Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Proper Project Planning

The only thing that is currently in the ground in my vegetable garden is the garlic, which I planted last fall.  It looks quite good, and is developing scapes.  Excellent!  There are two areas of garlic in my garden.  One area is planted in the ground.  It is 8 rows worth of different varieties and it has been so overgrown with weeds that the garlic is beginning to disappear.  It has taken several hours to clear the first four rows of weeds.  Keep in mind, I'm working in very heavy Iowa clay soil - not an easy task!!  When you couple that with the fact that I live in the country, where weed seeds are as prevalent as oxygen, it's a losing battle unless you want to use a lot of herbicide, or unless you have a LOT more time than I do for weeding.  The second area is planted in two raised beds.  The garlic and shallots growing in the raised beds are doing so with remarkable vigour.  I have spent maybe 20 minutes in weeding those two raised beds, if that.  I just have to scrabble the surface a bit with a hand held small hoe.  It's nothing.  Tickling the soil is about as accurate a description as I can give.

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!


IsobelleGoLightly said...

oooh! That's going to be a beautiful garden! My lady likes her raised beds here because we live in the former path of an ancient glacier and our "soil" is rocks.

Flartus said...

Ooooo, I'm so jealous! I would love to spend some time with you, to learn how to put together raised beds. If I helped you out for an afternoon, would you come draw up a plan for our backyard??? I'm gonna show your plan to Miss Chef; she wants to get rid of as much lawn as possible.

Where will you get the dirt to fill these beds?

Claire the Shepherdess said...

Flartus - it would be so much fun to have you help out - darn the lack of a transponder beam to get you here! I would be happy to draw up a plan for your backyard anyway. If you let me know the space dimensions, the types of plants you want (i.e. raised beds for perennials or rotating annual crops), then I can draw some ideas for you! Less lawn to mow is a great thing - less use of fossil fuels and less noise and less work! I ordered a truckload of compost, but I will likely need more. However, a lot of the bed filling material will be compost from the animals, old straw bedding from the animals, and my own compost heap material. At the end of the season, the 'big box' stores such as Home Depot & Lowes often have pallets of broken bags of soil/compost/humus that can be bought cheaply. We bought some pallets the year before last for $10 for about 30 broken bags. It's a good deal if you can snag it!

Claire the Shepherdess said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention, it's easy to build the raised beds - stay tuned and you'll see just how easy! I'll take photos of the process!

polly's path said...

THAT looks great. I can't wait to see it in progress and finished.
I have been leaning more and more toward raised beds too, due to the horrid weeds we have in our area of the boonies.
It will take me a long time, so I might start on my garden this winter when nothing else seeks my attention.

Spinners End said...

Geez Claire, I'm tired just after reading your post! I am always impressed by your enthusiasm and energy. We borrowed a rotatiller over the weekend and quadrupled our garden space...gulp. Now WE have to plan!

Neville Henry Fotheringham said...

What a LOVELY garden you're building! Can't wait to see the finished product!

May I suggest, for a sculptural element in the center some lovely bronze statue of a noble steed such as myself? Or maybe marble. Yesssss... Marble. Rearing maybe. And instead of a fountain you could make me breathe FIRE! Oh yes!


Christy said...

Beautiful plan! I want to do my whole garden in raised beds for the same reasons you listed, we are all red clay here. The weeds are killing me!!!! I think I'll build a few more this summer.

Texan said...

This will be fabulous!!!

We started putting in raised bed this year as well! Only a couple more to go ... they are so nice to have!! Lots and lots of work to get them in, but so worth it!

Millie said...

I am still getting my garden in. One down and one to go. I am already trying to go back and pull those weeds from the Iowa clay soil. I do sympathize. I love the plans.

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing out loud.

My husband could well have drawn your same plan. You two would get along well! Only he would have taken his plan to work, throw it together in AutoCAD and then plotted it out to bring home and make sure we got it "just so"!


I love it!

I'm the - "Oh! Let's put some stuff here, and some stuff there, and oh... wouldn't it be pretty if we scattered some of this there..." It drives him nuts!

Isn't gardening fabulous - it can accomodate all types with amazing and wonderful outcomes!

Excellent plan, by the way!

My Life Under the Bus said...

It looks awesome ! I have longed for raised beds because we have so many deer anything not planted on our deck gets ravaged ! I would love a little fenced area for peppers , beans and cucumbers....sigh...I will garden vicariously thru you. I am embarressed to say but my husband has " The Topsy Turvey Tomato " thingy out there right now UGH !