It’s late Spring here in Gizzy. The sun is hot, the sky is blue, and the 10-day forecast shows days on end of more of the same. Daylight Savings happened last weekend. The kids are halfway through their final 2-week school holiday before the end of the year in mid-December, and so for the moment, it feels like Summer has arrived! Which means that we’ve been overhauling our backyard garden. Tired hands (weeding!) and tired backs (hauling salvaged bricks and pieces of concrete); however, we’ve toiled for the second weekend in a row and the garden is starting to look pretty good!
Actually, I didn’t go out to the garden last weekend with the intention of commencing major work. I just kind of wandered out there because it was warm and I’d bought some plants at the market. It was more of a reconnaissance mission. What was happening out there!?! I’ve been harvesting lettuce and spinach like crazy. But I’d just been turning a blind eye to the weeds growing up the hill from the river, growing ever closer to the brick edgers Thora and I had put in over the winter. In fact, I had so little idea of how we would transform the garden, that I didn’t even bother to take a “before” photo.” But imagine: a sea of weeds up to your knees, in the veggie beds, in the paths, basically everywhere. I also wandered out to the garden to seek inspiration for the placement of my new tomato plants and the few herbs that I’d bought at the farmer’s market. But before I knew what was really happening, I’d weeded a good section of earth and then had started filling the wheel barrel with bricks and chunks of broken cement that were piled behind the compost bins.
And this is how it played out. While I weeded like mad, Sean and Auric tilled the soil next to the house where the sunflowers had been last summer. Since it’s a sloping little mound of grass, they built a little retaining wall to hold the soil up. They edged it with some spare bricks and in went 7 tomato plants (4 heirloom varieties from the big home improvement store and 3 from the farmer’s market), along with some marigolds.
Here’s Auric in front of the tomato and marigold garden.
Here I am in the midst of the weeding/brick edging project. I’m standing next to the lettuce and spinach garden, with robust and slightly intimidating-looking onions in front. (I’ve never grown onions and they’ve been in the ground forever! Do I pull them now? How will I know when they’re done? Are they just rotting in there? I need to figure these things out.)
Anyway, this is what it looked like after last weekend.
At this point, it was almost completely weeded and the brick edging curves along the slope that leads down to the river. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fully aware that the plant-life on the riverbank is completely in control here. My attempt to claim space from this robust jungle of weeds with newspaper + bricks is probably laughable. But besides nuking it all with chemicals, I’m not sure what choice I have. So for now, I’m going to try to protect our little plot of land as best I can.
Then today, after another trip to the plant stand at the farmers’ market, I began again. Today, I started with tilling and filling the little bed that will be home to 4 butternut squash plants and 4 zucchini plants with homemade compost.
I LOVE the rich, black compost from our first bin of last year’s food scraps. Here’s a shot of it, about to be dumped on the squash and zucchini bed.
Here is the squash and zucchini bed all done.
Here, in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo, is the beginning to what Thora is calling her garden, next to the “tool shed.”
Last year’s strawberry plants have come back, (actually, they never really went anywhere), and I think Thora is pleased with the idea of the strawberries. I’m guessing that despite the number of bright green leaves and little white nubs of pre-strawberries, she’s forgotten that they produced not a single berry last year. However, this year, I plan to invest in some bird mesh or mesh cloth, (what is it called?) to see if we can protect our growth and keep it for ourselves instead of providing a banquet for the birds. (The fantails can have all the bugs and fruit flies as they want.)
Here’s the lettuce bed.
This has produced so much for us. I’m thrilled that our nightly salads come, almost exclusively, from this humble backyard plot. I was reading in my new favorite book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michel Pollan, that given the low calorie content in organic greens and the effort it takes to keep them fresh while they’re transported to the various supermarkets across America, it takes 57 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce (harvest, clean, and transport) 1 (yep, one) calorie of organic salad greens. Gah! So, I’m happy that we can get our nightly salad from the free energy from the sun and to harvest and transport those greens to our table costs the several human calories that I burn walking out there and bending over and snipping for 3 minutes with the scissors. I’m as water conscious as possible while giving them a thorough rinse. But the environmental cost of our salads is remarkably low.
And here’s a view of almost all of it in one shot.