Tag Archives: Compost

8. Garden Improvements in the coming winter months

30 Oct

Winter is not yet here but the planting season for our area is all but done. That means that if you do not have in the ground now, then don’t plan on getting it in anytime soon. Unless we are talking about alliums and asparagus; those are about the only things you can plant these days without some kind of season extending devices. The winters here can be fickle, even tempting to gardeners and growers alike. Last year, for example, was incredibly mild, too mild. We had no freezes to speak of which allowed many growers to grow productively all through the winter. Or then there is the winter of three years ago which I had a hard time keeping pace with the heating bill on our little 1,000 sf home due to the extended and extremely cold winter. Generally speaking though, our area is good for growing year round vegetables outdoors, albeit selectively and with appropriate measures.  But, we have already experienced our first hard frost (for us that is sub 29) of the season and that was a full two weeks ahead of the typical November 5 first frost date. As for myself, other than the onions and garlic I planted early in October, I do not plan on starting anything new till next year’s planting season begins in March.

So for the time being I am managing my weeds, taking stock of my supplies, watering, and planning hard improvements. Hard improvements are what I call things like renovations and light construction work. Since this is my first winter in this garden, I expect to be performing a lot of improvements in order to get a good start in March. Of the first on my long list are raising the beds. I suspect I have acquired enough soil, though there is more to be taken from under the paths, if I deem it necessary. Then there is the issue of the containment of the beds. After much consideration, some inspiration from talks with some Masters in the garden and a video from Monte Don, I have decided to use an old technique called wattle fencing for the beds’ containment structure.

[Wattle Fencing] is not a new idea. Beginning in the Bronze Age, when knives, saws and hatchets came into use, many Europeans and early residents of the British Isles developed wattle work, the art of weaving branches into walls, fences and roofs. Wattle fences are made by weaving flexible green sapling wood between upright posts, like a wooden tapestry, so they’re both beautiful and strong. They were originally used to contain domestic animals, such as sheep. These days, wattle weaving is a great way to build all kinds of useful rustic garden accents from sustainably harvested wood.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/make-simple-garden-fences.aspx#ixzz2jErVn6TL

My reasons for choosing wattle work are simple. I am seriously trying to avoid using personal funds in this garden, as much as possible. And, there is a large stand of young woods in the overgrown fields bordering the garden site. So the appeal of free material ripe for the harvesting is a major bonus. Then there is the appeal of the intrinsic beauty of wattle work. I do not expect this to be easy. As a matter of fact I expect it will require some serious labor. But labor I have plenty of. Not funds.

If I can make my attempt look half this good, I’ll be alright.

Other improvements I hope to accomplish on the site include some work establishing some batches in the compost area and constructing a more permanent hoop house solution for the 4×6 onion bed. At this moment the community compost area is in need of a lot of work. Members have been using the area as a dumping ground for all their material, but have failed to maintain it with regular turnings and doses of water. As a result the pile is now too large and too weedy for any single individual to conceive of managing to any real result. I hope to get in and establish a series of batches that can be managed by a single individual with relative ease, at least perceptibly so.

Last on my wish list is possibly a small greenhouse using as many found or discounted materials as possible. The problem is where to place it because to situate it on my plot, no matter how small, will mean sacrificing valuable growing space.

None of these are any small task. To do any one of them would be a large accomplishment in one off season. To do all three might be considered monumental. Time will tell. After all, that is what I am good at; thinking more stuff up to do. I need to work on doing it and finishing it.

Thanks for tagging along. You can see more here.


The site

26 Aug

In late August 2013 we accepted this humble plot in the Reedy Creek Community Garden; plot #32.  Our hope and expectation is to build up a productive garden whose produce will be largely if not completely contributed to the Friendship Trays, Charlotte’s Meals on Wheels program. (More on the Friendship Trays Program here.)

We are calling this little plot “Growing it Forward” based largely on the concept portrayed in the 2000 movie Paying it Forward.

The site is a 20′ x 20′ plot on an arranged grid within the Reedy Creek Community Garden (RCCG). Plot #32, as they call it, sits as a diamond on the compass rose with the four sides facing northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest and The four corners pointing in each of the cardinal directions. Each corner is staked with a metal pole and the plot is bordered by mulched communal pathways. Plot #32 is an interior plot with apparently good growing neighbors and convenient access (less than 10′ away) to a hose-pipe, mulch piles, and community compost though the compost pile seems to be a bit in need of some management at this time. The entire community site is well laid out in a wide open field with plenty of visibility to the road and completely surrounded by a tall black chain-link fence.

As far as all the given conditions seem, I am very impressed. The garden itself is well-established; having been in existence for at-least six years. My grower neighbors that I have met so far are generous and welcoming. Shoot, one guy gave us at least three pounds of beautiful banana peppers just for meeting him and listening to him. We are looking forward to pickling those.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, we are going to need to start slow; from the ground up, to pun an idiom. As you can notice in the photographs above the site needs a little bit of overhaul and cleaning. The plot’s previous steward let the weeds overtake it. A kindly garden neighbor graciously mowed down all the weeds before they turned it over to us. Thank God for such generous souls. At this time, and Lord willing, the plan is to build up three 5’x20′ raised beds using lumber to build the boxes and laying down cardboard and wood chip pathways between them. This should provide approximately 300 square feet of growing space, a sufficient amount considering our backyard garden gives us at best 150 square feet. So far sourcing the materials for building the beds is a mite taxing on the income so I hope to find and re-purpose sizable scrap lumber or other sufficient material.

Starting small and steadily building up as we grow along is gonna be key. To do it all in the first steps will be too much and we’ll risk burn out. I am blessed with an active family of five and thus lead a busy life serving the needs of many more than myself so this venture will have to resemble the low maintenance methods we practice in our home garden. But the added space  and square one status allow us to implement some lessons learned as well as play with a larger scale of produce.

All in all I am looking forward to this venture. Here’s to Growing It Forward!