Garden Season 2017 Has Begun!
We moved last year just before planting season and didn’t put in a garden in our new location. Moving is a big job, and it takes a while to get resettled. It was a quiet summer, and we missed our big garden and fruit trees that kept us busy and well fed. We didn’t want to go through another summer without a garden and thinking about all those delicious fresh fruits and veggies got us excited! We couldn’t hardly wait to get started for 2017!
Growing a garden helps families in many ways. It gives you ample opportunity to move and get some exercise, and it can improve your nutrition depending on what you grow. If you enjoy watching plants grow, and spice up the garden with some flowers to attract butterflies and bees, and birds, then there is a good chance a garden will improve your mental health and outlook too.
With our large family, growing a garden helps reduce the costs of the weekly grocery trips. Though the initial cost of planting a garden can be expensive, you see a return when you are able to harvest during the summer and fall.
The homestead we moved to is a quiet lovely location, with tall trees and rolling hills. But it is a much different environment from where we lived before where we had mature fruit trees and rich soil for a huge garden. Where we live now, it is hard for grass to grow and it goes dormant very early in the growing season.
We are basically starting over. One of the biggest needs in this yard is to rebuild the soil. That can take a while and requires a lot of input of compost. Our current home is surrounded by pine trees, the soil is dry and hard and there is less rainfall here, and it also has has a high clay content . The soil is quite acidic and there is not much top soil to grow in. The previous residents had built a few raised beds to overcome these disadvantages, but it has been many years since they were used and the wood has rotted and fallen down and the beds were full of weeds, moss, and small volunteer trees.
As soon as the weather cooperated in March we got busy mending and expanding a couple of the old broken down raised beds and made them into our new garden. The one advantage these beds do have is some depth of soil piled on top of the clay that will give room for the roots of plants. With a few new longer boards put around the sides, and some nutrients added, we will be ready to grow.
I’m going to be honest. I was discouraged at first. It was hard to wrap my mind around relying on the broken raised beds when I was used to gardening in a large tilled garden with 100+ foot long rows in rich soils, abundant rain, and fertile crop land. That garden and orchard was quite large and produced a lot of great fruits and vegetables for our family for several years. Last summer it was hard for me to wrap my mind around how I was going to grow a garden here in this poor clay soil and in a small space. But now I am excited now that I have some new inspiration with these raised beds to help address these issues.
We put in some new longer boards expanding the size of the beds from 10 x 10 to about 12 x 16 feet. We will make a second bed not far from this one. Due to the small size of these beds, we plan to grow more intensively. In the past we used long long rows with walking paths, but in the raised beds there is not enough room for that method. Instead we are going to plant the garden with the “square foot” gardening method and not have well defined rows. We will use as much space as we can in a square foot. This method allows you to plant a lot of produce in a small amount of space.
It was a big job to pull off the rotted boards, pull out metal rods and nails, and the heavy shredded matting. These beds were neglected for many years and in poor condition. We started off with a shovel to break open the dirt across the entire bed. We also bucketed many many loads of dirt to the garden. We didn’t have a wheel barrow for this project so my son used my mop bucket and our dolly. It worked very well, but took him about 100 trips over a few days to get enough dirt to the bed. We plan to get a wheel barrel soon!
My son took the lead in this garden re-building project, and his younger siblings helped out a lot too. He is interested in landscaping and loves working outdoors. He added in some bagged compost to enrich the soil. He also added ashes from our campfire pit, and dead leaves and mixed this all into the soil very well with a shovel, a rake, and a tiller. Then he marked off each square foot and divided the entire garden with cord so we can plant with the square foot gardening method.
The garden sits on a small hill, so we only put boards on three sides for now to hold the soil in. We may add a row of boards to the top side at a later date. For now, we are trying to keep the expenses of putting in a raised bed garden down as much as we can.
One advantage to leaving off the boards on the top side, is to collect more rain water runoff from the hill when it does rain. If it had boards across the top side, it would divert the rain runnoff away from the garden. By leaving this open to the upside of the hill, we hope to maximise the opportunity for more water to run down the hill and end up in the garden.
The soil is prepped! This garden is ready!
We are ready for our new beginning!