YOUR FIRST PEEK AT THE 2017 VEGETABLE GARDEN (AND THE ONE THING I HAVE PLANTED IN IT)

It’s not done, but it’s more done than it was a couple of weeks ago.  For days on end I woke up, went to the garden, dug dirt, then went home.  Occasionally I bathed.

 

The community garden I’m a part of has a very special place in my heart because I started gardening there 2 weeks after my spouse of 11 years walked out the door, never to return, (except to come back for all his work boots).  Weird.  He should have known they weren’t at home since I sent him a live video of me winging them out of the back of my trunk into the local dump.

I had planned on planting a bunch of tomatoes in my sister’s large backyard that year but we realized she wasn’t going to have room for the 20 or so plants I had.  Not only was I going to be boyfriendless in 2013, I was going to be something even more devastating.  I was going to be tomatoless.  That would never do.

So a few days after the fella left, when I still couldn’t see straight, when each passing day seemed to contain way more seconds, minutes and hours than possible, I walked through the gate of my local community garden.  I was recognized (as the very famous medium sized blogger that I am) right away by a woman at the garden who has come to be my friend. One of the many friends I’ve made over my years there.  She helped me find a place for my tomatoes, allowed me into their community and I’ve been entertaining them with the insanity that is me ever since.

That garden is what got me through the breakup relatively unscathed. It gave me something to do, something to focus on and as anyone who loves gardening knows, it gave me a few hours of dirt meditation every day.  Hours where I didn’t think of what I was going to do, how I was going to pay my mortgage or if I’d ever have someone to make memories with again.

So thank you garden.  I love and appreciate you.  But this year you were a real f*cker.

I had to somehow make 2 unlevel side by side plots work and I had to do it in the span of a couple of weeks.  Those weeks have come and gone and it still isn’t done but at least I’m at the point that I can start planting.

I had originally configured a completely elaborate gardening plan with focal points, arches and underground french watering channels.  Then I snapped out of it, scrapped that plan and realized I’m super and I’m a human but I’m not superhuman.  I simplified everything, made a basic, old fashioned layout and started digging.

 

Here’s a breakdown of past few years at my community garden.  The first year I rented half of a plot from someone so I could just plant my paste tomatoes for making tomato sauce at the end of the year.  I managed to mash in a couple of squash plants as well. So I was gardening in a 20 X 10 foot area and was perfectly happy with it.

The next year an entire plot became available in the garden so I moved and set up shop in a different plot.  The year after that another plot in a location I liked better came up and I moved to THAT plot and built my raised bed garden in it.  The following year the original plot I was in with my tomatoes came up and I got that plot in addition to my raised bed plot.  At this point I’ve therefore graduated from a 10′ x 20′ plot, to two 20′ x 40′ plots.  But they weren’t next to each other.  Which lands us in January of this year when I found out the plot next to my raised bed plot was coming available.  Are you getting confused?  That’s O.K.  We’re almost at the end of my saga.

Since January I’ve slowly been moving plants, drawing up plans, starting vegetables and digging dirt.

This is how my new plot (which sits to the left of my old plot) looked when I started.  It may look like a mess but it’s actually a great plot with great soil.  The guy who had it before me created raised rows that he amended with compost and manure, plus he planted green crops for green manure in between all the rows.  It just about killed me to have to level it out, but level it out I did.

 

THIS is my raised bed garden which I ended up disassembling completely to make my new plan work.  No more wood on the raised beds for me. Not for this year anyway.  I’m using all the wood from my raised beds to create a perimeter around my new double garden.  I’m still doing raised beds, they just won’t have raised sides.  It’s too much money and too much work for this year.

The process of combining these two unlevel plots had me pondering two directions.  Either leave the left garden as it was, slightly raised and terrace it down to my lower plot.  Or level them both out.  I figured I’d just start digging and see where the soil took me.

The first thing I had to do no matter what was level out the new plot.  That involved lugging a few wheelbarrows of dirt to some low points on the land and then using this old fashioned, tried and true method:  dragging a wood pallet behind me like a donkey.

