Monday, February 7, 2011

First post, snow-ice, I cut down the cherry tree

There they are - seven raised beds under a crust of snow and ice and what's left of a felled tree.  What’s with the tree?  It was a black cherry on the north edge of the garden, about 16 inches in diameter, that forked into 2 equal trunks about 8 feet up.  Problem was, one side was dead and the other side was mostly dead.  Instead of waiting for a storm to take it down in an unknown direction, possibly on the house, I cut it down last fall.  It did not drop exactly where I planned and caused some damage to the beds – another job come spring.  The part of the tree that fell on the beds was mostly cut up and removed, then the snows came.  Here’s what the crime scene looked like the day I felled the tree.  The bed in the upper left took the brunt of the fall.  I had set logs around the other beds and they were spared a direct hit. 

The greenhouse is a plastic contraption that I bought through a seed catalogue.  It folds up and has four screened windows that zip shut, kind of like a pup tent.  Last fall the greenhouse was set over what I call the “greens” bed because that is where spinach and lettuce were planted last fall to overwinter.  There are two plantings of lettuce/spinach.  The first planting was made in late September in hopes of a late Fall harvest.   I wanted to seed them earlier but the late heat wave kept the soil too warm and hampered germination.   Because the trees block much of the late Fall sun the spinach just couldn’t get to size before winter.   The second planting was made in mid October and was intended to overwinter.   I expect the spinach and hopefully some of the lettuce to start growing again in late February/early March and provide an early harvest while I start the spring planting of greens in open spaces in the bed.   I also planted a row of Claytonia in the same bed last fall, a very cold hardy green, but it looks like the seeds are only viable for one year as there was almost no germination.  Too bad, they are very tasty.  If space permits I will set out the first batch of kohlrabi and bok choi in the same bed.

Since the garden was started in 2008 a brief history is in order.  The garden layout of raised beds was mostly in place in spring 2009, except that a semi-open bed that was terraced at the pond side was converted into 2 large raised beds in 2010.  Most of the earthmoving and construction was done in Fall 2008.  Since the soil in the garden area is hard Indiana clay I cheated and brought in a truckload of black dirt and a truckload of compost.   The back side of the area near the pond was terraced with field stone and the black dirt was used to level the area.  The compost was turned into the underlying soil in the beds as deep as I could dig with a hand shovel and tilled with a Mantis cultivator to break up the chunks of clay.  A sheet mulch was set on the open bed earlier that spring.  I  put a layer of newspaper and brown paper down to block sunlight,  then added  compost, shredded branches, sour straw, and some blood meal to get things working.  The worm action over the summer loosened the underlying soil and made the area much easier to dig and turn that Fall.

Garden construction 2008 (cherry tree still standing):

And a view from the pond side, showing the stone terracing:

Here's the garden in midsummer 2009, the Year of the Squash.  I got about 25 butternut squash averaging 3 pounds each from one plant in the open bed at the left.  Also Kabocha, Delicata, and Acorn, but the Delicata and Acorn succumbed to the vine borer later.

And finally, the garden in late summer 2010.  The tall mass of green on the left are Kentucky Wonder pole beans (not seen are the Japanese beetles munching away), the tall mass of green in the center are two Diva cucumber plants on a trellis. The potatoes in the front bed are nearly done. 

Well that's two years of gardening in the blink of an eye and I'm ready to start the new season.  Next post, The Plan and The Schedule. 

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