Nasal surgery three days back has me feeling like I've been punched in the nose AND I've got one of those terrible colds that leave you totally stuffed up, except I can't blow my nose. The purpose is to help my sleep apnea, and it had better work.
Since I'm not allowed to bend over or do any heaving lifting, just about the only thing I can do relating to the garden is blog about it. So here goes.
Here's what this summer's second plot looked like three years ago–after I'd trimmed back the weeds several times:
This plot is so big, so historic, that when I actually finished it three weekends back, I felt as if I'd just dropped a forty-pound backpack I'd been hauling around for years. It's the last stretch in the big garden next door which I've now been working through three or four “generations” of young renters. I'm still in mourning for the last batch, five great guys who taught me to play beer pong (I was really lousy, even before the beer) and who came over for a couple of fine turkey dinners, one of them in May because it took us that long to get a quorum.
This June, three years after moving in, they moved on, and after three rounds of guys, there are now women in the house. All seem friendly and interesting; they're photographers, cyclists, backpackers, readers, serious cooks. All of that is great, but it begs the essential question: will they let me raise vegetables in half their back yard? Fortunately, they will.
This amazes me. Why a college-age kids don't object to a middle-aged neighbor's traipsing in and out of their yard is beyond me. But I'm not arguing. (I do keep them supplied with lettuce and even the occasional strawberry.)
Four years ago, when the girls who had originally I started working this garden from the western fence eastward. The last plot, on the east side, measures about seven by sixteen feet and is infested with bindweed, my arch nemesis (as opposed to simply my nemesis, creeping bellflower.) I think if this plot as three seven-by-four mini-plots, in part to make it more manageable, at least in my mind.
Last year I gave the northern two-thirds a preliminary going over and grew potatoes in part of it. The southern end, however, where the bindweed competes merrily with some horribly invasive border plant, was left untouched.
When I started working here this spring, the problem was all that rain. (Remember the floods in Montana?) You're not supposed to work earth when it's water-laden; doing so can compact the soil by eliminating the spaces between soil particles. Those particles allow room for water, air, and roots to move, and are essential to good soil structure.
When a friend reminded me of this, I glared at her. If I waited until it stopped raining, I'd never get the job done.
Had I been merely turning or rototilling the earth, I'm sure compaction would have been the result. But I was also amending the soil with coconut coir, fertilizer, and spruce duff from my front “yard.” Perhaps, I thought, the spruce duff was coarse enough to separate soil particles, open up space for air, and thus offset the problems of working with wet earth.
I also dragged a piece of plastic over the plot to protect it from rain, and managed to work it between showers. Here, as in the first finished plot, I planted potatoes, but in three such different batches that while I've harvested from the first, a few of the third have yet to make their appearance.
As I gradually made my way north in this plot, I started turning the soil in the wheelbarrow, where I'd work earth, duff, coconut coir and fertilizer into an evenly distributed, clod-free mix, before returning it to the soil. By this time, the problem was that the dirt had dried to a rock-hard consistency.
The second of my three sections was planted in bush beans (at least I think they're bush beans, not pole beans—but that's another story). As soon as I finished that section, I realized that it was much smaller than the remaining one, which took me the better part of a week. I finished it in a marathon session that ended at ten p.m., by which time I practically reeled in the door of my home.
But the accomplishment kept me high for days. I've been gardening in that yard for four years, and to finally have the whole area amended and planted feels good. Here it is today:
Yes, that's what it should have looked like a month ago, but you know what? I don't care. At least, now, it's done.
But I haven't mentioned the bindweed. That sad story comes next.