Two years ago, we embarked on our first solo gardening experience. I miss our yard and small garden plot -- and the beautiful morning sunshine on our rich soil! Republished from June, 2008.
I know I mentioned that we weren't doing a garden this year, but that got changed. :)
It started with a request that we remove our compost pile. (Long story!) We certainly didn't want to give up composting, and since the landlord didn't care what we did, we moved our compost pile into a bin (aka garbage can). By the way, the bin was almost full after we moved our pile, but it has now sunk to 2/3 or 3/4 full and there are pumpkin plants growing inside... :)
Moving our compost pile, along with some brush, left a bare spot of dark rich dirt in our yard. Garden time!! :)
In years past, we have helped my parents with their garden in return for some of the produce. This year, with three little children to take along, and the price of gas, I wasn't going to try to go over there to do a garden.
So, we decided we'd have our own little garden. And the learning process began... ;)
Somehow, being completely on our own for this tiny little garden is a whole lot different from being under the direction and guidance of our expert-gardening parents...
Our first step, we thought, was to borrow a rototiller to work up the plot. After consulting with one possible source (my mom), it was suggested that we just work it up with a shovel. Why hadn't I thought of that myself?!
I felt up to the challenge, so I went out and shoveled and worked... and several hours (and blisters) later, we had a perfectly lovely garden area. The dirt was dark (thank you, old compost pile!) and crumbly and soft (thank you, brush pile!).
By the time I got the soil worked, it was too late that night to plant anything.
The next day was rainy.
And the next day, we went to the garden store and bought more stuff than could possibly fit into the too-small plot we have.
We came home with our plants (tomatoes , peppers , onions [all colors], chives, cucumber seeds and squash seeds!). The sun was shining brightly, and I went in the house to make lunch while Joshua said he'd go out and get the dirt ready to be planted.
I wondered if it would be too muddy to plant, but I didn't check. I should have realized that Joshua knows much less about gardening than I even do.
Almost an hour later, I called Joshua in for lunch. When he came in, he told me that it had been a lot of work, but he had gotten the garden ready to plant. It had been extra difficult because the dirt was all clay.
"Clay? I didn't see any clay out there when I worked it up. Was it orange?"
"No, it wasn't orange... it stuck to the shovel something terrible, and it felt just like clay or something."
"Oh, great. You mean mud. Our garden is full of mud."
I started to get worried when I realized that Joshua had just spent over an hour working in the garden, when all it needed was to have the dirt hoed a little and leveled out so we could plant.
When I went out to the garden to see what he had done, I groaned. There in the garden were 4 rows -- each row was a neat strip of mud about 5 or 6 inches high. In between each row was a trench of firmly-packed mud.
All I could say was, "This isn't level."
"Well, no, of course not! I made rows for us to plant in. This is how rows look, in the pictures I've seen of gardens."
"They might look like this after they're planted, I guess."
Let's just say that that was a wasted couple of hours. Except now we know to not set foot in a muddy garden, ever. And I'm gonna double-check next time Joshua heads out to "work in the garden"!
The next day, the ground had dried enough for us to plant, for real. I went out and re-worked the dirt. The mud had dried and was rock-like, making it more difficult to re-work the plot than it had been to turn it all over the first time around. And the rock-hard mud-mounded-rows drove me crazy, as I constantly slipped off of them and down into the trenches... it was like trying to balance on little ledges while shoveling.
By the time I was really ready to plant, it was 9pm. I figured I had at least 30 more minutes of light, and was aiming to get the tomatoes planted.
The mosquitoes came out. I think I have 50+ bites on my arms, legs, and back! And feet! (I wasn't wearing socks.) It was also still 90+ degrees out that night. And it got dark enough quickly enough and I hurried enough that I wasn't paying close enough attention to how closely I was planting those tomatoes.
I was just relieved to get in the house, away from all the mosquitoes, and take a cold shower to cool off.
The following day, we went out to plant the rest of our garden. When we got out there (in daylight, of course), I saw how close my tomato plants were. Way too close. We had to transplant over half of them before we started on the rest of the plants.
Thankfully, with Joshua's help (and my oh-so-expert guidance) we managed to get the garden finished up in a couple of hours.
Except that 8 of our pepper plants simply would not fit, anywhere. We were already pushing it with the squash and cucumber spots... planting them on the corner and hoping they take over the yard rather than the rest of the garden. We'll see.
Now, just so we don't kill the plants. I hope that having a shed close to the garden doesn't block too much sun (it's to the west of the plot). I hope we get some food for all our hard work!! :)
If not, I'll call it a science lesson for the boys. They had fun with all the worms we dug up, anyway. :)
Our current compost bin. After a few more food scrap dumpings, I'll add a layer of carbon (newspaper or twigs). The compost keeps shrinking/settling and the bin is surprisingly not very full yet! :)