Garden 2013

It’s amazing how productive you can be when your son wakes you up at 6:30 a.m. We’d planned to spend the morning getting raised beds built for our backyard, and because we were up so early, they were done by 10 a.m. (and we even had pancakes for breakfast for getting our DIY on, too)! We planned to have two plots in the community garden this summer, but realized that even though the community garden is only four blocks away, we just weren’t making the effort to get over there every day and BAM the weeds have taken over our two plots. So instead of stressing about it all summer, I’ve given my plots up so someone on the waiting list who really wants them can have them, and we put in some raised beds in the backyard instead. Much easier to just dash out the door and tend to the plants in the backyard than have to pack up the Peanut, get toys for him, a blanket, etc. to go to the community garden (any other moms notice how getting ready to go anywhere with kids takes about four times as long?).

We decided to put the raised beds around the shed because the shed walls will continue to give off heat from the day even after the sun goes down, and in a place like Montana, we’ll take that season-extending radiant heat for sure.

Shed beforeI bought eight 2×8-foot untreated cedar boards to build the beds (cedar is somewhat rot resistant). We used frame anchors and galvanized nails to put the boards together; the boards we cut in 4-foot and 2-foot lengths to make 2×4-foot beds.

When you lack a sawhorse, improvise.

When you lack a sawhorse, improvise.

Peanut sat on a blanket in the grass playing with toys, newspaper, and tools (got to start those little DIYers young, you know).

Peanut in grass

He also reminded us to do things properly and use the level!

Peanut with level

So by 10 a.m. we had five raised beds (though a friend just surprised us with a bunch more plants — one of the tomatoes he gave us is already 4 feet tall! — so we may need to built another one or two). We put layers of wet newspaper down on top of the grass to kill it (and because newspaper is biodegradable while a lot of weed fabric is not). We filled them with locally made potting soil (organic mix of compost, vermaculite, and perlite) and got to planting seeds!

Raised beds 2I planted two kinds of basil, spinach, red chard, carrots, bush beans, peas, onion sets, and zucchini. We’ll plant tomatoes and garlic tomorrow, and noodle on building a couple more beds or just buying some planters for the other plants.

Raised beds 1After the raised beds were finished, my husband planted to raspberry canes another friend gave us along the fence, where they can keep our neighbor’s lovely lilac bushes company. We still need to mulch them and put some river rocks around the raspberry cane bed, but we’re looking forward to enjoying ripe red berries soon!

Raspberry canesAll in all, a very productive day. I don’t have anywhere near the space I had to garden last year when we lived out in the country (heavy sigh), but on the other hand, I am much more busy this summer with Peanut and the brewery, so I think in the end it’s actually a blessing. We are going to put river rocks around the raised beds as well for decoration (and for when we move… we’re definitely taking our raised beds with us, and since the grass will be dead beneath them, we want to ring the area in stones so it looks like a nice garden bed for whoever lives in this house next).

I am looking forward to enjoying the garden this summer, and am especially excited to involve the Peanut this year. What are you growing your garden? Is it a raised bed garden like mine, or do you have acres at your fingertips?

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Renovation of the world

“There is, indeed, something inexpressibly pleasing in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature.” – Samuel Johnson

A week ago, before planting the transplants I bought, my husband built up five more beds in the garden.

We ran out of the horse manure compost that a friend with a horseback riding operation gave us, so we used organic compost from a local gardening shop in these beds. We laid a thin layer of compost, and I added some organic bone meal, too. I did this, because, as mentioned before, my soil test showed that the garden’s soil was lacking in nitrogen and phosphorus.

Here’s yours truly spreading the compost. Yes, I am wearing a fleece. Why? Because up here at 48 degrees (latitude), that’s also been the high temperature for a while. We have glorious autumns here, but cold and wet springs. In fact, there’s a winter weather advisory in our area today. Sigh.

Here’s the garden as it was about a week ago after planting the transplants. I apologize I haven’t posted this sooner, but I’ve been busy, ya know. The garden looks much the same now, except the lettuces and carrots are coming up, as are the onion sets and the buckwheat. And the weeds. Oh the weeds. I weeded for half an hour yesterday and got one half of one bed done. Well, that’s what I get for not weeding for a week: Now I get to spend my free time weeding!

