While I was out tending to things today, I was spellbound by the growth happening in my little garden. I can actually go outside and pick things to eat. There’s not much there yet, I’m still struggling to learn, and I have all but forgotten what I planted in raised bed number one, so I have no idea if I can eat the leaves or wait for the plants to fruit. Here are some pictures of what I’ve achieved so far.
Swiss Chard. Leaf miners got to a good majority of it, but I’ve been cutting the affected leaves off and feeding them to the chickens. Finally, I have some leaves that I can eat, too!
Crookneck Squash. What amateur gardener doesn’t start with this delicious vegetable?
Cilantro/Coriander. This particular heirloom variety produced a cilantro infused with a hint of lemon flavor. I let it go to flower in order to collect the seeds and attract beneficial insects.
Oh My Gosh, I can not wait to eat these! I have since forgotten what variety of heirloom tomatoes I purchased from the guy who sells these out of his home to supplement his income, but I know they will be delicious. They were great last year, whatever they were.
I can’t believe the strawberries are growing. They got off to a very slow start and then I mulched, which must have made them very happy.
A random chicken picture. The chickies fashionista definitely rate number one in my garden.
The work has been steady but never monotonous. It seems that once I get an idea regarding what I’d like to see happen in my front and back yards, the weeds chime in and grow, grow grow. And that’s okay. Even weeds mean growth and growth means fertile soil. For that, I rejoice as I have limited space to put in raised planter beds and have started planting in between the raised beds as well. The onions at our only local grocery store look awful and are $1.99/pound. I won’t spend that much on onions when it’s just as easy and much cheaper to grow them myself. A friend gave me two starts of walking onions at a plant exchange party I recently hosted. These onions grow additional “topsets” on the tops of their stalks, arch over and replant themselves. They are perennials and their new home is the ground between my raised beds.
Another unusual item I have been recently introduced to are ground cherries. These cousins to the tomatillo have never been sold in the Bay Area as far as I know. I have never heard of them, but when another blog mentioned them, I posted that they sound like something I would like to try. A woman from CT offered to send me seeds, and when they arrived, I planted them quickly and now have starts planted in the ground. I hope they taste as good as their description.
Not that everything I plant actually grows. So far, I’ve had very good luck with kale, arugula, cilantro and summer squash. But I also want eggplant, strawberries, cucumber, lettuce, Spring broccoli, and sugar snap peas.
Want pics? I have been using the layered or lasagna method because to me, it seemed to make sense.
Here we go! On to the front yard.
During, covering the mostly weedy grass with newspaper, then mulch. At this point, the yard looked like it had a bad haircut:
After. It is now ready for some topsoil and whatever perennial herbs I choose to plant:
The back yard is another story. I won’t bore you with every angle, even though I’ve taken before and after pictures of every angle I’ve got (and boy have I got them).
The back yard before I got anything planted (late summer 2011):
The back yard one spring later. The raised beds were complete and cover crops had been planted over the rest of the soil to replenish the dirt. The mess of weeds is what I call “flourishment” and most of them are edible:
But here is where we get to the exciting part. The yard is taking shape, a hugelkultur (the mound of dirt at the end) is being built up at the end of the raised beds, and some order is finally taking place. Another raised bed is going in front of the closest bed soon:
No huge transformation has taken place, but I have growth, and it’s edible growth. This is more than I could have dreamed of doing on my own. I’ve had help, of course, and I do want my yard to eventually look like a picture out of a Sunset magazine. But, for now, I have food, and eggs and the love of my friends/family. I feel damned proud of myself.
Three weeks ago, I planted seeds in my raised garden beds. The end.
Just kidding. Before I planted the seeds, my neighbor drove me to pick up a yard of dirt from the local organic dirt and mulch supplier. They gave me more than a yard, but it still was not enough to fill three 4’x6′ and 1′ high raised garden beds. In between shoveling the dirt out of the truck and transporting it by the wheelbarrow full into the back yard, I laid chicken wire down in the bottom of each bed to deter any tunneling critters. After planting the seeds, I covered the the beds with deer netting to keep the neighborhood cats, squirrels, possums and raccoons out of my precious beds.
I experimented with the soil composition with what materials I had on hand and now I have some results to post. Raised bed number one is filled with just the topsoil purchased from the dirt yard. Raised bed number two is fill with a mixture of my compost (made from a mix of chicken manure, hay, and whatever greens and scraps the girls didn’t eat) and the topsoil. Raised bed number three is filled halfway with the topsoil (all of the dirt we had left).
Here are my results. This is really interesting, and believe me, the chickens are on the edge of their seats because they will benefit greatly from whatever I manage to grow.
This is raised bed number one (topsoil only). It may not be very noticeable, but there is a small amount of growth happening here. Some seedlings are sprouting, sparsely.
This is raised bed number two (topsoil and homebrewed compost mix). I already have to thin the plants growing in there.
This is raised bed number three (halfway filled with topsoil). Sparse growth, except for the one weed growing at the top.
I realize now that I should have composted each bed, but did not because I had only a limited supply and I did not think it would matter all that much. I have a full load of compost cooking in the composter at the moment and will probably amend the other two beds if I decide I need to start over.
If only I can remember what the heck I planted in each one.