.

If you have a lot of land to level there is NO better way than dragging a pallet.  Unweighted it simply levels the ground, if you put a couple of buckets of rocks on it, you can actually drag huge amounts of soil to different spots in the garden.

I did this for 2 solid days.

The end result.  The end result was also a stomach bulging with newly formed muscles that’ll turn back into non muscles in about a week.  I was excited, thrilled, filled with the overbrimming sense of accomplishment one normally only gets after cleaning out the fridge crisper.

Then I looked to my right.

Yup.

For the next few days I hung out with my friends the snakes while I transferred soil from the left half of my garden to the right.  It was at this point that I realized making both plots level was going to be the easier of my two options.  I just had to dig down on the left side garden to make my beds and transfer all of that soil to the right side of my garden to build it up.  Easy.

It was around this point, on day 6,  that I cried.  Just a little.  Then I remembered my epic stomach muscles that I’d be the proud owner of for the next week or two and I stopped crying long enough to take a picture of them and send them to my niece.  Then I noticed that after burning 37,000 calories a day and buliding washboard stomach muscles I still had my blobs of back fat.  And I started crying again.

It was a very emotional time.

That’s me. That’s my shovel. That’s the prettiest I looked the entire time.  Proof of that coming up.

By this point in the whole situation I’d lost count of how many days I’d been doing this, why I was doing it and if it was normal to repeatedly punch yourself in the head at night from sleep shovelling.  A friend at the garden saw I was perhaps a bit overwhelmed and dug at least 4 of those trenches for me.  Had he not, instead of writing this blog post, I would most definitely have just buried myself in one of my trenches and called it a good life while sadly humming Amazing Grace to myself as a raccoon ate my face.

There are people up at my garden who can be there the whole day and still look like they’d be able to go out for dinner straight from the garden.  With the Queen.  I became this mess after 4.5 seconds in my plot. I gardened from morning until night.

Are you bored yet?  Because I was by the point.  I was also delirious and as I would later discover, hypoglycaemic.  My friend Serena spotted it and gave me juice.  And part of a chicken carcass.  And some salad, which I ate off of the lid of the salad container, because I forgot about how Survivor taught me you can fold a leaf and use it as a spoon.

I love how pretty I am.  I’m so very proud to be so pretty.

Another day, another moment to stop and smell the onions.  Here we go again.  Someone pass the juice.  Along with the snakes, voles, raccoons, and general crawly things that live in the garden I made friends with something astonishing.  Something I’ve never seen before and didn’t even know existed.

I made friends with The Green Hornet.

 

Except it isn’t a hornet, it’s a bee and it’s called a Sweat Bee and it lives in the ground, not in a regular bee hive.  But it is a genuine bee and it is LIME green.  That photo is straight out of my iPhone camera. No enhancing, no increasing the colour, no nothing.  THAT is how the bee looks.

Seeing that little bee gave me all the energy I needed to plant the very first thing in my garden.  I haven’t finished building the garden but I had to get my strawberries transplanted from my old plot to my new one. A few more hours of digging later and they were moved to their new home.

Like I said, the garden isn’t done but it’s more done that it was.  And that’s all someone who ever wants to accomplish anything can ask for.

As long as you’re closer to your goal today than you were yesterday you can rest easy in knowing that you’ll eventually get there.

(As long as you don’t punch yourself unconscious in your sleep and remember to drink lots of juice.)

Have a good weekend!

 

98 Comments

  1. virginia says:

    Such great progress, I can hardly wait to see it full of plants and veggies! Go girl go…..

  2. VICKI LEUNG says:

    LOVE IT!!! 🙂

  3. Edith says:

    You did an impressive amount of work and it looks so beautiful. My back hurts just following along.

  4. Judy says:

    I just love your blog and you are such an inspiration to everyone. Thanks…

  5. Marjorie Kramer says:

    You’re inspiring. That is a lot of work! It’s already amazing.

