Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Garden Locale

Well, the winter is a waning and spring is springing, so it's time to get serious about the gardening.

A week ago we started our tomatoes and lettuce. I bought a portable green house, really a shelf system with a clear vinyl cover, at Lowes for $30. I'll be able to transplant my lettuce and harden it out doors ahead of the last frost date here, May 15. I'll have to keep a close eye on the weather though - too cold at night and keeping the frost off won't mean much. Although I've seen pictures of French gardeners using glass bell jars as cloches in winter to harvest lettuce year round, so maybe it will work just fine.

The big news right now is I'm moving my 20 by 20 garden, well, really just making another one, and resizing it to 80ft x 80ft. Yes, I'm crazy. Actually, I have a plan I pulled out of a very good book, How to Grow More Vegetables (and fruits, nuts, berries, grains, and other crops) by John Jeavons. The plan is for feeding a family of four, and I mean really feeding. Fruit trees, grains, vegetables, legumes... all in what is called a bio-intensive format.

A big part of the approach is deep soil preparation done by hand, and ongoing soil ecology upkeep - all done in as sustainable a fashion as possible. The emphasis is on high production and low cost. Some of you might spot the potential for profit between those two aims, and indeed, the method has been used world wide to teach impoverished peoples how to begin self-sustaining and even deriving modest incomes from gardening small plots of land.

One of the challenges we face here is the deer and rabit population. To combat these, I'm installing a 5 ft perimeter fence to disuade both. I know a deer can jump higher than that, but I hope di discourage this by adding a bit of electric fencing several feet out from the fence so that even getting close makes them think twice. I'll probably not add that measure till the first proves faulty though. There's plenty of easier things to get at and eat for the deer besides a fenced garden.

So, nuts and bolts: I've already dug 5 holes (4 corners and 1 gate end post near a corner) and set three poles plumb, with two to go. The poles are pressure treated 4" square by 8ft tall. The wire mesh is 2 x 4 inch x 5 ft. I'll be doubling it with chicken wire along the bottom 8 inches just for the wee rabbits. All told, that will set me back $310 plus tax. Not a bad one time investment. The materials are expected to last 20 years in the elements.

After getting the fence up, the real work will begin - double digging the soil by hand. It's not as bad as it sounds, taken in turns. About 3 hours, over several days, for 100 sq ft. I aim to get 200 sq ft under cultivation this year and plant a small collection of dwarf fruit trees within the 6400 sq ft area as well. I might try my hand at grain next year, we'll see. All in time.

Also on the future meter is a composting bin. I hope to get that in this year but a corner of the garden will do for now. Pictures will be posted when the fence is up and the gate built, which will be a small project unto itself.