Sunday, April 12, 2009

Delusions of grandeur and the garden part 1

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I've been working on my garden on and off now since about the last week of February. And I do a lot of whining about how much work it is, and how tired it makes me, and how much resting I do after moving a spoonful of dirt, and about how long everything takes, and how much pain I am in after I get anything accomplished.

This has caused one of my new readers to tell me how impressed she is that I'm doing all this work.

I wonder if someone reading my blog has an accurate mental picture of what my backyard looks like. You would think that with all of my complaining about how bad I feel that I had done just tons of work, and that by now I have a really impressive garden.

I do not.

I have the new garden bed, which I dug and then put soil back in the hole last month, and I have now put in tomato plants and a few other plants and planted a few seeds, and this week I will put in a few more seeds.

But it still isn't finished.

I have to make some stakes for the tomatoes and the cucumbers and such. I didn't see any plain ones that were as tall as I wanted, and I couldn't afford the tall decorative things, so I bought some lumber. So now I have to cut little points on the ends of them, and I think that should paint the things. I hope that if I paint them it will be a while before they start to rot and I won't have to replace them for a few years. Then I have to attach this green plastic stuff at the top of the stakes (which I hope will encourage more growth of the tomato and cucumber plants), and then I have to put up this little metal fence to keep the rabbits out. I have some of the plastic green stuff left from a previous project (but I may have to go and buy more), I bought some paint Friday, and I bought the rabbit fence last year but never got around to doing anything with it.

So that is the new garden bed that isn't quite finished yet, but looks pretty good so far. It measures about three feet by twelve feet. To one side of it is this really huge mound of dirt that I will have to move. That will be a long-term project, and it will have to wait a while.

To the other side of the new garden bed is the asparagus bed. It is about four feet by six feet. It mostly does what it was supposed to do. I had this idea that it would look really cool to have the asparagus growing through sand, and that would keep out weeds, and that I should put a bunch of seashells in the sand. It didn't quite work out the way I pictured. For one thing, the project required a lot more sand than I had imagined. And while it keeps out some weeds, some do actually sprout in the sand, and if I don't pull the weeds soon enough the roots eventually get down to the regular garden soil, and then they are a real hassle to get rid of after that. Also, I have a pecan tree in my backyard, so a lot of leaves and a few pecans end up in the sand, and I have to clean out that sort of thing once or twice a year. So I have to remove all those shells that I thought would look so cool, and then I remove the leaves and such with a kitty litter scoop. This is best done before the asparagus starts growing, but I haven't gotten around to doing it yet this year.

Now, on the other side of the asparagus bed is the four feet by five feet garden bed that I dug last year, and I didn't do a very good job of it. So for the last two days I have been working on making this one better. I have planted a few things in it and will finish planting stuff in it this week.

On the other side of last year's garden bed is another big mound of dirt, but not as big as the one next to the new bed. I intend to try to do something with this mound of dirt, rather than trying to move it. In fact, I will probably be adding more dirt and trying to grow potatoes or sweet potatoes or something in it. But I have to do something to it so that it more resembles a garden bed instead of just the mound of dirt that it is now. The preferred method of doing this is to surround the dirt with bricks or cinder blocks or something of that sort. But bricks and cinder blocks and such are expensive, and so I probably won't be using those, but I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do. Maybe some rabbit fence and some weed block fabric, but I'm not sure that would work either.

Across from the new garden bed I am trying to start an herb garden. I didn't dig this bed as deep as any of the others, because it was just too close to the tree. And these are all perennial plants, and since I won't be digging around in it every year, I just mostly left the clay that was there. So I may have wasted my time doing that and might have to do it all over again next year, just as I had to do with last year's four by five garden bed.

On the other side of the really huge mound of dirt is a space about three or four feet wide next to the fence, and about eight feet of it has Jerusalem artichokes growing under some mulch. I planted them about three years ago, and then forgot to dig any of them. I also had a few growing in pots last year. This year I ate some of those that were growing in the pots.

I discovered that I don't like Jerusalem artichokes as much as I used to.

I had this idea that I was going to dig up the patch of Jerusalem artichokes and plant something I liked better, like maybe some onions and garlic. But I didn't get around to it, and I guess that I will leave it alone for this year. It is at least an area that is already mulched, and I don't have to worry about weeds. Except that if I'm not going to eat the Jerusalem artichokes, then the Jerusalem artichokes have in fact become weeds themselves.

If you don't understand, here's a previous post about weeds.