  6. Mark says:

    Wow, you have worked so hard and your garden shows it! The amazing thing is that you still had time for writing this column…. I would only wish I also could get epic abs from laughing at your great jokes.

  7. Paula says:

    Woman after my own heart. This time of year my garden is my life, quite literally. From when I wake to when it gets too dark to work anymore, I am out in my garden doing something. It feels so good to be physically tired and to actually feel like you did something productive at the same time.

    I tried the no-dig method last year and unless you have something really evil like Quackgrass, Twitchgrass, Couchgrass (all the same thing but so many names!) it works like a charm and no digging! This spring I spent 2 days preparing my carrot bed by sifting the entire thing to a depth of 20″…crazy, right? lol The garden is definitely my happy place.

    I have been researching your site for your posts on sweet potato slips, I am trying them this year for the first time. Thanks for your posts!

  8. Diane says:

    You really are the best. One day, I hope I can find a community garden and do the same thing. And have chickens. Karen, the inspiration!

  9. Kristina Steen says:

    Wow!! Love the Karen as plow horse / pallet horse image.

    Ethical query; will I go to hell if I do not use cedar to frame beds?

  10. Tina says:

    You inspire me but in large part because I don’t look so pretty after being out in the garden even for a little while! I’ve never been a gardener, I’ve always hated getting my hands dirty, I don’t like to be dirty and I HATE sweat! But because of you, the last 15% of my life will be dirty and sweaty!

    I can’t believe it’s been that long ago Fella left. I remember it. Mainly because I’d just begun following you. You’re better off without him.

  11. Grammy says:

    Beautiful. The garden and you. I just finally finished my garden (after years of devastating drought, California nearly drowned this winter and continues to get rain, so it’s been really challenging just managing to get anything in the ground and each week here has had a day of 98 degrees, followed by a day of 84, followed by three days of 72, followed by four days of 98, and so on. The couple of weeks I spent digging and preparing (much smaller plot than you’ve got, but I’m older by a lot) every day I came in the house looking like a filthy zombie and sang “I feel pretty” for my husband. So, yeah, you’re a very pretty girl. Hold that thought.

    One tip for you: Coconut water. Not the fancy flavored stuff, just plain 100% coconut water. There are several brands; they all come in very tall cans. If you buy just the plain, nothing-added water, buy whatever is the cheapest, or on sale. Some people have called it “nature’s Gatorade” because evidently it helps to replace electrolytes in addition to hydrating you. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know that it’s the only thing I’ve ever had that actually keeps me from getting wobbly when doing heavy garden work. Work till you’re a sweaty mess, drink some coconut water, go back to work. Repeat as often as needed. A little food snuck in there somewhere is also helpful.

  12. Bev says:

    Well done you! Epic progress…I’m in awe . I wish I had half your determination and energy. 💐

  13. Lindy says:

    Karen! Karen! I am so proud of you! I had a smile just scolling down the endless pictures of dirt. We love dirt. And we love you. Brava!

  14. CAtherine says:

    I can’t garden without becoming a filther either. Mud everywhere. Just shows you’re doing it right. Garden looks fab and you will soon reap the rewards.

  15. Jack Barr says:

    Life=gardening. It’s all about the journey, Karen, except, perhaps when the endpoint is enjoying the fruits & veggies of your labour. And, never forget…… good dirt is clean. Wonderful, delightful blog. Keep it up, Karen.

  16. Miriam Mc Nally says:

    I’m so impressed with everything in this post Karen!
    Just looking at the size of that garden makes me in awe! And you also have a garden at home, and a house, and a job…. Superwoman!
    It is amazing how a little bit of help from a friend can swing the difference too.
    And the end quote is very good.
    Have a nice weekend!

  17. Sideroad40 says:

    Great post Karen from a fellow gardener who is also not so pretty after just a few seconds of setting foot in the garden. Look forward to following your progress this summer. Keep calm and garden on….

