Monday, April 28, 2008

This Is Going To Be Interesting

Edge of Pink Hill, 2008, Oil on Panel, 24x36

Despite the bugs and flies that were dive bombing into our faces,* Doug and I made pretty good progress in the garden on Sunday. Our plan, oops I mean MY plan, since Doug is just my slave now now in the vegetable garden and I am the one in charge, is to really produce enough food from our garden this summer for our family to eat. Well, mostly. I suspect my youngest daughter will eat very little from the garden, but that's another story. So I spent the winter reading this book, many, many times, as well as reading up on things on the internet. It became clear that we needed to radically change the set up of the garden as well as conquer the weeds, including the evil burdock which comes up like grass around here.

Last week Doug tilled up the soil, and on Sunday we formed three rows of 3'x6' beds. Well, technically we did not form all of them because a. that's a lot of shoveling and b. we are too old to do that much in a day. but we got them all laid out, and Doug, (he had to do most of the shoveling, because of my recent back issues) got about six of them ready for planting, in addition to three more narrow rows which will be an asparagus bed. We replanted the strawberries from last year that made it through the winter, despite the fact that I did not cover them with straw like I was supposed to, and I planted a bed of peas and a bed of carrots. I have organic seed potatoes and asparagus crowns on order and they will go in as soon as they arrive. Oh and I am picking up some broccoli tomorrow and will get that in as well.

Doug is trying to get some cold frame boxes built so that we can get some greens in (not sure if THAT will happen this spring, he is notoriously slow at that kind of stuff and plus he has some traveling coming up) and in another 3 weeks or so we can start planting tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, etc. I am going to try and do some succession planting this year, which means I need to keep track of what and where I plant everything. More paperwork, ack! But it will be good to have notes on what we do each year in the garden.

We were overwhelmed by the weeds last year, the garden is being carved out of a field after all, but this year we are going to try harder to stay ahead of them. I think that we will put a weed barrier cloth down in the walkways, with several inches of mulch on top of that, which will make a huge difference. Hopefully. Then we can keep up with the beds by hand. Hopefully.

It is spring though, and all cute and perky and sparkly green here and I am feeling pretty optimistic about all of this gardening. Get back to me in a few months after I have been bitten by every bug in the state, pulled numerous muscles, been sunburned and we'll see how optimistic I am about this freaking garden by then.

*Doug and I figured out how to deal with the bugs, besides bug spray, which does NOT work. I was outside first and after a few minutes I was being driven insane by the swarm of bugs surrounding my face. I began to daydream about a veiled hat and then realized that we actually had something close-Doug's beehive gear! So I put one of the hats on and went back to work. Doug came out and totally cracked up when he saw me. After working for about 15 minutes though amongst all the bugs, he quietly went in and put the other hat on. I suspect that we looked completely ridiculous working in the garden while wearing these hats, but they did the trick. Mostly. A few did manage to squeeze in, but no swarms anyway.


Kesha Bruce said...


In my next life I will try gardening.

So I take it your back is feeling much better?

Michelle said...

I think the price of food has prompted many people. I found "weedless gardening" (google it) and IF it works, it will be a godsend for me. I too get overwhelmed by weeds.
Good luck!

Chris Rywalt said...

I personally have zero interest in gardening -- I'm a big fan of weeds since they're green and don't require maintenance. I hate having a lawn, but in the suburbs here it's a requirement or something. My back lawn, however, is now mostly wild onions and dandelions, which I think is absolutely awesome.

My son, William -- he's almost eleven -- has decided he wants to start a farm. He has this idea to sell vegetables at a market and get rich or some such. He's absolutely insane, but who am I to argue?

Over the winter, then, I bought him a seed starting container thing and whatever seeds he'd be interested in -- peppers, tomatoes, basil, melons, parsley, pumpkins, whatever. Actually, I think the pumpkin seeds might be from Halloween. Anyway. A couple of weeks ago or so he planted the container and now we have sprouts ready for planting.

Of course, this is a New Jersey backyard, so we had to go buy new dirt. Can't use the old dirt! Only wild onions and dandelions can grow in it! We've repurposed the kids' old sandbox as the start of the farm, although it isn't big enough and doesn't get the full sun some of the plants require. Yesterday I bought 8 cubic feet of gardening dirt and plopped the bags in the yard. Man, dirt is dirty. Anyway, we should be farming in no time.

I figure once William figures out farming is a lot of work for very little result, all of which is only achieved in opposition to storms, bugs, molds, spores, and fungus, he'll go back to his video games.

Tracy said...

My back is much better Kesha, in fact it was feeling pretty much back to normal until I overdid the shoveling on Sunday. Now it hurts, but just your plain old shoveling too much hurt-no spasms or anything:)

Michelle, I'd say that for the most part we are doing the weedless gardening. We debated about tilling this year, but decided to do it, only because we couldn't think of a better, more practical way of getting the existing weeds out. As long as we use enough mulch and/or weed barrier, I think it will be ok (except for the evil burdock). We are also planning to use cover crop this winter and hopefully that will help. Good luck to you too!

Chris, Nice picture!

I know what you mean about gardening-it has always seemed overwhelming to me. But in the last few years I am more interested in it and I now appreciate the purpose it brings to my days. And it doesn't always end badly, most of the problems you mention can be easily solved, by organic means even.

Our best crop last year was tomatoes, and last fall I made enough spaghetti sauce to last us through the winter. I froze it in 1 quart containers.

Hylla Evans said...

Do you know White Flower Farm in Litchfield?

Martha Marshall said...

Tracy, thanks for the book recommendation. I'm going to get it and dream of gardens.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Doesn't asparagus beds mean double-digging or have I imagined that?

Maybe we can look forward to some plein painting in the vegetable patch?

I wonder what's the big insect that you need to introduce that will eat all the little insects that generate the bee-keeping head gear?

Martha Marshall said...

Yeah Katherine, I was wondering the same thing!

Tracy said...

Hylla, No I've not heard of them. Litchfield CT?

You are welcome, Martha. It's a very good book and I wish I had even a tenth of that man's energy:)

Katherine, No double digging. According to what I have learned so far about asparagus, you have to dig a ten inch trench, add manure and compost, form a mound of soil over that. Then you place the asparagus crowns on the mound, cover with about 2" of soil and water. As the spears grow you keep adding more soil until it's level with the garden surface.

The kicker is, no harvest for at least one year, two is better. But had I planted them last year when I wanted to but was too lazy, we'd almost have spears already.

Probably way too much information:)

Oh and the nasty bugs will go away soon, they just show up in the spring to try and kill us while we are enjoying the first bit of warm weather....

Deborah Paris said...

Tracy- I also highly recommend White Flower Farm- they have a web site and one of those great catalogs you can curl up with for days. Fabulous plants and lots of good info.
I wish you had taken a picture of the two of you in the bee gear- but I am having fun imagining it!