Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two Days of Major Garden Work

Monday and Tuesday of this week I spent a majority of the daylight hours working on my yard, prepping gardens for planting later this week or early next. I did so much work I could barely move when I woke up yesterday and today. Here's a list of the things I've done so far.

In the morning I went to the non-local big box hardware store to buy enough supplies to make one official Square Foot Garden grid and vertical growing component. I came home to find 8 cubic yards of mulch on my driveway. My 4-year-old and I ate lunch, then I set to work in the backyard. It took me all afternoon to pull weeds from the four raised beds in my backyard. I also made two upside down tomato planters out of hanging baskets, planted cherry tomato seedlings in them, and hung them on the gazebo just beyond the sliding glass doors in my kitchen.

Of course, it's always difficult to get much of anything done with a restless little one nearby. She managed to dig a few of her own holes in the backyard where the grass is supposed to be, played with (spilled) rain barrel water and climbed on the mulch pile a bit. I did my best to get stuff done, but lost my cool on more than a few occasions. When I get in "work mode" it's so hard for me to be patient with anyone who gets in my way. Something to work on.

I took a break around 3 p.m. to pick up the kids from school and Steve from work and then make and eat dinner.

After dinner I was very thankful to have Steve's help for a bit: he installed a grid on one of my raised beds, dividing it into 20 square feet of spaces for growing vegetables. In the meantime, I worked on transplanting some bleeding hearts and ferns to make room for the 12 foot long, three compartment composter I'll be putting near my four raised beds. Steve and I also poured big bags of peat moss and vermiculite on the raised beds.

Finally, Steve removed the picket fence walls from my old composter so I could use the compost and prepare for my new-and-improved composter, to be installed next week (I hope) by Steve and my father-in-law Stanley.


I woke up, took the kids to school, made some coffee with my French press and returned to the compost pile, which I spent about two hours dividing into four groups: unfinished compost (leaves, twigs, tree bark, potatoes/eggs, etc.), large twigs and tree branches that were mistakenly added to the composter, bits of plastic and metal that were also mistakenly added to the compost (including two frightening plastic animals -- a bat and a crayfish -- that I thought were real for a second), and the good, usable compost, which I added by the wheelbarrelful to my four raised beds. Although it was a tedious process, it was informative -- I learned what NOT to put in compost bins.

I picked up my preschooler at 11:15 a.m. and snuck in a quick trip to the grocery store. We ate lunch and then I put on my garden gloves again and got back to work, this time on a spontaneous project: I carted some lannon stones from my backyard to built two small, slightly raised beds in the front yard, along the sidewalk and front walkway. The purpose of these beds is mostly decorative, but I was thinking of adding some of the excess daylilies from the side of my house and planting one dwarf hazelnut in the center of each of the beds. Putting the stones in place was labor intensive but went quickly; the hard part was figuring out what to do with all the grass I'd soon be covering up with mulch. I started shoveling out the grass, but having done this many times before I wasn't too enthusastic about wasting time with this project when I had onions to plant. So I ended up improvising and came up with something neat. Instead of removing all the grass, I cut the grass out around the edges of each bed; that created a lower surface. I then took the grass pieces, flipped them dirt-side-up and used them to build up the center of each bed so that the tree planted in the middle would be raised. Then I planted four clumps of daylilies in each bed around the raised center, laid newspaper over the remaining grass and covered the newspaper with hardwood mulch. (FYI, this newspaper technique is great for removing unwanted grass in garden beds. I highly recommend it.)

Finally, I filled the new holes in the raised center of each bed with compost in preparation for the hazelnut planting. Incidentally, the two hazelnut trees I had ordered from Gurneys a while back seem to be dead. In fact, I don't believe they were alive at all -- I thought they were dormant and would start sprouting leaves once planted, but they don't seem active at all. So I e-mailed Gurneys and asked for replacements and was promptly sent an order confirmation for two new trees, as well as a new fig to replace the first fig I bought that dropped all its leaves just after I planted it. I'm impressed with their customer service.

I still need to finish the daylily removal project, but I'm now about 7/10 done and ended up planting the completed portion with transplanted chives from the backyard and a great many red and yellow onion sets, shallots and garlic. I may also plant some basil, cilantro, sunflower and merigolds in this bed. I'm thinking about starting these things indoors and transplanting them in a couple weeks. We'll see.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I planted a second cell in my "salad table" with seeds, now that the first round of mesclun lettuce is growing nicely. This time I planted "Grand Rapids Tipburn Resistant" lettuce seeds.

I still have a lot more to do (i.e. planting four raised beds with vegetable seeds and plants and spreading nearly 8 cubic yards of mulch!) but I've made a lot of progress, so for now, anyway, I'm content!

One last note: looks like Luna #4 did indeed mate with one of the male moths -- the eggs I collected in a separate take-out container marked #4 hatched today! Now I've got several dozen growing caterpillars. I'll probably raise as many as I can, maybe let some go on a nearby white birch tree, save some to rear indoors, and give some away. Any takers?

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