Monday, May 11, 2009

Aside from cats and lack of sun, the garden is OK

My very first attempt at a kitchen garden is finally up and, growing.

Ok, technically, my very first attempt was last year, when absolutely nothing grew, so that doesn't really count. BTW, starting plants from seed when you don't know what you're doing is unadviseable.

The photo above is the raised vegetable bed that I built a few weeks ago. Yeah, I totally did. I'm still proud of it since I've never constructed anything more complicated than a scrapbook in my whole life. I'm also proud I built the bed with very minimal help from JB (to his credit, he only came over to help when I asked). I used a power drill. I learned what a sink bit is. I hammered. I used a staple gun. It was very HGTV-meets-Rosie-the-Riveter-meets-I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-doing.

I've been in love with the idea of a kitchen garden since last year, and was determined to try again. I built the raised bed from these plans by Pioneer Woman. Somehow a small construction project is infintely more accessible when written in plain English and photographed every step of the way by a fantastic blogger you already love.

But there were issues. The reason my raised bed doesn't reach the ground on the right side is that my back yard slopes and Pioneer Woman was very adamant that the bed be level. The other main problem I encountered was that I couldn't find boards in the right size that were also the right kind of wood; regular wood (my grasp of technical terms is mind-boggling, I know) will warp and crack after being outside for a couple of years, but treated wood will fill your veggies full of chemicals and make your babies grow three heads. So I bought treated wood and wrapped the interior walls in landscape fabric (hence the black part poking from underneath the right side). I don't have babies yet, so maybe we're OK.

This is the experimental year. At one end of the bed I have two tomato plants (one that produces big tomatoes and the other that produces cherry tomatoes), and one plant each of yellow squash, zucchini, bell pepper, jalepeno pepper and okra. The idea is just to see what grows and plant more of it next year.

The other end is herbs:

Top row, left to right is chives and mint. The mint is in a pot because apparently it can get invasive. Middle row is rosemary, cilantro and ... uh... I think that's one of the pepper plants. not an herb. Bottom row is parsley, basil and...another pepper plant.

If you see any glaring errors here, like my plants are spaced too far apart (or not far enough), or there should be more than one of the plant so it can cross pollinate or whatever, feel free to tell me. I don't know crap about gardening; the only plus here is that we compost ktichen scraps and yard clippings, so I was able to get in a good layer of compost into the garden soil.

My favorite thing is going out and seeing how much the plants have grown. They've only been there a couple of weeks, but they're definitely bigger. This is especially good news because my biggest worry is how uber-shady my backyard is. We live in an older neighborhood full of sixties-style ranchers and enormous trees. I love how green and cool our yard always is, but it's not ideal for growing veggies. The only spot around our house where a garden would get full sun is directly in the center of the front yard, and I'm sorry, I'm not that dedicated to having a garden.

The only other problem is the 1,000,000,000 cats that live in our neighborhood. I've seen little indentations in the raised bed and I'm concerned it could become (has become already?) a large community litter box. Ew.

Here's one culprit, for sure:

It's Sonny, the cat from across the street. The Urkel of the neighborhood. Momerath hates him and hisses anytime he's near. Orion will engage in an occasional chasing match but generally seems intimidated by him, although that's Orion's default mode, so it might not have anything to do with Sonny. We tend to blame him for all sorts of stuff because he's always here. The above photo was taken in our back yard, and I swear that cat spends more time there and on our front porch than he does at his own house.

Actually, on the day I built the veggie bed, I was sitting in the living room reading Pioneer Woman's next instructions on my laptop when I realized two orange cats were sitting side-by-side on the floor a few feet away, staring at me. One was Orion and the other was...Sonny. Our garage door was up and he'd come through the cat door from the garage to hang out in our living room. It was kind of creepy. Luckily he's not hard to catch and only yowled in a resigned way when I dumped him outside.

Orion, on the other hand, is always a welcome visitor to the veggie garden and doesn't mind keeping me company as long as he gets petted every now and then.


Becky aka StinkyLemsky said...

wow! congrats on building it yourself! My only comment would be that my chives came back this year, so as long as you trim them down after they start to die in the winter, they may come back for you too!

Oh, and that's a pretty small pot for mint, you may need to upgrade to a larger pot before the end of the summer (of course, all my mint died last year, so what do I know...)
:) Becky

cerrissa said...

good job AC!!!! i also am trying to grow some herbs this year. i'm also having the "not enough sun" issue considering my only real estate is a window ledge and a fire escape (both on the north side of the building), but the plants seem to be doing ok so far. The basil tried to escape the window ledge this weekend. i had to go down into the pit of despair behind my apartment building to save it. it was looking like it was about to die, but i stuck it back in a pot and watered it a lot and about an hour later it looked back to normal. so maybe thats a good sign that it is pretty resilient. i've already used my chives in omelets, rosemary on some baked chicken, and basil on a panini! my way of thinking about it is to enjoy them while they are alive :)

Irene Latham said...

Oh I love gardens... at least the planting part. The weeding etc. I could SO do without. But worth it when the tomatoes are coming it... And hey, I LOVE Pioneer Woman! Btw, I hear there's a new Indie bookstore in H'

Liana Brooks said...

I'm not to far south of you, I think. And I'm still working on getting all my plants in the ground. And turning soil. And weeding...

A raised bed sounds SOOO nice right about now.

Good luck!

Kraxpelax said...
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writtenwyrdd said...

Yay for you! It's a lot easier than people think to do a lot of projects. I have done many projects around my 110 year old house and now on the new one.

For keeping critters out, you can try cayenne pepper. It works pretty well for squirrels, but the quantity required is prohibitive.

As a side note, garden cloth is porous, it just blocks weeds from growing up through it for a couple of years. If you are concerned about chemicals in the soil, you can probably find something cheap and long lasting to line the raised bed sides with, like flashing.

writtenwyrdd said...

PS, chives grow like weeds. I never cut them back and they are fine. And I live in Northern Maine.

I haul my herbs inside in Winter, and I have basil, catnip, parsley, rosemary and a few others that live in pots. Perhaps you can do herbs that way as well?