Continuing my policy of acquiring plots that offer maximum challenge to the gardener, I have most recently adopted a swath along the alley that runs down the middle of my block. Alleys, by the way, are one of the things that I believe make for civilized life: they get cars off the street, encourage garages to stop dominating house fronts and take up a discreet position in back yards, and provide much-needed privacy between those yards.
However, they are not especially garden-friendly. The strip I’ve tackled, like most along alleys, is heavily compacted, stony, and weed-infested. Maybe eight feet wide and twelve long, it flanks an outbuilding on the west side of the alley, and is overgrown with grass and creeping bellflower (my nemesis, though not my arch-nemesis). It caught my eye because it gets full morning sun and plenty of reflected warmth from the wall behind it, and I don’t have to walk through anyone’s yard to get through it.
That’s what my basket looked like after a harvesting sweep of my legumes yesterday. So what is wrong with this picture? Well, lots of things: it’s slightly out of focus, doesn’t boast especially interesting composition….
But let’s ignore the formal limitations of the photograph, focus on content, and ask the question again:
What’s wrong with this picture?
The strawberries came in with unprecedented abundance this year, and husband Steve once again proved his worth, this time by whipping up batch after batch of shortcake. As my younger son says on occasion (usually an occasion that features chocolate in large quantities), “Now I know why I keep you.”
We have never before had nearly enough strawberries. Until this summer, husband Steve maintained that one never will, unless one has acres and acres to devote to the project. His dim view of strawberry plants (mentioned elsewhere) results perhaps from overexposure at a young age, when his plant-pathologist father ran a pick-your-own strawberry business on the side, with his three sons as primary labor.
This year will go down as the do-or-die digging marathon. Remember those four plots I've undertaken to tame and plant this summer? Here it is, mid-July and then some, and I'm still at it.
The first of the four was by far the simplest. Which may be a good thing, as it therefore got planted before the growing season was half over. Of course, there may be a difference of opinion about just how simple the job was; a certain brother-in-law of mine may be inclined to point out that I can call it simple because I didn't do most of the work. Do not listen to him.
Plot 1 was the last (of six) to be tamed in a garden its owners had given up on. They simply got too busy to garden, and several seasons back, they said sure, I could garden there, if only I'd tackle the weeds. Here's what it looked like when I started:
As of this summer:
Not to blow my own horn or anything, but– Ta-dah!
This year, I swear, I'll get all the space I have access to planted. Every year I reclaim a couple more plots from the weeds that rule them, but every year I have to reconcile myself to the fact that I can't tackle them all. Well, no more. It may take until August, and the plants I put in the ground may never produce, but by God, those plots are going to get prepped and planted.
With this goal driving me, I've been putting in four to eight hours a day in the garden(s), desperately trying to make up for an incredibly wet, cold spring, my inability to do anything significant last fall (shoulder injury), and standard issue procrastination and neglect. To my horror, it's now July 4th, and I'm still planting and, even worse, preparing to plant.
Just about everything that needs to be directly seeded is in the ground and growing. But my tomatoes and squash are still waiting for a home, and if they don't get one soon, I'll be in trouble.
The plan (ha, ha!) has been to get four new plots under production this spring: one next door, two across the alley, and the fourth along the alley outside yet another neighbor's property. (Yes, I am now encroaching on THREE neighbors' land.) Fortunately, a couple of these plots have been at least partially cleared of weeds in past years.
I'll try to report of what I tackle(d) in each case, and how it's going (or went).