One thing about spring: It brings out the farmer in me. There’s something about dropping seeds into freshly-tilled soil, joy bordering on elation when those first sprigs of life peep through, and then the pride of watching my garden develop into a veritable Eden, producing large, sumptuous vegetables and a dazzling array of beautiful flowers. All right, that’s the glorified version; some would call it wishful thinking, others a flat-out hallucination. The truth is, the rewards are there, but so is the work–ESPECIALLY if you are trying to carve a garden out of a well-established pasture. My little piece of heaven is exactly that, with lush, thick grass that has been here for years and has no intention of going down without a fight. To add to my dilemma, my shoestring budget allows for no tractor or plow–just a shovel, digging fork, rake, and hoe, all powered by my aging, arthritic back.
Well, the news isn’t all bad. I’m still pretty strong and love to work outside. Besides, this isn’t something I absolutely have to do. I can do as much as I want whenever I want. Having read a lot about the benefits of raised beds, I decided to go that route. I had already acquired ten asparagus roots. According to the directions these needed to be planted about 18″ apart. By my calculations, I needed at least a 15′ strip; but wanting additional space on each end, I decided to go 17′ and to make the strip 3′ wide.
The first step was to dig out the grass. I cut 3′ x 4″ strips which I then cut into 6″ pieces to make them easier to pull out and shake the dirt from, and continued working back and forth until I had my 17-foot-long strip. As expected, I found a mat of roots. I also discovered rocks of all shapes and sizes. For the most part, the rocks were small and the digging went pretty smooth. In places, however, I had to reposition my shovel three or four times before I could get the blade into the ground. But the soil is dark and rich, somewhat gravelly, and abundant with earthworms.
While I was at it, I dug up another plot for potatoes and then reworked them with the poor man’s rototiller (digging fork). It dug deeper than the shovel and I was able to break up the larger clods and ferret out more of the grass roots.
Finally, I took the rake and smoothed the soil as best I could, then pulled the soil from the sides into the middle to form my raised beds. They’re still a bit rough–definitely a work in progress–but those little asparagus (in the top picture) make it all worth while!
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