  18. ronda says:

    you don’t want to be using pressure treated wood if you’re planting vegetables. cedar is the way to go. or anything that’s not been treated with chemicals.

  19. Wow that’s a lot of work! I have raised beds too and it’s a ton of work moving dirt. Well done. Makes me wish I was there to help, except for the snake. I’d be doing the heebie geebie dance all the way to the car.

  20. Ev Wilcox says:

    The box I so wanted for my new tiny garden did not get built. Got the wood, but my two builders are out of commission (me too, sorta!) so woe is me. And you come along-making all kinds of raised beds WITHOUT THE BEDS! Thanks Karen. Where the box is to be someday, there is no possibility of doing it like you did. Hats off to you-everything you do, you do well!
    Remember to take food and drink with you to Karen’s Garden of Eden! Maybe not an apple though-that snake might fill your head with bad ideas….

  21. Beth W. says:

    You truly are brave, and inspiring… but I must say, I was amazingly taken aback by your dirt covered Lee Valley sweatshirt. I guess that’s because I consider mine one of my fancy sweatshirts (it cost too much not to for me). 😉

  22. danni says:

    I too have had the “what-the-f-have -I -gotten-myself-into-omg-too-late-have-to-finish-somehow” tears…. but I’ll be damned if I ever cried enough to let them actually fall in the dirt! (a few muddy tracks on my filthy face, meh….)
    Amazing what a bit of mulish stubbornness can accomplish!!

  23. jaine kunst says:

    After reading about all your hard work, I realize I am a slacker. I planted 5 perennials and called it a day. You did an amazing job though and I am looking forward to seeing photos of all the wonderful veggies growing in your beautiful garden.

  24. Susan Claire says:

    It looks like you will be raising enough food for a family of 48, so tell me-what on earth do you do with all that produce? I know some goes into storage, but those are some humongous plots. By the way, we do the pallet thing too, but we hitch it on to the back of the tractor.

  25. Melissa says:

    I always feel like such a laze-ass when I see your posts. You work circles— er, planetary orbits around me. But, it is inspiring, so perhaps I’ll finish planting my front walk way today in your honor. xo

  26. Ryn says:

    I’ve barely started my garden, all I have so far are some baby tomatoes​, cucumbers and zucchini still sitting in my house. But in my defense, I’ve been building a 24′ long x 10′ wide x 7.5′ high deck, and with work and the weather not cooperating it’s taking longer than expected.
    Now I just have to remember “As long as you’re closer to your goal today than you were yesterday you can rest easy in knowing that you’ll eventually get there.” and hopefully not punch my husband in my sleep. Lol.

  27. Katie C. says:

    “As long as you’re closer to your goal today than you were yesterday you can rest easy in knowing that you’ll eventually get there.”

    I love that. It’s really something good to remember for anything you’re trying to accomplish.

    I think I’m going to have to go buy some plants for my garden because it’s been so wet and cold here in New England that everything I moved outside seemed to have keeled over and died. I’m very sad. 🙁

  28. Kelly says:

    “As long as you’re closer to your goal today than you were yesterday you can rest easy in knowing that you’ll eventually get there.” This is so good. Excited to see your garden and live vicariously through you, as I have a tiny porch and no yard. I’m thankful for gardening friends who share their bounty.

  29. Kari in Dallas says:

    Holy shit, Karen! Do you plan on just taking the whole thing over next year? What do you do with all of your produce? I have a small kitchen garden, and am drowning in tomatoes.

    Keep up the amazing work….can’t wait to see it in a month,

  30. Karen says:

    Thanks Judy. That’s my goal. And to make people laugh while learning. 😉 ~ karen!

