12 April 2011

Spring chores

It seems that as soon as the ground thaws, there's a long list of chores needing attention around here. Fortunately, with good weather over the weekend, I could get some odd jobs done outside while the kids played ball, chased the chickens, and climbed trees. I was able to build two of the three raised cedar beds I wanted for the garden this year. We are trying out some new gardening techniques with the crops we've had difficulty with in the past years - mainly because of critters eating them. Mine are constructed from 1 x 4 cedar lumber in 8 foot lengths because it's cheapest to build them with these materials and because 8 ft is the maximum length I can fit in the car. These beds are 2 x 6 feet and 11" high so they are easily portable. I used a cedar 2 x 4 for the corner supports.

Of course, right after building these, I discovered another design that I fell in love with. The main difference is simply that this raised bed plan anticipates critter problems so it includes covering the bottom with hardware cloth to prevent moles from digging through the bottom and uses PVC tubing to create hoops to drape bird cloth over the top keeping out birds and many insects as well. You could alternate using bird cloth with frost cloth to extend the growing season as well. In the above photo, you can see I've installed the PVC piping in one of the raised beds already. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that you can't bend 1/2" PVC tubing across a 2-foot span - it's simply not flexible enough. So, I will be using traditional metal hoops for the cedar beds that fit inside the PVC instead.

I decided to adapt this hoop method to the strawberry fountain, which our chickens and the crows like to get into once the strawberries appear. I can't wait to fill the new raised beds with soil and compost and get started but we're not yet past our last frost date. At the moment I have the greenhouse filled with baby seedlings waiting to be transplanted. With the hoops over the tops of the new raised beds, I'm considering trying to keep them covered with frost cloth to protect them from frost and transplanting early, we'll see how brave I get. (The greenhouse is also filled with fluffy baby Buff Orpington chicks!)

After all the rain from last week, the ground was perfectly soft and soggy for digging holes for planting new blueberry bushes and raspberries this weekend. I set one new blueberry plant in digging a much larger hole and layering soil, straw, and chicken manure compost in the bottom of it. I always separate the root bundle and splay it out to help encourage the roots to grow deeper. I also planted three Heritage raspberry plants to expand our patch and replace some of the canes that didn't make it from last year. One of my favorite things about summer is taking the children to the garden to have their snack. They love picking the fresh raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries for themselves. They pop cherry tomatoes in their mouths like candies and wonder why tomatoes from the store don't taste like these. They eat all the sugar snap peas so that they never make it to the house. This year, I'm expanding our sugar snap pea patch by four fold so some will surely make it to the house, I hope.

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