Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Since I am a "city dweller" and don't have a yard of my own I have been helping my dad with his garden's.  My parents have a huge yard and there is nothing I love more than spending time out there digging around and planting things.  We have been totally spoiled up here in Maine this Spring. The year started off with a nice mild winter and then before we knew it, it was 60 in February. This has made me really eager to get outside and get my hands dirty.

I have to give you a short history of the Plourde gardening effort before I can talk about this year.   My dad has always had a garden of some sort for as long as I can remember, but I never remember really having a lot of fresh veggies around that he/we grew on our own.  Things start off in the Spring moving along with a lot of gusto and then as the season progresses everyone seems to lose interest. 

There are four of us in my family and it seems that Dad and I are the only two who can manage to keep up with the task eventhough the other two people love to reap the benefits of it.  I compared this to the story of chicken little.  You go around and try to get them to help out but they don't really want to, and then at the end of the summer when there are beautiful veggies to be had everyone wants to eat them but never bothered to help with the growing process.  I digress....

Last year was the first year that we really put in a hard core effort to grow some things.  After much deliberation Dad told me that he was game for anything when it comes to planting.  I searched around the internet for gardening ideas and came across the Square Foot Gardening (SFG) technique.  I bought the book by Mel Bartholomew and brought it out to my parents place.  I could tell that dad was not convinced that it would work, but we went for it anyway.  Dad built (3) 4'x4' raised beds, and (1) 4'x8' bed.  Next we positioned them in the yard (mom actually helped me cut up the sod and remove it bfore putting the bed frames down) and filled them with Mel's Mix (a soil recipe from the SFG book).

(These are the raised beds, the big bed in the back has a fence for climbing veggies, and a number of strawberry plants.)

We planted seedlings and waited to see what would happen. I spent a lot of time at my parents house last summer checking on the veggies, pulling out weeds, and watching things grow.  The result was AMAZING, we ended up with HUGE cherry tomatoe plants, a ton of summer squash, strawberries, carrots, beans, peppers, etc.  Dad is a believer now, and he tells everyone about the SFG technique and how well it worked. 

Now for this year.... 
For the past 2 weekends we have had beautiful weather with temperatures into the 70's.  I have had the gardening itch like crazy but I have to keep telling myself that its still really early and to not get my hopes up. 

For the first weekend Dad and I spent a whole Saturday cleaning up the yard and getting things ready.  I raked out all of the flower beds and gave all the perennials room to sprout out of the ground.  Last fall I planted some garlic and I also added some Crocus bulbs to our front flower garden, both are coming up nicely. 
Garlic (all but 2 bulbs sprouted)

I thought these purple Crocus would be bigger but it turns out they are of the tiny version. The flowers are only about the size of a quarter, so cute!
The white crocus are normal size and also beautiful.
We also decided that we would like to try to fix up the original garden that was in place when my parents bought their house.  Dad has tried to plant things in it every year but the soil is TERRIBLE, its mostly clay and rock hard.  We planted potatoes and zucchini in there last year and they grew well but we decided that there needed to be a change. 
This past weekend we measured off the garden and gave it a more uniform shape. We will be amending the soil with some vermiculite, compost, and loam to make it more airy and much easier for things to grow in.  We also added in another big fence, partially to block the view of the neighbors (and to keep thier/our dogs from spending the day barking at eachother) but mostly so that we can grow pole beans and other tasty climbing things.
(There is my dad putting the staples in the last pole. The garden is 20'x16' which is a nice size that should be easy to manage.) 
That is pretty much all for now, not bad for 2 Saturdays worth of work.  I think we will be building another raised bed this year so that I can have a little Salsa Garden.

I will leave you with a couple of photos of the flower gardens. 
This is a crop of paperwhites that come up every spring, they are all over the yard, but particulalry like to grow around this tree, these are some of my favorite flowers to cut and put into a vase.   This photo isn't great but its our large flower bed that you drive past when you come up the driveway.  Its filled with tulips, iris, crocus, daffodils, peonies, tiger lily, and my favorite Black Hollyhock's. 

I am going to try to keep you updated with my gardening efforts since this is my second favortie hobby next to knitting. 


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