Category Archives: working the dirt

My Dream Came True!

Back near the beginning of the year, when I put together the plan for my dream garden, I never thought I would wind up installing it this year!  After a lot of planning, research, and cost analysis, I got the OK from my spouse to move forward with my plan.

First, I plotted out the section of yard I wanted.  This wasn’t too hard as I was just expanding and squaring off the section I expanded last year.  Then I removed the existing mulch and pulled the sod and put it aside under plastic to kill it (most of it wasn’t desirable grasses).   While pricing out materials at one of the big box stores, I found some 2x2x8″ bricks on clearance, so I picked up a fair amount of those to use for edging.  I did my best to level the garden area and installed the edging as level as possible.  This proved a little tricky considering the grade slopes ever so gently away from the house, but I managed to make it work.  Weed barrier was laid down and secured and next came the boxes.

Math is not necessarily my strong suit, and I took a fair amount of time to work out how to make the least amount of cuts for my raised beds.  Off to the big box store again for lumber and hardware – corner brackets that cost more than the lumber!  These materials camped out in my garage for a couple of weeks while the weather decided what to do.  I finally had a few good days coming up in the forecast, so I bribed my husband to help me cut the lumber so I could go to work in the garden the next day.  Once again, I spent an hour or so making sure the corners joined in a way to not get something like a parallelogram and I went to work.

Now that the boxes were done and roughly placed, I needed to figure out the best way to fill them and mulch the paths.  Filling came first and I found a local dirt guy who also sold a compost that sounded lovely  – chicken & horse manure, mushroom compost and a few others I can’t remember.  So I ordered a combination of soil and compost and had it delivered.  I started filling the beds and realized that there was no way I was going to be able to complete the job by myself, and rain was predicted for the next day.  That soil HAD to get in.  Luckily, my neighbor and his teenage son took pity on my and using two wheelbarrows, managed to get the rest of the fill in the beds.  The best part, was finding this guy:

This would be Lord Voldewart or, The Toad That Shall Not Be Named.  He hitched a ride on the truck and got unceremoniously dumped on my driveway, then scooped up and dumped out of a wheelbarrow.  He now has his own tank, fresh water, and fresh food.  He’s one happy toad!

About a week later, I scheduled mulch to be delivered and installed in my backyard.  The landscaping in the back is along the entire perimeter of the yard, plus the back of the house and my garden area.  The guys edged my beds and installed the mulch.  I finally had a proper garden!  Since then I have installed grids for square foot gardening (using a vinyl folding “door” that I found at the hardware store, it has narrow slats that I could remove and cut to length – even better, I can write on it with pencil) transplanted my thyme, oregano and parsley, planted my onions and garlic, and sowed everything else directly in the planting beds.  In the past two weeks, I have installed trellises and kept an eye on things.  Nearly everything has sprouted and some things are doing fantastic.  The herbs are VERY happy in their new location and I have radishes that I will be harvesting any day now.  In the two beds I used last year I am planting strawberries and romaine lettuce.  The one I planted lettuce in was an afterthought.  I wasn’t planning on using it, but I needed to do something with extra compost/soil so it got filled, I figured I might as well put it to use.

I’m also impressed that everything I dug up, divided and transplanted is not only surviving, but thriving and doing extremely well.  The daffodils bloomed right on schedule, the geranium looks like it was there all along, and the Ozark blue star is starting to bloom.

Today I spent a fair amount of time weeding.  While the compost was a great find, I have discovered that it was absolutely riddled with seeds.  Some are clover, which I’m tempted to leave as a green mulch, some look like radishes, some look sort of like carrots, and others look like weeds and grass.  I figure if I pull a bunch this year, next year it shouldn’t be as hard.  I’ve left a few that look like something useful just to see what comes out of them.

Speaking of pulling, I completed the first blitz of garlic mustard eradication.  I’m pulling more as I find it, and had a disheartening discovery.  It seems as though it is running rampant in my neighbors yard, and being that he’s elderly, it’s not going away anytime soon.  I’ve considered mentioning it, but honestly, I would wind up getting stuck pulling it all, and I’m just not willing to put in all that extra work for the next few years.  I’ll be happy if I can keep the stuff in my yard under control.  Next time I see the person that does his yardwork, I may mention it.

So this is what my garden looked like when it was finally installed.  Parts of it are much greener already, and nearly every square foot has a sprout (or more) in it.  There are also more trellises along the outside of the longest bed and on the right hand side.

I’m off to research chemical free ways to eradicate massive anthills.  I may have mentioned before that our entire neighborhood seems to have been built on an established carpenter ant population.  Unfortunately, they like to make their hills near my edibles.  Every year there is one near, or in, my raspberry patch, and this year I have a bonus one adjacent to one of my planting beds.  It’s quite fun watching them carry mulch to their home, they are amazingly strong little guys.  I’ve heard some judiciously applied boiling water may do the trick, but whatever I do, I have to be careful not to splash or otherwise harm my tomatoes.  If anybody has any viable solutions, I’m all ears.

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Will It Never End?

Apparently we got a dusting of snow overnight. I’m so sick of it. Knowing what I was going to find, I went in the backyard yesterday to check my soil in the SFG closest tot he house. The soil is still frozen pretty solid. I even had it covered during that last storm when it rained buckets the entire day. The other SFG’s soil is still loose and fluffy. I think the difference is in the amount of sun. I’m just hoping that it will get warm enough for long enough in the next couple weeks so I can work it and sow my peas. I NEED to get something in the ground. I guess it doesn’t help that the tines of my pitchfork are all wonky. A few years ago when we moved in, I removed English Ivy from a 6’x6′ square that is separate from all the other landscaping. It was well established and the network of roots under the soil was incredible. Some of the roots were thicker than my thumb and strong as hell. I managed to hook a couple tines under a root and bend them. It’s surprising I didn’t break the handle of the pitchfork.

What do you use to work your soil if it gets hard and/or clumpy? I know if it’s frozen I pretty much have to wait, but I’m tempted to keep at it to try to break it up and encourage it to thaw. I still need to work in the peat moss. I couldn’t find it in the fall (most of the garden centers were bare bones at that time) and I didn’t find it until fairly recently. I think if I could get even one day where it thaws, once I work in the peat and vermiculite, it will be fluffy enough to not freeze as easily.

One Thawed, One Frozen

I took advantage of the unseasonably warm tempuratures to amend the soil in my square foot gardens. Well, garden actually. The one 4×4 at the back of my property is in full sun and the soil was moist without being saturated and it was thawed, so I could work in the peat and vermiculite. I got cocky so I dumped the second block of peat in my other SFG and when I went to work it in, encountered soil that was still frozen solid. So in the interest of not having the peat fly away in the wind and trying to thaw the soil, I covered it with a tarp. I might not get a chance to work it again in the next week or so, but at least all I’ll have to do is work in that peat.

The one that I was able to work makes me so happy! The soil is fluffy, yet moist and should be a dream to plant in. I hung the trellis yesterday on the SFG I was able to work in. I’ll put the other one up after it thaws.

As far as seed starting, I was planning on waiting until March 1st to start seeds, but I’m getting impatient, so I might jump the gun and do it by this weekend. And if everything goes well, I’ll be able to pot up and have sturdy seedlings to transplant once the threat of frost has passed.

In the meantime, I’m trying to decide what I’m going to make for critter control. I’m leaning toward a chicken wire cover mounted on 1×1 wood, so I can lift it on and off of my garden, yet it will keep the wild things from eating my seedlings.