Friday, July 6, 2012

A Vegetable Garden Journey - Leave Your Troubles at the Gate

"I think you're going to lose interest...".  That's what my hubby said when I told him that I wanted a vegetable garden.  And I don't mind him saying it - we have a strict honesty policy in our house - because he knows that I don't really enjoy flower gardening or landscaping.  My mother could spend hours outside in her flower gardens, but not me.  I didn't like getting my hands dirty and I had other interests that required me to be inside in the air conditioning, like shopping or scrapbooking.

I assured him that I would not lose interest.  "I want to grow my own food", "It will be fun for the kids to plant seeds and watch things grow for us to eat", "It will be like therapy for me with the added bonus of fresh tomatoes".

Then I mentioned renting a tractor digger thing from Home Depot to dig out and level the garden spot in the back yard.  He made some Tim Taylor type grunting noises, and then it was game ON!

I am so lucky to have such a handy husband...  there is very little that he cannot do!  He did all the tractor work and installed the retaining wall with my brother's help.  And here are some before and after pictures -

 Here is "the island" before the tractor dug out the area for the retaining wall.  We call it the island because the ground around it is all grass and that makes it look like an island.  For seven years we've been covering it with pine straw and just ignored it.  It's also a section of our yard that gets a lot of sun AND is pretty close to the house.

The completed retaining wall allowed for a level area measuring 20' long x 8' wide.  Next year we will have to install a small retaining wall at the bottom of the island to keep the dirt from flowing into the lawn.

 The cedar raised bed kit being installed (that's my brother in the photo).  It is only 7" deep so I had to dig in to allow for plenty of root growth.  If you can't tell from these pictures, this is what you call Red Georgia Clay which is LOTS of fun to dig in...  by "fun" I really mean "Royal PITA"!  Really, I thought I was going to die but I just kept reminding myself how much I was going to LOVE having my very own home-grown vegetables.

About the kit - it was the most affordable way to be able to use cedar which is naturally resistant to rotting.  Pressure-treated lumber was not an option for obvious reasons and non-treated wood would not have lasted very long here because of the termites.  If I ever build another raised bed garden, I will probably use something else.  This kit had a few badly warped boards that were un-usable and it was really just too shallow.

 Fast forward a few months - the garden today with a bunny fence and straw mulch.  The straw makes it a little more comfortable to kneel on the ground around the garden.  Oh, how I used to love watching those bunny's hop into the yard from the woods to eat the clover in my lawn...  now when I see them I want to let the dog out to chase them away but we don't have a fenced yard so we'd probably never see him again!  Thankfully the weeds in the lawn keep their bellies plenty full and they have not ventured into the garden.

I utilized "companion planting" for my square foot garden which is planting certain plants near others to either help deter pests or enhance flavor.  Dill and cucumber, tomato and borage, peppers and parsley, etc...  I often referred to this site for its recommendations -

Outside of the bunny fence, the island slopes down into the lowest part of our yard.  Next year I plan to condition some of the soil here on the hill to plant my zucchini and squash since they need more room than my small square-foot garden allows.  On the far right of the fenced area, there is just enough room for a potato tower.  Here's how I plan to build one next year -  

My zucchini

My cucumber

 Rutgers Tomato with some lemon grass in front

Zucchini again

While I am enjoying the harvest of my summer veggies, I am already planning my fall/winter crop of carrots, spinach, peas, and squash to name a few.  Here in the Atlanta area we have a nice long growing season so there is no reason to not have this garden producing for most of the year!  If you're interested in planning your garden on your computer, I highly recommend this site -  Their online planning tool has a low yearly fee of $24, with a free 30 day trial period.  You can save several different plans, make notes, and draw out your entire yard!  It also tells you the best times to start seeds indoors, move plants outdoors, and when to harvest depending on where you live.  I've had a lot of fun playing with it.

So, have I lost interest?  No.  Absolutely not.  I go into the garden almost every day.  I love to see how much my plants have gown.  I look at it and think about how to do things differently next year like planting a lot more green beans and making the cucumber trellis taller.  I watch the breeze gently move the leaves on the cucumber vines and listen to the bees as they hum from flower to flower.  It's like a small refuge that gives me some "me time" to really be present in the moment.  When I'm in the garden, I am thinking about the garden.  Everything else gets left at the gate.

1 comment:

  1. You should be very proud of this accomplishment, Heather! I'm totally impressed, and your veggies are delish! Like I said the other day while enjoying your cucumbers and hummus... "Your grandma Kirk is dancing the polka!"