Saturday, May 15, 2010

Creating the Garden

I've been working on what for me is an epic project: making a new vegetable garden. I have suffered over this task for a few months now, knowing what I wanted and driving past the gorgeous, established vegetable gardens in my neighborhood. I pass five large, well-maintained gardens on my way to work, and two other less-well maintained ones. My neighbor in Cold Spring had an amazing garden, full of well-maintained, weedless rows in which grew an astonishing array of produce. I have never done any large-scale gardening.

But I did enjoy my first summer with my five raised garden beds, and also felt their limitations, last year. I wanted a garden bed to have more room for vine plants.

Steve and I walked out and I showed him the spot several times in the fall, and several times in early spring. He cleared all the brush away, and as usual he cleared actual acreage, not the little space I wanted for a garden. I finally got him to grade and till the soil last week, but I still didn't like what I saw. It wasn't beautiful, rich garden soil. It was a mix of clay and rocks and dirt clods. It would be fine, maybe, if you were going to sow a few rows of corn, but it did NOT look like a garden to me.

Steve didn't seem to know what I was talking about when I described what I wanted. It was confounding. I wanted: topsoil, compost and manure. He knows what these things are and routinely gets truckloads of topsoil for clients. Maybe it was just that I was working on such a small scale. I wanted a fence-- preferably rabbit-proof. That will maybe come later.

In any event, this was the weekend the garden was going to be created. Yesterday afternoon I went and bought 20 bags of topsoil and 10 bags of a compost/manure mix. That's 1200 lbs of dirt. This morning I went back for 12 more bags of topsoil and 6 more bags of compost/manure.

The idea was to lay out beds, some for cabbage, broccoli and herbs, but most of them for squash (acorn and butternut), zucchini (round and straight), cucumbers, and a little space for ornamental gourds and pumpkins. Then the raised beds can be used for tomatoes, beans and peas, leeks and onions, carrots, lettuce and spinach and herbs. 

What I feared most about new beds really was/is the weed issue. The best way to do it would probably be to have left the garden fallow this year and just sprayed weeds, and next year brought in the dirt for the beds. I'm not at all t patient. Instead I built up my beds and prepped the area where the vines will go by covering them with plastic. The vine plants can grow over them and bear fruit, and next year I can fill in that space with dirt, expanding the garden. Or I might like it this way.

The plants I put in today that I'd bought seedlings of or started in the basement are: stonehead cabbage, broccoli, two cucumber plants, two ronde nice zucchini (round zucchini from France I'm hoping will be like Argentinian zapallitos), two red pepper plants and a few basil, rosemary and sage plants. I also planted seeds: straight zucchini, butternut squash, acorn squash, more cucumbers, pumpkin, ornamental grourds, leeks and green beans (I wanted to give the peas a head start).

The eight tomato plants are toughening up on the patio, and I'll put them in next weekend.

Here is a photo also of the deluxe compost bin Steve built for us. It's a Cadillac of compost systems. Tomorrow he's going to set up my watering system: a pump on a platform out on the pond to draw water riht from the pond. Can you say nutritious water and no-guilt watering?! He gave me the option of a gas-run pump and an electric pump. The gas-run pump, which he recommended, "will require you to stand out there and water, because a lot of water will come out really fast." Sort of like a fire hose?? I'm thinking. "I'll go electric." I think I'll end up using a sprinkler for awhile, but the dream is to set up one of those rotating sprinklers in the center and have it water the whole area.

1 comment:

Eric and Constance said...

The gardens look lovely! I can't wait to tour them! Don't worry too much about the weeds. The soil you are using this year probably doesn't have that many weed seeds in them yet. Best natural way to keep the weeds down is to mulch all your plants with grass clippings. It'll keep them moist, will add nitrogen to your soil & the clippings break down quickly so you'll be continually renewing your soil. Also,I think you are planning on trellising your vines (that's what your question earlier this week was about, right?). I started trellising my cucs on the last year and it works really, really well. There are special trellis for heavier plants like squash--and they make your garden interesting and pretty!