May 13

Mid-May Garden report 2016

Regular readers know of my passion for gardening. In previous posts I have shared information about some of the bigger and longer term projects. This summer marks the 8th year since I moved back east. In 2008 I undertook the task of yet another long term landscaping and garden project. This endeavor took some planning, but, like all projects of this nature, has taken on a life of its own. One thing leads to another and before you know it, the place is an overgrown jungle!

In 2009, I added; shed for storage of yard tools and other outdoor items that were cluttering the garage.



Outdoors landscaping – in the first year or two, I needed to remove problem trees and planted new trees. I also planted shrubs and perennial flowers. The deer have been the greatest source of attrition for all vegetative growth.

In 2009 or 2010 I needed to divert water away from the house and that required a trench to be dug -18 inches deep a 100 feet long for a subterranean drainage channel. Additionally, excavation of the soil around the southeast corner of the garage. Subsequently the soil that was removed from this area was used to create a small hill beside the driveway and perpendicular to the road. This provides a safety/privacy barrier from the road and is covered with perennial wildflowers, indigenous lilies and tulips and daffodils in their respective seasons.

All beds around the property were dug into this heavy clay soil and amended with plenty of organic material. The primary plot for vegetable growing is roughly 30 feet X 15 feet. Inside that fenced area are a series of raised beds. Raised beds offer some advantages over sowing into standard rows. First thing to understand is that raised beds will warm sooner than flat soil. As a result of warming faster the beds to need a little more water than standard row planting. At my age, bending over for extended periods is difficult enough without getting down on hands and knees to sow and weed the garden. Raised beds are much easier to tend.


This year the asparagus is performing splendidly! Another food crop project with long term in mind. This is year number three since planting both the crowns and seeds in each of their beds.


A few years ago, I started a new and I think somewhat unique way of building new rich soil/humus to add to each raised bed. During the winter months I plant a heavy sowing of winter wheat or rye as a cover crop to boost nitrogen in the soil. This also adds biomass to the bed when it is all turned under in spring. Over the years I have built up raised beds in boxes and the walkways between the beds are the propagation area for new humus production. After I dig out the winter cover crop and turn it into a raised bed, I’ve created a trench that gets filled with sawdust and wood chips ( I used oak leaves one year and they attracted too many gnats!). The chips and sawdust break down during the heat of the summer growing season. At season’s end the new winter cover-crop is planted on top of the decomposing wood chips and sawdust. In spring, start the whole process over again by digging up the walkways and turning them into the raised beds, then refilling the trenches with sawdust and chips.

rich compost ready for distribution throughout the garden.

Rich compost ready for distribution throughout the garden.


This system has been working well and my compost production is doing well also. I pulled out two heavy wheel-barrow loads today and adding that as a topping to both asparagus beds and the broccoli/leeks in the picture. As soon as I finished the rain came down. Perfect timing to allow the nutrient-rich compost to soak into the root system.

Broccoli in the center and Leeks on either end.

Broccoli in the center and Leeks on either end.


The last remaining fruit tree has been an experimental project of pruning, shaping, grafting and reshaping. I think I have it down to where I want the tree to be. This most recent pruning cut back most everything of the original tree (yellow apple of unknown variety). What now establishes as the dominant vegetative growth on the tree are grafts of three different varieties; McIntosh, Granny Smith and Cortland. The grafts were added in 2013 and a second attempt in 2014 and should begin to produce fruit next year if I don’t prune too aggressively this fall.

I’ve had trouble finding another blueberry bush to match my first one. I was pleased with how much it produced….must continue searching!

The weatherman says we are in for a little more rain and then a few days of cool nights. I will be waiting to plant the rest of the crops until the end of next week and even so I will use the black plastic trick to help warm the soil.

Springtime is in full swing and I expect great success with less work this year.

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