I’m behind on blogging this week, but for a very good reason: the garden. It’s the first week of April and the weather has been dry and fair–it’s the perfect time to work on the infrastructure and hard-scaping to be ready for planting.
In my last garden post I shared our plans for a larger main garden, a revitalized raised bed garden near the house (to use a British term, this will be the “kitchen garden,” for herbs and tender plants), and our long-awaited greenhouse. We’ve adjusted those plans since. Some slight, such as moving the fruit bushes, for example, to the east side of the garden so as not to block the afternoon light on smaller plants. And some monumental, such as the raised bed garden.
Before the chickens destroyed it and I failed to resurrect it due to grad school, the raised bed garden (pictured below) was a perennial herb and butterfly garden with a wildflower patch and a large square bed at the end. It was my first attempt at an ornamental garden and even while imperfect (Monty Don would advise me to plant closer to the path, for one thing), I adored it.
And then it became this. Well, actually, this is after quite a bit of clearing; an improvement, if you will, over what had been here for three years.
My initial plan for this space had been small and simple; something I could accomplish by myself quickly, that would result in more garden space and add back in some much needed flowers to the garden to attract pollinators for the new fruit bushes. I hadn’t expected Brian to become so enamored with my idea that he would offer to pour so much physical effort and money into it. But, he has. And I love him so much for it.
Instead of re-using the existing brick path and placing raised beds into the weedy area with some container perennials to attract pollinators to the garden, with his help, we are free to completely redo the space.
We removed the brick path, which had sunken well below the soil level and collected water and weeds, creating a drainage concern all along the foundation of the house. Then, the kids helped us till it up and then dig it all out to level it and create a subtle slope away from the house. They were champs about it for a solid two hours, and then tuckered out. I’m still super impressed with their gusto and am grateful for how invested they continue to be in our garden.
We got 4 loads of gravel in Brian’s truck that we had to unload and spread. And that took us all day. With just a hand shovel and a few rakes, it was hard work, but even just having half of it done is so invigorating. This weekend we’ll be renting a small Bobcat Digger, however, to help us move the dirt we removed to the uneven indentation in the yard from an above-ground pool (where the greenhouse sits presently) that pre-dates our purchase of the home and has been a hazard and an obstacle ever since. Then we’ll also use said Bobcat Digger to spread the other 4 loads of gravel we still need. It should take us less than a few hours to do it all and worth every penny.
We had hoped to have this done by last weekend so that our raised beds can be put into position and filled. It’s time–a little past time, actually–to direct-sow peas and other spring crops, and so I’m feeling the pressure of the calendar. We simply must get these beds finished this weekend.
The beds will be in position similar to my original plan, however, there will be a new perennial butterfly bed hugging the corner of the patio. The BBQ area will, hopefully, have a hot tub very soon (we actually had one we got for free that needed fixing, but, after a Brian inspection it was deemed a lost cause). And the raised bed section at the end of the garden will continue to function this way for now, however, leveling it and preparing this space this way enables us to begin working on master bedroom addition off the back of the house that we’ve long-planned for and that is sorely needed. I long for that second bathroom. We’ll have someone pour the foundation and Brian will be free to work on it as he has time for a bit.
In other garden news, Brian quickly mocked-up a design for a portable greenhouse that would be heavy enough to withstand strong winds (we had a wind advisory the day we built it, so I’d say we’re solid) but light enough that we could pick it up and move it. The idea being we could place it onto a section of the main garden during winter to extend the in-ground growing season for non winter-hardy crops; but still have space to over-winter the crops that do like those conditions, such as parsnips, beets, and carrots.
The kids also helped put it together. It’s made out of PVC and 6 mil plastic sheeting. He designed some kind of plastic part that holds the sheeting to the pipe that he 3D printed at the shop. We’re still working on getting some wood-framed doors in place–one in front and at back so we can have air flow in hot months–and that will also help add some weight to keep it grounded without the use of anchors. Presently it’s staked.
It was simple and inexpensive to put together and it’s working so well!! It “rains” inside the greenhouse from the humidity.
We do still have to put some infrastructure in place inside the greenhouse, but for now, there’s some happy seedlings I’ve since potted-on to help them grow until May when we can put them in the ground, and the fruit bushes arrived and are happily ensconced until planting time.
Every time I go in to the greenhouse I get a happy feeling. We were married in Garfield Park Conservatory among the tropical plants and fish because we both loved it there. And while this is a far cry from that, perhaps one day we’ll be able to carve out our own little piece of this. In the meantime, I really want to try my hand a keeping a lemon tree in there. I use so.many.lemons.
In other garden news, the main garden is tilled, including the new 7 foot expansion. Once we complete the raised bed garden area, Brian wants to build a new fence before we begin to sow anything in the ground. We usually don’t plant until around Mother’s Day where we are, so he has plenty of time yet.
We also bought the kids a giant trampoline to help them burn-off some energy during shelter-in-place. It’s sitting awkwardly next to the greenhouse right now, smack in the middle of my hopefully-soon orchard, but that was the only spot in the yard level enough to have it be safe. I’m not thrilled about the aesthetics, but am so thrilled that they have this much-needed outlet right now. The orchard can wait a little while longer. Heck, we planted that weeping cherry 6 years ago as a flowering anchor for the orchard and still haven’t planted the apple trees. 🙂
So, as you can see, it was a delightfully busy week in the garden. I’m so grateful to have the space and resources to do this. This year, almost more than any other year, having a garden is like a lifeline. If you’re reading this and nodding along, even if you don’t have this kind of space, Monty Don (my gardening hero) would tell you that anyone can have a garden, no matter how small. There is so much healing that can happen in the dirt, and right now, I think we all could use a little healing. Stay safe and take care. I’ll be updating with the much-delayed weekly meal plan, then recipes shortly.