Sunday, February 26, 2012

The great garden re-do

We've talked about it, I've blogged about it (more than once!), and now, finally, it's happening: The Great Garden Re-Do of 2012!!
During the nearly four years we've lived and gardened on this property, we've had a so-so vegetable harvest, an amazing harvest, and two "bummer, man" years. When we moved in, we were greeted by a perfectly-maintained, weed-free, somewhat free-form-but-overall-square raised garden lined with broken concrete, nothing but a small patch of peas and two rhubarb plants growing in it. (We learned the following year that we also inherited a tiny asparagus bed.) Paul grew up in a family that gardened big, so he promptly used his dad's borrowed tractor to carve a new 30'x40' veggie plot out of a corner of what later became our sacrifice paddock. Between the two, we grew corn, pole beans, cauliflower, broccoli, summer and winter squash, beets, herbs, radishes, cucumbers, etc. That big garden, though, was really a pain to weed. As I researched and read blogs and books, I learned that raised gardens were much more efficient, easier to weed and water, and didn't waste real estate on paths like traditional gardens do, with their 1-3' soil rows between each row of plants. (There's also the fact that we accidentally brought club-root fungus home on some broccoli or cauliflower seedlings purchased from a local nursery and then, without thinking, managed to spread it throughout the entire flat garden with the rotovator. Oops.)

Then there's the broken concrete chunks lining every bit of our raised garden beds and ornamental beds. Paul's convinced the ants love it, since we've had minor (or sometimes major, depending on species) battles with those little buggers, a lot of which seem to run their network of paths underneath the concrete lining our driveway and part of our front lawn. We have concrete in the front yard, concrete along the driveway, concrete throughout that old raised bed system, an unused, unloved long raised bed along the backyard-side of the flat veggie garden, and a very neglected, unused (and probably unwisely placed) raised bed next to the side of the garage. We've both tripped over concrete five million times, stubbed our toes, struggled to cultivate the soil in the raised beds due to all the weird angles on the pieces lining the garden, and while the rough-textured concrete walls and borders do look nice when the yard was tidy and weed-free so you could see them well, we've simply grown pretty tired of it and are ready for a change.

So, today, despite the very chilly/hail-y/sometimes-sleet-y weather, Paul, also inspired, fired up the tractor and got to work! We now have a pile of broken concrete (from the raised garden beds) close to where our driveway meets the road. As he continues to remove chunks from all around, I'll post it as free fill on Craigslist. (If you're local and would like some, let me know!!)

While he was at it, Paul also hooked a chain around the pear tree, which was shading a portion of the garden and has some kind of systemic fungal disorder for which we'd have to spray (no thanks!), and yanked it out of the ground. It's now on its side in the paddock, where, last I checked, Cowboy was proceeding to thrash on it with his horns. The only things I want saved from that old garden is the two strawberry plants I found that had made it through a summer and winter of neglect and attack by overzealous oregano, and my sole surviving rhubarb (which I thought was dead last year, which is why I hacked a piece of it off...the piece fizzled and died after the summer, and the original "dead" parent plant appears to have a bunch of new growth starting). (Note to self: do not EVER plant garden oregano straight into a garden bed. That stuff is unstoppable. In fact, if you must plant oregano, put it in a patio container where its roots can't get into surrounding soil. That oregano - which also found its way into the front garden (did I do that on purpose?!) - may torment me forever.)

I think we both feel a little giddy at this solid burst of progress after planning to do it for the past two years. Two neighbors have already tilled their traditional garden plots, right on schedule. They'll probably till one more time before planting in mid- to late-May (depending on how our spring goes). We have a lot of work to do between now and planting time; we have lumber to buy, beds to build (probably six 4'x8' beds out of rot-resistant untreated cedar), maybe drip irrigation to install (that'll likely have to wait until next year), and a planting scheme to plan, but I have faith we'll get it all done.

What gardening projects are you working on or scheming about this year?

 My hard-working man.

That concrete is heavy! As of posting time (quitting time for Paul), he's only gotten 1/4 of it removed. We really do have a lot of concrete!

Paul enjoys tree removal, even when it's snowing!


  1. The concrete sounds like a great place for slugs if you have them in your area, I had problems with ants but they disappeared when I got chickens, these were the big ants that you could have dipped in chocolate though I never tried it. Sounds like you have made a good move with this project.

  2. Chocolate-dipped sounds delightful! We've had both thatching ants, which bite, and tiny moisture ants. I can't say either would have made good eating.

    Good point about the slugs. Yes, here in mostly moist Western Washington, we do have both slugs and snails. No doubt keeping them out of the raised beds we have planned will be much easier.

  3. We are doing a major garden ro-do too! Hubby brought home a mini excavator and got to work! We dug up stumps, boulders, moved plants, and gave away a bunch of plants, I just didn't know what to do with! We will no longer have raised beds with paths that require mowing! Instead, I should be able to go in with my 9ft tiller and be done with it! Of course right now, it's huge muddy mess filled with bare root blobs, pots of stuff I need to deal with and happy chickens! Hopefully by planting time I will have a garden!

  4. Wow, N, we're practically switching places!

  5. Kinda weird huh? Although I prefer the raised beds, things needed to change! The boards had become rotted out homes for slugs! The soil was old and tired, and we could not haul in new soil, thanks to trees around my garden that caused so much shade all I could grow anymore was moss and ferns! I want real veggies!!!

  6. So exciting! Days like this feels so satisfying! I have many "to dos" that have been on my list for far too long. I, too, am hoping to re-do the kitchen garden this year -- kick the perennials out and till all the beds into one continuous field garden, just to start. I like the idea of raised beds but I'm overwhelmed by the thought of building all of them. I'm hoping to grow fewer varieties, but more of each. And far fewer weeds this year! Anyway, I look forward to reading more about this year's gardening adventures!


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