This has been a slow spring for impatient gardeners. Two weeks ago (5/11/19) we tilled and it wasn’t until last week (5/18/19) it was dry enough to lay rows out. Yesterday (5/27) the gate went up and in two days the fence will be up in time for this Saturday’s Open Farm Day––which is forecasted to be dazzlingly sunny! As customers and visitors come and go we can focus on planting, seeding and mulching hills.
No-Till Garden in 2020
After this year our gargantuan garden will be no-till with perennials. With no-till as the base for the future of our beloved garden the detailed layout is essential to our future plans. Why till this year? Well, this land was virgin when we laid out half of it last year. Every bit of this garden was under a dense 4′-tall and hopelessly tangled mix of sweet fern, golden rod, and raspberries. Golden rod is no problem tilling under as long as it’s before it’s gone to seed. Sweet fern and raspberry are resilient and even when chopped to spreads will still resurface as little lush sprigs here and there. I spent last summer pulling them up.
Small saplings behind the garden on the sunset side grew since thinning out the larger ones last year. I attacked them with a sawzall and put them to use as row markers. We raided my yarn collection to made row lines. Much of the garden was under a thick layer of ice late this year. Mounds of rabbit manure mixed with bedding lay like termite hills jutting up where the new garden area would soon be.
In addition to unruly woody plants, the garden plot was—and now is again that we have expanded––full of stones. Most of them are bigger that your biggest potato and are removed as we lay out rows. With no-till in our grand plan here we can now line the edges of pathways and rows with stones as they surface.
The garden got away from me last year. In the planting season we left on our honeymoon. I got back to a tangle—but got it weeded and reseeded with short season crops before stepping on a railroad spike—nearly driving it through my foot. I could flop around and do some work. Kevin would help me hobble over and go to work.
Just as I was able to support myself a few weeks later I began feeling ill. I ended up in the hospital for 10-days for upper GI something-or-other. They never diagnosed the mysterious thing that dared slow me down. I was weak and moved slowly. I kept overdoing it.
I know, it sounds simple to rest and get better––but I just can’t help myself. By then it was harvest and the garden was dropping tomatoes faster than they could be gathered.
Farm life is full of unexpected ups and downs. Amazing feats of With more than ever on my plate this year I decided to let go of the reins. and turned the design, selection and ordering to a good friend with a green thumb.
Meet Our Master Gardener, Erin
Wheaton Mountain Gardens will be overseen by the detail oriented and much more organized Erin Chasson. We have been friends since college and she’s worked as a gardener, in lawn care (much to her distain as an environmentally conscious chemical hater), and most recently as a mother of one amazingly adorable little girl named Maddie. Erin, and her husband Mike, live only 15 minutes from our home and visited often before I proposed we pair up in the garden endeavor.
I have a terrible, sloppy, short-sighted organizational skills and can’t keep up with projects. I’m great with creative ideas, implementing them, fixing things, working out complex problems, and many other business-wise matters. But, as everyone who’s been in my house knows—I’m not organized and can’t keep up with simple housework. If it weren’t for the prospect of cleaning before company we’d be on one of those hoarder shows within a few months.
With some added accountability and little nudges things have been much easier. The help is much needed with so much on my plate this spring. Yesterday would have been impossible without Erin here to layout perimeter lines to measure from. The final garden size is 77′ x 66′. The back side abuts a long rock wall (seen behind Erin in the photo right) from the virgin tilling last spring. Well, my grandfather says rock walls are built. Technically, it’s a long pile of rocks.
Standing where the front gate stands alone at dusk in the photo below; the left side abuts the woods where it begins to slant uphill. On the right, the big garden abuts a while clover field. I plan to pen-graze the rabbits by moving their cages around a few times a day. Rabbit manure is a green manure that won’t burn plants and add nitrogen to the soil. Clover is a legume, which takes nitrogen in a from unavailable to other plants and ‘fixes’ it into the soil. This makes for a highly productive pasture for grazing.
As we find the time and the clover establishes it will provide great nectar for honey bees as things simplify and become more efficient to allow for the time to tend them. Right now, we can barely handle what we have going on here up on Wheaton Mountain already. We only bush hogged and seeded with the clover last year. This year we doubled the garden and added a strawberry patch where we moved two less-than-pretty small coops.
Kevin secured a new 51′ x 9′ strawberry patch with chainlink fencing before strawberries arrive this coming week. I’m trying to decide on the layout—square beds that can be reached into, raised rows, or stepping stones. Rows will only accentuate the uneven ground and curve. Having covered the footprint of the junky-looking coops we tore out (with the truck and a chain… I had a blast!) it’s not exactly strait and follows the slight curve of the road that runs through the barnyard.
The fence ought to keep with wandering goats and scratching chickens out of the berries. After hanging out with poultry, goats and rabbits so much their behavior has become easy to predict. This information is effective and essential in preventing berry patch break ins, flock mixing, bunny break outs, and ridiculous goat antics. I clip all our chickens’ wings to prevent such atrocities before they happen. But there are always furry or feathered helpers available here at Wheaton Mountain Gardens.
Your husband might be a redneck if… (The derpy socks are for tick prevention AND style.)