This week I completed phase two of my vegetable garden makeover: filling the new garden boxes and planting my early crops. It was a process that involved lots of shoveling, bending, and digging. The weather didn't always cooperate, but despite the snow flurries drifting down around me, I finished my project. And then I headed off to the massage therapist for some post-workout relaxation!
Up until this point my garden has consisted of several 4'x 8' soil beds with no frame. My garden sits on a slight slope, so when the spring rains came I dealt with quite a bit of runoff. This year I condensed the planting area to four beds with wooden frames. I also added planting beds around the inside perimeter of the new pallet fence that surrounds the garden.
The new boxes were placed over the old plots, and I filled them with garden soil and some well composted cow manure from a friend's cattle barn. The existing garden soil was about 10" deep, so with the addition of the 6" high frames I now have a soil depth of roughly 15". I hope to have some great root structure on my plants this year!
When I put up my new pallet fence in late winter, I lost about two feet of my garden plot. Unfortunately, the area I lost happened to be my garlic patch. Obviously, I wasn't thinking ahead when I planted it there last fall, so it was either lose the garlic or move it. So, I carefully dug it up and transplanted it into one of the newly filled boxes.
The garlic transplanted just fine, and with the rain later in the week, it perked right up and settled in just like it had been there all along. It should be ready to harvest in June, and then I'll most likely re-plant the area with green beans. Remember--garlic needs to overwinter in place, so for a successful harvest, plant in October and harvest in June.
After transplanting the garlic, I went to the basement to grab my bucket of seed potatoes. Check out the eyes on these pretty Red Pontiacs! These are seed potatoes I saved from my harvest last summer. They overwintered well in the basement and sprouted their eyes right on time for their traditional St. Patrick's Day planting.
Along with the seed potatoes, I planted about a hundred onion sets and one bunch of leeks. I've never grown leeks, so we'll see how they turn out. The deep raised beds allow for plenty of root space, so I can plant my vegetables closer together than before, and I can get more plants in a smaller space. Perfect for my French Potager garden plan!
Our property sits on a slope, which drives my husband crazy but doesn't really bother me. Maybe it's because I grew up halfway up an insanely steep hillside, and that makes our land seem pretty flat to me. Anyway, last fall I decided that the slope directly below the backyard chicken run would be a great spot for a new garden. It was too big to till up, so I did the next best thing--I bought a piglet. Yes it does make sense. Pigs like to root up the soil in search of grubs and roots, so they can be a great tool for plowing if they're managed properly. I happen to have a movable coop--a pen on wheels, actually--so I put my piglet inside it and moved her around all winter long. She did a great job breaking up the ground, and she fertilized it for me, too! But, since it's almost time to start planting, it was time to move her on over to the pig pen...
Before we could move her, we had to make sure the pen was hog-tight. So, we replaced the old fencing with heavy-duty metal panels and wired them securely. Pigs can't jump very well, but they sure are strong. A pig pen doesn't have to be tall, but it's got to be sturdy.
Pigs use their noses to lift heavy objects to get at the grubs underneath, so they can nose underneath a flimsy fence in no time. I learned this the hard way, so even though the panels were heavy, I double checked them and gave the corners a little extra tightening.
This pen is actually the outer pen, with a small pig-sized door cut in the barn wall. This way she can have some protection from the elements while still being able to sun herself on a nice warm day, or wallow in the mud on a rainy afternoon. What a life! I named her Miss Piggy, by the way...
I made sure to check the inner pen to see how it was holding up. There were a few boards that needed tightening, but everything else was fine. Then we moved her water barrel inside, filled her feeder, and made sure she had plenty of straw to burrow in on chilly nights.
Then it was time to bring her into her new home. She wasn't sure she wanted to move, so we had to pick her up and carry her. That's when she really got mad. I wish I had a video of that, but I was too busy hanging on to a squirming, squealing pig. I need to hire a camera guy...
I coaxed her inside with a handful of corn and showed her the feeder and water barrel. She would have found them on her own, but I thought it might help her feel more at ease if I gave her a tour. And it worked--she calmed right down and acted like she'd wanted to be there all along. Isn't that just like a woman?!
I've spent the last few years restoring the original homestead garden that, unfortunately, had been used as a dump by the previous owners. My efforts have been concentrated on cleanup and rebuilding of the soil, with minimal attention to the aesthetics of the area. But, with the soil finally in great shape, it's now time to focus on dressing up the garden. I'm leaning toward a French kitchen garden design, with garden boxes, a wooden fence, and maybe even a fountain. This week, I decided to build the garden fence after I found some wooden pallets among our collection of salvaged materials. The fact that I'm a gardener, not a builder did cross my mind, but I figured my husband could fix whatever mess I created. I had no plan in mind, I pretty much just made it up as I went. Here's how the project unfolded...
I didn't want to spend any money on this project, so all the materials I used came out of our salvage pile. The pallets were dumpster finds, the lumber and posts came from an old deck, and the nails and screws were leftovers from other projects. All of the items had seen better days, but that didn't faze me. I had a mission...
I wanted my fence to look like a picket fence, so I turned the pallets so the boards were going vertical, not horizontal. I staked them up with some small t-posts I stole from another fence, and tacked them together with scrap lumber pieces. After I got a few together, I could kind of see a pallet wall taking shape!
Encouraged, I found some wide boards in our lumber pile and decided they'd make a good top rail. They were full of old bent nails, so I used the claw end of the hammer to pull the nails out. I straightened them up and used them to nail the boards to the top of the pallet wall. And I only smashed my fingers a few times!
When I got to the end of the wall, the board was a little too long, so out came the hand saw. That was taking too long, so I hunted up my husband's battery-powered jig saw. It went a lot faster after that! I'm not usually a fan of modern technology, but power tools are an exception. I like electricity too, and hot running water. But I digress...
So once I got the board sawed off and even with the pallet, I had to figure out how to do the corner. I went searching through the salvage pile, and came up with four old cedar deck posts. Perfect! I nailed one on the end of my wall, and boy, did it look good. After that, I was on a roll and it was easy to get the rest of the fence pulled together. I even left space for a gate!
And this is how it looks so far. I can't put on the last section until after I get the planting beds filled, but I'll get that done soon. Then, I plan on white-washing the panels, attaching some solar lights, and hanging a few planters from the rails. But for now, I'm amazed at how well it turned out. I think I did pretty good for just winging it, and best of all, my husband is in awe of me!