Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Great Garden Expansion of '17

We opted out of our community garden this year which prompted a rather fantastic garden expansion at home.  Not only is it bigger, but oh!  It is so much better, too.
Last year we felt our performance at the community garden was rather sub-par.  Matt was working full-time which meant he didn't have mornings to work on things with the retired guys anymore.  We were still selling tie-dye, camping, volunteering elsewhere, going to concerts, and all other sorts of wonderful, time-consuming activities.  So, the community garden got neglected.  And we felt bad.  I mean, if we let our own garden get full of weeds that is one thing, but neglecting the crops we're growing collectively for the needy is another.  So, after much reflection we decided our days there were over.  It was a positive experience and served us very well when we were still renting and just had that bitty flower bed to garden in.
To expand the garden we did a pretty major reconfiguration.  Previously we had beds that ran north-to-south as well as beds that ran east-to-west.   We decided to streamline that and make them all run north-to-south.
Initially we'd made the beds four feet wide and the paths three feet wide.  We decided that could use some adjustment, too.  The beds are now three feet wide and the paths 18-24 inches wide.  Four foot beds were just a little too wide to reach across comfortably.  They were also too wide to jump/step over easily.  Both those issues are resolved by making them just a foot narrower.  By making the paths narrower as well we retained an equivalent amount of growing space.  Two feet is still wide enough to push a wheelbarrow down, albeit just barely.
Matt sank some 2x4s into the earth around the perimeter of the garden.  This has been fan-foo-goo-tastic at keeping the grass from encroaching on the veggies.  It was a pain in the butt, so Matt tells me, but it was worth it.  A short term pain for a long term benefit.
Ginger really loved the expansion project.  She thinks it is swell when we spend hours and hours on end outside with her.  She'd prefer it if we'd just quit our jobs already and hang out in the yard all day.  So, she's stoked whenever it happens.  She also gets quite the thrill from rolling in dirt and as Matt was ripping up sod she kept getting more and more exposed dirt to flop about in.
Matt considered renting a machine that removes sod, but in the end decided against it in favor of some good ol' fashioned elbow grease.  It really didn't take him long either.  He pulled the edge boards from the old raised beds and just cut out the grass paths that had been between them.  The end result being one larger and contiguous garden space.
Matt ripped up all the sod contained by that red line in the photo above, connecting the four nearest beds with the rest of the garden.
After the sod was removed Matt borrowed a tiller from his dad and ran it over the whole space until it was light and fluffy, just begging to be planted.  (The garden had to wait though as it took us forever to actually get around to planting most of it.)  We walked back and forth over the paths compacting it down.  We're still not sure if we'll cover the paths with something--stone, bark, etc.  Or maybe we'll just have perpetually muddy garden shoes by the back door.
The hardware store down the street from our house had a sale on compost and we bought a lot.  Like.  A lot.  While we make our own compost we never seem to make enough of it.  We thought we'd started to notice a decline in the productivity of our soil, too, so....  a few carloads of compost later and hopefully things will be better this year.
We've harvested the garlic, but it is still drying and hasn't been weighed or enjoyed yet.  We've eaten a few meals with chard.   We didn't get around to covering it before the leafminers found us though.  Alas.  So, we're back to eating bugs.  :)  Or checking the leaves super closely.  That's what I meant, of course.
We're trying onion starts this year instead of sets or seed.  So far they seem to be growing well.  We hope they work out.  It was certainly a lot less work than starting and tending seeds in the basement from February on.   Ginger has no respect for paths or plants, of course, so she insists on laying on/in the onions.
The flowers, too, for that matter.  Good think she is so cute.
And such a helpful garden companion.
We had quite a nice haul of berries--currants, raspberries, and strawberries.  We didn't get them all.  Life was too chaotic, but we got most of them, I think.  There were some days where I could only squeeze in five minutes of picking.  But hey, five minutes is better than none!  We're already up over five pounds with the raspberries.  The birds and bugs can enjoy the rest this year, I suppose.  We'll still be making jam so....hooray!   We need to be sure and cut back some of the raspberry canes this fall though.  It is a jungle in there--hard to pick and rather poky.  Ginger thinks it is a swell fortress though, so there is that at least.
This summer marks the first time one of the mini-orchard trees is actually fruiting--the Haralson apple.  The others, well, they're not thriving quite as well.  The three in the front yard have been mowed down repeatedly by the neighborhood deer.  Matt finally had to cage one to give it a fighting chance.  I joke that it looks like fruit tree Alcatraz.  We planted a couple grape varieties along the front fence this year, too.  We'd love to have our own grapes for fresh eating, jelly, and wine.  Someday!
It looks like it will be a good year for peppers.  The eggplants are dressed in lovely purple blooms--and even a couple fruits about as big as Matt's thumb.
We've expanded our flower offerings again this year.  We took the back corner bed out of rotation for vegetables.  It didn't get enough sun and was a pain to work in because it was such a wide bed.  So, we made our own blend of flower seeds from odds and ends we'd been gifted and scattered the heck out of it.  We moved the garden bench back there, too.  So now we've a lovely spot to sit among the flowers and look out over the garden.  Our neighbor recently gifted us some seeds and slips from her garden so we found places to tuck them in as well.  Hooray for flowers!  They do really brighten up the place.
The squash didn't really take off, but fortunately a volunteer did.  We're hoping it is a butternut, our favorite.   The tomatoes sure are taking their sweet time, but might surprise me and amount to something.  I wasn't so sure after we tried to kill them with thirst back in that distracting first week of June.  The potatoes are up and looking quite vigorous....we're (im)patiently waiting for our first taste.  Too late to be paired with peas (which we didn't even get planted this year because the expansion took so long...so it all worked out), but hey, new potatoes rock all by themselves.  No peas required.
We're very pleased with the new configuration back there.  I think it will serve us well.  Better than the previous arrangement for sure.  It is easier to water and there are fewer edges to have trim around before we mow the yard.  Having the narrower beds has already made planting and weeding a delight by comparison.
We got a late start, but who knows!?  The 2017 garden might yet play out better than expected.


  1. That is an AMAZING garden!

    ~Have a lovely day!

  2. Wow - so impressive! It's beautiful, and I'm happy for Ginger, too. ;-)

    1. Thanks, Lisa. We're all pretty thrilled about it.


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