Saturday, December 26, 2015

Garden Planning Angst

For the first time in five years we have a private yarn, with which we can do whatever we want.

As far as I'm concerned, one activity will be a garden.

It has been longer than five years since I had an in-ground garden, as a result of Samson's antics when he was a puppy. (One year he ate all my tomatoes. The following year he peed on my plants.)

I'm hoping that now that he is older he won't get up to any mischief. Besides, any animal deterrent measures we put in place should keep out a puppy, too!

The problem is deciding which gardening method I want to employ.

Originally, we had discussed getting me a greenhouse. While it might have extended my growing season, and been an easy way to protect my plants from critters, it would have also kept me confined to containers. I wanted to get away from containers and allow my roots to run free!

The greenhouse idea was eliminated when we realized the area we were planning to place it at the end of the driveway is essential to maneuvering the car in and out of the garage.

With the prospect of an in-ground garden before me, I started excitedly making a list of "all the vegetables we eat on a regular enough basis to be worthwhile growing."

That list quickly expanded to 16 items.

I then added herbs, which were another 9 types.

Hubby, knowing what I'm like, suggested maybe I should start small with a few key plants and expand in subsequent years. He made an excellent point, although I haven't actually scaled down my list yet.

Regardless of the number of varieties I was going to plant, I had to plan my garden before we broke ground. To that end, I went to the library (so old-fashioned) and borrowed three books that seemed like they would be good for garden planning.

One of the books was "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. Within 10 pages I was totally drinking the Kool-Aid on this system. The combination of built in size restrictions and purported ease of maintenance sounded right up my alley.

But then I read about the construction in the book, read a few blogs, and now I'm not so sure. You are supposed to put down a barrier—either fabric or cardboard, from what I can tell—which helps block weeds. However, that will also prevent the roots from running free.

Suddenly it sounds like glorified container gardening, which wasn't what I wanted.

If I was going to stick with containers, I might as well get additional Earth Boxes. My dad sent me one for my birthday two years ago.

That first year I used established seedlings I bought at Lowe's and they grew very well.

The second year (summer 2015), things didn't go as well.

I decided to be clever and start my own plants from seeds. 

But I did not thin them, which resulted in puny plants that never really recovered. The cold, wet weather at the start of the growing season didn't help either.

The combination led to a very pathetic harvest.

If I stick with the Earth Boxes I'll have to be much more careful. Especially if I start from seeds again, which I prefer.

The poor performance of this year's plants is what made me want to get out of containers in the first place, although I think the mistakes are easy to avoid.

But, as I said earlier, I've circled around to the idea of getting more Earth Boxes because they might be a good compromise between a traditional garden and the Square Foot Garden.

I'm not sure what the soil is like in our new yard. The first place we lived down here had predominantly clay soil. It's possible the soil here at the new how will have a lot of clay as well.

I know it will probably be very rocky. We have several large outcroppings around the yard. I'm not looking forward to trying to prep an area for a garden if I'm going to be digging up rocks in the process. For all I know, the top soil isn't very deep.

I'm hesitating over the Earth Boxes because of the cost. On the other hand, it is far less than the green house would have been. Especially when you consider the green house would have required the purchase of containers.

In theory, we could create a Square Foot Garden for less, unless we bought a kit, which is getting into the range of the three Earth Boxes I'm considering.

Another issue is that, really, I can already sense that if I don't go full in-ground, I'm going to end up with a combination. There are crops I want to plant (asparagus) that have to be in the ground. I could buy my three Earth Boxes (for a total of four) and still end up digging up rocky, clay soil to plant asparagus and strawberry.

I suppose I should go run these ideas by hubby to see what he thinks. This blog post didn't clarify my mind as much as I was hoping.

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