Garden Detail

So I wanted to break down my gardens in a little more detail. When I describe everything I am growing in my yard a common first question is “do you have any lawn left?” I do-alot. While the lawn as an expanse is dwindling annually, it will always be there for the dogs and our children. Plus I like bocce ball and while playing in a forest garden would be challenging, the buzzkill from squashing a sorrel plant would ruin it for me right quick. So here is a short rundown of gardens in the ground followed by a short blurb on plans for June:

Right now I have 3 main areas: Small Fruit, Veggies, and Sunchokes with some intermixing.

Small Fruit

This started in yr 1 of our home (even before the lawn) with 125 strawberry plants from Nourse farms. Not organic or sustainable, but dirt cheap. I split the 125 into roughly equal parts early season (earliglow) and midseason (sparkle) for their dependability and resistance. Each type is in a bed to themselves. The first year I debudded them all (while shedding tears) and got a healthy harvest in yr 2. Peak during the overlap week was about 1-2 Quarts a day. This was enough to put a little by-but only because my daughter eats small fruit voraciously. These beds take up about 80 sq ft each and I leave them to their own devices only trimming runners when they escape the beds which anchor two ends of a mixed prairie/perennial bed that also houses 2 comfrey plants (for compost) and my sole Apple Tree. Nearby are our 2 Currant bushes. These are just coming into production and are used for pectin for making jams.

We currently have 5 vegetable beds each approx 5×20′.
#1 contains: 24 potato plants on a staggered 2′ spacing, along with a grape trellis and 5 raspberry plants on the north side. Tucked in some gaps are also 3 lettuce plants and some mache I had left over.
#2 contains my heavy feeders: 24 tomato plants on 2′ spacings to be trellised to 7′ bamboo teepees for height. In the other 2′ of this bed on the North side are about 16 peppers. This bed is also underplanted with about 1/4 ounce of white dutch clover seed for a living mulch ala Fukuoaka.
#3 is the spring bed and has a 20′ double row of peas on trellis (using jute twine so I can compost the whole lot) on the south side and then 3′ deep bocks of lettuce (8′), beets (4′) carrots (2′) and radishes(2′) with about 3′ set aside last year for this season’s garlic (about 20 bulbs). This bed will be continuously replanted as harvest continues to stay in production (with coldframes) until Thanksgiving.
#4 is about 7′ wide as 3′ of it houses 12 more raspberry brambles. The other 4′ contains 4 more tomatoes (1 teepee), 2 zucchini, and 16′ of cucumbers in one row. This is a very new bed that is only partially composted sheet mulch-results will not be great.
#5 is my “3 Sisters” variation. Basically it has 4 melons on 4′ spacings with 30 or so corn plants on very wide spacings interplanted. Pole beans will go in soon. On the south face are 6 basil plants for easy picking and wicked pesto.

I have a 6th bed I am turning under right now for the remainder of my peppers and lettuce that buts up against the sea of Quack grass that the DOT maintains on the other side of the fence. Keeping out that any rhizomes is futile so I have enlisted some allies. Enter the Sunchokes.

Quack grass is my nemesis here at Someday Gardens. I have pulled out rhizomes over 6′ long and they laugh at my stone rubble raised beds. I have spent about 20 hours this year meticulously turning over my beds and sifting them to get as many of the rhizomes as possible and then weeding with a vengeance to rid my beds of them. But the Quack Sea on the other side of my fence has limitless rhizomal resources that belittle my efforts. So I am choosing to fight an aggressive pioneer with an aggressive native: sunchokes. Now part of me feels like Roosevelt in 1941, but hopefully I can do better at living with the Sunchokes than we were with Stalin. Bordering my beds to the west and north and separated by mown paths are 3′ wide strips of Sunchokes about 30 feet in length. The Sunchokes offer both insidious tubers and a mild allelopathic effect that seems to keep the quack grass at bay. The upside is that this living rhizome barrier also supplies me with about 40 gallons of tasty tubers a year and beautiful sunflowers in August. Now if they just don’t take over Europe and SE Asia in the next 30 years…

That is about it for edible gardens right now. In some perennial beds I have 4 Goumi Shrubs that will produce if the rabbits ever stop eating them to the crown each winter, and I just put in 3 blueberry shrubs as well. It isn’t much, but with a more normal spring, at least half the beds get 2 crops, and they all do if you count the winter cover crops. I also have an Herb Spiral with Chives, and most culinary herbs. Out of this I will be eating from May through the winter (Sunchokes keep like potatoes) and producing enough to sell to a sandwich shop to pay for next year’s seed and supplies.

June/July Plans

En route from Edible Landscaping: 1 Housi Pear Tree, 1 Seckle Pear tree, 2 Paw Paw (pushing the zones here) a hardy Kiwi, and 2 Red Haven Peaches. Nourse will contribute 2 gooseberry shrubs, and I have 3 hazelnuts from the Arbor Day Foundation in the fridge. All the above will be incorporated into a “guilded” orchard that I have been planning for about 8 months on and off. In the guilds will also be more strawberries, sorrel, more chives, some edible native onions, mulch plants, and much, much more. The absolute beauty of the guilding is that in the same space as a loosely planted orchard I will have everything in this paragraph and more driving the production of this 30×50′ area to huge heights. In the same 8×8 area I will have a fruit tree, 1-2 fruiting shrubs, an edible groundcover, edible vines, and at least a half dozen edible and medicinal herbs while edible mushrooms decompose the wood chip mulch. All in a system that creates its own mulch, fertilizer, nitrogen, and attracts its own pest predators. Buya! There is much, much more to this frankenstein (including an engineered soil/swale irrigation system fed by my blueberry bog and raingardens)-look for an well documented install over the next month!

I have a .5 acre lot, but I am only using about .1 to do all of this leaving the rest for a typical landscaped front yard, a playsystem for the kids, and enough lawn for 160lbs of greyhounds to frolic in. Most lots, even true Urban lots have that much. On the flip side this approach can also easily expand up to 1-2 acres by losing the raised beds for 5×100′ beds, adding zeros to the quantities of the fruit trees and enlisting a gaggle of ducks for slug patrol without getting so big that 1-2 people can’t maintain it part time. Hello permaculture market garden!

This is starting to feel like hubris, but fingers are crossed!

2 Responses

  1. I am always rather amazed by your choice of words. Installing a prairie, installing a garden, installing. People install toilets, or radiators. We plant gardens, we tend gardens, we toil in gardens, we admire gardens, but install?

    I always wonder if you really mean that, if that is common to your culture, and if you really look at nature as something you install.

    And this from a woman who dares to call herself goddess.

  2. Huh-I have never given that much thought…I spent several years in contracting earning book and rent money in school-maybe the nomenclature stuck.

    I guess I don’t really see what I am doing in my veggie gardens as really “nature”- tomatoes don’t grow in Zone 5 of their own accord. Of course the process that take a tiny seed to massive glorious fruit producing plant are mysterious beyond my ken, but it is infinitely different compared to the power of a self-sustaining Forest. There are many layers of artifice in the annual vegetable garden and to that extent install seems appropriate on some level. The prairie perhaps less so, but the amount of work necessary to get it “installed” seems to justify the word for me.

    Given how far I am seperated from contemporary American “culutre” I don’t feel comfortable pointing the finger there, but I am certainly a product of it and the dichotomy of “our” approach to Nature surely remains inherent in my worldview regardless.

    Interesting and thought provoking comment!

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