  31. Susan says:

    You had me until the snake. Then I had to scroll down and look sideways to make sure there were no more snake pictures before I could read the captions. I’m sure you must be related to my mother. She had a garden big enough to feed a small town. She also instilled me with a horror of waste and probably put me off tomatoes for life. My father talked her into going to the cottage just when the tomatoes were starting to ripen and I’d come home from work, go to the garden and grab the ripe ones for a toasted tomato for supper. That progressed to toasted tomato for supper, breakfast and lunch. Then I was coming home and running out of hands so I held up my dress (yeah, I’m that old!) and filled the skirt. That kitchen full of tomatoes inspired me to make my first ever batch of tomato sauce before they came home. I don’t remember poisoning anybody so it must have been alright. Now I plant one big heirloom and one golden cherry and still end up giving most of them away. And can tolerate one toasted tomato sandwich a year.

  32. Garth says:

    So nice to see a community garden with sensible sized plots, instead of 4’x 8′ postage stamps that aren’t worth the gasoline it takes to drive to them. They do have their benefits, but producing a significant amount of food isn’t one of them.

  33. Linda Stengel says:

    You are a wonder woman no doubt in my mind. Beautiful garden. Always an inspiration.

  34. Karen says:

    Shit. Well if you don’t, that means I just haven’t been funny enough. I’ll work on it! ~ karen

  35. Carol Hogan says:

    Dear Karen – You are amazing and inspiring and I am so jealous I could spit. Enough of the honesty. I remember when the fella left. But, you were not broken. You have risen from the ashes, or the dirt, and become superhuman. You are. Yes, yes, you are. And I want to be you!

  36. Karen says:

    Thanks Diane. At least after reading my blog you’ll be prepared for everything that goes with chickens. Maggots, injuries and all. 🙂 ~ karen!

  37. Karen says:

    “Ethical query; will I go to hell if I do not use cedar to frame beds?” … Yes of course you will. ~ karen!

  38. Karen says:

    One of my sisters (Pink Tool Belt) doesn’t like getting dirty either. She hates her hands being in dirt! My other sister (Fish Pedicure) probably doesn’t love it but is definitely a gardener and muscles through it, lol. ~ karen!

  39. Karen says:

    You’re absolutely right on the coconut water! I forgot all about it. I even have some here! I should bring it up to the garden with me. I normally bring food but sometimes I go up “just for an hour” and end up spending 5 hours. I bought unsweetened apple cider yesterday specifically to bring with me and I’ll hunt out those cans of coconut water I know I have. Thanks for the reminder Grammy. ~ karen!

  40. Karen says:

    Thanks Lindy! WE do love dirt. 🙂 And work. Dirt and work. ~ karen!

  41. Karen says:

    It’s SO much more effort to try to stay clean while gardening. It *really* slows a gal down. ~ karen!

  42. Mary W says:

    You can do it, you can do it, put a little power to it – go girl, go, go girl, go! I’m so proud to be subscribed to follow you – what an inspiration you are. To top it all off, you take pictures and then go back to work. Just for us. Man, oh man, you are super woman, hear us roar, in voices too loud to ignore, YEA for Karen, always giving more, more, more. Someone we all ADORE! Your garden is beautiful and so are you.

  43. Karen says:

    Thanks Jack! I live for the journey. 🙂 ~ karen!

  44. Karen says:

    Thanks Miriam! ~ karen

  45. Karen says:

    Haha! Gardening disasters unite. ~ karen!

  46. Karen says:

    hahah! And I literally just bought a bag of apples many of which I planned on bringing to the garden. ~ karen

  47. Karen says:

    I wasn’t thrilled with getting it totalled but … stuff happens. 🙂 Also I got mine on the clearance rack at Lee Valley! ~ karen

  48. Karen says:

    Yeah. I don’t have a tractor, lol. I eat a LOT of the vegetables. And I give a lot to a food bank. This year I think I’ll be donating them to either a women’s shelter or an addiction facility in my neighbourhood. And finally I give extra to any friends or family that come up to visit the garden. 🙂 ~ karen!

  49. Karen says:

    Thank you. Send pics! 🙂 ~ karen

  50. Karen says:

    Good luck Ryn. On all accounts. 😉 ~ karen

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