Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dirty Thoughts (Or Thinking About Gardening)

Even though our snow on the ground is still measured in feet rather than inches, I've been thinking a lot lately about our veggie and fruit gardens. I don't know if any of this will be of interest at all to you, but I'm hoping getting my thoughts written out will help me. Feel free to skip on by as I blather on. I think the log jam in my head may fill up more than one post.

Our gardens are comprised of five different plots or parts. We have the raised beds, the field garden, the pumpkin patch, strawberry patch, blueberry patch and raspberry patch. Whoops. That counts up to six. But since the strawberry patch is currently located within the area I call the field garden, I'm not counting the strawberry plantings as a separate plot. But maybe I should. Confused yet?

When we first moved to this piece of property fifteen years ago, a large part of the area to the south of the house, which was the best orientation for gardening, had been used as a huge parking area for trucks and was covered with gravel. We scraped off the gravel but knew the soil wouldn't be worth much for immediate gardening use. So we built a series of 4' x 8' raised beds, had some black dirt hauled in, started composting with a vengeance and built up the soil for the beds as quickly as we could. We currently have and use 26 of these garden beds.

I knew I wanted a more traditional area for growing certain crops not as well suited for raised beds so in the next couple of years we plowed up the sod in another spot that became what I call the field garden. It measures 35' x 45'. Within this space is our permanent strawberry patch which measures about 16' x 16'.

Just three years ago, we plowed up a 14' x 23' piece of ground, the pumpkin patch, where I can grow pumpkins and squash without their vines encroaching upon other veggies. As soon as we get the soil in good enough shape, I plan on rotating crops between this area and the field garden so I'm not always growing only pumpkins and squash on that plot.

We have a raspberry patch containing three 14' long rows of well-established raspberry plants.

In a plot next to the raspberries are 22 blueberry plants which are finally coming into their own.

So the raised beds, field garden (containing the strawberry patch), pumpkin patch, raspberry patch and blueberry patch make up the five parts of our garden.

We also have eleven fruit trees scattered over what is lawn/yard area. They have just recently started to contribute significantly to our food stock.

We've still got too much lawn to mow, but that's another problem to tackle farther on down the list. Most likely, we'll add more fruit and (if possible) nut trees in the lawn area. A good-sized garden shed somewhere near the gardens would be very handy and eliminate some grass that presently has to be kept mowed.

The soil in our garden beds is excellent and enables me to plant very intensively in them.

Soil in the field garden is very good and we keep improving it every year. The soil currently grows good crops with few problems.

The pumpkin patch soil is coming along nicely and gets better each year.

So you can see we're not lacking for gardening space. Matter of fact, I've finally come to the realization that I have to cut back on growing so much. I'm putting a lot of effort into growing way more food than we need.

More on all of this in another post as soon as I get more thoughts straightened out so I can set them down in sensible form.

P.S. Hi, Marja!


  1. That heading had me going! That IS a lot of garden for the two of you. Maybe you should build a market cart and part it at the end of your driveway? I am in total agreement about less lawn is a good thing. I get the feeling you are circling around an "aha" moment.

  2. By the way It's a long drag to the landing is me Marja!

  3. Now I have a question. I was always told to rotate the strawberries every 3-4 years to a new bed. Since you have a permanent strawberry patch, I assume you do not subscribe to that thinking? Have you had good success with them staying stationary. Decrease in yield?

  4. WOW! That is a lot of garden for two! But none the less, I'm jealous for all the space. Less lawn is definitely the best. I'm thinking I may fence mine and put chickens in it and eventually go to garden space. Just a thought for now.

  5. Susan - Yes, it is a lot of garden for the two of us. Wait until I expound on all I get out of the garden(s) each year!

    P.S. I wouldn't know an "aha" moment if it bit me.

    Marja - It's only fair. Now I've got YOU in my sights!

    Jane - When you mentioned something about rotating strawberries to a new bed every now and then I thought "Uh-oh. I didn't know that!" When we first settled on this location, I planted the strawberries where they didn't get quite enough sun so after about 9-10 years, I moved them to their current spot. The first I put in there are 5 years old and about a third of the total are going into their third year. Last year from the whole patch I harvest 174 pounds of berries. Maybe I should do a blog post on how I handle my strawberries as I think I do it a little differently than most. Yup, I'll do that.

  6. Alla - I know! It seems downright wasteful, let alone silly, to have to care for so much lawn. We've gone around about pasturing a couple of lambs/sheep, a cow, etc. If our geese and chickens didn't have a huge pasture of their own to keep "mowed" down, we'd think about putting them on the lawn, too. We'll figure it out. I'm thinking more food producing trees and possibly berry patches and sell the berries.

  7. An excellent post, and not at all blather! I knew the size of your raised beds, but I had no idea of your strawberry patch size or how many fruit trees you have! I am absolutely amazed at what you haul out of a 16x16' strawberry patch! With just the two of you and a daughter to send home goodies with, I not surprised you may be cutting back some. Any chance of selling to the whole foods or a farm stand/market? Or maybe just a seasonal pumpkin supply for the market? So many of those places either are already "under contract" with a supplier or cost to much for space to rent on the weekends. Back home in Red Wing every Wednesday they have a "just park at the fire station and sell your crap out of your pickup truck" day that doesn't involve any site fees or anything, it's gone on since I was a kid!

  8. Erin - Thanks, m'dear. Now that you've encouraged me, I'll probably never stop!

    Next "dirty thoughts" post I'll relate what we've done in the past with extra produce and how that worked out.

    Goldang, how I wish we had something like you describe them having in Red Wing. Even in our tiny little burg, you can't sell (even at our established Farmer's Market) without buying a "license to sell" from the city. Everybody's out to make a buck anywhere they can by taxing and it doesn't seem free enterprise exists anymore.

  9. I like reading about your gardening plans! I am currently planning a container garden this summer. I'm not putting effort into anything more permanent until I'm a land owner, not a renter. But I look forward to your pics this summer! Interested in the raised beds. I've heard the term, but not too familiar with it! Blather on!
    BTW: The ice face fell today! Not withstanding my nightmares last night about masks staring at me!

  10. Love, love, love this post! No blathering whatsoever! Your garden is an inspiration -- 26 raise beds? I'd like to build three this year (raised bed/cold frame combo) and it seems like a big task. And that strawberry patch -- wow!!! I'd love to hear how you manage it... Also what fruit trees do you have? Did you ever consider putting them together in an orchard of sorts? Was your decision to "scatter" them due to space, design or other?

    Please keep these virtual garden tours coming!

  11. I want fruit trees. We don't have any room for fruit trees and the places we could put them are over sewer, water or gas lines.

    I love to live vicariously through your gardens. A girl has to have her dreams.

  12. Yes! I would really love to know what you do differently with your strawberries - since you seem to hit the jackpot every year!

  13. Rain - You can grow a lot in containers . . . there are whole books on the subject . . . so go for it. I'm planning a post on our raised beds so stay tuned!

    Fiona - Working on a post regarding the strawberry bed next.

    We went heavy on the apple trees, have nine of them. Two plum and one pear. More to come not this year, but next. They are kind of in an "orchard." In the front fenced in yard (deer, you know) in a grid pattern. Room for the future ones to come.

    Sparkless - Keep dreaming. You'll get there!

    Susan - Strawberry post comin' up!