Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In Our Garden

After promising to keep you abreast of our work on the house, my little ol' blog fell seriously by the wayside while renovations continued to monopolize our time. Progress inside the house gradually shifted to progress outside the house as Minnesota finally turned warm and sunny (yes, spring and summer did eventually arrive). I intend to post on all the work we've done so far, but I'll refrain from making promises lest I end up breaking them. 

It seems sensible to begin with the area that has been most active lately - our garden. You may remember this:

I was so excited to watch as the snow finally melted and revealed what lay underneath. It was like a giant present gradually unwrapping itself with the thaw. As little shoots popped out of the ground  here and there I wondered what they would grow up to be. Turned out many of them were weeds, of course; but there were some lovely surprises like peonies, lots and lots of hosta and various types of day lillies. Here is that same area in the late spring:

We quickly realized that the two raised beds closest to you in the top picture do not get enough sunlight to grow most vegetables (what exactly were the previous owners thinking?). So we focused on planting the two sunniest beds and chopping down a douglas fir and spruce tree to create more sun space for gardening and other future yard additions (some are still in the dreaming phase, but my fingers are crossed for next spring!). I felt a little sad to watch the fir tree go down. She was a beauty. But Will felt no ambivalence and prided himself on his manliness as he chopped it down with an axe. Sometimes I am grateful that my husband lacks the feelings of guilt over such things that keep me paralyzed, considering consequences indefinitely. In the time it took me to ruminate over all the pros and cons of keeping the trees versus taking them down, my dear husband was already teaching our children to yell, "Timber!" as the tree fell. 

In the picture above you see the stump from where Will chopped down the fir tree. It forms the center of what is becoming Ava's fairy garden. You can also see one of the three apple trees planted between the raised beds by the former owner. This tree is doing the best of the three - one of them perished over the winter and the other is hanging on by a thread - but despite lots of blossoming in the spring we have no apples to look forward to this fall. I had hoped our neighbor's apple trees would be close enough to pollinate our tree, but perhaps no such luck. I'll wait another year and summon my inner honey bee in the spring - I hear you can pollinate by hand with a bit of patience and a q-tip.

This year I planted the beds denser than I would have in years past. I did a bit of reading on intensive gardening in Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre and realized that the spacings recommended on seed packets take into account the space to walk in between rows. Perhaps this is not news to most of you, but to me it was quite enlightening as I am often that gardener who plants exactly 'three seeds every two inches' just as instructed. I didn't go crazy with soil testing or anything like that - there's only so much you can do when gardening with the kiddos in tow. But I did try to optimize production from our little beds. Unfortunately it seems there was an oversight when the previous owners built the raised beds in that they are just a bit too wide for easy access to the middle of the beds - the lack of foresight is not surprising considering two of the beds were installed in almost total shade. In the less sunny bed I planted arugula, mesclun greens, pole beans, lacinato kale, rainbow chard, peppers of various sorts, eggplants, broccoli and nasturtium seeds. When the arugula started to bolt I replaced them with yellow wax beans and dragon tongue beans. In the sunnier bed I planted 11 tomato plants of various types (some of which we'd received as gift starters and some I had started myself, including my absolute favorite, green zebras), basil and marigolds. In Ava's fairy garden I planted an heirloom blue sweet corn called "blue jade", along with sunflowers, mint, poppies, bunny tails, cosmos, foxglove, globe amaranth, zinnias and marigolds.

Farther along in the season, things looked like this:

And most recently, this:

This past weekend I weeded out Ava's fairy garden and laid down a layer of newspaper and a few inches of mulch. (Minneapolis lost many trees in recent storms and is offering free mulch at several sites around the city. The mulch is piled high for the taking. I hope to gather as many trunk loads as we can, as there is so much mulching that needs to be done in our previously neglected yard.) The mulching has transformed the space and is finally starting to look a bit more like I envision it. I suspect not much more planting will get done this year, but I hope to finish creating the beds to surround the garden so that we can get an early start with planting next year  - a bean teepee or sugar-snap pea teepee for hiding in, perhaps a little patch of pumpkins, some butterfly bushes and lots of flowers to create a special place to escape, play and imagine in. Will intends to transform that stump into some kind of fairy house so that our resident fairies will have a comfortable place to rest.

And here's a closer look at some of what's been coming out of our garden these days...

This season of warmth and sunshine, when the garden is bursting forth and fresh veggies are finding their way down the hill from our garden into our kitchen, is such a joyous time for me. I hope you are cultivating your own joy this summer in whatever way makes you the happiest.

1 comment:

  1. so good to hear something, ANYTHING from you! the garden looks great. we could have used your expertise--ours is a jurassic semi-disaster. can't wait to see more about the house and the kids... and the fairy stump sounds perfectly magical.