Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Demise of My Garden...the rest of the story



My square foot gardening adventure started with a book and a vision during the winter of 2009/2010. I drew a plan for 4 boxes and made my list of needed supplies; wood for the boxes, several bales of peat moss, several large bags of vermiculite, multiple varieties of compost and weed barrier for the bottom of the boxes. I also purchased skinny pvc pipe and netting to make a frame and cover for the boxes as the plants grew to keep out pests. The book also suggested building a trellis out of electrical conduit pipe and twine to support the beautiful tomato plants that I dreamed I would have, heavy with juicy, red fruit.

With the supplies at hand, I set myself to the task of constructing my garden. I enlisted the aid of my son to cut the boards to the appropriate lengths. I then built my boxes using long deck screws to hold them together. I have to confess that I felt rather proud and empowered to have put the boxes together by myself. I do love using the few simple power tools that I own and can totally relate to how guys feel about them now.

After constructing the boxes, I put my weed barrier under them and proceeded to mix my soil, called 'Mel's mix' in the book. This is a mixture of the peat moss, vermiculite and compost that is combined in the prescribed amounts and then shoveled into the boxes to a depth of about 8 inches.

Next I measured off 1 foot sections and formed my square foot grids. This would be my guide for planting. The book even offers a chart that tells how many plants of any given vegetable will grow well within a square foot section. The pictures in the book showed a lovely variety of vegetables and flowers in each box, and I arranged my boxes accordingly. After all, variety is the spice of life, right?

Now to wait and watch this fabulous garden grow. And grow it did! Beautiful, thick luscious foliage soon burst forth with blossoms and the promise of some yummy fruit in the near future. My mouth would water just thinking of the fresh, organic salads and other veggies we would soon be eating.

The netting proved to be an annoyance every time I wanted to pull a weed or pluck a lettuce leaf, so I removed after awhile thinking that I probably didn't need it since I had seen no garden predators since things had begun to grow. But getting the garden watered as often as I should have was a bit of a problem. Working the 12 hour night shift didn't leave much time to tend to the garden, so unless it rained, the garden often had to go for 3-4 days at a time without water. Still, it began to produce some tomatoes, cabbages and cucumbers as well as a few sweet zinnias to add color and aesthetics.

And then it happened. Slowly at first, and gradually picking up speed. I would visit my garden, (which was within a few steps of my patio) and find that something had feasted on my plants, or eaten whatever was within reach. Cabbages were chewed up. Half eaten tomatoes hung from the vines and cucumbers were disappearing. My carrot bed and onions were flattened from the weight of whatever critter was feasting on my garden.

Not to be outwitted by 'whatever it was', I sprung into action and made my way to Menards. Fence posts and chicken wire. Yeah! That should do the trick. By now we had determined that the pest was a groundhog that lived under the abandoned house next door. Well, groundhogs dig, so I also bought tent stakes to secure the chicken wire firmly to the ground in the hope that he would give up if it became too difficult to get into the garden.

Well, it took him a few days, but he found a loose place in the fence and made his way inside only to be surprised by my darling husband one day coming home from work. The poor groundhog was so terrified at having been discovered that he forgot which way he got into the garden and tried to get out by going through the fence! In a panic, he did finally find his way out, but left several imprints of his head in the chicken wire. LOL! "That'll teach him", I thought. I patched the hole he got in through and for a week or so things were good. Garden was growing, and no groundhog.

About that time we discovered that there were actually two groundhogs. And they found a way to get back into the garden. An internet search offered several possible ways to discourage them from our garden, many of which we tried. Fake birds, aluminum pie plates on twine blowing around, a colorful beach ball bouncing on the end of a string. Even wind chimes attached to each garden frame that would jingle whenever the animal disturbed anything in the garden. We even had a radio playing in the garden for awhile, but soon realized that the batteries would bankrupt us if we kept that going all the time.

By now 'Dawson' (yep, we gave him a name) had burrowed under the fence and was dining daily on some of the finest produce I have ever grown. It became quite apparent that the only way we were going to get to eat any of our garden produce would be if we followed the food chain and ate the groundhog. But being nature lovers and having an affinity for cute little furry animals, that was not an option. We also had friends who offered to trap Dawson (and his friends) and relocate them to another place. However, we decided that Dawson had earned the right to stay by virtue of the comic relief he had provided in spite of the frustration of losing the entire garden to his voracious appetite.

Meanwhile, my sons both planted gardens as well. And they had beautiful gardens that had no pests. Their gardens yielded such an abundance of produce that my hubby and I had all we could eat plus some to can and freeze.

Hey, I know when I'm beat. And I know a good deal when I see one too. Next year I'm donating all my gardening energy to my son's gardens in return for a share of the booty. And if Dawson finds his way to their gardens, well, they can deal with him however they please.

Just don't tell me about it.

Blessings!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm Back.....



Wow! I haven't posted for over a year. Where has the time gone?!

Well, friends, I've been busy. I've been working on a number of projects, but today I want to address the one that has been the most challenging to me. This project actually began in earnest last summer and was continued into this summer.

I was raised in the country. Think fields, barns, farm animals and gardens. I currently live in a small town, but am still a country girl at heart. So it should be no surprise that I still think gardening is a good thing. There is just something about watching your garden grow and produce tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, etc. It's very satisfying to see shelves of mason jars filled with the abundance of a well tended, productive garden. So last spring I decided to plant a garden rather than just a few tomato plants around my patio.

In the early spring of 2009 a friend came with his tractor and broke up the ground in our little back yard and my gardening began. I planted. I hoed. I weeded and watered. I made a nice little border around the parameter of the garden with bricks and landscape timbers. In short, I worked my butt off, and the garden grew! What a delight!

At the appointed time, tomatoes began to appear on the vines and shades of yellow and red began to peek through the foliage. Ahhh. My garden was producing and my mouth was watering. Time to begin our succulent and tasty harvest. Life was good.

As I began to pick tomatoes, I noticed that more than a few had already been sampled. A bite here, a half-eaten fruit there. Not only that, but the plants were beginning to die from the ground up. This I attributed to some sort of blight or other plant disease, and I made haste to harvest what I could before the whole garden succumbed to whatever this was that was attacking it. Maybe I would have better luck next year. I had all winter to research and find out what the problem was and how to avoid it in the future.

During the course of my research, I ran across what seemed like an excellent form of gardening in small spaces. Thanks to amazon.com I soon had my copy of 'Square Foot Gardening' in hand and a whole new plan forming in my mind. What a great idea! Raised boxes of a special soil mix that was practically guaranteed to grow the finest produce imaginable, and with very little effort after the initial set-up and planting. Hurry up spring!!!! This is my year for the best garden ever!

The rest of the story?......Later. I'm tired.