5.23.2008

A vegetable garden, dug the old-fashioned way

After reading about all of the inspired methods for carving a garden bed out of your lawnscape, I sure regretted digging my garden the old-fashioned way. Here it is at left several weeks ago: just some herbs that basically wouldn't die. In the photo are chives, garlic chives, marjoram, tarragon, oregano, lemon balm, thyme, catnip, mint, chamomile, a rosemary that survived the mid-Atlantic winter, and a sage that didn't. I was sad about this until I realized the plant had left us a parting gift in the form of a volunteer descendant, growing right in the middle of the chamomile.


To dig the rest of the garden, I first stripped off the top three or four inches of grass. I stacked this sod along the edge of our yard, where it slopes down a little too much for our comfort - it might be ugly this year, but it will grow in eventually and we'll have a flatter edge.

Then I double-dug into the Maryland clay, breaking up the "soil" and adding organic matter (grass clippings, composted leaves,) fertilizer, and topsoil. It was hard, ugly work. If I had to do it all over again, I might just plant some of those radishes, sit back and wait for next summer. I'm sure that method is more sustainable and better for the soil, in addition to a lot less work! But now I have a plot that's roughly tripled in size, from 50 square feet to 144, and I have it right this very minute, along with a sore back and a sunburn.

I had laid out a rough plan of where everything would go, but alas, my seedlings are not doing so well. I think my well-meaning husband may have over-watered them in the basement, and one of the days when I left them outside ("hardening them off") we had a surprise downpour, which saturated them further.

The herbs were the best-faring of the bunch, so I put the basil, parsley and nasturtium seedlings into the ground as soon as it was ready. The complete failures were, surprise, the ones everyone tells you not to start indoors: beans and squash. A few of them were still alive, in a spindly and sad sort of way, so I put those in hoping for a miracle, and planted seeds nearby just in case the miracle didn't come through. The lettuce and onions sprouted briefly and then died (again, I suspect overwatering). And I'm still holding out hope for the tomatoes and peppers, which are still alive and green, but small.

Below, the (edible) garden in a recent photo. As you can see, the other members of my family were exceedingly helpful. Yes, that is the last sip of a Belgian beer in Rob's hand.

"Who will help me eat the stringbeans?" said the little red hen...

2 comments:

dinzie said...

Looks like some decent gowth in the last picture :O) Hope the beer was good :O)
D

Joshua McNichols said...

Double digging is pretty awesome. Nothing wrong with that. I just couldn't do it for my entire garden, a vegetable and flower garden from scratch in an otherwise hardpan clay lawn. If I'd had the energy to double dig the whole thing I would have, but it was just too much.