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Our Veggie Garden:

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It was an education in making something with:

1. No concrete foundation ("portland cement is bad for the soil" Oy...)

2. No store bought wood, only branches from the trees in the back yard and some lath I had about ("we can't afford redwood, I don't want pressure treated wood" and I won't spend good money for wood that will rot away in a few years anyway)

3. No wire or twine cross bracing ("it looks cheap" oh for crap sake woman!)

4. Chicken wire instead of the much lighter and easier to work with plastic mesh ("it won't let in enough light" sound of head pounding against wall)

5. At top speed so I can get back to my pond ("You have to many projects, I want my garden first" Oh well, I do love her)

Lessons learned:

1. Its ok with certain dirt lovers who shall remain nameless (cough, The Wife) to paint the bottom of the cheap, not chemically treated poles with some left over mildew resistant bathroom paint (seen in 0116 on one of the poles on the top that was originally slated for in the ground) so they might last awhile after all.

2. Tamped earth is a joke. When you don't have a solid base, triangles are good, squares are bad. (see 0116 and 118 for some of the cross bracing) I drilled into the main poles with a wood drill the same size as the sticks I used for braces and then inserted the ends of the sticks into the holes and secured them with a bolt or nail. Some of the green wood added its own sap as a glue.

3. Hand lotion has finally shown me a reason for existence: It removes sap from ones hands prior to washing with soap.

4. Stapling on chicken wire adds an amazing amount of strength to a frame.

And we spent the morning sifting the dirt from the patch of lawn that I dug up to setup the garden so that we could get all the grass roots, etc.. out of it. I made a "sifterator" from two old kiddy riding toys strapped to a board upside down and a plastic bucket that some plant came in with a butt load of holes drilled in it. (see 0104) The Wife spun the bucket and removed the grass while I shoveled in the dirt and supervised. (see 0111)

All this was necessary to keep out the grass. The last time we did this the grass said "thank you very much" and moved in faster than we could pull it out. I don't think grass was selected as the lawn care of choice... people just started to give up and mow it to a consistent height. Try to keep it out of a garden bed and you start to understand that it is the ULTIMATE WEED! This time, we put down a layer of "weed block" which is just a black plastic mat with very tiny holes to let water through but (supposedly) not roots. Then we covered that with cardboard from between the layers of boxes on the pallets of paper that we receive at work. (see 0120) And then the raised bed boxes. The weed block extends out about 5" beyond the edge of the garden fence and is also ringed with rocks so I can use the trimmer to keep the grass from climbing over. (see 0122) That gives us two physical layers of protection from underground attack (weed block and cardboard) and two fall back positions around the perimeter (edge of the weed block and the boxes). And we are poring in gravel between the boxes so I can use a flame thrower if it starts trying to climb between the rocks. (see 0113) What!? I'll do it, I swear!

The last layer of protection will be massive quantities of mulch added after the sprouts start to grow. I'd go for sprouting in a planter and then transferring them into a hole in the mulch when they were off and running except that A) its more damn work B) some percentage of them won't make the transplanting and C) I think we have the grass licked this time. (knock on wood)

One thing I learned from gardening in the past: What happens is generally not what you expect, but if you don't let that get to you, and you just keep watering and weeding, feeding the soil and keeping the faith, some darn plant that you never even wanted will take off and cover the place with flowers or fruit. This year a water melon plant sprang up, immaculate, from the lawn. It has been happily growing in with the grass and has so far covered about 10 square feet and produced one good looking melon. If we can just keep the chickens from eating off all the buds when The Wife lets them out in the evening, we might get more. We also have a tomato plant that decided to grow along the garden fence and some strawberry plants that somehow survived the grass from the previous garden bed.

Another thing I know is that sometimes plants work well together. The best tomato plant production I ever saw was from one that got started underneath a "yesterday, today and tomorrow" bush next to the front door of a "town house" (fancy name for a two story apartment) we lived in once. That tomato plant grew in-between the branches of the bush and used it for support. The white walls of the building reflected the sun around all sides and the porch and a small outcropping on the other side kept the wind to a minimum. That plant must have produced a thousand little cherry tomatoes. And when it finally died out, there was only a skeleton left on the inside of its "host" bush, although that quickly grew back. Tomatoes want: Heat, support, still air, massive sun, and lots of water (but good drainage). I hear that corn, beans and melons do well together. I'd love to hear other ideas or experiences. If I find something that grows well under a rose bush, I'll be spreading seeds and watching Maria try to keep up with the weeding (hee, hee, hee).

One last gem of wisdom: All plants of one type will ripen at exactly the same time and totally overload you with that fruit, etc... Most will then rot unless canned, frozen or used. Try and preserve an Avocado some time. Garden for the love of it and buy your produce at a local organic market. Animals, on the other hand, are much more consistent. A few eggs a day, a quart or two of pigmy goats milk, a nice fish or rabbit (or batch of snails) for dinner. It's good to be an omnivore. I think this is the way to produce food in a small space. What other animals take little space, produce something nice or are, themselves, good eat'n?

Russell says:

Climbing beans: You plant them against a frame and make sure they survive the weeds / grass long enough to grow clear. after that you don't need to weed them. You build the frame (string runners will do) as high as you wish and crop them continually to keep the beans coming. Some survive from picking to cooking (many mysteriously vanish en route),

Califlowers are fun if you plant a lot at once. There are only so many cauliflowers that you can give away at one time :-) Chow Chow and Piccalilly are nice but there's only so much you can store :-)

Real people stagger sowing to get a staggered crop.

David Leatham says:

Thinking about all that soil sifting.....been there, done that. It sure affects the soil culture adversely. But there is a concentrated micro-nutrient powder or liquid available made from seaweed that puts back many of the lost little chems the plants need to easily absorb minerals from the soil. Stuff goes Along Way, need a very weak solution...works really good! especially for helping seeds and transplants.

We often would plant (seed) short rows of the salad stuff near each other, adding another row each week or 2, don't spare the seed. Then as it grows we could consume or transplant the seedlings to make room and also would have tender plants following the older ones. We found that a very small area can be very prolific doing this.

We live in perfect Snow Pea and cabbage family climate. By doing the repeated plantings, Snow Peas are available for a long time.

Interesting comment about the soil culture being messed up by sifting. This matches with some of what I've read from KEN HARGESHEIMER http://www.minifarms.com/ at
http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/4_2002.htm#article1 and other places. If we didn't have such a bad experience with grass last time I would have fought with Maria about trying the weed control by just cutting down the grass, and letting it rot on the surface. I did try a small test of that and it didn't work for poop. Grass is just too evil.

We have a Sears Chipper/Shredder #242-27016 powered by a Craftsman 6HP #143-236082 ser 4149R gas engine. I understand this is a renamed Tecumseh V60-70257H engine. SearsPartsDirect.com has allowed me to keep it running for years now. We may get an electric chipper from Harbor Frieght, but I'm not sure it could keep up.

See also:


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