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The Main Garden

May 30th, 2017

The main garden behind the garage is starting to take shape (at least in my mind). The past three summers I have been expanding the boundaries and dealing with invasive weeds. I’m finally reaching the full size and it’s time to develop main walkways, establish hedges, and redefine planting areas as well. All that will take place this fall as I need the space to grow food this summer. This garden area is roughly 60 feet wide by 80 feet deep. It is currently divided into four foot wide rows with walkways in between. There’s a nursery area and a large compost pile that extends the length of the garden that will eventually become growing space making it closer to 70 feet wide.

Here’s my garden row by row:

The first row contains garlic in the front and asparagus, strawberries, and flowers in the back. Behind the garlic there’s a nice little grove of sage, three plants that provide more than enough sage for us and all of our friends.

The second row is filled with a few perennials in the front, shallots and lettuce, followed by all the brassicas interplanted with lettuce that are being protected from cabbage butterflies by a long tunnel of agribon. Inside the tunnel I have cauliflower, three types of broccoli, and two of brussels sprouts.

The third row contains onions, both red and white, filling most of the row. In the back there’s a trellis with 6 feet of ‘Golden Pod’ peas and 9 bulb fennel plants. You’ll notice a row of garlic halfway back, these were tiny bulblets that I planted very thickly in a row last fall. They will be harvested as green garlic (like green onions) starting now. This row is still in need of a layer of compost as mulch. I’ve been waiting for the worms to quit unearthing the onions to add it.

This row contains all sorts of cutting flowers in the front, a 20 foot trellis of peas with beets and bulb fennel on either side, then a small patch of carrots, a small patch of tiny bulbing purple onions, then a few strawberries, and it’s capped off with a stand of Jerusalem artichokes in the very back. As you can see, I mulch the garden with a layer of compost when things are planted. This keeps weeding to a minimum and it helps me see quickly which space is available for planting and what space is already taken.

This side of the garden has been allowed to be fallow for the past three years. The strawberries have been encouraged to grow over this direction slowly. Every year I dig out a couple feet on one side and let them grow towards the far edge of the garden. They take up this row and half of the next as well. It’s a large patch, but that’s needed for us and for our neighbors.  In front of the strawberries there are a few flowers for summer bouquets and perennials that are waiting for a space to be cleared in the flowerbeds.

This row contains a few small trees and shrubs that are being grown out for the flowerbeds. It’s a nursery area where I like to keep things growing out. I have boxwood cuttings, tiny cherry trees, osage orange seedlings, lavender, and a host of other things I started from seed last year.

In the next row you can see lots of perennials and shrubs up front: peonies, hydrangeas, plums, grasses, willow, and other things that will be moved this fall. In the back I have two rows of tomatoes with 15 tomatoes planted 2.5 feet apart in each row. In between each tomato there are basil plants, flowers, and other smaller vegetables.

The next to the last row of the garden features rhubarb and more perennials up front and a row of peppers in the back. There will be one more row past this, but it’s not planted yet. This year it will be a row of sunflowers to block the wind that comes from that direction and other flowers for the butterflies (mostly tithonia and verbena).  At the back of the garden I’m building a trellis that will be used to grow sweet peas. It will both help keep the wild turkeys out and provide flowers for my table. Stay tuned for photo updates of the garden throughout the summer and in the coming years as the rows are reoriented the other direction. In front of these rows there’s also a 10 foot wide section that now contains the new asparagus bed. In front of that there will be a boxwood hedge or a fence, which will then have a 5-8 foot wide perennial border in front of that. That area is currently piled with compost that’s waiting to be spread on these sections of the garden. Part is also still growing in sod, which will be smothered with cardboard in preparation for the perennial border.

Second Flush

September 3rd, 2015

Around the beginning or middle of July, I often seed a second flush of peas, beans, and zucchini. These plants often exhaust themselves and don’t fruit for a long period of time. I really like them, so I find planting a second batch gives me a long season. It also allows me to easily pull out the exhausted plants to replace them with fall crops when they begin to languish.
Second Flush Garden 1
The great thing about a second planting is that the seeds germinate quickly and the plants grow like gangbusters with the heat and long days. I’m always amazed at how quickly they grow and fruit. Zucchini that I seed in May often takes 6-8 weeks to start fruiting. This zucchini started fruiting only four weeks after being seeded.
Second Flush Garden 2
Second Flush Garden 3
Second Flush Garden 4
Succession planting is something that I’m getting better and better at the longer I garden. It really is amazing how much you can grow in a small space when you do it. I find that it also makes it much easier for me to pull up exhausted veggies that I used to let hang on in the garden even with meager harvest (broccoli offshoots ring a bell?). These aren’t the only vegetables I plant in succession, I have lettuce, broccoli, fennel, carrots, beets, and a few others that were seeded throughout the summer as space became available in the garden.

