Garden Dreams, Garden Realities

This is the time of year when my thoughts turn to gardening. I always have grand visions, which usually don’t turn out quite the way I imagined. But it’s fun to dream big! This year, we have a lot of work to do. Shortly before Jim lost his job, we sold our big house in the suburbs and bought a small place on almost six acres out in the boonies. It turned out to be one of the few really good things that has happened in recent years, as we no longer have a mortgage, and that is truly a blessing with our money struggles.

It does mean that we need to be much more creative. We are trying to be more self-sufficient, which isn’t a bad thing, even if money isn’t tight. But for us, it’s a necessity. It can be a challenge, but it can also be a lot of fun! We have about an acre cleared out of a portion of 20 to 25-year poorly managed Douglas fir. I’m sure the timber company sold off the land some time ago, and therefore, it was never thinned properly. Our vision is to slowly restore the property to a more natural state. But first, we must deal with the cleared area and work on establishing our garden, so we can grow some of our own food (the deer think it’s for them, but we will work on that!).

One of our biggest problems is soil. Anyone in Western Washington probably knows what I’m talking about. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. All of the lovely glacial stuff left behind. We do have a few pockets of good soil, but they are either in shade all day or under water seven months out of the year (or both). Cranberries maybe?? The one big sunny patch is also the area with the most rock (of course!). We’re not even trying to clear the stuff away; we’re just building up on top. And that’s where the fun and creativity come in. I’ve been reading lots of books and magazines about woodlot management and self sufficiency from the library and online. Last year we started a straw bale garden, which is becoming quite popular. We had mixed results. Some things did very well, others not so much, though I think weather had far more to do with it than the straw bale setup (growing tomatoes the the NW is always a crapshoot). The biggest problem for me was expense. We did it sort of last minute and it ended up being more expensive than I had hoped. Straw is not as cheap here as it is in some other places! It did, however, leave us with a nice pile of rotted straw that we can plant in again this year and then compost in what will become the main garden.

This year we are planning the main garden, which will eventually be fenced against the deer. We are using two strategies–lasagna gardening and hugelkulter. I must admit, I want to do the hugelkulter in part because of the name. Who doesn’t want to be able to say “I’ve got a hugelkulter in my yard!” OK, maybe I’m the only one. But both use what we’ve already got. Today I spent several hours (and about 2 miles of walking around the property, which is good because I’ve been slacking off on my exercise program!) building the hugelkulter mound. I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s a long-term garden solution using wood debris, tree limbs, and whatever organic matter you have around to build a big mound which breaks down slowly but adds tons of wonderful nutrients to the soil. Since we have lots of thinning to do, there will probably be quite a few of these mounds around the yard! The February/March 2017 issue of Mother Earth  News talks about both types of gardening, plus several others.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of our garden experiments!

hugelkulterwr

Look at that lovely soil we’re starting with! Found a huge mound of fir cone remnants in our woods. Using several buckets of it to add to the pile. Still lots of work to do.

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