Friday, March 25, 2011

The Eagle has Landed: I've got a garden!

In the cold dregs of February (at least that's what we had in Colorado) Going Green Mama wrote about easy steps to Getting started: Heirloom and organic gardening on a budget. In the comments I started to whine about how tough it is to garden on the Colorado front range because of our clay soil, intense sun and the lack of water, but as I wrote, I realized that I can whine all I want, but if I want to have a garden, I just need to take action!
And then I promptly got stuck in a morass of excuses.

Our house was built in 1977. Our decrepit retaining wall was built in 1977. We are not financially prepared to replace our retaining wall this year, so why should I put time and energy into building raised beds that might be destroyed or moved when we do replace the wall? Furthermore, there were bushes, huge bushes growing in my prime gardening spot. And oh yeah, under less than an inch of topsoil, my yard was complete clay.

Thankfully, MaryJane and my mother-in-law came to the rescue. Prior to passing away last winter, my MIL signed me up for a subscription to a fabulous magazine titled MaryJane's Farm and I've read every issue cover to cover. The magazine is full of intensely practical ideas and instructions from doing everything under the sun that a modern rural or urban homesteader might wish to do. The most recent issue has articles on how best to keep chickens in an apartment and planting a garden right on top of your lawn!

The article on indoor chickens definitely caught my attention, but the article (with pictures) about making a garden bed right in the middle of my lawn, by layering cardboard, straw, compost and dirt, seemed so practical that I couldn't do anything but take action. Finally. And so, I collected the cardboard I'd been storing in my garage, the bail of straw from our fall decorations, leaves from the bushes, and dirt (2 dozen bags of compost, soil, sheep & peat from the store) and set to work.

First I had to remove two bushes, an admittedly Herculean task and I wish I had pictures. Before removal they stood about 5 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter. I had to wet the ground around them (with a tree root watering tool) and use my shovel in creative ways to get out the root balls, but I did it. Twice. Next I turned the clay soil as best I could in the top third of the garden (where I plan to plant my tomatoes) and then I started to lay the next two thirds directly on the lawn.

Here are some pictures of my work in progress (I'll finish later today). Needless to say, about a days worth of work in all and I have a 10 by 20 foot garden bed, with excellent sun and easy access to my sprinkler system. 2 years of complaining and one day of work to get it done. Seems kind of silly in retrospect!

Pitiful tulips trying to grow and spread in rock hard clay soil and a severe lack of March snow.

Rootballs! I am woman hear me roar. Seriously. The tree guys would have charged $100 a pop to remove these!!!
 Wet clay. High in nutrients. Great at retaining water. Bad for growing plants!
The garden! Top third done, middle third and bottom third in progress. You can see my husband sitting on our rotting retaining wall to the left.


Daisy said...

Impressive! I, too, have heavy clay soil. We live near a river in Wisconsin. Ten years of homemade compost made a huge difference! The layering concept (I call it lasagna gardening!) works, too. We created a second backyard garden plot that way.

Now if only the snow would melt...

The Green Family said...

I too have heavy clay soil and have down as Daisy, compost and lasagna gardening have worked well. Two years ago I moved my vegetable garden from the back 40 (okay really, the back 1/4 of our 5 acres to our front yard. I can't say how much I love having the garden soo close to the garden.

Green Bean said...

Look at you!! Congratulations. So exciting.

The lasagna layering worked great for me at our old digs. I'm going to start doing it in spots in my new place.

AmazinAlison said...

Glad to know other folks have tried this method and it has worked! It is just so simple and who doesn't love lasagna! :)

The Mom said...

Great job! Most of us start with awful soil. Compost, compost, compost. Layering the lasagna way is fabulous too. Just keep feeding the soil and the worms will come and do the work. You'll be amazed at what you have next year. I can't wait to see the end results.


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