gardening

Raised Garden

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Last spring I created the first garden on my new place by digging a roughly 8′ by 12′ plot out of the stubborn pasture grass behind my house.  It worked out well enough; but digging out that plot was HARD work and the grass persisted in reclaiming its lost territory.  This spring I wanted a bigger garden, but rather than any more digging I opted for a raised bed.  My sister and brother-in-law had already built one.  I loved their design and, with their help, built one of my own alongside my existing garden.  The finished bed measures 12′ long, 52″ wide, and 20″ deep.

Materials used:  four 12′ x 8″ x 2″ boards;  four 52″ x 8″ x 2″ boards;  two 12′ x 4″ x 2″ boards;  two 52″ x 4″ x 2″ boards;  eight 18″ x 8″ x 2″ boards (for anchoring the levels together;  230 screws 3.5″ long.

Using two 12′ x 8″ boards and two 52″ x 8″ boards we built the first level.  Once the boards were securely fastened, we built the second level on top of that.  Finally we used the 4″ wide boards to build the top.  We next used the 18″ long boards to fasten the three levels together:

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One 18″ board in each corner, like this.

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Two more 18″ boards, evenly spaced, along the sides between the corners.

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The finished product!

You can see how we arranged the screws.

Afterward, I put a thick layer of cardboard on the ground.  We filled the bed with a mixture of 50% topsoil and 50% dairy compost.

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Overall, not too bad!  I’m anxious to see how my garden turns out.

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2017  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

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gardening

Spring Has Sprung!

IMG_5345 Fillary in bloom

Spring has come to Montana!  And none too soon.  While folks from places from North Dakota or Buffalo, New York would probably tell me I’ve never seen a true winter, this last proved the hardest one I’ve seen in a long time.  At any rate, I got outside a couple of days ago, returning inside just long enough to shed my jacket before heading back out to get a jump on the weeds.  Already I hear laughter, because those darn things bloom underneath the snow, I swear.  That red stemmed filaree above looks might robust for so early.

I was gratified to find that, despite my best efforts, everything I had planted and nurtured the previous year had actually survived, which means: 1) Those plants are mighty tough; 2) They’re growing just to spite me; or 3) My thumb’s not as black as I thought.  (The reason HAS to be 1 or 2.)

The elderberry that laid down flat after I thought I just HAD to transplant it last August is coming up from the bottom and looking mighty good!

IMG_5335 Elderberry

So is the rhubarb I over-harvested to satisfy my craving for rhubarb-strawberry pie (which, by the way, was delicious!)

IMG_5331 Rhubarb

Doug Fir and Lulu Larch look content within their deer-resistant enclosures.  (I say deer RESISTANT because if they’re hungry enough, deer seem to find a way into anything.  But, like so many of the old-timers remind me, THEY were here first!)

IMG_5341 Doug FirIMG_5337 Larch

 

 

 

 

 

 

This currant didn’t look overly happy last fall, but seems well enough now!  (At least, it’s all budded out.)

IMG_5333 Currant

Last but not least, despite a late planting and not as well established as I hoped for before winter set in, this little bush has green leaves beneath the dead stuff.

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This will be pretty when it fills out!

The field is greening up and before long I’ll be mowing again, which I won’t mind a bit. . .until after I’ve mowed that acre a half-dozen times with my walk-behind!

HAPPY SPRING!

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2017  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

 

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gardening, Life

The Cutting Edge: A Lawn Mower Review

LawnMower

I like a well-trimmed lawn.  After all the mowing, trimming, and bagging is over I gaze across that neatly-manicured sod and see a thing of beauty, especially in the glow of an evening sunset.  Once upon a time I had a postage stamp-sized yard in town.  Now I live on an acre and a half of grass hay, with a lot of “lawn” to trim.  What’s more, the growing season started early this year.  A wet spring coupled with rapidly warming temperatures already in March brought the field to life long before I was ready.  Yet, ever up for a challenge, I stepped up to the plate and launched an immediate search for a suitable mower.

A riding mower seemed most logical;  however, thirty-three years hunched over a computer keyboard had done a real number on my spine (arthritis), and all that bucking and bouncing over a rough field wreaks havoc on my degenerated lumbar region.  A self-propelled walk-behind mower made the next best choice.  It would pull itself (requiring little effort on my part), plus I would get some much-needed exercise–provided I could keep up!

I did some internet research, asked family and friends for advice, then headed for the hardware stores.  I finally settled on a Husqvarna HU700H rear- wheel drive with a Honda GCV160 engine, and in my opinion I could not have made a better choice.  I love this mower!  It is easy to start.  I’ve never had to pull the cord more than three times, and that only after the mower has sat for a week; mostly, it starts on the first pull.