Of the transplants I planted: I planted a pumpkin, a zucchini, a squash, two tomatoes, a pepper, mint, cilantro, shallots – all of these from the local Terrapin Farm. From a local greenhouse, I planted corn, more squash, cucumbers, cabbage, lavender, parsley, basil, oregano, and dill.

From seed I planted spinach, red romaine, rainbow chard, ruby red chard, carrots, acorn squash, cucumbers, snow peas, blue lake bush beans, onion (from sets, technically), sunflowers, and a bunch of wildflowers on the outside perimeter.

Here’s the herb garden we planted. In it there’s parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, lavender, mint, and dill. We love to use fresh herbs in our cooking.

Here are the corn transplants. I will not be doing these again. At least not transplants that are this big. These transplants have taken an absolute beating with wind and rain, and yesterday, hail. They don’t have the established roots they need to stand up to the beatings, which, looking at the weather report, will continue until morale improves. Lesson learned.

And yesterday it hailed for fifteen minutes. The hail was about blueberry size. Big enough to cause some damage. I think I lost a squash plant, probably some of the corn, and time will tell what else I’ve lost once the lake in the middle of the garden recedes. We also had a bird get in the house, trying to escape the hail (we had the door open because we were standing on the porch watching the hail come down). It flapped around inside for a few minutes until we could get it out. Hopefully the hail didn’t kill it! It is supposed to rain more today (and snow up high). The picture below shows the hail. And the puddles full of hail that are probably three or four inches deep.

It’s supposed to warm up in the next few days. Hopefully, if everything didn’t drown, I’ll see some real growth out there!

Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Ten points to the person who knows where the quote in the title of this post comes from.

So the girl who lived in this apartment last lived here for three years. In that time, she put in a garden in the backyard and she did a really good job. The town where I live is very industrial and the houses are all about three inches apart (no, I’m not exaggerating), so it’s a good piece of luck to have the space for a garden in the backyard of the apartment.

The garden is sturdy, has that great blue door and is covered in chicken wire so the pigeons can’t get in. We have a serious pigeon infestation at this apartment. To the point where our friend Devon’s offer to come shoot pigeons with a BB gun is growing on me. The pigeons have also taken to roosting on our porch, which sucks big time because now it’s covered in pigeon poop. So on our list of things to do this weekend is buy some screen and screen in the porch. And scrub pigeon poop.

Anyway, the garden has three raised beds built in pallets, which I spent some time Monday (when the temperature got up to a whopping 50 degrees!) weeding and cleaning up the garden area. To the left of the fenced-in area, I’ve started a compost pile. Still trying to figure out how to discourage the neighbors from tossing their trash in it. Since Shawn and I apparently live in eastern Europe (I’ll post a pic soon to illustrate that point).

We plan to cover the garden in white plastic too so it will be more like a greenhouse. It still gets pretty cold here at night until well into June. Here’s my point illustrated:

36 degrees at 11 a.m. in May. Ugh.

The plastic will be roll-up-able, and we can clip it up with clothes pins to let air circulate so it doesn’t get so hot inside in July and August. But to protect against those June (and probably July) frosts, we’ve got to get something up. Oh the trials of living at a mile high.

But despite the weather, there’s hope. While I was weeding and turning the soil over (it’s great soil, too), I noticed some small rhubarb plants pushing up. Yay!

Last night we went to a fundraiser for the community garden, which is also conveniently two blocks from our apartment, and I’m planning to get involved there too. They need some help composting and building raised beds. Huzzah for putting my master gardener class to use!

One fabulous outcome of the evening was that there were some seeds and tomato plants for sale. And guess which variety of tomato plants? Cherokee purple! Cherokee purple is my favorite (at least of the heirloom variety tomatoes I’ve tried, which isn’t very many). And since the little guys were such a deal ($2 a plant, with one dollar going to the grower and one dollar to the community garden), I couldn’t resist. Let’s hope I don’t kill all three of them. I’ll be planting them after Memorial Day, as per the suggestion of one of the community garden ladies.

Well, I’m off for the day — lots to do! I’ve got to get some freelance work done, design a brochure for a client (I’ll post photos of the final product) and get some lettuce and flowers in the ground!