Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reworking the Garden, Day One

This is how my garden looked a couple of weeks ago as the year dragged itself toward spring.

In other words, like crap. The old compost heap container was a rotten, fireant-infested spider's paradise. The new compost bin was fine, but also ant-infested. The gardenia bush, which I adore, was overgrown and disease- and bug-ridden. The blueberry bush which I had rescued from the shady dog pen (former owners of this house? C-R-A-Z-Y.) was spindly and sad. I had yet to pull up the old tomato, pepper, or eggplant vines. The ground was littered with various oranges, banana peels, and other bits of stuff I had thrown out because I was too lazy or cold to go to the compost bin. And...there was lots of various trash abounding. Only the herb patch looked as an herb patch should.

Here's a shot of the gardenia bush. It is patentedly unfair for me to post this picture of my husband on the internet, because it might be the most unflattering picture of him ever taken in the history of pictures. But I wanted to show how big the bush was and he's 5'9" or so and there was NO way I was getting in front of the camera so...yeah.

About a month ago, I stumbled on The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith. I ordered it online and realized upon reading it that it could CHANGE MY LIFE. Or at least my gardening habits.

Basically, the idea is that raised beds and organic techniques equal higher yields for your garden. And given that I want to actually, you know, eat stuff from my garden this year, I was all about his method. The soil in my garden is wonderful in a small section and horrible in the rest of it with a few smatterings of good throughout. Not optimal for gardening, so we decided to build some frames and bring in topsoil to add to the beds we made. It would be an investment (around $300 so far), but it would also be a permanent solution to the unsightly and poorly yielding garden that made Will want to kill me every summer. With Imbolc showing us all kinds of possibilities, we got started.

After fetching the lumber (and, come to find out, vastly miscalculating the amount we would need, basically because we vastly mismeasured the garden--math is hard!), we set to work.

Will built the frames in his "workshop" while Jeffrey helped.

Meanwhile, I hacked at the gardenia bush. I felt a bit like an axe murderer (clipper murderer?) as I did so, but the truth is that without any intervention, my beautiful shrub is going to die. I was literally stuck in a whitefly carcass snowfall as I pruned. So gross. I hope that I haven't killed it and that in the spring it will come forth beautifully again. When I say hacked at, I mean it:

I also took down the old compost container and a rickety chicken wire fence that at no point in time supported the peas or cucumbers like I wanted it to. It did, however, serve as an excellent way for me to worry about my children poking their eyes out.

I also found the time to take this picture of a bird's nest I removed from the gardenia bush. The birds had long since departed--the thing was starting to fall apart. What smooshes me is the care with which Mama Bird built she tenderly wound the soft thready things around the center to make a cozy spot for her babies. Nature has so much to teach us.

At the end of Day One, the garden looked like this:

I was well-satisfied and felt like we had done a lot of good work. It was a lovely way to spend a day with the family: we all got a bunch of exercise and fresh air. Day Two would have to wait out a cold front...


Anonymous said...

What a great idea for a blog. I'm going to enjoy it so much. You're right about birds nests - amazing things!

Betsy said...

This will be so much fun watching your progress as you remake your yard.
It reminds me of when we started our gardens "from the ground up" thirty or so years ago. I'd love to move into a nicer house now, but I'd hate to leave behind the plants, and even more so, the soil that we've built over the years.
Hmm, it's pretty bad when you can't bear the thought of leaving your soil, isn't it. My advice is to remember to add as much humus as you can to the clay you're dealing with. Good luck!

Hartwell said...

i spent so many hours reading this all... i don't think i'd visited it since it's beginning... the transformation was amazing! you did SOOO much work and the beds are awesome... why didn't you tell me about this more in depth?