Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rainy Day Garden Planning

Another surprisingly cool day for high summer, along with some welcomed showers. I'm hoping the rain keeps the mosquitoes away as I sit and blog on the carport, but this may just be wishful thinking until I douse myself with insect repellent again. From my chair I have a great view of one of my raised beds beside the house and the sight reminds me of the grandious plans I had for the garden this spring. That particular bed was to hold peppers, tomatoes, and scarlet runner beans. Instead, it's become a nursery bed for some perennials caught in a holding pattern until I find a place for them. We installed a fence in the backyard (yes, we now have a white picket fence at our incredibly domestic of us) this spring, and I had to move some plants away from fence line lest they got stomped to death during the fence installation. I didn't think they would remain in the raised bed for that long when I heeled them, but such are the plans of mice, men, and gardeners. Funny enough, even though the plants were only moved 10 feet from where they were planted originally, all of them are doing much, much better this season in the nursery bed. The bugbane is going to flower for the first time, the toad lily is twice its normal size, and both divisions of the joe pye weed have multiple flower heads on them. I didn't have the time to move these plants in early summer and now I don't have the heart to disturb them until they're done flowering. Besides, I like the velvety royal purple Grandpa Ott morning glory that has sprouted up through the enormous aster, and moving anything out of the bed will likely kill the three tomatillos that kindly volunteered to join the party.

I have two raised beds. Both are made of engineered wood, 4' x 8 ' and 12" deep. Initially the beds were filled with some local topsoil that required a lot of screening to remove a surprising amount of gravel, but the soil has been improved with yearly additions of leaf mulch and old potting soil whenever I repot. The performance of my relocated perennials may be due to the liberal amounts of weathered cow poop I worked into the beds this spring. I think I'll add more cow poop next spring, even though I've had to pull some weeds that must have arrived after passing through the digestive tract of a cow. Most of my garden has been planted directly in the soil, which might be a nice rich patch of loam or a horrendous expanse of sticky red clay, depending on where you dig in our yard. There's more red clay than loam, so I would heartily recommend raised beds if I had to do it all over again. Currently I'm experimenting with planting directly into raised rows of somewhat decomposed compost from this past winter. The compost hasn't fully broken down yet, but the tomatoes don't seem to mind too much. By next spring these raised rows should be rich, crumbly mulch to go on my flower beds, and the current crop of compost from this summer can be planted with new tomato plants.

A clearwing sphinx moth, an odd daytime flyer often mistaken for a bumble bee or a hummingbird, is working over the purple butterfly bush, oblivious to the rain. The mosquitoes are also oblivious to the rain and the repellent I put on just 5 minutes ago, so it's time to move back inside again.

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