Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How to build a garden (in lots of back breaking steps_

When we last left the gardening conversation, I had a plan, and flats of seedlings germinating in the basement. Well, the past month has been busy with additional preparations.

We have a sloped backyard, which actually understates the issue. It's very steep. We probably need another retaining wall to ease the transition. The bottom portion of the yard is somewhat flat but it is shaded and is swampy. So, our only hopes (without sacrificing the flat portions right outside our back door) was to build raised beds and install in the less steep portions of the yard.

So, with plans in hand, we set out to the home improvement store. As an aside, I kind of like these stores and always find cool stuff when I'm there and scheme more projects. After spending an inordinate amount of time in said home improvement store, we bought the stuff. We loaded it into the car. It didn't fit. We went back into the store and bought straps and things. The employees were most certainly laughing at us. We finally made it home. Barely.

Building SFG 032908-01

And we set to work. It took the majority of a Saturday to build the beds. I'd like to say that things went smoothly, but that wouldn't be entirely correct. There was swearing. There was arguing. We did butt heads. But eventually, we had 4 very heavy beds completed. It took all of our energy (and the small bit of strength I had) to move these suckers into place in the backyard. It seriously sucked. But there they were. Not bad for a nurse and a lawyer. We are not carpenters and really didn't have a perfect set-up and all the right tools for completing the job, but it's not terrible.

SFG 032908-01

The next day, we set out leveling them. This was a ridiculous job which I hope to never repeat. Something called a "trench spade" (newly purchased) was involved. It was muddy, and our shoes (which will never be the same again) were caked with 10 pounds of mud by the end. Are they perfectly level; no. Are they close (very close) enough; yes.

SFG - looking north 040408-01

Feeling proud of our work, we went back inside, and from our deck you could spot an issue: the beds weren't squared as planned. (Oh, and does anyone want that swing set, because I don't).

SFG - looking south

Again, our standards were lowered and we left the rest of the project for another day.

The next step was installing the dog proof fencing. The easiest part of this whole project - by far. Of course our new enclosure will likely just allow the dog to chase the rabbits, squirrels, squinnies, etc. into the safety of the garden, but she's a digger and a compost eater so it had to be done. We then removed the sod. At this point, we realized that we had probably done this backwards. We should have tilled the whole area, leveled the beds, etc. But, we've always been fans of doing things the hard way.

The next step was to fill the beds. It took substantially more fill than I had calculated, and we ended up making 3 trips to finish the job. That's a lot of compost and stuff. That's a lot of loads up and down the hill of our backyard carrying 40+ pounds of stuff. On the third trip, our neighbor offered the use of his wheelbarrow (which I had suggested on load one) which proved to be a timesaver despite the slope. In return he'll get tomatoes, and he's offered us rhubarb once it comes in.


But at (long) last, we have plantable beds that seem fairly level based on the drainage thus far. Rykert placed the grid according to my anal retentive plan, and we were good to go.

I planted peas, onions, lettuce, and spinach last weekend.


Meanwhile, the seedlings inside continue to be "not-dead". We potted up moving them from their small little peat pots into bigger pots, and the move has been good to them. They are much happier and seem to be thriving. We had way more seedlings than we had room under our lights so some had to go. We picked the healthiest and still have way more than we need.

So that's the state of our garden. At every step, on every weekend, Rykert has asked, "Did you think this would be this labor intensive?" Which really means, "You better not lose interest." Of course, we are both looking forward to fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs all summer long.

Things will likely be quiet around here for a bit (not that the posting has been that regular anyway). We're heading to Louisiana for Jazzfest this weekend and there's other things going on that will demand my attention. I've been a stress case all week trying to get my work life in order and the inbox cleared so that I can take a few days off. I have workaholic tendencies, so disconnecting is not easy for me.

But, I have been contemplating this blog a lot lately. I write a lot more posts than I actually publish. Posts don't get published because they are too political, too off-topic, too personal, etc. When I started blogging, nearly 4 years ago, I had a very distinct subject matter: knitting, with a little life and crafts thrown in on occasion. And, to some degree, as a reader of blogs, I think a thematic approach is important. But I'm just not knitting as much as I used to (I'm generally too exhausted at night and fall asleep as soon as I hit the couch), though there are plenty of projects I'd like to get started on. I've decided to keep blogging on a single blog (here) rather than attempt to pull all of my interests into subject specific blogs. So, perhaps I should change the blog title.

6 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

Anonymous said...

Leave it, where would I be without Knit Tidbits? After all, since you are so busy with other stuff, it is just tidbits of knitting:)

Remember, when you are doing a crappy job like this, remember, the building part only has to really be done once. Once it's in, you have it and you don't have to do that part again. Next summer, you'll just need to clean up and tweak.

kim said...

OMG, I am so impressed with your garden beds. I would have killed my boyfriend by the 3rd trip back to the store! Congratulations on your weekend warrior success.

Knittripps said...

Nice work on the garden! Be sure to keep updating us. I really need to get our plan in action.

PS I like reading your blog.

AndreaLea said...

Great work on the garden! We moved/added an additional bed this past weekend. We had hoped to borrow a truck to get compost from the landfill but instead had to transport tons of bags of miscellaneous soil components too.

We started most things from seed this year. I hear that we may get below freezing overnight on Monday though so we'll have to pay attention to the weather!

AndreaLea said...

Oh yeah, I like your blog too. :)

Meg said...

oh my gosh! great work!

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