Garden Helpers

We’ve had some yo-yo weather here on the east coast. Besides the fact that it’s been something like the third warmest winter ever, the past couple weeks have seen 40F days with rain and wind followed immediately by 70F days with sun and warmth. Needless to say, it’s got me itching to be outside, even though our backyard takes several days to recover from the swampy mess it becomes after a good rain. (Installing rain gutters is on our to-do list this month which should help some).

Though the soil was too wet to really do anything with this weekend, we did do some garden preparations. Last year our garden plot was over near the fence, to the right side of our backyard.

Unfortunately, the sunlight wasn’t quite what we were looking for: the huge maple tree in our backyard provided more shade than I would have liked when its leaves were in full showing (can’t you tell from the photo?), and its lengthy root system seemed to find its way into every square inch of our plot. That said, I’m going to keep that plot going, but use it for things that can tolerate partial shade, especially once the summer heat finds its way in – things like my greens and lettuces with shallower root systems.

But the big kahuna this year is the piece of land on the other side of our backyard against our other neighbor’s fence. Though it’s on a hill, after studying the sunlight patterns at various times of the day, and estimating the size of the big tree’s shadow, I’ve decided to use the space for vegetables as well. That means a few things: First, we have to remove some of the privacy bushes that were planted long before our time.

This actually worked out because two of the four bushes that we removed were basically dead or dying anyway (see ginormous pile of sticks in the right side of the photo). As of today, we’ve got two more to go (the two towering behind Alex).

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but that piece of land is actually sloped. In two directions. From the bushes behind Alex to where Alex is standing there is a slight downhill slope; also from where Alex is standing to where Nero is settling in to chew on his toy is another downhill. This means we will be doing some terracing. It’s a slight enough slope that terracing is probably not completely necessary, but I am excited about the aesthetic possibilities and will keep you informed of our progress.

Here’s my muscular husband doing most of the heavy digging while I…you know…surreptitiously ogle his sweaty good looks from afar supervise.

And while Nero basks in the sun and tries his hardest to stay out of the way:


Second, both plots tested extremely deficient in N and P. Once the soil dries out a bit, I will be working in some blood meal and bone meal along with a lot of finished compost to rectify that situation.

Third, well, retaining walls, like I already mentioned. I’ve been thinking about this for almost two months now, visualizing where to dig and how to support each section of the soon-to-be garden. We haven’t decided on material yet: stones, untreated wood, or cinderblocks. Like I said – I’ll keep you posted.

Fourth, training the dog. Once we start transplanting the tender seedlings that are currently enjoying the DIY grow light I’ve set up in an upstairs coat closet, I doubt Nero will understand that the puny green things occupying a fresh new digging space are going to be our food some day. He already pulled out all of that white fencing you saw around our last year’s plot.

All right. Time for us to head back outside. What plans do you have for your garden this year? Have you got some land to work with? Or maybe you’re just growing something edible in a flower pot? Now is the time to be making some strides in preparing for growing your own. Have any tips on any of the projects we’ll be tackling? Tell us what you’re up to!


One thought on “Garden Helpers

  1. Sharon says:

    I’m doing a lot of garden expansion this year as well. I’ve been taking advantage of this mild winter (I’m also an East Coaster) to dig a much bigger plot for the vegetables. I’m going to be trying a lot of new things this year, including ground cherries, Florida cranberry (actually a hibiscus), and some new perennials like asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke. Also, I planted some strawberries last fall and am hoping to have a few to eat come June! Happy garden preparations!

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