Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring Is Here - Time to Garden!

Wew, our entire family, including the cat, spent this entire weekend working on our veggie garden. Last year we had just three smallish - 4' by 6' - raised beds and some cukes, squash and watermelons (remember our 55 lb watermelon?!).

This year we're expanding. The veggie garden, when completed, will take the entire front yard. Yes, our neighbors are lucky peeps, hehe. Actually, most of them are taking the temporary mess and the permanent lack of a well-manicured lawn in a stride. Many stop and ask questions about the garden or say hello. Let me tell you, having a front-yard garden is a great way to meet the neighbors!

But anyway, back to my story. We were going to have the beds ready last weekend, but the weather was horrible. It was too cold to plan anyway. So this weekend Chris went to the City Solid Waste Management and got a huge load of compost for $10. Then he went to a corner hardware store and got a couple of straw bales there.

And I found a source for some first-rate goat manure ($3 for 50-lb bag - cheap!). In case you're wondering, go to the State Farmers Market, to the covered area. Find a guy who sells goat cheese and cheese spreads (he always has tons of samples too, yummy). Tell him how many bags of the good stuff you need and he'll get them to you, fresh from the farm, the very next day.

This prep work took a good part of our Saturday. Still, we managed to prepare 2 beds. One was our old raised bed which we (and by we I mean Chris) moved from its old location. We simply filled it with compost (a mix of our own and the City compost).

The second bed was something we decided to try this year - a keyhole bed. And we built it up, lasagna-gardening style. First, we put down a thin layer of manure. Next - a couple of layers of newspapers (Chris got a ton of those from a recycling bin at his work; that's about the only perk his job offers). After getting the newspapers soaked, we put a thin layer of compost, a dusting of bloodmeal, followed by a thick layer of straw. Then - another, this time - thick, layer of compost. And we mulched it all with some more straw.

It sounds very time-consuming, but it really wasn't. It took us about 30 minutes to build one bed. And some of this time was spent supervising Mr. M who oh-so-wanted to help!

After the first bed was made, we decided to call it a night (again, it was on Saturday). But before packing up, I decided to put some more wood chips on the path around the bed. And lemme tell you, it was a good thing I did too! How so?

Well, as I dug into the wood chip pile, I noticed that it was smoking. That didn't look good at all. But maybe it was just dust? So I dug a little bit into the pile and touched the inside - sure thing, the wood chips in the bottom center were getting hot. With all the nice warm weather heading our way, this wood chip pile was sure to catch fire in the next few days!

So instead of going home, we grabbed our neighbor's wheelbarrel and started shoveling and carting off the chips. We put a ton of them in the back yard, as a sort of a path (if anything, we hope it'll kill the weeds). In about 30 minutes the pile was reduced to a harmless and manageable non-spontaneously-combustible size.

This morning, sore from Saturday's work, we started building the rest of the beds using the same lasagna approach. Man, that was a lot of shoveling! But we were done surprisingly fast, in about an hour (or 20 minutes per bed). We then took a break because we had some other things we had to take care of.

Then, in the afternoon, we made a long garden bed, alongside the driveway. And also I started planting. I planted one of the raised beds and two keyhole beds. Mr. M was so excited! When I told him that after lunch we were going to plant some seeds, he said "Мама, это отличная идея! Обязательно надо так сделать!"

And so we planted:

Raised Bed 1 - radishes, arugula, leaf lettuce, pak choi, spinach, garlic, calendula
Keyhole Bed 1 - carrots, beets, bush peas, fennel, dill
Keyhole Bed 2 - kale, swiss chard, calendula, parsley

Mr. M planted some of the larger seeds, but then got bored with the process (I need to try a windowsill garden with see-through containers). So he took off and found some sticks that he pretended to be various brass and woodwind instruments. He then said that he was going to sit on the steps, play his instruments and wait until the veggies grow.

With all the running around that he did today, he sure was hungry. As a matter of fact, when we came into the house, the first thing out of his mouth was "Мама, приготовь мне ужин!". And he said it while pointing at the stove too! All this working and playing in the garden is doing wonders for his appetite (meatballs and lettuce are now among his favorites), not to mention his gross motor skills.

Now, we're pretty much done with the garden until the next weekend when I'll plant some more greens in the second raised bed. Hopefully the blueberries and the goji berry we ordered a while ago will have arrived by then so we can plant them as well. And I'm thinking about adding more flowers too. Stay tuned for further updates and a nice shot of our front yard garden.

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