On a recent trip to Kentucky, our friend PJ complained that there was too much "animal stuff" and too little "garden stuff" on this blog. Frankly, as a writer of these wee posts, animals do more interesting things with greater frequency than do corn plants. Weather occasionally trumps both. That said, I suppose we should tell you all a little about the characteristics of our gardens.
Technically, I suppose, there are four. Our Walled Garden is just that, an area roughly 50' square off the back of the house enclosed by a high block wall, thoughtfully rough stuccoed, and more or less white in color. Inside, there are a large number of flowering bushes grown too large for their situation, four dwarf peaches, a nearly-standard size apple tree, and a similarly sized peach tree. The soil is heavy, mainly comprised of re-purposed pond muck, and very damp at times. Thus far, we haven't decided what to do with the space as it has spent two summers as a doggy day care for Mr. Rufus and friends, who tore it to pieces. This year we've let it go wild.... yes, there will be hell to pay for letting the weeds come up when we do rehab the space... we have gorgeous volunteer thistles, sunflowers, hostas (unmolested by racing canines,) and the occasional "proper flower" to enjoy. The place is a terrible mess but until we can commit ourselves to taking out a whole lot of beautiful plants it's not very useable even when kept nice and tidy. The chickens find this garden a delightful source of bugs and seeds, for which we are most grateful.
Outside the walk-out basement is the Upper Garden, comprised of established, mostly super-dwarf, fruit trees and a number of cedar raised beds we put in our first summer. These raised beds have turned out to be more trouble than pleasure and, as Mrs. Fuzzy's prodigious project list allows, everything will come out. The ground will be smoothed and the space will be returned to a lovely, flat, lawn with a very large, easily maintained, stone planter hosting potentially unruly medicinal plants (comfrey, mugwort...) and a small (150 gallon) water feature for water lilies and papyrus plants. This will greatly improve the basement "viewshed."
The"Lower Garden," also known as Mrs. Fuzzy's garden, is comprised of six 47' rows three feet wide divided into five beds each. These range in length between three and fifteen feet long (most being either five or eight feet) with a nominal 12" walking space between them. As the soil here lacks any native organic matter the management of this area this year is mainly for soil improvement. Yes, folks, that's right, Mrs. Fuzzy has grown 423 square feet of oats, 282 square feet of field peas, and 141 square feet of inedible radishes solely for the benefit of the soil. (and about 300 square feet will remain in these things for a while.) Another row has been largely set aside for composting purposes until the walking onion bulbs are replanted in half of that row. The old onion row will then be heavily mulched with fresh chicken litter (to kill off the weeds) and turned to compost for a year as the soil is especially poor after spending a year in cultivation. (Who knew onions were so greedy... or our soil so delicate?!) The whole garden is heavily mulched in straw and ancient hay to suppress weeds whilst enriching the soil and preserving moisture. Narrow and broad leaf plantain are allowed to grow in the beds as wild helpers.
"Edible" plantings in this garden were put in for fresh eating, future production, and experimental insight. They are as follows: Six tomatoes of 3 varieties inter-planted with marigolds and a cucumber plant. A 3' x 4' planting of Country Gentleman corn into a collapsed compost bed. Three zucchini and another cucumber planted into the adjacent pile have already been destroyed by the squash bugs. Corn is not a good a protective companion. Another planting of mystery corn labeled "NC NDN" is 3 rows x 5 rows at 2 canes per hole. Four plants each of three kinds of hot peppers... some doing markedly better than others. Four basil plants, divided, are doing well while all our sunflowers and two of three dill plants have been consumed by "tree thorn hoppers." The unapppy plants were set out alone and the happy ones in combination with dissimilar things. Two volunteer potato plants seem to be very happy. Mexican hyssop, rue, lemon balm, and marjoram have been put in at the ends of rows as perennial herbs. The northernmost row contains two each of red and purple raspberries (planted with the rue), a bed awaiting asparagus transplants, and a 15' strawberry bed just went in this week.
The "Far Garden" is Mr. Fuzzy's vegetable domain. Located out in the hay field, where the soil offers different benefits than in the Lower Garden, it is roughly 100' long with up to eight single width rows. Because it must be watered by truck, this growing area is only suitable to vegetation that can thrive in drought conditions such as gourds, tobacco and some Southwestern corn varieties. This year, the garden has been experimentally divided into rows and into four "Cherokee Style" circular Three Sisters garden patches. Mr. Fuzzy will have to tell you the particulars of his intentions but I can relate that, while I have gone over to a "no-till" philosophy after fighting the tiller, himself has continued with the idea of using it out there. It certainly did a grand number on the weeds that grew up where the beans failed to germinate. (Everyone around here had bean issues this year.) Because of the summer drought, now 9 weeks without significant rainfall, there is little likelihood of a good harvest out there, although the surviving Silver Queen corn is tasseling very nicely.