On the subject of Jerusalem artichoke weeds, let me tell you a little about the plant, cause you probably don't have a clue what I am talking about. This is a relative of the sunflower, and rather looks like a native sunflower, except that the flowers are even smaller and sometimes there are no flowers at all, even after it has grown over six feet. It is not an artichoke. The part you eat is the root. So you sort of grow them like potatoes, which sprout "eyes". But unlike potatoes, they don't store well. You need to eat them the day or the day after you buy them from the store or you dig them from the ground. They just start to shrivel up as soon as they are dug. And you can't eat them when they are green, so you can only eat them after the first freeze but before it warms up enough for them to start growing again. They are supposed to replace water chestnuts, but when I tried that this year I didn't like the result.

Maybe it's my fault. Maybe I waited too long and they just didn't taste good cause they were getting ready to grow again. But I decided that I didn't like them and pretty much left a bunch of them outside to die.

So I thought that they were all dead, except for the ones under the mulch over by the fence. And I needed some soil, so I used some of what was in those pots that had the Jerusalem artichokes that I dug up. If there is any part of the living root left, it will grow a new plant. So I now have Jerusalem artichoke weeds popping up everywhere, and that is my own fault, I should have known better. I should have put the soil in plastic bags and waited for the summer heat to kill everything so that I could use the soil next year. I didn't do that, so now I have weeds. We will see if this is a permanent problem, or if I will just have a few more weeds to pull this month and then it might be okay after that.

Now I have two more garden projects from years past that are now causing me some problems. I knew that we had these rabbits, and I liked the rabbits, and I really didn't want to do too much to discourage them hanging around. And I knew that they didn't seem interested in eating my pepper plants or tomato plants, but they did once take a bite from an eggplant and then decide it was not to their liking. But they did eat some okra, and I of course knew that if I put anything like lettuce within their reach that they would eat that. And rather than dig a bed and then put rabbit fence around it, I had this idea that I would just put a few thing up out of their reach. So I built two giant containers, one from panels that were two feet by three feet, and another that from panels that were two feet by four feet. Then I filled them with soil, and that put the plants at a level almost two feet from the ground. And this also had the advantage that I did not have to bend all the way to the ground to pick lettuce and radishes and such.

Except that I put in the good soil with the sand that provides proper drainage. Only maybe with the good soil it drains a bit too well. So those containers really use up a lot of water, and the plants still manage to dry out in the summer or whenever we might go out of town for a day or two. The only things that did not seem to dry out and die were a couple of mulberry weeds, which roots have taken over the container, and need to be dug out, only digging out something that is two feet above the ground is a bit more challenging than I thought it would be.

So I am trying to empty the larger of these containers, and put some of the soil in pots and some over in the area that I will attempt potatoes. And then after the container is emptied, I will mostly fill it with clay, and only have the good garden soil near the top, and that should solve the problem of it needing too much water. And I will have to grow something in it that doesn't need to be dug like potatoes and works well with weed block fabric. And then I will just have to keep a watchful eye out for those mulberry weeds.

In addition to the really huge mound of dirt and the mound of dirt that I will try growing potatoes in, there are maybe five or six smaller mounds of dirt here and there. Also, I have been careless about picking up the little plastic containers that the tomatoes and other plants come in, I have often left out the tools, and there are buckets and empty pots here and there. And there are bags of stuff here and there, like a half empty bag of sand, and a half empty bag of peat moss, and two new bags of mulch that I will put around most of the plants after they get to be big enough that I would be able to see them growing above the mulch.

There are also a few things that I left outside when I was cleaning out the back room, and I have to look at them and see what needs to be thrown away and such. And I don't know what to do with my husband's fishing stuff that has been outside for about three years now. On the one hand I would think that anything left out in the elements for three years now would be ruined and just needs to be thrown away. On the other hand, well, it is fishing stuff, and isn't fishing stuff made to be out in the elements? But in either case it is fishing stuff that has been left out in the elements for three years, and so I don't want it back in the house.

So that is the current state of my garden and the rest of my backyard. I have not been evicted or anything like that because a.) it is the backyard and not the front yard, and it takes longer for anyone to complain about the backyard, and I'll probably get some leniency until after such time as the other gardeners have finished up with their spring projects, and b.) we have a new office manager, and he probably has more important things to do for a while.


Ananda girl said...

You still have me beat by a mile... sorry. I think I picked up a beer can that blew into my front bed. That's about it for gardening so far this year for me. I'm waiting for sunshine and even then, I am a lazy gardener.

I plant perennials that are self-weeders, like day lilies, ground covers, etc. My garden does not have enough sun for veggies with one exception... the front of my house. So I plant decorative plants mostly and grow my tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini in large strawberry pots and put Johnny Jump-Ups in the lower pockets to make it all pretty.

I have often considered a nice French bed that is raised but have no sun. It's very frustrating to grow much in my postage stamp sized yard.

