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Garden Project [May. 9th, 2009|10:29 pm]
[Current Mood |optimisticoptimistic]

Last week, Kit and I moved the first shovelfuls of dirt from the center of our lawn as part of hairbrained experiment that, really, is very typical of us.

Our lawn has a steep slope in the middle while the upper and lower ends are relatively flat. We were looking at the annoying middle slope the other day and decided, what the heck, let's terrace it and put in some garden beds. Digging began last week and today we really cut into it, getting most of the dirt moved.

There are going to be three planting beds with cinder block retaining walls. We're digging out a lot of soil, especially at the top, to create the terracing. We're also removing soil because we're going to replace it with some purchased topsoil.

You see, being foodies more than gardeners, we need to make this project worthwhile and have some payoff for the ongoing effort of tending it. So we're going to be planting herbs, vegetables, and berries! Since it used to be a lawn (which the former owners treated chemically, we believe), we need to remove a decent slice of the soil and replace it to ensure there's no contamination in the food. We purchased the soil and had it delivered today... Seeing a hauling truck show up and dump a pile of soil more than half your height on the driveway is really one of those "What the hell are we doing?" moments.

I also purchased (and personally hauled) all the necessary concrete blocks and mix from Home Depot. So at this point I think we have all the supplies we need to get everything in place.

And what about all the dirt we're removing? I'm using it to make a new path around the lower end of our property. It's leveling and surfacing a new path weaving through the trees, so it's being put to good use.

For the record, in case you think growing your own food is a wonderful money-saving venture... Our approximate costs thus far:
Plants $45
Masonry $115
Tools $25
Soil $150

The beds are in a place that's partially shaded (as is most of our property), so we've been trying to choose plants which should have a decent chance. Some of the herbs we'd like to grow just plain need sun so they'll be in a pot on the upper porch which gets a decent slice of morning and midday sun.

In the garden, we're currently looking at:
Alpine strawberry ("wild" strawberry that's more cold and shade tolerant)
Green beans (not runner beans but their shrub-like cousins)

It's experimental. We'll see what we can get to grow.

Still, it's a chance for us to all work on something together. Even Timothy was helping out, gleefully shoveling dirt with a trowel and getting rides in the empty wheelbarrow. Family togetherness! Happy Mothers Day.

[User Picture]From: twigmouse
2009-05-10 06:13 am (UTC)
Looks like fun :-) Not cheap though, as you mentioned.
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[User Picture]From: shalora
2009-05-10 06:22 am (UTC)
Gorgeous property! Sounds like a fabulous endeavor, if a bit blister-raising. Man, I so miss having a yard to muck about in...
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[User Picture]From: loranskunky
2009-05-10 02:12 pm (UTC)
You should use these.
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[User Picture]From: mothermonster
2009-05-10 07:19 pm (UTC)
I notice you haven't added in chiropractor fees! I think your plans are great, and that you have your summer taken care of. Are you going to have an herb garden on one of the tiers?? If so, word from the experienced---figure out some way to contain the rosemary if you plant it--that stuff gets BIG. Have fun.
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[User Picture]From: sabercat
2009-05-10 10:27 pm (UTC)

My sympathies. :)

I'm doing the SAME thing right now with our recently purchased home. Excavating trees to make room for fruit trees and getting the garden in order.
We do the EXACT same thing though, we are total foodies and love fresh everything.
I just planted 12 blueberry bushes. Be sure to get two different varieties that are good cross-pollinators. I also planted some AMAZING thornless (well they are like fuzzy thorned) raspeberries. They seem to really do well in the shade, highly recommend. We are doing the wild strawberry thing as well, but in hanging pots from the edges of the house, it really looks nice. Green beans are going well (we did the string ones though, not the bush), and broccoli and lettuce (among others) are growing in our little greenhouse to get ready for the winter.
It is time consuming and expensive at the beginning. I think I spent nearly a grand in drip system, soil, paver stones, tools and plants. Over time though, it'll easily pay back. Blueberries at 6-7 bucks a pound in season and 4-5 bucks per 6 oz when they aren't, and we like smoothies and fresh dessert toppings...
For herbs, we have rosemary and the stuff does go crazy... my advice is plant the herbs in small barrels or planters, where they will be "contained". You may also want to consider leeks, onion, garlic, elephant garlic, lemongrass, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, etc. Makes for some GREAT cooking.
I'll see about getting some pics posted of ours. We also planted (with good Cali weather) a Lisbon (good for spritzing) Lemon, a key lime, a satsuma mandarin, navel orange, asian pear, bartlett pear, moor park Apricot, Fuji apple, Fae Elberta Peach and 2 almonds. :) Ya know, just in case we need to run a fruit stand in our spare time. :)

Good luck and keep us posted. Shoot me a PM or email, we can exchange learnings!
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2009-05-11 05:24 am (UTC)

Re: My sympathies. :)

Wow, sounds like you're doing a proper job of it, too. Quite the orchard you're establishing. (Skipped my favorite, though: plums and pluots. Great for central valley weather.) How much land do you have? Definitely get some pics.

BTW, don't think I ever properly congratulated you on both house and child! Work got stressy and I was basically off LJ for a couple months there. My apologies and a belated congrats to you all down there.

We're doing a combination of the new garden beds plus some pots on the deck. We have an acre of land but all of it, except for a ring of about 30' around the house on all sides, is naturally wooded. So the terraced beds are replacing a chunk of lawn (which we don't particularly care about). The pots are up on the deck, which is raised and gets more sunlight. (You can see it in the background of the photo, there.)

So our main constraint is finding things that can cope with shade. That's why we have the bean bushes rather than runner beans, incidentally; they're supposed to adapt better to mixed sun. Good suggestion on the garlic! We had considered onions but they appear to need more sun. Still might end up planting a couple as an experiment.

We're also not putting in a watering system. We're going to get a pole-mount sprinkler and we have a hose running to the area. One other thing we are going to need, however, is netting. Not only for birds but for deer!
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[User Picture]From: sabercat
2009-05-11 06:30 am (UTC)

Re: My sympathies. :)

No worries, it's been hectic here the last few weeks as well! All at once! We ended up buying a place with a lot less land than we wanted. Originally, we had set a minimum of 1/2 acre, but no more than 1 acre. We found several houses that we liked, but in California, things are either really old with that much land or prohibitively expensive. (1 mil +) we ended up on just over a quarter acre, but with a two story, so more of the yard is useable. It is dead flat though and was built on an old orchard, so we've got good land and soil.
I'll admit though it's a LOT of work. I've got four 20' silver maples to take out. I've got two cut to the stump and ground up for mulch, but extricating the root bundle has been a pain. I've got the Fuji Apple and the Peach in pots just waiting to take their place...
I grew up on 18 acres in Cali and we had lots of trees and a garden, onions can grow just fine in shade, just plant them next to your tomatoes. They'll do fine. Garlic is easy, just be sure to harvest it at the right time and then let is dry/air out accordingly. Sounds like you've got lots of space and a PERFECT berry growing climate. :) I'll get some pics up.
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