Like a good pagan, I spent the first weekend of spring fixated on my gardens. I ordered my seeds weeks ago, but was determined not to plant them until they’d been blessed at Oestara. This had the added benefit of keeping me from planting stuff too early. I did start my onions indoors in February, and miracle of miracles I haven’t killed them! The bunching onions especially are looking good. I tried a couple of times to sit down and lay out planting plans, but nothing’s sticking. So I’m just starting stuff, and we’ll see where it ends up.
I have four 4’x4′ raised beds on one side of my yard, but the best sun is on the other side of the yard, where I’ve had nothing but weeds. So this year I decided to put a deep bed in there. to that end, I put out a call on Freecycle for cinder blocks. Before you say, I know there is a risk with cinder blocks. But I have a black walnut tree in my yard, which prevents me from being able to plant directly in my soil. (For those who don’t know, black walnut has a compound in their roots and leaves that is deadly to most garden type fruits and veggies.) My existing beds I build out of 6″ wide boards, but they really only lasted about 4 seasons well before decomposing, and they aren’t deep enough to grow anything like carrots or beets well. Plus it was boku bucks to buy the lumber. So I balanced the risk of the cinder blocks versus the certain death of the walnut and came down on the side of carrots. But, surprisingly, free cinderblocks are hard to come by. I put a call out on Freecycle and kept an eye on Craigslist, but nothing. Then on Wednesday someone else put up an offer post. My fingers flew on the keyboard! Turns out the community garden in Phoenixville is removing all their cinder block beds for the above reasons, so anyone who wanted any could come and take whatever we wanted! Yay! Saturday the boys and I took all the seats out of the van and headed over. It’s a sweet little garden, and if you’re in Phoenixville and need a bit of dirt, I can recommend this. I kind of felt guilty dismantling the beds, especially since we were lazy and just took the top ones, but we weren’t the only ones there. There were another couple of guys there with the same plan and a trailer! I envied that trailer… We loaded up 24 before I started getting worried about the van’s suspension, but we set aside the remaining 8 I needed to pick up the next day. I also scored a really healthy thyme plant that was growing out of one of the blocks. Yay! This year I’ll have an herb garden for SURE!
The finished bed will be about 9’x4′, and about 10″ deep. That’s a LOT of dirt. Fortunately, our compost overfloweth (quite literally). We stopped on our way up at the Agway and got two big bags of vermiculite, which I’ll mix with the rabbit litter and some peat moss to make up a nice, light mix. The other benefit of getting the blocks from existing gardens is the hope that if they were of questionable quality, the worst of it will already have leached out! Between that and the yummy new soil, I have high hopes for this bed. I’m planning to put my winter squash in there, as well as the root veg.
Once that bed is built and filled, I’ll be able to fix the compost bins. I have a two stall bin made out of salvaged pallets, which have worked really well for us so far. However, last year I didn’t take much out, so instead of turning one into the other and starting new, it started overflowing both. And the back on one fell in, so it’s hard to dig out. So this year I’ll replace the ones in poor condition, wire them together better, and start anew. The rabbits will keep filling them up, I’m sure!
The other thing that’s been tempting me has been fruit trees. I’ve always wanted to have a micro-orchard, ever since I found out about dwarf fruit trees. I did try blueberries, but they were a little to delicate for me to manage. But Hero and I were at Depot the other week for something, and they had a bajillion dwarf trees in all different varieties! Usually by the time I’m there, they’re down to 3-4 peach trees, which none of us like, so I don’t bother. But these… and they were only $20 each. With a 1 year guarantee. So after thinking and planning and researching, on Sunday after I got the remaining cinder blocks (by myself, mind you!) I dragged Hero back after our bi-weekly Costco run. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), they had already sold out of a lot of the varieties. I was able to get three different kinds of apple (you have to have at least two or you won’t get any fruit) and two cherries.
I also got some other random things I need (a hose, a rake, some potting soil), but they didn’t have the peat moss I needed. We had to pass Lowe’s on the way home, so we stopped there to see if they did. They did, and guess what else they had?
A dwarf nectarine tree! Those we will eat, and they self-pollinate, so I only needed one! Woot! I had to put it straight in the ground, though, as it was already close to blooming. You can’t prune them after they bloom. The rest I’ll put in over the course of the week. The cherries will go along the fence with the nectarines. The apples will all go in one big hole together. Before you squawk about the spacing, those 10′ recommendations are for commercial growers who have equipment to tend their orchards and who are usually growing full sized trees. Well pruned dwarf trees actually do very well in close confines. I have two spots I’m trying to decide on. One is close to the house, which would be nice to look at, but might be a bit in the way. The other is at the end of the new bed where I currently have a compost bin. Once I empty it, it would be easy enough to move and put the apple trees in there. I have to poke at that.
As though it had been waiting for me, I got my bi-weekly email from Mother Earth News with my planting schedule for the next two weeks on Saturday. So Sunday afternoon, I sorted my seed packets out and figured out what I could direct seed now (lettuce, spinach, peas) and what I could start indoors (broccoli, cauliflower and white sage). Planting out was going to require raking, but no turning as they’re going in the garlic bed. But I didn’t feel up to that, so I concentrated on the starters instead. The white sage went into a 12-cell “greenhouse” I got at the dollar store. That will make them easier to transplant to gift out to my pagan circle friends at Beltane. Two kinds of broccoli went into a disposable 9×13 pan with a dome lid, about 48 of each. The cauliflower went into a disposable bread pan, about 16 starts there. Yes, I’m going to have WAY too many starts. I’d rather overdo than under, and I know several gardeners around I can pass the extras on to. Now they’re all tucked up in plastic bags on top of the fridge, just waiting to pop their little heads up!
The rest of the week will be focused on taking bites out of the yard work. It helps that it’s going to be in the 60s tomorrow and up to 70 on Thursday! Gonna focus on the new bed first. I have to move the blocks aside to lay down a cardboard base and then rebuild the bed and water down the cardboard. Then tomorrow I can start filling it. Which will be messy, but fun! I also have some extra bricks, so I may build a separate herb bed on the front of the new bed. That will give it some protection and extra warmth.
So many ideas. I just need to start doing things and see what happens!