Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Garden is 'IN'

Mother's Day has past so now it time to be planting the vegetable garden.  At least that is the tradition for many.  This year we had to days with frost warnings immediately after Mom's Day.  But now the weather is on an apparent warming trend.

In early March I laid out the beds for my new garden using techniques described in Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich.  The goal was to avoid having to till the new garden and remove all the grass and weeds.  The result has not been entirely weedless, but the amount of buried vegetation coming through has been manageable.  I think if I had waited until the grass had begun to grow and use up some of the energy stored in the roots there may have been few 'weeds' poking through.  More of the buried vegetation is working it way up along the seams between the cardboard and paper layers.  So for now I am just pulling off the tops of the grass and weeds to keep them from generating any new energy.

The fences are up and the garden is ready for planting.
Pollinator plants will go in along the outer fenceline.

The second phase of establishing the garden was to put up the fencing to keep the wildlife out.  My biggest concern is the deer, but there are plenty of other varmints (rabbits and ground hogs) to deal with as well.  I got a copy of Deerproofing Your Yard and Garden by Rhonda Hart.  I found this a very useful book that explains how deer operate and how manage them.

Separation between the fences is 3 ft, however 4 feet is commonly recommended.
Note the new compost enclosure in the back left, made from old wooden pallets
(Idea thanks to Washington County Master Gardeners).
The method I am trying out is a hybrid of the double-row fence and the invisible monofilament fence. The idea behind the double row fence is that while deer can jump high or long, they can't do both.  So a 4 foot fence that is also 4 feet deep is an effective deterrence. The invisible monofilament fence works by surprising deer with a barrier that they can not see.  In my case I had the remains of an electric fence to use to make my outer monofilament fence (I used the leftover electric fence wire).  I have 4 wires spaced out between 1 and 5 feet off of the ground.  For the inner barrier I have a very visible chicken wire fence.  The main purpose of the inner fence is to keep out the smaller mammals.  The chicken wire is partially buried under the mulch (flaring outward) to discourage tunneling into the garden (we'll see if that is enough).

The fencing was immediately effective.  The Sunchokes, Helianthus tuberosa, I planted a month ago had been repeatedly browsed upon, but after the fence was up they started getting taller.  About a week after putting up the fences a deer did breech the fence and it appeared to be a messy result for the deer, judging by the amount of fur left behind on the chicken wire.  I'm hoping that that was a learning experience and that it was sufficiently unpleasant.

Seeds for Peas, Collards, Chard and Lettuce sprouted within a week
and the Tomato and Pepper plants went in yesterday (5/15).

In the Deerproofing book the point is made to put up your deer deterrents before there is something to attract the deer.  So now that I've had the fence up for a couple of weeks I've started putting out the vegetables.

This year I am planning the garden based on companion planting ideas.  The plants in each of the 4 rows should all get along.  Here's whats going in:
Row 1:  Winter Squash, Snap Peas, Chard and Collards with Winter Savory
Row 2:  Pole Beans, Lettuce, Zucchini, Corn Salad and Arugula* with Nasturtums
Row 3:  Sunchokes, Tomatoes, Basil and Lettuce with Marigolds
Row 4:  Tomatoes, Peppers, Shallots and Garlic with more Nasturtums

*Arugula is in the cabbage family and may not be a good companion for the pole beans.  I should be harvesting these while young, so they may not interfere with the beans as they mature.

I'll plant the bean and squash seeds in a week or two (when the soil gets a little warmer and I should have the pollinator border plants by the end of May.