Growing

The garden expansion is not 100% done yet, but it’s close enough to photograph. All of the light-colored beds (along the back and right sides) are new, and the metal fence posts show where I expanded outwards in two directions. There’s a new 4×12′ bed hidden behind the hydrangea in the near right corner, bringing the total to 20 beds (Milo gets a 3×6′ spot for himself, to plant, weed, and tend on his own). Another one (4×9′) is planted to scorzonera and salsify, which John wanted since he has no garden and they’re not easily found in stores. The others I’ve begun to seed with various things, though for most of them I’m going to wait until the end of July so all the brassicas don’t bolt.

The lavender bed left of the gate with the iron shelves in it was the happy result of a neighbor’s gift of the shelves. I’m going to be planting or mulching the outside perimeter to keep the lawn and field from invading the garden. The cedar fence posts I pulled up make excellent edging for perimeter beds, and haven’t rotted at all after being buried. Where the lavender used to be, I’m going to plant prickly pears since they’re super-hardy and can handle the dry spot under the eave. After I prune the hydrangea back, I’ll be making a flower bed on the other side of the gate. Or maybe more asparagus.

It feels good; I should have listened to my inner farmer at the outset when we put this in four years ago. It’s a good size now for something approaching year-round vegetable independence, though far from full subsistence. Careful succession planting will be the key, as will getting a viable root cellar up and running this fall in the crawl space under the house. Down the road I’d like to build a greenhouse attached to the South side of my studio, but the way I want to do it will cost more than I can spend right now.

This fall I’ll be planting some fruit and nut trees out in the field, and I might make a smaller garden out there too so winter squash can run amok without smothering other crops. But for now I’m content and have room to stretch out a bit, even planting some flowers just for fun. The fruit bushes (currants: red, white, pink, black, clove; raspberries: red, black, yellow; blueberries, gooseberries, lingonberries, strawberries, blackberries, grapes, hardy kiwis, cherries, and prickly pears) are coming along nicely. Combined with the garden expansion, it’s been a productive season so far. And I’ve been reminding myself that I have actual jobs other than this, so I need to cut myself some slack when it comes to the self-sufficiency thing. I do wish I’d put some of these plants in the ground right when we moved in, because they’d be that much farther along. But we have plenty to eat, and much to look forward to. And that’s really all there is to it.

4 comments to Growing

  • fastgrowtheweeds.com

    Wonderful!

    Is that your garage back there? If so I see a fabulous spot for espaliering some trees. Not that you really need more to do, I am just saying.

    I think 20 beds is nothing to sneeze at. And going at it gradually has helped you avoid overdoing it and then resenting the garden…a phenom that's surprisingly widespread, sadly, despite a love of fresh veg.

    My only tip for succession-planting is that, every time you go out to the garden, make sure you carry a digger and a bag of seeds! With weird weather years like this one you can't always count on things taking hold like they normally would.

  • Zoomie

    Whew, that ought to keep you off the streets and out of the bars!

  • Pam

    What a wonderful garden! I am completely envious!

  • peter

    El: It's not. It's the neighbor's. I have plenty of other spots for fruit trees when the time comes. I always bring seeds with me; I keep them by the door.

    Zoomie: More or less, it should.

    Pam: Thanks- it's lots of work, but so very rewarding.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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