So, what do I prefer? Hours of weeding in clay soil where only half the weeds come up with roots intact, or a few minutes of absent-minded hoeing? Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!!! You're a winner if you picked option number two!!! What, then, is a busy gardener to do? Well, plan a project of course!
I'm a planner when it comes to large scale projects. Actually, I'm a planner for any sort of project. I'm one of those detail-oriented people who likes to have all the little things addressed and accounted for ahead of time. This personality quirk has served me well in my life - not only in the workplace, but also at home. While I admit to not being a model housekeeper, nor being a particularly spectacular cook, I can make a great list of what "should be done" in order to host a dinner party and can organize all the fine details and ensure the whole thing goes off without a hitch. Just don't assign me to the housekeeping or cooking role!
Lately, the lack of organization in my vegetable garden has been irritating me. I don't like willy-nilly plantings and a lack of structure. Things must "Be. Just. So." I used to have 8 lovely raised beds at my previous suburban home in which I grew tomatoes, melons (vertically), potatoes, all sorts of root crops like carrots and parsnips, as well as some herbs and peppers. That was in a small suburban backyard. Now, here I am in a rural lifestyle, I can do oh-so-much more!
So, here's the plan (you can click to "biggify" it). The garden area is already fenced. My plan is to delineate the raised beds that will be built. Some will be perennials, like the strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, currant bushes, and perhaps something else (I've left a perennial bed unmarked). The remaining green and lime coloured beds are for annuals. There will be plenty of space for crop rotation so that the beds don't get re-used and insect populations don't build up in the soil for that type of crop.
The beds are being built of 2 x 10 lumber, and some will have a 2 x 6 riser on top to make them deeper. This will depend on which crop is going into them. The strawberries, for example, will be fine with the 10 inch depth. They don't need 16 inches. Carrots and parsnips, on the other hand, will need a deeper bed. The lumber is regular construction lumber but it will be lined with cut open plastic feed bags to keep the soil from touching the wood. This will make it last a little longer. Cedar 2 x 10 boards are...well...not in my price range!
The currants will be moved this fall from a different area of the farm where they are currently located. They'll be put into the raised beds when they have gone dormant. I have white currants, red currants, black currants, pink currants, and also gooseberries in that area. I really like the small fruits. As you can see, I also have the grapevines and brambles (raspberries & blackberries) marked out. They are also already there. In addition, I have some hardy kiwi vines to be planted.
In the centre of the overall design, I have a plan for a sculptural element or perhaps a fountain. This will be one of those things that I will know when I see it. There's no rush for me to find it yet. You can also see that I've allocated space for a 10 x 10 coop next to the compost pile. I will rotate some chickens into the coop for the summer and fall. They will turn over the compost and keep it well aerated. I'm thinking that it might be the ideal location for some of my bantams.
The beds at the bottom that are "L" shaped will be offset slightly from the plan so that they will be centered with the rest of the garden path. I haven't quite decided what I'll do with the lower right corner yet. There is always room for a small shed to contain the primary gardening tools.
Now that I have this plan, I feel better about the garden, even though the plan is not yet in progress. This is a large plan and will take some time - I figure about 2 years, to get completed. At the completion though, I will have a clear, organized garden that is MUCH easier to weed and manage than the current situation. I will also have a place to put a lot of that free manure from the sheep! So when does all this start? My parents arrive for a visit next week and they enjoy helping with projects when they visit. I have all the materials for the top quarter section of beds (the perennials section). If the weather behaves, hopefully we can get some of that part completed and I can actually get a few late crops into the ground for fall harvesting. Stay tuned - I'll give progress reports as this project moves ahead!