Easter weekend, Dan and I traveled north for the holiday to see family but also to check out the garden we built last summer. As I mentioned then, we are hoping to foster a suitable enough environment for sandy soil hardy plants to grow without too much fuss and attention, as the family's visits to the site are more sparse than perhaps they'd prefer and tending to the garden is relatively out of the question.
Serendipitously, one of Dan's clients asked that he pull out a blackberry bush and a few strawberry plants from her garden the day we were leaving, so Dan uprooted these for transplant and threw them in the back of the pickup. Though it was hardly an ideal time for planting - mid-March and with a newly fallen inch of snow covering the garden - it was the time we had and figured it best to give it a try. The day was mild - in the 50s - so shoveling snow out of the bed was not quite the ordeal it would have been in the preceding months.
Dan's grandfather had thrown up a makeshift fence to demarcate the perimeter so that no one would drive over it during the winter months.
Kind of severe looking, no? In fact, we chanced upon a few macabre vignettes throughout the day that distracted just a little from the calm of birds calling and catching the occasional crane flying over head.
And this little scene inside their dilapidated shed:
What even are those?
Anyway, did I mention the cranes? They were really beautiful, and so was the rest of the vista, particularly a little deeper into their land.
Very dramatic indeed, and so quiet, a real far cry from the bustle of North Avenue.
But back to the garden. After clearing the snow off the top, we gave the soil a turn to loosen it up for planting. Of course, it was a lot more moist from the snow cover than it had been at our last visit, but seemed healthier overall. It was also a lot less clumpy and the pine needle mulch we had covered it in was really breaking down nicely. We gave it all a turn, shook organic fertilizer over it, and turned it again before planting.
On the left is the soil last summer; the right is from this past weekend. It's hard to tell with all the snow, but it does seem to be looser and perhaps more habitable for the plants. We shall see.
We wanted to plant berries, as they like a sandier soil and that is what we had to work with. So here is the blackberry bush:
And the little strawberries:
And one of the many worms we found, which we took as a very good sign of the soil's health:
This time, we brought in some straw for mulch, to lock in the moisture of the soil and perhaps hamper the weeds just a bit. We distributed this evenly over the garden using the flat side of the rake to push it around. And Dan, ever the consummate professional, cleaned off the loose straw from the frame.
Our next goal was to install a fence, rather more of a deterrent than rabbit or deer proof necessarily, as we didn't want to go crazy with the expenses on this garden. Also, this was more an exercise in using what you have than making things look too nice (Joel Salatin might be proud). Dan heard that deer, while they could easily jump our low fence, don't usually make the effort if there isn't a clear landing spot on the other side. Since the garden is rather small, perhaps this will be the case.
We used stakes at all four corners of the garden and ran chicken wire around them, laying the wire flush with the ground at the bottom about 6" or so. Rabbits are slightly more deterred from burrowing under the fence if it extends out like this.
We also found an old pallet by their shed that we co-opted to use as a gate.
So there it is in its entirety. I guess that you could say the whole thing is very "upcycled", as most everything, including the plants, was repurposed. It's an important reminder to look at and use what you have or can easily find as opposed to buying more.
Hopefully we'll get up north again in the next few months to check out the plants' progress. But for now, we wait.