|Raised beds in spring.|
This year I decided to reform the original raised beds on the south end of the garden as they were reduced to little more than a mere suggestion beneath the hay mulch. In preparation for this new task, I did not put down a heavy layer of hay mulch in the fall as I usually do. Come spring the mulch that was left from the previous growing season had decomposed enough that I could easily work the soil and reform the raised beds.
|Newly reformed raised beds.|
I tilled the whole area several times over to thoroughly mix in the six years of decaying mulch with the soil beneath it, and to do my best to erradicate the weed seeds. Once tilled to my satisfaction I began the tedious, muscle building task of reforming the raised beds by hand. I like my bed three to four feet wide and chose a length of fifteen feet. I commit to tending one bed every day that the weather permits in the growing season, going around the garden from bed to bed. In tending the garden this way the task does not seem so overwhelming; just one bed a day-and I find that I do a better job of keeping up with the work at hand. I created the beds by staking out the area with stakes and twine, then shoveling and raking soil into the bed area from the walkways. Once a bed was finished, I laid cardboard boxes (broken down) in the walkway to keep the weeds at bay, applied a heavy layer of hay mulch over the entire area, and the final step (also the most fun) was to plant the beds!
As soon as I had completed the new raised beds the torrential rains of spring 2008 were upon us. I watched with great despair as all of that hard work got washed away into the walkways of the garden, leaving my beds half (or less) of their original height. (Yes, the hay mulch was already in place, thank you.) Amazingly, the plants and seeds remained in the beds where they belonged as the mulch gave them just enough stability to maintain their position on the ride down.
|Chives in herb garden|
Thus began my search in ernest to find an affordable, non-toxic, easily built, permanent structure for my raised beds that would not decay over time. I had already planted my crops for 2008, and as finances limited me, I had a full growing season to mull this over while I researched the many different types of raised bed structures that were available. I had no idea there were so many different ways to support a raised bed! I have finally come to a decision, and I will be building the permanent raised beds using cinder blocks (two high) starting Spring 2009.
Another thing that I learned, or finally came to terms with, is that I can not possibly grow the amount of food I would like to grow if I am dedicating so much of my garden area to squash (which never live-I will come back to this in a bit) and melons. I have very little garden space due to our population of trees here at Fieldstone, and as I am the only one here who enjoys melons, I have decided to focus all of my efforts on the items that everyone likes, and that I can put up for winter. This decided, I will be expanding the 4 foot by 15 foot raised beds from seven to fourteen.
This year I had the great pleasure of meeting Klaus Karbaumer of Karbaumer Farm. He runs a CSA program on his farm and does all of his farming with horse power. I was so excited to meet someone still actively using horses to farm! He has proven to be a wonderful source of knowledge for me and this year I plan to learn the art of farming with draft horses from Klaus. Now back to those squash bugs that kill my squash plants before they even set blooms: I mention Klaus here, because when I lamented my woes with the fight against squash bugs, he knew the answer right away. (The same fight that I was promised some organic "snake oil" for back in 2005, which incidentally, did not work.) I could not understand why I had so much trouble with squash bugs! Well, it came as no surprise to Klaus when he asked if there were a commercial pumpkin patch within 5 miles of our land. It seems that the squash bugs will travel a distance of 5 miles to relocate, and as the commercial pumpkin patches use plenty of toxins to drive them away, they were overjoyed to find my garden so close at hand. That settles it. I'll not waste time, energy, or space on them until I can plant them in a pot, with new potting soil, inside of a greenhouse. If that doesn't work, I give up.
|12th Street Rose|
The roses that I planted in 2005 are doing so well that I am amazed. I have fallen completely in love with roses. The "12th Street Rose" is glorious, a true wonder to behold. The Rosa Blanda and Harrison's Yellow roses are also very impressive. All three of these roses were given me by a friend, and this year I decided to dig up some of the offshoot roots of the 12th Street Rose and Rosa Blanda to plant on the opposite side of the garden entrance. (I like the symetrical balance of having the sides be mirror immages of one another.) The other roses my friend brought me were Prairie Roses. I planted them on the East side of the garden area, and last year they were lost in the chest high weeds. We rescued them this year, got all of the weeds cut down, pulled all of the weeds and grass from around the planting, and mulched it with an extra heavy layer of shavings after cleaning out the barn. They are doing very well now. I expect it will not be long before they catch up with the rest. In 2006 I purchased Swamp Roses for a low spot in my garden (that is almost always wet). They have florished and are nearly as large as the 12th Street Rose.
|The Old Wheel Barrow|
When we first moved here I made a list of things that we needed. The first thing on my list was a proper garden cart, but it didn't turn out to be the first thing we purchased. I was able to make do without the garden cart, as there were other items that took precedence. The first items purchased (for obvious reasons) were a grain mill, canner, and dehydrator. Other items like the garden cart, ladder, mower, (and the list goes on) were items we could live without, but would make life so much nicer if we had them. As finances rarely allow for any expenditures beyond the absolute necessities, I have had a lot of time to research the many choices out there on the market. This year we were able to purchase that garden cart I have wanted for so long, a Vermont Garden Cart. What a joy it is to use! I have used it in one capacity or anther, nearly every single day since. Once I had my garden cart, I could finally justify rendering the old wheel barrow sitting behind the barn unuseable. Left here by the previous owners in a state of disrepair, it had been sitting on the back side of the barn for the past 5 years, not worth fixing to my way of thinking, because I knew that one day I would have that garden cart. So, what did we do with it? Turned it into a planter. We drilled holes in the bottom of it for drainage, added a layer of rock, and then dug soil out of the lowest area in the garden (next to the Swamp Roses) where we have hopes of putting in a water garden at a future date. It turned out very nicely and my water garden got a head start to boot.
The gardens were a great success this year, and about the only thing that didn't fair well was the green bean crop. This is most likely due to the errors of the gardener. The raised beds do make a difference, and for growing root crops, I've not found a better way. One of my favorite pleasures this year was the fruit. It has been a long wait, but this year we had our first decent harvest of raspberries and grapes. Not so much that I was able to put up any fruit mind you, but plenty for fresh eating. It was also a fabulous year for apples. I made fresh apple pies, dried plenty of apples for winter, put up several pints of apple sauce, and fed 5 gallon buckets of apples to the goats and horses daily for about 6 weeks. I also planted new strawberry beds this year with an heirloom variety and their splendid progress made all of that hard work reforming the raised beds worthwhile.
Although I had vowed not to replant the fruit trees after the late frost of April 2007 killed half of my 3 year old fruit trees, I did. I just couldn't stand looking out on the orchard at all of those vacant spots that once held the promise of fruit in the future. So, once again my husband dug the holes for me and we planted baby trees in the empty spots. The waiting is always the hardest part, isn't it?
|Replanting of the Orchard, 2008.|