Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mid Spring, The Garden Takes Shape

The rainy weather has helped to get the seeds started. Suddenly we have our first really warm weather, and everything begins to pop. After I had almost given up, the peas are up, spinach, and lettuce has made an appearance as well.

Inside, the sunflower seedlings are getting tall and gangly, but it's too soon to transplant them outside. In the front yard, the crocuses and dafodills begin to wilt in the heat. The trees begin to leaf out, and suddenly, spring is truly here.

Building the Beds

We built our raised beds in one day in late March. After some research, I found a source of compost and loam — a company that recycles and composts yard waste and manure from the cities zoos and the mounted police. I thought it was kind of cool to think that our peas and carrots would be feed by monkey and elephant dung. Cool but kinky! The place was highly recommended though, and I heard that they supplied all the community gardens.

As I went to check out their yard, I was determined to follow the advice I'd been given and give the loam a good look to make sure it wasn't too wet, or too crumbly. I found their trailer, spoke to the woman inside, and asked her if I could check out the loam before I bought it. "Sure", she said, "but its pretty muddy!" She pointed down a rutted track to where the loam sat, at the far side of an enormous lot filled with piles of dirt, wood chips, and compost. Squaring my shoulders, I set out, and soon realized hat there was no way I wasn't going to be ankle-deep in mud before long. My Greenwich village boots just were not up to the task. Just then, I heard her yell over to me, and saw that a beat-up pick up truck was making its way over to me. "Hop in", said a muddy but kind yard man, and we quickly made our way to the far end of the lot. Jumping out, I took a couple handfuls of loam, gave it the squeeze test. It passed!

The next morning, Gerry and I headed over to pick up the lumber that he had ordered—rough-sawn spruce, 4 quarter 2 x 10s. The guy at the yard cut them into 4 foot and 8 ft lengths to make it easier for us to transport. A few minutes after we got home, the truck arrived with the loam. I couldn't tell for sure if the driver was my friend from the day before, absent the dirt. He obligingly dumped the pile exactly where we'd drawn a spot on the driveway with playground chalk.

Gerry and Alex quickly assembled the frames, and Alex, Jordan, Court, Aiden and I helped shovel and fill the wheelbarrows. Before long, our 4 beautiful beds were set!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Garden memories

Its been a number of years since I had a vegetable garden. The last one we had was in back of our house on Mission Hill. At that time the "back of the hill" was still kind of a wild, wide open place, high above the projects on Heath Street below. Large tracts of land lay abandoned, houses burnt down, or pulled down. The row of houses that still clung to the edge of Fisher Ave. seemed to hunch together along the street, as if to ward off the winds, and the emptiness.

Yet, the place had its own kind of beauty. From the top of the hill, you could see all the way past downtown Boston to the harbor. The wild cherries blossoming in the park across the street and the little league parade were sure signs of spring.

One year we went and foraged beams from one of the abandoned houses on Wensley Street, and built terraced raised beds. The yard was south facing, and everything grew like crazy.

When we moved to Milton we inherited a great perennial garden. I really knew next to nothing about the plants I'd inheritied, and killed off quite a few. I set up a step ladder and tried to map the garden. I identified what I could, and began to anticipate what would come up, and when. I spent hundreds on new plants, most of which got choked out by mid-July. But some things thrived, My clematis, and a succession of irises. Some mallow I transplanted took over large portions of the garden. I got a few herbs to grow. But once the trees fill out, much of the garden is shady, and my attempts to grow vegetables was a disaster.

I got my love of gardening from my Dad and Mom, and from my grandfather, who had grown up on a farm in Maine. I remember him in his garden on Summit Ave. in Wakefield. By that time, he grew nothing but tomatos, and tons of them. He used old frozen orange juice cans filled with kerosene to catch the beetles that plagued the garden. My little brother tried to drink some and had to have his stomach pumped.

My parents had a garden behind their house in Homewood Illinois, where we grew pumpkins, beans, squash, lettuce, carrots, peppers and more. Fruit trees filled the yard, there was a grape arbor and strawberries grew behind the garage. I was given a small stony plot to cultivate on my own. I still remember the thrill of ownership of that small barren plot and also, the size of the pumpkins we grew that year.

When my parents moved to Vancouver, they again had room for a garden, and it was a beauty! I was a young adult when they moved, so I admired it when I visited. I sat in the garden and sketched the cabbages, and feasted on the fresh vegetables at the dinner table. It was a treat to be asked to go pick something to cook that night!

I'm hoping our new garden will flourish, and offer some of the same pleasures I remember from these gardens past.