Friday, February 10, 2012

Fixing Garden Mistakes

Have you ever planted something and after a year or so realized that it's not in the right place?  When I first moved here 15 years ago I immediately put in a garden.  I put it in the back part of the backyard lawn.  It was an ugly lawn so I figured it would be a good spot.  It was for a year or so.  Then I redid the area a little further back and moved the garden there.

Originally the house was owned by someone with a lot of horses.  The barn is set up with four separate horse stalls and outside runs.  In front of the barn was a fenced in area, although the fencing was pretty bad.  It was wood and the horses did a great job eating most of the 2x6s.  In front of the barn was a fenced in area that was wired for a hot-walker.  That's one of those machines that you tie the horse to and it spins around in circles, walking the horse.  The electric line was cut and the hot-walker was not there, there was, and still is, a triangular cement pad. 

I decided that this area would be great for the garden.  First I had to move my animals, since I had put them there.  The rest of the property fencing was in such disrepair that no animal would be able to be kept in.  This meant that I had to fence the property.  Instead of using regular wire fencing I had lots of cattle and hog 16 foot panels that I had brought with me when I moved.  The panels cost over $20 each and I had over 100 panels.  I wasn't leaving them at the old house!  It took a while to get the fencing up but I did it.  Then I was able to move the garden into what once was an animal pen. 

You'd think it would have had great soil with all the manure and such but no such luck.  I couldn't find a worm in my soil no matter how much I dug.  The ground was solid clay.  I initially used some of my old wood and put in some raised beds.  The problem was I didn't really have anything to put into the beds as far as amended soil went so it was for looks only.  That worked for a year or two until I decided to do something different. 

I expanded the garden by pulling out the raised beds and just planting in rows.  That worked out well because I was able to take the tractor and disc the entire garden.  We also had chickens and started putting the manure into the garden.  This worked out ok but I still didn't like it.  There wasn't enough room even though I had taken out the raised beds.  I started growing the corn in the front pasture and other plants in the garden. 

This worked but the weeds were overwhelming.  I decided to go back to raised beds.  Last year I bought a bunch of cheap wood and made raised beds.  I put down weed block fabric between the rows and dumped a bunch of wood chips in the walkway.  The garden looked great.  How would it perform?  I was pleased.  I had potatoes in one bed, tomatoes in another, beans in another, okra in another and so on.  It will be easy to rotate where each item is planted.  I will still be raising the corn up in the front pasture once the animals are off it. 

This year I don't know if the animals will get to the front or not.  Normally I put them in the back and let the front get rained on all winter and then the grass starts growing.  Sometime in the late spring the grasses are so high that when I put the sheep in you can't see them.  They are hidden in the grass.  It takes them about two months to eat it all down and then they get transferred back to the back pasture, which has then had time to grow as well.  But with our lack of rain the front pasture is only two or three inches tall.  It should be a foot by now at least. 

I've planted trees in the area of the original orchard.  I also made a new orchard in the back by the garden.  I planted citrus trees in front of the chicken coop to keep the coop cooler during the summer.  I can still add about four more raised beds if I run out of gardening bed space.  A few years ago I started planting trees in the front pasture.  Since the animals graze in there I needed to put fencing around each tree.  The sheep climb up the fencing and would eat the lower limbs of the trees.  I finally had to add more panels to the fencing around each tree and now this year I'm assuming the sheep wouldn't be able to reach the trees to "trim" them for me. 

Instead of planting the asparagus along a fence line I planted it right in the middle of the garden when I put in the first set of garden beds.  Then when I removed them and started discing I had to raise the disc every time I went near the asparagus so I wouldn't injure the plants.  That was a pain but it never occurred to me to move the asparagus.  Then I put in the new raised beds, and wouldn't you know it, the asparagus is mostly growing in between the beds...right in the middle of a walking path.  I just left it there.  That was stupid. 

By the end of the summer I got a little smarter and dug up two of the plants and divided the roots.  I then replanted them along the side fence line.  I also gave a bunch away.  I was planning on digging up the rest and dividing and planting and giving away.  Each of my original plants can be divided into about 50 new plants.  Did I ever finish this project?  No.  I still have asparagus in the middle of the walkway!  Steve, the next time I head down there you WILL get some asparagus!  It's just hard to realize that you are allowed to dig up something after you've planted it.  Even if it kills the plant.  It's OK.

Then came the blueberries.  I originally decided that they were going to line the edge of the horse runs.  The problem with that is that they are really out of sight out of mind.  This is not a good way to tend a garden plant that needs extra care in this area.  So after several years of having the blueberries in the wrong place I finally transplanted them today.  I watered them yesterday so the soil was really moist and easy to dig them up.  I decided to give up the space in one of my raised beds.  Girl and I dug out some of the soil and added some peat moss.  We also have been raking the next door neighbors’ pine needles and put them into the bed.  I transplanted 10 blueberry plants.  They should be very happy now and hopefully will produce a lot more blueberries than just the little handfuls we've been used to. 

Next came the citrus trees.  The two right in front of the coop have grown so big and bushy that it’s difficult to give the chickens water without the citrus trees scratching you up.  I trimmed entire branches off the trees.  Then I had Boy take off all the lemons from the branches I just cut off.  There were about 20 gallons of lemons!  The trees are still full.  Girl brought some over next door.  We’ll be drinking a lot of lemonade for a while!

Next are the blackberries.  I started digging them up today but ran out of time.  And I started getting sore.  I have to keep remembering that I'm not a young pup anymore!  Many years ago I bought some blackberries.  I don't know the kind but they had more thorns than I liked.  So I decided to buy some thornless blackberries.  What a mistake.  There's a saying that God puts the thorns on the blackberries because they are so good that you would think you were in heaven while you were eating them, except there's thorns to remind you that you were on earth.  Then what about the thornless?  Of course they didn't taste good.  What do you expect?  You never appreciate the good unless there's a little bad to remind you how good it is.  No thorns, no good.  I'm digging those thornless blackberries out.  Finally.  It is still takes a little extra push to dig up something that's supposed to be permanent. 

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to hear that others change their mind about where things go in the yard. We are in the process of changing garden beds again. This time we took out the last of the grass in the yard.

    Tomorrow we are off to buy some barrels to plant fruit trees into.

    And we would love some asparagus.