Welcome to our garden

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago, we were completely immersed in a rehab and preparing to move — whew!  In contrast to the spring of 2016, we’ve spent the spring of 2017 turning the yard at our new house into a garden to rival our old commuter garden.

Speaking of the old garden, it is more or less finished.  Matthew had considered continuing to use that land for low maintenance, high space needs crops, like winter squash.  For better or worse, the municipality where our commuter garden was located — let’s call it Jerkwood — squashed that plan when they decided that the chicken wire fence that kept rabbits out of the garden for YEARS was no longer acceptable.  No affordable rabbit prevention = no garden.  I started a longer post dedicated to the subject last fall, but at this point, it’s probably best to let it go . . .

. . . so here we are with our very own backyard garden!

After a few years of helping with the commuter garden, I’d largely removed myself from the garden scene — the all day Saturdays, especially in the heat of the summer, were just not working for me.  Matthew has done the majority of the work to date in our new space, but with a bit more free time now that my classes are over for the year, plus the incentive provided by the harvest, the garden is sucking me in, bit by bit.

Kale yeah!

Turns out that weeds threatening to choke out my beloved cilantro (and other yummy plants) are great motivation to weed!  Also, weeding is strangely satisfying (though having less of them to remove will also be quite satisfying).

Gabriel’s garden

Gabriel has his very own 4×4 plot.  He is most excited about his beloved ground cherries (not yet planted in the above pic).  Matthew wisely suggested radishes for a quick spring win, and Gabriel was very proud to contribute his radish harvest to our meals.

After a misguided attempt to have grass paths in between the beds (too much work!), we’ve reverted to our coffee bean bag pathways.  I’m interested in trying a biodegradable weed barrier that I read about in Mother Earth News (like this).  I assumed that it would be prohibitively expensive for the amount we’d need, but for a little over $100, we could cover almost all of our vegetable beds, and if it works, that would be money well spent!

Currently harvesting

  • Kale (a few different varieties — Red Russian is my fave!)
  • Spinach
  • Cilantro (a little bit — would love to have more)
  • A few strawberries
  • Garlic scapes
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Artichokes
  • Turnips (we like the sweet haikuri variety)
  • Rhubarb

Each of the beds is 4′ x 30′, and there are twenty-seven vegetable beds.

Coming soon (or soonish)

  • Sugar snap peas
  • Snow peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Fennel
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Broccoli and other cruciferous (if they don’t get too grumpy in the heat)

In the ground for summer harvest

  • Garlic (planted last fall)
  • Tomatoes — lots of varieties
  • Sweet peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Basil
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
  • Edamame

In the ground for fall harvest

  • Celeriac
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Peanuts

. . . and probably more than a few things I’m forgetting!  We also have blackberries, red raspberries, and black raspberries planted, plus a bunch of baby fruit trees and blueberry bushes.  The trees won’t yield much this year (and I think we’re supposed to remove any fruit that sets so the trees can put their energy into general growth), but they’ll be fun in years to come!

Stay tuned for more garden posts!

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5 Responses to Welcome to our garden

  1. Jessica Watson says:

    We need some help wrapping our head around starting a garden at this point in the season – we just now have a bit of head space for it. would love your advice!

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      For this year, you could always throw some seedlings in the ground — tomatoes, peppers, other hot weather stuff. Long term, I’d think about soil testing and amendments and plans for weed and animal pest control. Also look at what areas get the most sun (I remember there were some trees providing shade from the east). Then, mapping out where you want perennials (berries, asparagus, fruit trees, etc.) would be useful. You are welcome to stop by sometime to see what we’re doing here. It’s nice that you’re working with an already established garden area rather than starting with lawn!

  2. EcoCatLady says:

    Impressive! And I think that maintaining one enormous garden would be plenty of work… so perhaps the municipality did you a favor by putting the kibosh on the chicken wire – though it does seem like an odd thing to have a rule against!

    So I have to ask, did Matthew dig all that grass out by hand, or did you use some sort of a tiller? And if you did use a tiller, how did you keep the grass from re-sprouting?

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Ah, the grass. As I mentioned in a post a year ago, we were looking into methods for eradicating the invasive Bermuda grass lawn. Matthew did extensive research on solarizing with clear plastic, but he could not find the appropriate thickness plastic (not too thick, not too thin). It would have also required an enormous amount of plastic that would be partially broken down and really just trash at the end of the process. Plus potential leaching of the breaking down plastic into the soil.

      In the end, and after more research on best application practices, Matthew nuked the lawn with herbicide (glyphosphate). He was careful to avoid applying on windy days, and there was a perfectly straight line between our dying lawn and our neighbor’s healthy lawn as testament to his application skill (he’s going to install an aluminum barrier between our yard and said neighbor’s yard to keep the bad grass away). As expected, it took a few rounds of application (last summer and fall). Research is mixed, but most indications are that glyphosphate doesn’t stick around in the soil for too long. Still, we weren’t thrilled about using an herbicide, but as a one time thing, we’re not sure it was any worse than what the plastic for solarizing would have leached into the soil.

      Ironically, with our plan to have grass (fescue) growing in the paths between beds, we ended up with quite a bit of grass IN the garden beds. The new grass did a great job of coming up in places where we really don’t want it, and not so great in some places where we do want it, so it’s one of the things we’re weeding now.

      Anyway, after killing all of the aggressive grass last fall, Matthew used a tiller to prepare the beds this spring. I’d like to move toward a bit less tilling, but that’s a work in progress 🙂

      • EcoCatLady says:

        Wow! That sounds fairly epic! I’ve been working on replacing my front yard with xeriscape (low water plants) for years now, and digging out the grass is the hardest part. However, mother nature seems to have done me a favor by infecting the whole neighborhood with some sort of a lawn fungus, which killed off most of the grass! Now I just have to dig out the bindweed roots! 🙂

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