been. That's alfalfa growing in the partially assembled form.

Below: the view straight on. The dip was right under the hose reel and you can see where it carries out into the yard.)

I'm not holding my breath. The furnace came on for the first time today.


Anne (in Reno) said...

Basic thoughts: you are probably at least like me and can't plant until May. So it is worth sneaking in bits of garden action before it snows.

A. concrete chunks are good for building beds with (maybe not here since you've already got some action going on but if you want a flowerbed somewhere they make great edging).

B. It will get muddy in between your beds when you water. Spare brick is good for paths if you've got enough to spare. Also solves a little bit of the settling problem - at least you don't have to dig as much to put them in.

C. Fall is the best time to amend beds. A little bit at a time is the easiest way to do it, budget-wise. So maybe this month you can buy two bags of chicken manure and fork them in. And maybe next month you can buy a couple of bags of compost and dig them in. Spreading it out makes the overall investment much less painful. And you want all that stuff to get nice and settled in before you plant anything in it - plant in the fresh stuff and your poor plants will fry!

D. Do you have any friends with trucks? I've gotten a lot of crap out of my yard by bribing Matt's buddies with a good meal or some beer, as there are a couple of them with trucks and/or strong backs. The dump is a thing to be dealt with one trip at a time. It won't all disappear so satisfyingly, but it gets the job done.

I don't know if any of this helps, but I have been doing my backyard in slow chunks like this for the last 4 years... you've already got more raised beds than I do and they look like they're in a great spot! Just stick with it and don't rush. If you can get some more bits taken care of before the snow flies you're doing great. And the more you get done now the better off you are come spring!

Anne (in Reno) said...

Wow, I know that was the longest comment ever but I was also thinking, if you need wood for one more form and can't cart it home without a roof rack - a lot of places will cut your wood for you if you ask nicely and don't need anything too complicated. So then it might fit in your car with no roof rack...

I'll stop now. ;) I'm just in hyper-garden mode now that it is starting to cool off and I need to get stuff done before snow flies too (or before the motivation flies, like when it gets dark before I get home from work)!

lauralynne said...

Those beds look great--nice and deep. You've got a head start on next year, anyway. Plus, like Anne said, you can enrich the soil now if it needs it. You can also spend the winter dreaming about what will go in each bed. That's the best part, I think.

scb said...

Those raised beds look fantastic! (Can you see from where you are how green with envy I've just become???)

Great work -- and quite a transformation the yard has been through!

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