Monday, July 5, 2010

My Veggie Garden

A few months ago, I shared some photos showing the beginning phases of the construction of my vegetable garden…

I began by planting a variety of flowers surrounding a small bush in a circular area that the previous owners of this house had already created.

This circle became the starting point for my garden.

Slowly, in between runs with The Peacebus, I began removing the sod of my lawn. The more lawn that was removed meant less lawn to mow creating an ever-expanding area for my veggies to grow!

I used my edging shovel to first cut the lawn into small squares. Then I would bang the rich topsoil off the sod of each square. The topsoil remained in the garden and the sod squares were placed upside down along the side of my garage so that I could create a sloping runoff for rainwater. Nothing was wasted – just reused in other ways.

I had hoped to get over twice as much done, as this picture shows, before planting time, but that never happened. I decided that it would be better to prepare this small garden for the planting of a few veggies and then, throughout the rest of this summer, I would expand my garden even more.

I chose this area of my backyard to construct my garden because, as you can see, it receives a lot of direct sunlight. I usually worked on the garden in the early part of the day while this area was still covered in the shade of my maple tree.

After the sod was removed, I had to turn over the soil. I created a trough to add the dried leaves that I had stored from last autumn, before I’d bury the leaves under the soil. The leaves will compost, adding nutrients to the soil.

Being the artist that I am, my eyes are always looking for unusual textures. With every slice that my shovel took in the soil I witnessed a variety of blending colours that were interesting to look at.

After this area had been turned over and the compost added, it was time to begin shaping the ‘beds’ or growing areas for my vegetables. I used a shovel to dig walking paths and this soil was added onto each of the growing area, helping to raise the soil level.

Raised beds contain the sun’s heat more than a flat garden and this helps the plants to grow better. I also add a raised edge to each planting area to contain the water that will be added almost daily. This keeps the water where it is needed – in the bed and not on the pathways, thus conserving this precious resource.

It may not be the largest garden in the world, but it is a start! Some of my blog readers, from last summer, may recognize the two circular blue shaped things in this photo and they will know that I will be using these to grow my potatoes…

…but first, I have to finish one small chore. Every spring and fall I have a fire in my garden. In between these times, I’m always collecting broken tree branches, dead flower stalks, etc for this purpose. The ashes that are created during these ‘burns’ are dug into the garden, adding nitrogen to the soil. Plants love this!

Most people would send this kind of yard waste to the curb, for city pickup. I try to reuse everything in my yard as I learn more and more how to create a totally self-supportive environment. If more people did this then we would reduce the amount of pollution created by all the city garbage trucks.

There!!!! My first vegetable garden in my new (old) home has been planted!

Inside the blue barrels I’ve planted my potatoes. I never waste any space, so even the small spaces between the barrels are used - I’ve planted some peas.

These blue barrels are a part of an experiment that I’m trying. My attempts last summer totally failed – I mistimed everything – so I’m hoping for better results this year. The idea is that when the plants have reached a height of 7” that 5” of soil is added inside the barrels. This tricks the plant into created more potatoes. I was told that this can be done several times, thus multiplying the yield of each plant by many times.

Last year, I added more soil to the barrels once the plants had grown too high and nothing happened other than the regular yield of potatoes. This year, I kept a steady eye on their growth and I think that I added the soil at the perfect time. I’ll have to wait another eight weeks to see if this experiment will be successful.

Gardening isn’t just about providing food for yourself… it’s more about learning how to respect Nature… how to learn from Nature… how to live in awe of Nature… and realizing how our lives can flourish as a part of Nature – as we were designed!

This photo shows one of the lessons that I’ve learned this year, as well. In the early spring, a few weeks after I had planted flowers in this part of my garden, small weeds started to grow. I spent a few minutes on my knees, pulling these weeds, when I remembered one of my rules – If something is growing and you don’t know what it is, let it grow until you see what it is. Then you can determine if you want to keep it or not. Many times I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover interesting and colourful plants to learn more about.

I had weeded the area around the rock (where nothing is now growing), when I remembered my rule. I left the other sprouts to grow and mature… and indeed, I was pleasantly surprised to see these pretty purple and white flowers. My original intent was to keep this area – under the bush – clear of plants so that I could plant violets here next spring. By planting a low-lying flowering plant in this area I would keep the weed weeds away as well as keep moisture in the soil. Now I won’t have to do this. These purple and white flowers will be left to continue to fill in this area and they will keep other weeds away and keep the soil moist. An unexpected bonus for me!!!

These are the yellow lilies that I’ve planted and just recently these buds have begun to flower… but I’m saving those pictures for another blog story!

This photo was taken just two days ago. In the background you can see two metal poles with white strings running between them. These will help my beans to grow. I spent a few hours with my saw and drill constructing my tomato cage, which will fill right to the top with tomatoes and cherry tomatoes by the end of July. And you can see that I’ve already started the process of expanding my garden. By the end of the summer I hope to have created a garden over three times larger than what you see here. I may not be able to plant anymore vegetables – maybe a few more peas or beans – but it’ll give me a great jump on next year’s garden adventures.

This is a great example of the process of change that we can all find comfort with. More and more people are realizing that the way we have ‘grown’ to live our lives over the last two hundred years is destroying our planet and our hopes for future generations. We must change the twisted relationship between humankind and our natural world that we put so much misguided and blinded trust into. The way we do this is simple. One thing at a time. One day at a time.

I’m going to leave you with this fun photo… a collage of my efforts thus far, this year! I hope that these photos and words have inspired you to realize that if you want to change the world, you have to touch the world and the best way to do that is to grow a garden filled with flowers and vegetables!


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