May
16
2010

  Revised Garden Plan

I used up all the available cardboard and newspaper mulching part of the wheelbarrow path around the circumference of the kitchen garden, and I figured I'd better settle on my final layout before I go digging up my existing perennials.

I didn't fill the garden plan in with many plants yet, my main concern was laying out the beds and paths.

This differs from the plan I made for this space when Terry took over the garden last year. He never really implemented the plan, he just left the whole area a disaster and moved on to another garden. After nagging him to clear it out for me for months this winter, I gave up and told him to forget about it, I'll do it myself. Of course, I'm out there cursing him every time I twist my ankle on a clump of uneven ground, but at least with me in charge it will eventually get done. It's not important to T, so he wouldn't ever do it, no matter how long I nagged.

First off, I made a big non-planted area around the bay window. This will serve several purposes. First, the window was poorly designed, and its frame continually rots out and boards must be replaced. I want to permanently fix this at some point. I'm still undecided if I want to just have the bay window framing re-done, or if I want to convert the center window into a door from the dining room into the garden. Either way, with the expanded open area around the window, there is room to do the work in the future without disturbing the garden plants.

Secondly, this makes a nice big open area for W to play with some toys while I tend to the garden. Also, it leaves open space for me to do various garden tasks like potting or mixing soil or whatever.

The second major change was the orientation of the garden. Last year, I designed T's beds so they were oriented around the natural quarter-round shape of the garden. But since those beds were never really implemented, I'm not tied to that concept. After spending a lot of time looking out the dining room window onto the garden, I decided it would look much better if I arrayed the beds so that the dining room window dictated the central line of the garden, rather than the shape of the garden itself.

So looking out from the window, the first row of plants will be 36" deep and contain my short garden plants-- lettuce, herbs, some ornamentals, whatever is 24" or shorter. That row and the one behind it will be separated by only a narrow (24") access path which won't really be visible from the window once the front row is grown out. The back row will be much wider (60"), and will contain the perennials already planted there; two rose bushes, daisies, Russian sage, coreopsis, and others. I'll probably move the coreopsis and dianthus to the front row.

Since I'll have plants up to 5' or 6' tall at the back part of that row, that's mostly all you'll see from the dining room window. You will have to go out into the garden itself to see the back beds, which will have more of the edibles. T is focusing on a few high-margin crops, plus all the spreading vine crops that would take up too much room for my garden. So I'll grow everything else here.

Not that I think there will be too much in there this year. It is too much for me to dig the beds all at once, and it's even too much for me to cover it with topsoil to do all raised beds, since that's a lot of shoveling. The garden is nearly 1,000 square feet, so imagine having to cover the ground floor of a small house with four or more inches of topsoil, by carrying it in with a wheelbarrow from the front door. That is the size of this task.

So as far as actually growing things, I'm going to focus on the front two rows this year. Instead of just having short things in the front row, I'll probably just put all the annuals there, plus the short perennials. And I'll work on filling the background bed either with more perennials, or experimenting with annuals to see what looks good. And I'll mulch all the paths.

In the illustration, I've got the paths colored gray. Not because I'm going to put gravel in them, but because they will be mulched with newspaper. Cardboard and newspaper, actually. I've got the whole part around the window done, and am working my way around the large wheelbarrow path. Tomorrow either before or after neurofeedback, I'll go to the recycling center and take as much newspaper as possible in the truck. If I can fill up the truck bed, I should be able to finish the wheelbarrow path.

I am unsure whether I'll order topsoil for the front row, or try to dig up the existing dirt. Digging is hard work, and it's a big row (69 square feet). If I add topsoil, I'll mulch that area with cardboard and/or newspaper and then put the soil on top of it.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the nuisance fence that T put up between the garden and the front porch. T put it there to keep the rabbits out, but now that Merlin hangs out on the front porch, I seriously doubt that rabbits will be a problem. We've got TWO tomcats patrolling the property now; Merlin favors mice (although I'm sure he'll take on voles and rabbits as well), and Fenway likes to eat birds. Between the two of them, I'm pretty sure my garden will be safe from all but insects. But since the fence is not in the way in the current plan (it just blocks part of the path where the wheelbarrow goes, it may or may not cause a problem this year), I don't have to deal with it right now.

I can't say I'm truly excited about making progress on the garden, since there is just so much work involved. The worst part is that there is so much MORE work involved than if T hadn't dug it up badly last year and left it in such a mess. There are a LOT of icky weeds in there now that never before existed on our property (at least not around the house); I'm sure they were in the uncomposted manure he brought in since they are concentrated over his old potato patch. So that's why I'm just covering the whole thing with cardboard and newspaper. Inches and inches of it-- it will smother everything under it, including noxious weeds, and turn it all into compost within a year or two. I figure I'll have to just even out the land over time, as well. If I keep adding layers, eventually the lumps will even out, or I'll be able to add more material to fill the ditches over time, until everything is level and smooth.

But armed with my new plan, if I can just make some progress on my two concentric rows, then the rest of the garden won't be an eyesore (at least not the view from inside the house), even if it's just mulched with carboard and newspaper.