LawnMower RearView

It has an operator presence control bar, which you have to hold down before starting and then continue holding to keep the mower running.  Pulling the drive control bar down propels it forward but I have no problem regulating the speed.  And even my small hands can hold down both bars with no trouble.  It’s an easy switch from bagging to mulch.  And that Honda engine purrs through everything I’ve thrown at it without missing a beat.  Better yet, all that walking has taken off a few pounds!  (Sorry, no before and after photos.  Although. . .now that I think about it, maybe I should have posted some pics.  Husqvarna might have hired me as a paid fitness spokesperson:  “I went from this: (( big butt ))  to THIS: {}  in just three months using my Husqvarna HU700H lawnmower–and all I did was WALK!”)

All kidding aside, I give this little beauty five gold stars.  Needless to say, I highly recommend it!

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2016  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

 

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gardening

A Little Fine Tuning…

1 CleanedUp Garden

This past week I decided that, rather than trying to clear a large space for a lot of vegetables this year, I would simply grow a “stew” garden consisting of asparagus, red and russet potatoes, and carrots in the plot already cultivated.  While I don’t consider asparagus a stew vegetable, I love it.  (I only wish I didn’t have to wait until next year to eat it!)  The decision to stop there didn’t require a lot of thought.  The grass surrounding my garden is growing full tilt and aggressively trying to reclaim lost territory, requiring measures for stopping its advance.  (I know, good luck with that!)  Ironically, I’m trying to get a lawn growing around my house, and have spent days spreading new topsoil, seeding, and watering.  I still managed to weed my garden and dig out the grass between the beds.  I’m pleased with the result; it looks SO much neater!

2 Red Potato Plant

The red potatoes are growing well and I noticed a few russets peeping through the soil.  A neighbor graciously gave me some rhubarb plants.  I’m looking forward to strawberry rhubarb pie later this summer!

3 Rhubarb

I wanted a hedge along my west boundary but was not sure what to plant.  I finally decided on Canadian hemlock, a beautiful ferny evergreen, and just finished planting 24 of them.

4 Canadian Hemlock

My sister and brother-in-law helped plant my lawn.  Before we seeded, they suggesting arranging some flat stones around the downspouts to help slow erosion from the runoff.  I think it looks quite nice, besides.

5 StonesUnderRainspout

I also planted currants and elderberries, which I enclosed in cages to prevent deer from getting to them.  (Little Mount St. Helens looms in the top right corner. It was going to be a rock garden, but I found the pile’s composition was mostly fill, along with a lot of rocks and grass roots.  Still. . .there may be hope.)

6 CurrantsElderberriesCages

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2016  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

 

 

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gardening

Two Birds With One Stone

Sod Pieces

I had spent several days digging out grass for a garden spot. Wanting to devote all my energies to that one task, I tossed the rocks and sod pieces to the side, intending to gather them up, pile the rocks, and burn the grass after it dried.  What I did not consider, however, is the amount of soil retained by those fine, dense roots even after I’d knocked out as much of it as I could.  Those thick clumps are hard enough to burn without clods of dirt the consistency of concrete clinging to them.  Added to that, there was a lot more to pick up than I realized.

Wagonload

I had about six of these loads.  Not surprisingly, the grass underneath all that sod didn’t look very happy.

Sickly Grass I decided to dispose of the rocks first.  I hauled my loaded Gorilla cart  to the edge of the field and started building my pile.  There is a low bank and a lot of rocks, so the grass along that side had never been mowed and had dried to a thick unruly mat.  I had already raked much of it away from the fence, ready for burning.

Dry Grass

As I worked, I thought about the sickly grass underneath the sod and got an idea:  What if, instead of burning those pieces, I instead piled them, root side up, atop the grass growing where I had burned?  Maybe that would suppress the new growth enough to eliminate the

Downed Dry Grass

need to burn the following year.  As I increased my garden plot, I would immediately load the sod and take it over, eliminating the extra pick-up.

So, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. . .and the bank doesn’t even look that bad!  I will admit, though, it looks better from a distance.Piled Sod

I know that some plants, like purslane, when placed upside down will develop roots on their leaves and stems and replant themselves.  I don’t know whether grass fits into that category but, if so, it will provide the subject for another post!

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2016  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

 

 

 

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gardening

Building a New Garden

 

Asparagus

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.

DiggingAsparagusBed

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.

TIlledPotatoBed

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!Raised beds

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2016  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

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