2012 will be the year, again, that the Fairegarden is devoting more gardening energy to the growing of food.
A similar decision was made in 2008 when the veggie bed was created at the back property line. The photo above shows the work in progress. The space is a fifty foot by three foot planting area of crumbly, compost fortified chocolate cake loam. A cement block retaining wall built by The Financier, thanks hon!, holds up the lower side, for every spot on our lot is a steep north facing slope. At one time this area was planted with a Japanese privet hedge, the same as nearly every lot in our neighborhood, along the property lines. Several years were spent doing battle against this hedge, with old black plastic pond liner from the many pond redos dealing the final, killing blow after the branches were cut as low to the ground as possible. After a year of baking under the plastic, the roots were dug out, again by The Financier. Obviously he does more than just finance things around here, thank goodness.
Two hedges were planted as we waited for the privet to die the slow, painful death. At the high end, right on the property line is a row of arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’. Backing the Azalea walk is a row of Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Mop’ that has grown much, much larger than advertised and has to be sheared yearly to keep the walkway passable. In between is the official food growing area, called the Veggie Bed. Many different reincarnations have occurred here, seeds, purchased plants, a cold frame made from old glass shower doors for seedlings coming out of the greenhouse, with varying degrees of success.
After four years, the bed has been divided into sections with somewhat permanent plantings, perennial food. At the far end are the raspberries, Anne and Caroline, gold and red, respectively. The next section is going to be home to asparagus, coming next month. It has been weeded, dug and covered with old reinforcing wire to keep critters from diggging around in there. There will be two rows of asparagus Jersey Supreme. Rock phosphate and organic fertilizer have been purchased. Instructions said to make sure the roots are properly fed at planting, since you only get one shot at it. I am ready.
Next comes two areas surrounded by plastic rabbit fencing to keep out munchers. I can step over this netting and have made sure the bottom is well secured from clever rodents that can dig. Seed started wild strawberries have been divided and spread. Sugar snap pea seeds are planted around squiggly metal posts. Beets and spinach seeds are inground, waiting for the proper conditions to germinate. Carrots from last years crop are still hanging on. There are a few onions in there, too.
Moving on down the line is a dedicated area for saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, that was moved and divided a year ago from the front raised planter. This is a sunnier spot and the bulbs multiply so quickly as to choke themselves out. The foliage will die back over summer and the blooms will arise in October. They look promising, to be sure. Regular ever bearing strawberries, white wild strawberries, Rhubarb ‘Victoria’ and snow peas finish off the fenced safe house.
At the end is a fig tree, Chicago Hardy, replacing another fig that just didn’t make it. The rake tailed bird is to help keep this one protected from evil doers. Blueberries in a raised bed behind the shed are loaded with flower buds. We might get a berry this year. Netting is at the ready to keep the birds out. Sorry feathered friends, this garden is a bounty of other berries, eat those instead, please.
Down by the house, containers have been planted with herbs for the cold season, and the plan is to use summer crops in them when the weather warms for the year. A large old plastic urn planter was filled with Black Kow compost in December and planted with various lettuces and greens. An old glass table topper was just the right size to keep the babies warmer and safe from devil digging squirrels. On warm days, the glass is removed so the lettuce doesn’t cook and some watering can be done with the sprayer coiled hose from the greenhouse. If stretched, it reaches out the back door nicely. A soft misting stream is perfect to not smoosh the young, tender greens. (Closeup at the top of this post.)
Potatoes are going to be sown in fifteen gallon felt bags. There are two bags, two kinds of seed potatoes ordered, Rose Finn Apple and Butte, and two large bags of organic potting mix ready in the garage. We have grown potatoes in the veggie bed with mixed results a few times. This promises to be better, for the downside to the veggie bed is how far away it is from the hose spigot. Our summers have been extremely dry of late, with little to no rainfall from May onwards and the usual hot, humid days and nights. Growing some things close to the house should allow for more regular watering, with good rain water from the rain barrel. That is the plan, anyway.
Just a couple of things have been started from seed in the greenhouse/sunroom. Four kinds of tomatoes with a color coded toothpick system to help keep the varieties identified are in some leftover peat pellet pans. Free seeds of Principe Borghese, Riesentraube and Sugar Sweetie along with purchased Yellow Pear make up the quartet. The preferred pot system is the home made newspaper pots that were written about here. But I need to use up what we have, and tomatoes are about as easy a seed to start as there is, so it’s okay. They will be potted on to larger pots under the lights when they are large enough to handle. The other tray has Black Pearl pepper seeds saved from plants grown in 2008. These are not for eating, but will enjoy the heat mat treatment.
It is hoped that lessons learned over the last four years of veggie growing here will pay off big. Home grown food will be supplemented with the local farmer’s market and CSA. Last fall I roasted all the pumpkins and winter squash from said market that had been used as decor. Pies, soup and this delicious gnocchi were the resulting products. Recipe and instructions thanks to Curbstone Valley, here. Eating healthier is a good goal. Growing your own can help. Onward.