Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Beds

I’ve expanded the garden this year by dragging in three more bed frames that once lived in the backyard of our rental house down the street. I thought I’d be able to care for two gardens, one half a block away, but it did not work. We could never really sort out the watering and plants that are not checked on every day just do not thrive. Even potatoes grew better here, rather than at The Annex. The move has changed the backyard dynamics fairly drastically. The chickens have a reduced summer run—but they never used the full sun area anyways—and, more significantly, the perennial beds that were once the edge of the garden are now the spine, with perpendicular beds, like ribs, on either side. I’ve been working on integrating the plan for about a month now.


The first step was a new crop rotation. About five years ago, I’d worked out a seasonal system for the five beds—Spring, Climbing beans, Summer, Fall, and Vines—which worked well. I could send Mark out to pick lettuce from Summer and he could be confident that he was harvesting the right plants (he accidentally harvested several cabbages as a child and the event left him with a fear of wasting food by accidental harvest). Beds filled and emptied out in a systematic way, so the chicken tractor could rest on an empty bed earlier in the season—by Fall Equinox, most years. Adding three potato beds and winter onions and garlic threw the system off. After hours on contemplation, I decided to keep the potato together, so, this year, the beds move from garlic/onions (later winter veg), three potatoes, beans, vines, around to the other side: summer (including cucumbers, which used to be a vine), roots, and spring. The only problem is, we need an eight-foot cold frame….

The other consideration was more visual. After years of empty space, the new beds looked odd sitting in the middle of the chicken run. So I spent yesterday building two new trellises out of hazelnut trimmings, nailing the uprights to the beds then lashing the rest together with twine. Scarlet runner beans and morning glories will cover them this summer. It is not as sturdy a system as nailing everything together, but this is merely a seasonal experiment. If it works, and the two light trellises, which now indicate where the gates to the chicken run will be, bring the space together, I will build sturdy ones next fall—I was thinking of making one, at least, flat with a cat perch platform…

I like the new look. There’s a lovely focus down the yard to the back gate. There is a new sitting area under the kiwi arch. There will be a lot more food growing in the backyard in July. And the chickens will still have the run of the bushes and compost piles, back pool and, unfortunately, some of the thornless blackberries. Changes are good.

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