The Veg Garden

I grew up eating home-grown vegetables. We had a garden, our neighbors had gardens, and it was incomprehensible to me that everyone did not have a garden. We then moved from a rural to a suburban setting and gardening focus shifted from vegetables to flowers, though the token tomato or herb did occasionally make an appearance.

At my first house I wanted a garden but did not want to give up the entire yard, so I came up with the concept of narrow strip gardening where I removed a narrow strip of sod and planted in that strip. Yes, the neighboring grass did reduce the vigor of the vegetables, but I still got a good crop of okra, tomatoes, and peppers. The next year I planted a wider variety, but the rabbits came in and ate everything before I had a chance to, which led me to abandon the effort.

When I purchased this house I was planning to put in a full sized garden, but it was too late in the season to do so when I moved in. Before it was time to start preparing it the next year I had seen several rabbits and found out about the appetite of the local deer population. I figured that any garden I attempted would be eaten by the animals, so I opted not to bother with the plan.

Last year my sister suggested that she would like to try a garden at my house, and went so far as to volunteer to take care of the entire project. With nothing to lose but a patch of grass (which I consider to be a noxious weed anyway) I agreed. Since the vineyard had the best spot and the orchard the second best, there were really only two areas left which had sufficient space and sun exposure. One of these was partly shaded in the evening, so the garden ended up being located in the other spot behind the barn. A sod cutter was rented and the sod removed and, for the most part, relocated to bare or low spots in the remaining lawn.

With the ground ready it was time to select plants. One section of the garden was over an area where the prior residents had had a bonfire with wood from a previous barn, and that area kept turning up rusty nails and other metallic debris. Decorative squash was planted in that area in an attempt to pull out excess iron from the soil. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, okra and eggplant grew and produced well in the remaining portion but sweet corn did not fare as well, probably due to seeds being washed away in heavy spring rains. The disappointment of the year was rutabaga; only one of approximately 25 managed to grow to a proper size, and a mouse or mole found it first so when it was harvested it was a tunneled out mass of decaying fibers. The remainder grew to be tiny nubs of rutabagas which were not worth the effort of pulling them from the ground. Beets were similar, but they at least grew to size useful for salads if not much else.

Amazingly there were very few signs of deer or rabbit interest, and even the raccoons seemed to leave the garden alone. With the relative success of last year in mind planning for this year is underway.

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