Sunday, April 25, 2010

my very first garden has vegetables coming up!

Lilac blooms over the north east corner, scenting the air with the promise of summer.  The raspberries will love the dappled early morning sunshine filtered by lilacs foliage and the broad leaves of the rhubarb will be a good sister sheltering the roots with protection from the elements. 

April is here at last!  watch.
I started the yard-to-kitchen garden conversion late last fall.  Groups of bamboo had taken over the fence as had the white clematis climbing the katsura tree.  An unsightly over-large California lilac (hit hard by cold the winter before last) needed removing along with the weeds and moss which owned the lawn, growing tall as toddlers. Gone. The roots of the bamboo and Ceanothus required pick-axe (if I had one) and a hand saw to loose them of their well staked territory and did not going without a fight.  The digging and shaking of every bit of soil from the sod was better than going to the gym. Done!  No injury occurred in the making of this garden.

Liar - bruises from holding milk crates heavy with sod against my thighs whilst I shake out any remaining free soil
The first pots - Steve made for me from newspaper using this neat tool from Lee Valley.  Instead of adding more plastic pots to the equation, this simple pot uses up newspaper, then you just plant it in the garden or container.
The starting mix in these pots is from the bag I picked up at Choices Markek.  Later I made my way out to West Coast Seeds in Delta and prefer the starter mix they offer called Dutch Mix. It is finer textured and esthetically more pleasing to the eye. 

I kept going to see if anything had come up - finally about the fifth day these sweet and tiny double leaves appeared out of the soil, it was magic!

A gardener was born!

Broccoli seedlings growing in cartons saved all winter from coffee cream.
These are the first plants to go into the main bed.  I salivate to think how tasty they will be.

I researched and visited most of the sites that sell bulk soil, sampling the best.  I took Steve who is a full-time gardener with me  - it is vital to get the best soil for your vegetables and herbs.  I was nervous about getting it wrong, he's not as fussy, and he did chose the soil I was leaning towards, saying it had great structure and felt loamy and looked good, adding that it smelled better than the Rainforest premium topsoil, the runner up. I ordered 4 yards of  organic veggie mix from EcoSoil via Greenway Landscape Supply on Mitchell Island.
This soil is garden ready. Here is what I did to prepare for this moment - the moment the soil would be delivered.

After emptying and moving the compost again I decided to dig three deep trenches below the main bed and bury the almost composted compost.  This way I could start a new batch from scratch.  I had dug down into the existing soil 18 inches and  buried leaves from the katsura and limed it. That was last fall.  With the extra organic matter and the lime balancing the acidity the native soil had been amended somewhat.  After raking the native soil smooth over the buried compost  I layered on 350 pounds of organic steer manure.  Lucky find on Craigslist. A high school fundraiser - love that. Now I was ready for the soil.
A wonderful moment for me.  The day was dry and hot and the work a pleasure soon done!

The yard last fall.
This is after I removed the California lilac, the bamboo that was as tall as a house all along the street side of the fence and hand cut a lawn full of weeds. This is where the fun began.
I had started composting last summer and moved the darn thing three times since. This next photo shows what it looked like just before Christmas with the white cord lighting the holiday lights.  My theme was white blooms.
December 1 I planted white tulips and white narcissi, along with white winter pansy.  Because of the Katsura tree I built up the soil in old brick beds to keep the soil off the trunk and still use the area for veggies after the bulbs.  Slightly sorry I put bulbs in here as I want to plant veggies there now! But this is so gorgeous, not sure if I'll leave them or not.  Moving things has been the fun of it, trying this or that look and not worrying about being perfect.  Just going out and doing something is how I like to function.
The center bed is 10'x10' for a total of 100 square feet with four other beds 4'x4'- 8' along the east fence.  This will be a considerable amount of shaded areas but I have a fire escape as sunny real estate for tomato pots and other containers.
I had thought to make the beds dry stack but after the first load of flagstone covered such a small area quickly that changed to non-treated spruce boards. 
I put these together using only shims, no nails or screws.  While digging I turned up old glass shards, a toy soldier, a glass bird and a few marbles.  This place is one of the oldest operating corner stores in the city and was built in 1907 or before and fantasized about various treasures laying below my shovel. 

My West Coast tomato seeds are up and doing well so far.  Potting into big pots they look so small, but it will last for awhile, then the lettuces and greens will have grown and been deliciously dined on, at which time there will be more sun and space for cucumbers and tomatoes.  Can you believe how quickly I've run out of space. 

It has been a mixed bag this week weather wise and
end up moving the starts in and out of the house, one day it's blazing hot and then the next it's wet and blowing, much cooler than I'd like.
As the season progresses I'll share with you the  wonders of growing things to eat.

A portrait of my digging treasure!

Now I begin laying in the flagstones as the mud is messy! Steve and I have been hauling foraged flagstones from the wilds each time we hike somewhere out of town. Rock hounding is our new sport.

Just a little chocolate coconut zucchini cake covered in chocolate cream cheese icing.  Next time it'll be my future bumper crop of backyard zucchini in it. 
Tea break and cake - rewards are good!  Sure ... I'll work it off ... more gardening!

One interesting social factor has been the people who pass by and make comments on the project and the curiosity that some men just can't pass up an opportunity to hit on you for dates, even after you explain that your man wouldn't be too happy about that.

The little tomatoes in big pots sheltered from the wind and rain will be happy when the sun comes hot again.

go be delicious


Suzanne said...

Hi lee Ann
Your garden looks great! I envy your soil. It looks so black and rich. You should be rolling in a bumper crop soon....

Cameal said...

I am so excited for you. Similar transformations are occurring over in my lil' corner of the world. Lately my favourites are tobacco, sunchokes, asparagus, angel's trumpet, russian red garlic, and gai-lan. My monkey flowers, bleeding hearts, and trailing cascade hops are really exciting too! And, and, and... etc!! Gardening is so wonderful.
I wanted to make sure you'd seen a particular blog that I frequent: fat-of-the-land. I think that Langdon has a lot of cool stuff going on.

lostpastremembered said...

Great looking garden Lee Ann... I miss the seasons of the garden now that I'm full time city. Yours will be great, I can feel it!

powderate said...

Suzanne: Thank you. Now we just have to catch fresh trout, find those mighty morels and pick some alpine dandelions to go with the early mescluns and micro-greens for a splendid spring meal.

Cameal: Your garden sounds exotic and well thought. You've got the makings of all sorts of esoteric home-made specialties. Beer and rolling tobacco perhaps? Thanks for recommending the fat-of-the- land. Such an avid and experienced forager-gastronomique.

Lostpastremembered: I like your confidence. Our mother grew the loveliest gardens but sadly after loosing a foot she now enjoys a vicarious relationship with growing, mentoring us and kindly sharing her knowledge. The garden will have to evolve and be tended by others when I'm away in the wilds.