Friday, February 28, 2014

Coming To Fruition... Slowly

Because my boyfriend is awesome and got me a huge batch of cardboard, I was able to get them de-taped and on the ground. Today is the supposed to be the last of a lovely week and the rains are supposed to start tonight.

The pile of bricks has shrunk significantly since advertising them on Freecycle and all the boxes, save one, are built. It already looks much better than the old garden and will definitely look better when the boxes are filled with soil and the ground is covered with mulch.

I am trying to decide if I want to put another garden bed box on the south side or keep the area open for a little cafe table and chairs so that I can sit in the garden and stare loving at it when spring rolls around.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Remnants of A Garden

The old garden beds are slowly being pulled out and replaced with the new. As the ground is being leveled and the bricks that I had used for the sides are being stacked for someone to take them away.

I offered them on Freecycle Seattle, that way someone who might have use for them can have them for free. I have found plenty of awesome items on Freecycle myself, as well as, given away a bunch of stuff. I highly recommend the service. Give a little, get a little.

It is a bit weird pulling out the beds that had been the location of many lovely salad greens. I know that the new beds will better suit my needs, but there was something wonderful about the janky, put together garden beds. They were kind of like my personality; Informal, but productive. I admit that the new beds and garden design will be more aesthetically pleasing and that will make the yard much more pleasant for me and my neighbours. The design will be easier on my back and knees.

Flattening out the surface is an interesting exercise.  What I think is flat actually seems to hold giant divots once I get a piece of cardboard over it. It is hard not letting the perfectionist in me get overly anal about flattening out the space. I know that it will be covered with cardboard and wood chips eventually and that as long as the beds are level it will be fine. But part of me wants it to be beautiful but then again I need to look at it as; I am planning a vegetable garden and just by definition alone they are beauty incarnate.

Speaking of flattening out surfaces. This is the other project I have been working on for a while. The pathway in front of my back gate. I had dug up this section of grass last autumn and had been procrastinating since.

Again, I found about 300 paver bricks and two bags of paving sand on Freecycle and decided to work on the pathway from the front garden to the back yard.

I ended up buying about 4 more bags of sand for this section alone, but getting that level was an interesting feat.  I finally was able to get it level enough, but there are a few wobbly spots and a couple of gaps. I am considering filling them with solar-powered light bricks, which would be a nice way to light the pathway. The gate is a little cattywompas and needs to be rehung, but this should help with the problem of it getting hung up on the grass.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Raised Beds

I have the occasional panic attack so there are times that I cannot leave my yard without anxiety, let alone the house. These last few days have been that kind of week.

I have found that as long as my neighbours don't notice that I am outside and don't say anything, I am fine with being in the yard and working.  So instead of being a shut in, I am a yard in... But as soon as someone said anything to me, I tended to run into the house until they went away.

 Anyways, since no one was around, I worked in the yard. I find that it calms me.

The boyfriend brought home a pile of flattened cardboard, so I got around to peeling off all the tape, removing any staples and lying them down, staggered over each other, as a weed barrier. I placed the second bed on top of them and filled it with soil.

The large pile of soil you see in the back of this picture is the soil I used to fill the bed. Nice, fluffy, humus-y soil, full of nice organic matter. It's the remnants of my old garden bed. My friend, Noel, loaned me her soil screen and I went to town removing all the larger rocks and the neighbour's cat's poop(I will leave them a nice present in their yard at a later date....). This also helped to level out the area so that the next bed would be ready to go right in when the boyfriend gets another batch of cardboard.

I moved six Swiss Chard plants that had over-wintered in one of the old beds into the new bed, as well as, three rather sad and stunted onions. We will see if they survive.

I have another pile of lovely soil in the back yard, so hopefully, I wont have to shell out any money for a bunch of soil. This is all the original soil from my yard, so it should not deplete the top soil too dreadfully.

I only went with a twelve inch tall bed since I do not plan on planting anything that is too deep rooted with eighteen inch aisles between the beds, which should give me plenty of room to work on either side.

Now, to figure out how to keep the neighbour's cat out of bed without resorting to a slingshot...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Veggie Garden Remodel

I am remodeling my vegetable garden. 

Truthfully when I put in my garden beds about 3 years ago, I did it in a hurry with little funds and little idea as to what I should be doing.  It was a slipshod affair and I hoped that I would be able to get it up to what I daydreamed it would be sooner.

