Slow and Steady . . . gardening

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I work very slowly. One of the results of years of neurological and physiological damage from Lyme disease is that I think and move slowly. Everything I do is slow. It takes me 4 hours to make an entire meal (you know, dinner with meat, vegetables, starch and maybe some bread), so I rarely make dinner by myself. Meal preparation, unless it is a stew or soup, is typically a coordinated effort around here, unless everyone wants to eat at 9 pm or not at all. The same translates to slowly working in the garden. Not only is gardening new to me for this area (I am a southerner living in the north) but it is NEW to me. I started vegetable gardening in my early 20’s in the south. I have had to relearn almost everything I knew about gardening or build new pathways to the information — sometimes I can retrieve tiny bits which directs me where to research, I rehearse the info and then Voila! there it is again. The same happened with my web design skills. They seemed to just disappear. Somehow the long-term memory or access to these long-term memories for many skills was damaged when Lyme got into my brain. So I am relearning gardening, relearning cooking, relearning sewing even (talk about frustrating), and a little html (xhtml, dhtml).

In spite of my turtle-like abilities, I am gaining stamina so that I can actually accomplish tasks and projects without needing a couple of hours in my comfy chair after 30 minutes of effort. This is wonderful to me. Yes, I do sit down in the lawn chair I keep in the yard, or on the edge of a raised bed while I work, but I am hauling soil, using the circular saw, building things (albeit rough and not so beautiful), and getting my garden in shape. I feel so very able today, this Monday after a weekend of physical labor for me, most of it without the aid of my big sons. My 17yo did move all of the pallets I got last fall for building my compost bins, which I could not have done, and got the lawn mower filled with fresh gasoline, and my 19yo did make dinner a couple of times and has been trying to keep up with the kitchen, and my 12yo, well, he went to Jazz Band camp and learned some new techniques and even practiced without being told, but I am working on the love of gardening with him.

Here is what I did this past week which will probably seem like not much at all but is amazing for me:

Southeast facing flower bed with some invasive ground cover.  The slope of this bed is such that water runs down toward the driveway which has caused rot in the beams at the right

Southeast facing flower bed with some invasive ground cover. The slope of this bed is such that water runs down toward the driveway which has caused rot in the beams at the right

This landscaping bed has always bothered me. I wanted it ripped out and a new one built using native stone. Never happened. Most of the projects I design in my head have never happened. Heck, I have never even had deck furniture the entire 13 years we have lived here. Sad. I digress. This garden bed has never really functioned well. It wasn’t terraced when it was installed, a huge mistake. The soil sloped from the front of the house to the driveway area causing too much moisture at the bottom and not enough at the top. A couple of weeks ago I started cleaning it out, first by cutting back all of those ugly woody ground cover plants (I believe they are in the ficus family). I liked them initially because 1) they actually grew there, and 2) they stayed green all winter long. I knew they had to go this winter, though, when it was discovered that they were growing inside the house in the workshop having pushed their way beneath the siding and through the insulation. Not good.

Here is the finished bed, terraced to three levels, the small "walls" made with pallet wood that I cut and installed.  I hauled three loads of compost to mix with the existing soil and it is now ready to plant.

Here is the finished bed, terraced to three levels, the small “walls” made with pallet wood that I cut and installed. I hauled three loads of compost to mix with the existing soil and it is now ready to plant.

It took me most of the day Sunday to cut and install the pallet wood boards that I used to create the simple walls for this terraced bed. I still want to rip the whole thing out, and will need to do so soon as the bottom beams are rotting out from decades of too much mosture, but that will be for another day (after I learn how to build stone walls, which you better believe I am researching). After finishing the two simple barriers I mixed in compost and they are ready to plant.

I used boards from pallets that my 22yo son brought home and broke up.  My 12yo removed the nails so I just needed to measure and cut.

I used boards from pallets that my 22yo son brought home and broke up. My 12yo removed the nails so I just needed to measure and cut.

Now I have a lot of additional space to grow veggies and herbs. This space gets a lot of sun each day, so I am thrilled to have claimed it for growing food this year. And when the time comes, it will be very simple to plant some showy landscape plants for curb appeal.

Back yard garden:

Weekend before last my 17yo, 12yo and I learned how to build raised beds from pallet wood. My 17yo enjoyed learning how to use power tools (hand-held circular saw, angle grinder and power drill) in new ways, and I enjoyed seeing the new raised beds come to life. The first one took a couple of hours (just taking the nails out of the boards took a long time), but the next day, the second one came together in a few minutes because we knew what we were doing (though I mostly watched after hurting my back trying to pull some of those awful ground cover plants from the flower bed above).

17yo cutting 2x4's for the corner pieces. He has safety glasses on under that hair.  It was a beautiful 60 degrees F that day so my 12yo was playing in the snow in shorts and t-shirt with Maya, our Tibetan spaniel.

17yo cutting 2×4’s for the corner pieces. He has safety glasses on under that hair. It was a beautiful 60 degrees F that day so my 12yo was playing in the snow in shorts and t-shirt with Maya, our Tibetan spaniel.

One of two new raised beds built entirely from pallet wood.  They aren't perfect (the wood widths and lengths vary from board to board) but they certainly will hold soil allowing me to expand my garden space.

One of two new raised beds built entirely from pallet wood. They aren’t perfect (the wood widths and lengths vary from board to board) but they certainly will hold soil allowing me to expand my garden space.

My garlic survived the winter! Excitement isn’t the word for how I feel. I dedicated an entire raised bed to garlic last fall, planting seed garlic I purchased, some organic garlic from the grocery store and some that I had grown last year (tiny garlic I am hoping will become much larger garlic).

Chesnok Red garlic that was planted last fall is growing well this year.  Although I failed to mulch it after planting every clove survived.

Chesnok Red garlic that was planted last fall is growing well this year. Although I failed to mulch it after planting every clove survived.

This past week, with the help and advice of a seasoned and knowledgeable garlic grower, I purchased and applied fertilizer appropriate for garlic, all organic. I hope to grow enough garlic to ferment some and have enough to get through the year.

My seedlings are doing well. I even moved some tomato, cabbage and parsley to individual plastic cups so they have enough space to grow nice root systems before I transplant them into the garden.

Leek seedlings doing well.  First time growing leeks (never even tasted a leek or leek soup).  My friend Liz from South Caroline gifted me the seeds (we have been sharing seeds, cultures, and odds and ends).

Leek seedlings doing well. First time growing leeks (never even tasted a leek or leek soup). My friend Liz from South Caroline gifted me the seeds (we have been sharing seeds, cultures, and odds and ends).

Slow and steady wins the race. That’s my new motto!

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2 responses »

  1. WOW! The transformation of those terraced beds is amazing! It’s going to be beautiful when it’s all planted. I’m so glad you’re feeling this strong and well — more of the same for you, please. xo

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  2. Thank you. It is so difficult to even work on that flower bed when I keep seeing a beautiful stone planter in its place, but I stick to my “Make do!” motto along with “Slow and steady.” Stuff gets done that way. My back has been good all weekend (except for the very end yesterday afternoon, but an hour with the heating pad fixed it right up). So happy to be this well and strong, too! Thanks for the encouragement.

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