Monday, April 4, 2011

The Garden

I start a lot of projects that I don't always necessarily finish. I never did get my loom set up to weave on almost two years ago when I settled into Hilo. I've still got the bag of Grandpa's ties, but it's been moved out the the backyard shed...I'll get to 'em one day. The shed is a project in and of itself. I've got grand plans for it to be an organized, useful space, with tools in their proper places and maybe even a handy ramp so I can store the Old Man out there during the winter. Right now it's a disaster of about a dozen bags of random stuff that need to go to the thrift store, piles of cardboard and packing paper from the move, garden tools strewn about, and my bicycle right in the middle of it all.

But the shed will hang on for a little bit longer until I can get to organizing it. The garden, however, just *could NOT* wait. Spring is springing, for heaven's sake, and I didn't want to miss my planting window!

Now despite having an advanced degree in horticulture, I haven't ever really had my own garden. Well, I take that back. I had one over ten years ago when I lived in Southwest Virginia, but I was very busy with overworking myself at my poorly paid job, and wasn't able to give it the attention and resources it needed. And I'm kinda intimidated by a garden...I suspect I might have a black thumb, or at least a brown thumb. I highly doubt it's green, or even pond scum brown (that disgusting mix of green and brown that my homemade smoothies so often resemble).

This year, I'm gonna put it to the test, though. I've got a wonderful flat and sunny yard (with too much grass to mow anyway). And the resources (i.e., disposable income) to buy stuff for the garden. So this weekend, I went to work.

I got nine 2x10x8's for three beds (cut one in half for the ends of each bed), a load of (free!!) mulch from the City of Brentwood (just had to load it up myself = good exercise), three cubic yards of topsoil and compost from Denchfield Nursery (delivered for free!!), six types of greens and four herb starts from the Takoma Park Farmer's Market, and *too* many seed packets from Seed Savers Exchange (I can save what I don't plant for next year, right? And I'm gonna split 'em with my sister.).

Friday night saw me outside cutting boards and arranging the beds, cussing a little over stripped out screw heads when I tried to go through knots in the wood. I got two beds built and situated that night before it got too dark to see what I was doing. Underneath the frames is cardboard to keep the grass from coming up through, while still allowing water to drain...that's the theory anyway.

I finished the last frame on Saturday morning. Also on Saturday, the topsoil/compost was delivered. I was super happy that the delivery driver was able to get into the alley out back, maneuver through the tight gate and patient enough to accommodate the dumping truck bed around the dead tree branches that got in his way. He was able to dump the soil about 30 feet away from the beds...just a short jaunt with a handy wheelbarrow. Then started the fun...wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load, transferring the soil from the pile into the frames. I got about halfway done with that on Saturday before I just couldn't sling dirt anymore. Oh, and I had a couple of papers to work on too--minor details. You can see the frames about half-full, each with four wheelbarrow loads in them, and the dirt pile top center. Off to the right is the pile of (free!!) mulch.

Sunday morning dawned partly cloudy, with a good chance of rain throughout the day. But I knew if I didn't get the beds done that day, they wouldn't get done for a while due to classes, papers, projects, weekend trips and races. Another four wheelbarrow loads per frame, and I was done with the dirt pile.

Planting was fun. I sectioned each bed into eight squares with some string. And then divided all the greens starts into individual plants. I hope they survive. The roots were so very fragile. But I quickly got them into the bed, and watered everything. I planted collards, arugula (arooooo-gala, Hobbes-style), two kinds of green leaf lettuce, speckled lettuce, red lettuce and cilantro from starts, and swiss chard, sugar snap peas (absolute favorite!!), radishes, spinach and kale from seed.

I've still got nasturtiums, okra, cucumbers, two types of melons, eggplants, green beans, three kinds of peppers, tomatillos and garden huckleberries (couldn't pass up the chance to grow huckleberries) to plant. And blueberries, red and black raspberries and a pawpaw tree to go in the ground also. I think I may be a little ambitious for my first garden. 

Oh, and the herb bed. This is right behind the back door, fairly convenient to the kitchen. My rosemary, chives, oregano and mint all survived the winter. And I added some sage, cilantro (can never have too much cilantro), thyme and chamomile.
Everything has survived so far. I mean it's been a day, so that's a good start, right? I watered this morning before class, and when I came home for lunch, things were looking a little droopy, so I watered again. I haven't figured out a good watering system yet. My rain barrels are fantastic storage for runoff from the roof, but the water is gravity-fed coming out. My interim solution (while I wait for creative inspiration) is to take an empty juice bottle (Trader Joe's Orange-Carrot) and punch holes in the top and one air vent in the bottom and refill it by hand from the rain barrel. Working so far.

I guess one of these days I should mow the grass too. Maybe next weekend.


sis-in-law said...

Very pretty. I'm jealous. this is the time to be planting in Uganda too, but we're not staying at this house. but the fresh peas from the market started sprouting before we ate them so I had the guard/gardner plant them.
Some mulch would help on the days you can't get to the new babies.

Karen said...

I wouldn't rush into mowing the grass. It'll be there when you get to it.
I think your brown thumb must have more green than you know.
Enjoy the bounty from the garden. Lucky you.