The set up was wrong; it took up too much space for the amount of food it produced, did not take the best advantage of the sun's movements through the yard and was not convenient to work in. But at the time, I wanted my garden in NOW and was not patient enough to plan it more thoroughly. 

With the original beds, they were too wide and not convenient for my short little legs and arm. I couldn't reach the middle of the veggie bed easily. I don't like square beds, I prefer them long, so these beds are going to be 12feet by approximately 30inches. Approximately 30 square feet per bed. More space than a 4 foot x 4 foot square and much easier to work in for me. I will have a couple 4x4s but mainly it will be the long beds.  In total, I should have approximately 182 square feet of garden bed to plant which means a hell of a whole lot of vegetables!

Back in January, my friend Kate, was moving and had a bunch of 2 x 12 lumber boards she was giving away and luckily she offered them to me! So now I have a bunch of lumber to put raised beds together and get them in the yard for spring. My boyfriend is grabbing cardboard from his work to place on the ground under the beds and the walkways to reduce weeds, and the County is cutting down old trees or trees that are not movable in the neighborhood in the next few months because they are installing bio-retention swales. I called to ask if I could have the wood chips and get first dibs on them, for free. These will go in the walkways to keep them dry, make it look pretty and cut down on weeds. We have leftover soil from when I had the Douglas Fir in the backyard cut down and stump ground and when we extended out the shed on our garage, we shoveled it into a giant pile in the backyard. It needs to be screened but it is good fertile soil. I have quite a bit of chicken poop and that should help with the soil amendment as well.  And another friend, Alex, gave me a couple kits for 4 foot by 4 foot beds and I am set in making my garden what I hope it will be. Productive!

The costs should be minimal, it will just take lots of work. I have to get the ground relatively level and already have 3 beds built. One is on the ground and filled with dirt and bare root strawberry plants. The others are waiting for a cardboard layer on the ground. And I still have enough wood for two more beds!

I have read in articles that beds should be oriented in a North/South or East/West (meaning the short side would be directed east/west or north/south) or the directions of your ancestors or... or...  or... I am not sure that it really matters. Last time, my garden beds faced East/West, this time because I want to better use my space I am going to orient them North/South. I don't know if it would be any better or worse, but I can give it a try. Different publications give contradictory suggestions, so all I can really do is see what works better for me.

The boards are not treated so they will not leach arsenic into the soil, but they will also decay faster. It is a trade-off and worthwhile in my opinion, if I have to replace a board or two every few years I am good with that. At least I know my vegetable won't have extra unnecessary chemicals in them.

Hopefully, there will be good weather for the next couple of weeks and I can finally get the garden in order and ready for the first plant sales in March!

Rites Of Spring

Spring is almost here, my Dearies!

The garden catalogs have been slowly trickling in since the first week of January. Tempting me with their burlesque colorful covers and beautiful plants within. I can sit for hours flipping through the pages and making notes of what I would like to try this year.

Territorial Seed Company, Baker Creek, and Irish Eyes  are my three favourite, but I love getting all the seed catalogs!

Botanical Interests has pretty packets and some nice mixes.
Burgess Seed and Plant Co have beautiful ornamental plants, although rarely organically grown there are some lovely finds in it.
Burpee Seed Co recently put my worries about it ownership to rest.
Ed Hume Seeds tailor theirs for the Pacific Northwest (PNW) climate.
Renee's Garden has the prettiest of seed packets and a pretty decent variety of unusual plants.
Seattle Seed Company also tailors their seed selection to our Western Washington Climate ( I haven't tried them, so I cannot give feedback as of yet.)

Also, because we live in a wonderful modern world of instant informational gratification, I have been getting updates about local plant sales:

The Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale will be on March 3rd. There is usually a nice variety of veggies, native plants, perennial and ornamental plants.
Northwest Horticultural Society will be having their Spring Plant Sale on March 7th. Mainly, PNW natives and ornamental plants
 Seattle Tilth will be having a March Edible Plant Sale this year on March 15 as well as their annual Edible Plant Sale in May. As the name of the plant sale suggests, you will find mainly edible plants, but there are plenty of other plants to get you interested as well.
Washington Park Arboretum's Plant Sale will be in April and you will always find wonderful plants!

You will start finding bare root plants in your local nurseries by now and like me I am sure you all are feeling the itch to get your hands into your soil! Unfortunately my soil is super soggy right now and not as workable as I would like. Even so, I can lie in my bed with my catalogs and plan.