It’s All New This Year

May 1, 2016 lawanda Newspaper Columns

Every year I experiment with a new vegetable, herb, fruit or flower in my garden.  Not this year.  This year, in my new home, everything is different.  The soil, light conditions, wind, water, surrounding vegetation, weeds, insect pests, the deer population, whatever critters live along the riverbank; it’s all unfamiliar. 

      The ecosystem I created in my former yard by planting native shrubs and trees and allowing annual herbs and flowers like dill, borage, calendula, cosmos, chamomile and nasturtium to reseed themselves, along with rotation of crops in the vegetable garden, ensured that pest populations were kept in balance.  I can’t remember any outbreak of insect or disease in the last 20 years. 

      That protective ecosystem doesn’t exist in my new gardens and over time I’ll recreate it as well as I can, but it isn’t something that can be done in one season. 

      So far, I’ve planted rhubarb, a grape vine, an apple tree, a currant bush, strawberries, onions, dill, chamomile and a rose.  Neighbors have given me a clump of chives and a couple kohlrabi plants that are already in the ground.  Indoors, I’ve started seeds of tomatoes, kohlrabi, leeks, baby broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  On nice days, I move the seedlings outdoors so they become accustomed to brighter light and windy conditions.  They start in the shade and gradually move into the sun, spending a little more time in the sun each day.

      Instead of one big vegetable garden, I have four small gardens around the house’s foundation and an additional four raised beds about a half-mile away.  Three of the gardens around the house are already inside fencing, but one is not – yet.  Much as I love the golden retriever next door, he’s a boy dog, and he does what boy dogs do.  I don’t want any extra watering on my vegetables, so a fence is in order there as well.  This fence has to look nice since it’s visible from the road.  After diligent searching and rejecting the options at local stores, I ordered an easy-to-install yet sturdy fence online and it will go up shortly.

      I’ve been working to improve the hard, compacted soil around the foundation by adding compost, shredded leaves, and purchased worm castings.  I used a broadfork to loosen the soil and let air penetrate to a foot or so deep.  Again, complete soil improvement isn’t something that can be accomplished in one season.

      The raised bed garden will see heavy deer and rabbit traffic, so it is double fenced with old wooden snow fence surrounded by scavenged chicken wire and chain link fencing.  It may not be pretty, but once flowers and vegetables start growing, the fence’s lack of beauty won’t matter.  My new toy is a cart that attaches to my bicycle that I use for hauling things back and forth to the distant garden.

      Gardening is going to be a challenge and an adventure this year for sure!

 

Gardening techniques and toolsMiscellaneousOrganic gardening


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