I thought maybe this year I'll add some hanging pots above the strawberry pots and plant cherry tomatoes and beans. I'm not sure what else will grow hanging.

When I had my house, I was much more involved with gardening and had a little rock garden of succulents that I absolutely loved. I may try and do that again. I really liked collecting the rocks that I used to make them happy. But I am cautious about anything I do here. They have a rule that whatever you plant becomes park property. I disagree. I bought it, it's mine!

I loathe rhodies and I have a giant one in my side yard. I can't tear it out because of the rules, so I cut it into a giant umbrella tree. That'll do. They are horribly messy. On the other hand, I love my azaleas. I know it does not make sense. Good thing I don't have to. : )

dmarks said...

Sounds pretty elaborate and a lot of work, with several beds and all (if I count right).

Seems like you have good soil here. As for "And while it keeps out some weeds, some do actually sprout in the sand", it is almost all sand here. And yes it sprouts weeds a lot.

laughingattheslut said...

The soil here is terrible. It's clay. It is terra cotta clay, with a bit of garden soil and grass on top of it. You can't work with it for a few days after it has rained, cause it is just too muddy, and you can't dig when it is dried out either, cause then it is just brick hard. About eight inches down it is still a big hassle to dig, because the clay is sticky no matter how perfect the weather conditions. So you dig, and then you have to clean off your shovel because there is clay stuck on it, and then you dig a bit more only to have to clean the shovel again a couple minutes later.

I had the almost sand before I moved here, and it was just wonderful and I miss it very much. The soil did not really need to be double dug, but we did that once in a while anyway. And the work didn't take that long. All the work that I have done since February would have only taken me about three or four afternoons if I lived at the old house. I had asparagus there, and I think that I dug down to about eight inches to plant it. Here I had to dig about eighteen inches. I didn't have to do stuff to the soil, except that we did use fertilizer and use mulch and maybe add compost to the top that we turned under the next spring. Here I just spend hours and hours mixing in sand and peat moss and such.

dmarks said...

I almost wish we could do a soil trade. Oh to have a muddy garden. The water vanishes into the sand very quickly, leaving everything dry.

The hard clay probably makes the flooding problems worse there.

Ananda girl said...

You can have my muddy garden, but it comes with shade. I've got five trees that are at least three stories high that shade everything and the soil is like a sponge. You walk on it and it squishes. I have to plant things that can drown and survive.

I'm curious Laughing... can you do anything with your clay. I mean can it be worked into clay that you can throw or use? I recall that you like to use a kiln.

My dad used to indulge me any art activity that I wanted. despite his feelings toward me. Art lessons up the wahzoo. He owned a building materials company and so I had endless amounts of clay, etc. to play with and loved it. A very soothing thing, clay.

I also used to use sand that I mixed with vermiculite to make a seed sprouting material that was fabulous. That was way back when I was into Organic Gardening Magazine. I once had a green thumb. Now it's sort of yellow green. Maybe I understood California's soil and seasons better. Oregon sucks. I am not good at the shade garden yet.

dmarks said...

Here's our state soil: Kalkaska Soil. It consists of black sand, brown sand, dark reddish brown sand, strong brown and yellowish brown sand, dark reddish brown ortstein, and light yellowish brown sand. Quite a mix, but is just about all sand.

The Oregon quagmire sounds as alien to me as the Texas clay baking in near-tropical heat.

laughingattheslut said...

How nice it would have been to have art lessons and tons of supplies.

I do know for sure that the clay is terra cotta, because we have test fired some of it. It has to be put through three screens before it looks like art clay instead of just mud. Odd thing that. When it is just mud it is dark and looks almost black, but then when you strain out some sand it looks a much lighter grey. But the sand that is removed it just sand colored. Shouldn't the clay get darker if you remove the sand? Since it is getting lighter, you would think that the stuff being removed is black.

I have not made slip with it, and I did not have any clay ready to use for throwing class, so I haven't tried that. My test pieces were slabs and tiles and such, and they cracked. So were are not sure what is wrong with it or if it would be worth the effort to try to fix it.

It takes a long time to make this clay, and it really isn't worth it. I bought one of the screens for thirty-six dollars, and if I was going to do this properly I would have to go and buy another one. That was way more than I wanted to spend, cause I thought they were going to be ten or fifteen dollars.

So it just takes hours and hours to make the stuff, or I could just go to the school book store and buy twenty pounds for ten dollars.

It was more just wanting to see if I could do it. I was so unhappy with it as garden soil, I wondered if it could be used for ceramics. If it had turned out a little better and not have been so much work, then I could have dug up tons of it and then just replaced it with better soil from Home Depot and not felt like I had wasted anything.

I might try it again someday, but for now it is too much work, and I haven't got the time or money for ceramics class anyway.