Garden Tour, Part II

I gave a photo tour of the hill garden a week or so ago, and today it’s time to fill out another piece of the picture.

The back fence is the southernmost part of our property, and would normally get the most sun, but there are several large trees back there, so in the summer there are a few more hours of shade in the early morning and late afternoon.

Thankfully our neighbor to the south has a huge lot, and most that borders our fence is an open field, so we don’t have to worry about any shade directly south.

Last year (year 1 by the gardening calendar, I had two 12′ x 4′ raised beds that I filled with cheap topsoil, a little bit of compost, and too much mulch. It was okay – most of what I planted really struggled to take hold, but late in the summer I got a burst of okra, jalapenos, and tomatoes.

So in late fall, I planted red clover to improve the soil, partly for nitrogen fixation, but also to keep the soil from blowing away over the winter.

Two beds of clover.

Clover after five months of growing in winter, using plastic sheeting for a greenhouse effect on cold nights.

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Close-up of a volunteer ladybug.

I decided to keep most the clover instead of tearing it out, but also, in the middle of spring, it was growing so fast that I could trim giant mounds of it almost daily and spread it into other beds to decompose.

Each section of the raised beds became kind of like a grid, with cutouts in the clover where I added compost and mulch to insert vegetable plants. Here’s the result almost three months later:

Two 12' x 4' raised beds with rabbit fencing around them, and a trellis structure that I built this year.

Two 12′ x 4′ raised beds with rabbit fencing around them, and a trellis structure that I built this year. From foreground to background: clover, carrots, yellow squash, tomatoes, pumpkin…it gets fuzzy after that!

Here are some close-ups of these beds:

Butternut squash on bloom day.

Butternut squash on bloom day.

Cucumber searching for the sun over a green bean plant below it.

Cucumber searching for the sun over a green bean plant below it.

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A pure jungle of carrots, watermelon, yellow squash, and tomato, all surrounded by clover.

Why so crowded, you’re probably asking? Well, the answer is…so far, it’s working!

I haven’t had much trouble with insects (in fact, I haven’t used anything to repel them on these beds), and while each one might produce a little less than if they had more space, I like the look of a ton of successful plants around each other.

Want more production? Give plants more space!

Okra, green beans, and a big citronella bush (I think - it smells like lemons even if it's not).

Okra, green beans, and a big citronella bush (I think – it smells like lemons even if it’s not).

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The shady end (note the oak leaves at the top of the photo), with a big catnip bush and some oregano in the foreground.

Green beans on the way.

Green beans on the way.

So let’s talk about the trellis. At first I thought about getting some metal fencing and metal posts and using that up and down the length of the beds, but it was suprisingly expensive to do that the right way.

I looked at alternatives, and furring strips are pretty cheap, as is large quantities of metal wire.

Pro tip for buying wire for the garden: do NOT look in the section where they sell wire for hanging pictures. You don’t need to support that much weight, and the prices are ridiculous by unit. I found a quarter mile of aluminum wire among the fencing supplies (presumably for electric fences) for $18.

I used a total of three six-packs of furring strips, also $18, and bought two packs of stainless steel screws for $4 each.

So what about rot? I assume eventually it’ll set in, but I painted the lower three feet of each furring strip with linseed oil (organic, not boiled) to slow down the process. That way the section that’s buried or hidden in shade should stay relatively waterproof. I guess we’ll see!

Fully assembled, the total cost was $44 plus a few hours of time, and I’m sure I could have done it with less expense if needed.

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