Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Garden Mania!

So with my first season at this house, I really wanted to go all out with my garden. When buying the house, I had dreams of a large rolling garden where I could feed my family and not have to rely on anyone else. OK, that was a dream- and I have a life and work full time and have a 2 year old - so this rolling garden will have to stay in my dreams for now. So to understand my situation, you need to see what my garden looks like.

As you see, NOT MUCH AT ALL! I have space, but I literally am starting from scratch. I talked to the previous owners (three owners back to be exact) and they USED to have a large garden so I knew that MAYBE there was some decent soil below. The whole area is on a slight slope which is good, and I think it gets 6+ hours of sun. There is a big tree to the left and I am not sure how the shade will impact it, but only time will tell!

So the biggest part of planning for me was making me be realistic about what I would grow. I started huge, and then came back to reality, and paired it down alot. My overall objective was to grow food that I could freeze/store for the winter. Being local in the winter is pretty tough- salad and spinach is the extent of your options! So I decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to get my weekly veggies, and I would grow food for the winter. So right there I narrowed down my choices for veggies. Here is my initial list:
  1. tomatoes
  2. cucumbers
  3. salad & spinach
  4. peppers
  5. pole beans
  6. onions
  7. garlic
  8. squash

OK, then came the seed catalogs and my list grew to include Sunberry's, okra, lots of herbs and flowers, as well as micro tom tomatoes, carrots, watermelon, artichokes, and bird house gourds. As you see, I went away from the idea of food just to store as I really wanted artichokes and watermelon! So as you see- a give and take! So then I had to plan the actual garden. Since I didn't know what the soil was like, I decided to try lasagna gardening which is also called sheet composting. I basically would build beds above the ground with layers of materials like peat moss and manure and compost. So to make a long story shorter....last weekend I built my garden. Here is what I did - I planned to make 2 4x8 beds and then grow cukes and beans around this structure I have. This is what I ended up with:

If you notice, I 4 4x8 beds, a smaller square for squash, and a few areas around the bean area for salad, and a few other areas for companion plants like flowers for pollinating etc. So --- I planned on two beds, and ended up with many more!! The key was using my friend Ken's Mantis tiller, I loved it! You couldn't stop me. The soil, after I broke through the crust of sod, is WONDERFUL. A nice sandy loam.

Here I am tilling up the sod, the right shows the results of my work. THANKS KEN AND EILEEN!

The lasagna beds are the 'sloppy' looking ones. They ain't pretty but have great stuff in them. I got some rotted manure from my friend Becca, old hay from a neighbor, leaves from my yard, and compost from my yard as well. I bought peat moss and just kept layering! Here are some pics of the lasagna process:

As you see I first measured and marked where the bed would be, put down large mats of newspaper, covered with peat moss, then started layering. The final results is this:

So there you go! I am going to plant right into that peat moss and I should be good to go. I am going to do intensive planting like the square food gardening method. Beyond planting, the next thing to do is to put up a deer fence and to lay down cardboard and pine needles to make paths. If you note the large space between the beds, this is because I have lots of space, and wanted to be able to drive a wheel barrow between the rows.

So more from me once I start planing! My plan is to plant the peas, onions, and spinach this week. Other seedlings are growing inside getting strong and big for after frost time!