Are you in the habit of planting in succession to lengthen the harvest and maximize your garden space?

Friday Favorite: New Garden Areas

January 2nd, 2015

There’s something exciting about new garden areas, even if they are only an extension of another garden area. For the past two years I’ve been mulling over my plan for the main garden back behind the garage. As I work I look at the surrounding areas, the lay of the land, the trees, etc. I plan out where access roads/paths will be, where hedges will be planted and where drainage ditches will need dug. All of these plans lay in the future, a few years down the line, but that doesn’t mean that I can start preparing. The garden in the back needs expanded quite a bit to make way for perennial borders, fences, and hedges. The pigs have helped greatly in tilling up the sod to make way for these new gardens. Now that they are finished with their work I set to work laying down cardboard with a this layer of compost.
new garden area
In the spring they will be over seeded with various cover crops that will be mowed down for a weed smothering mulch. It’s a slow process, this garden will take more than a decade to become what I see in my mind. The slow, steady process of reaching that goal is fulfilling, and it helps me learn to be patient. There is such new promise in a new garden bed, one that has only grown sod. The possibilities are endless and that’s what I’m loving right now. I just need to remind myself that it’s a slow process, because admittedly it can be disheartening at times when you left behind a place that was just reaching it’s full potential and are starting all over again. I have to relish the newness and the possibilities!

Do you have plans to expand your gardens this coming year? 

A Garden Update

August 7th, 2014

I feel like this summer has flown by in a blur. One day I was planting seeds and the next I’m harvesting tomatoes. This time of year feels perfectly exuberant in the garden, everything is tall, green and producing fruit. I like to soak in the fullness of this season so I can remember it deep in winter when there is no green to be seen.
main garden 1
This is the main garden up behind the garage, the workhorse. It’s not laid out in a nice pattern, things are planted wherever there happens to be room. It’s a bit weedy and overgrown around the edges because I’m letting it grow tall for the pigs. We have been moving them around this garden to root up the grass and weeds for our future expansion.
main garden 2
This garden houses loads of vegetables grown en masse. There are purple cabbage, giant cauliflower plants, rows and rows of beans for drying, neatly staked tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, herbs, asparagus and so much more.
main garden 3
main garden 4
main garden 6
main garden 7
main garden 8
main garden 9
There are also fall crops that have just gone in where the garlic was harvested. A long row of shelling peas to stock the freezer along with hundreds of leeks.
main garden 5
Late July and August are always great times in the northern garden. For you southerners I’m sure it’s a crispy dry time. Here in the north the gardens are in their prime.

What state is your garden in, full glory, past prime, gone?

Much Mulch

August 6th, 2013

A few weeks ago, Mr Chiots stopped and talked to the local tree service guys about dropping off their wood chips at Chiot’s Run. They started dropping off HUGE loads a couple days later. This is coming in very handy in our effort to expand the main garden behind the garage.
Mulching the Main Garden 1
We’ve been using all these wood chips to add a thick layer of mulch to smother the grass that surrounded the garden. We’re also using it to cover half of the garden that was planted in a cover crop. With this layer of mulch, the garden has doubled in size from what it was when we arrived.
Mulching the Main Garden 2
Since this is mulched wood and leaves, it’s smart to wear a respirator because it’s decomposing very quickly. Mold and dust roll off the stuff in clouds when we’re moving it.
Mulching the Main Garden 4
The nice thing is, this will decompose slowly while helping to improve the soil underneath. Most likely, this garden area will lay fallow next year, perhaps another layer of mulch and minerals will be added. I don’t want to do too much to this area until I have the final garden plan laid out. There will be hedges and brick walkways, and hopefully a greenhouse and maybe even a small pond.
Mulching the Main Garden 3
This is the easy way to expand a garden, but it does take patience. That’s not a big deal though, I have a lot of patience. Mulch is one of the most valuable things you can provide for your garden.

Do you use mulch in your garden? What’s your favorite type?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.