Getting my mess of a community garden ready to roll.

ubar-lee-valley

 

I’m spending this week getting my 20′ x 40′ garden plot ready.  20 feet x 40 feet doesn’t sound very big until you have to dig every inch of it up.  Then it’s big.  It’s very big.  Clown shoes big.

I just realized I didn’t tell you what I was getting it ready for.  Space ship landings mainly.  The occasional Bea Arthur festival.

And vegetables.  As a single woman who only eats one big meal a day, I have absolutely no business growing 800 square feet of vegetables.  Which is why I’m devoting 32 square feet of it to flowers.   That brings my vegetable growing footage down to a reasonable 768 square feet.  But before I can do any of that I have to shovel this thing into shape.

And for me to be able to do that I have to take a week off.  My plan is to turn the soil, which you can see me attempting to do in the above photo, taken by fellow gardener Leo Muzzin.  That’s a U Bar from Lee Valley which is completely and utterly useless to me because I don’t weigh enough.  I literally have to jump up and down on it like a cartoon kangaroo for it to move an inch into the soil.  Big man? No problem. This thing is great for them. They love it.  But if you’re under 200 pounds it isn’t the best choice for you.

I wasn’t sure if it was just me and my weight so I asked Ron if he could test the U Bar out for me.  Just do a row to see if it works for you. Yup.  Look at that.  Works just fine for Ron.  I should probably have Greg test it too.  Just to make sure.  Well look at that, Greg did around 5 rows and it worked for him no problem.  And that is how I proceeded to trick all the men in my community garden to help me dig up my plot.

So once I get the whole thing dug up, I have to break up all the clods of earth, and then rake them out.  Then I’ll grade the whole thing so it’s nice and flat.  This year I’ll be trying out square foot gardening so that means I have to make a bunch of raised beds.  Not raised really so much as just marked off with 2x4s.  My hope is that it makes weeding and gardening easier in general. If not, it doesn’t really matter because there’s Ron and Greg.  And Thomas!  Almost forgot about Thomas.  And Leo and Adam and Joseph.  And the other men at the community garden who I don’t know by name, but rather by their clothing or characteristics.  Like garlic man.  Or T-Bar giver.  And of course everyone’s favourite, Shorts too Short.  Just kidding.  Everyone’s shorts at the garden are of regulation length.

This is how my plan looks for my 800 square feet for the time being.  I always leave a few empty spots for mystery/experimental/spur of the moment/surprise plants.

 

garden-plan

By the end of this week everything should be planted and ready.  What I’m here to tell you today is the posts this week will not be posts at all, but just photos of what I’m doing.  There may or may not be a sentence with those photos.  You know.  So you don’t miss me.

Or wonder who ran away from home this time.

Everything’s fine, everything’s good, there’s nothing for you to worry about.

I’m just getting everything ready for the space ship landing.

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48 Comments

  1. dana says:

    Lol! Garlic man! We don’t speak much to our neighbors, as in not all all. There’s Flipper, Head Wound Harry, Seasons Greetings couple, Caveman & his better half, Mrs Caveman, and Heisenberg. He wears a Heisenberg tshirt from Breaking Bad and sticks little things, probably meth, into the lit end of his cigs as he’s smoking.

  2. Skylor says:

    That is one way to get it done. Trickery, I mean product testing by a master.

    A power tiller is an excellent investment for a space that size. No clods to break up after. If you get one that can break down to just one or two tines wide it then works well to turn in between rows during the growing season.

    Good luck with the raking etc.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Skylor! We have the option to have our plots rototilled at the beginning of the year, but I choose not to because I feel like it isn’t the best choice for the soil. Although … after a few years of this I may rethink that notion. ~ karen!

      • Skylor says:

        Don’t till deep, 2 passes at most, and throw on some microbe tea for a week or two and it’s like you never did it. and you get to make microbe tea which is tonnes o’ icky fun.

  3. Liz says:

    how is this possible that I have the first comment? I feel like I have won a contest or something. Happy farmers tan week Karen! The ankle Bogs will make an especially cute lines 🙂

  4. Robert says:

    I wonder if you can trick all the men on the community garden to do all the rest of the work for you for?
    I bet it would be just as gratifying as doing it yourself, if not even more 😀

  5. Sarah says:

    Hey, Karen –

    What software did you use to draw up that nifty garden plot diagram? I love it and want it!

  6. backyardfeast says:

    Holy Canoli, Karen: 800 sq ft is a lot of garden for one! Does that include paths? We homestead for 2, self-sufficient in veggies in raised beds totalling 1000 sq ft (plus fruit trees and berries, perennials, chickens, etc). In fact, given that we both also work full time, I’ve reduced my annual plantings to around 600 sq ft this year, and that’s still enough for a year’s worth of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, as well as all the usual beans, cabbage, and salad greens.

    Have a great week and enjoy the harvest this summer!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks backyardfeast! I’m about to head out to the garden right now. That area does include paths and I’ll admit my paths will be wide, lol. My garden at home in my front yard is 133 square feet (the space I use for vegetables anyway) and it provides enough food for 2 people! So the 800 square feet provides a huge amount! I’ll talk more about what I”m doing with it in a later post but I’ve broken it down into various sections. ~ karen!

  7. Lynn says:

    Karen just like to say pictures will be fab , will miss your Witt . With a garden that size to do on your own I am surprised you will have the energy to even think straight , till you have it planted . That said you do have a way with the fellas must be your fancy foot wear 🙂 an charming smile.

  8. Paula says:

    I am trying raised square foot gardening this year, too. Easy, right? No dig, right? Not easy, and certainly, not cheap. I hope the veggies are good.
    Btw – we have the same footwear except mine are a lovely bright green 🙂
    Cheers,
    Paula

  9. Ann says:

    Good Morning,

    It is still pre 5am here. My sweet old 11 year old kitty thinks that he has to be fed before the sun comes up each day.

    Be a bit careful about sq ft gardening. Unless your soil is in perfect condition you may find that there is not enough nutrients to support that much plant. And the roots of plants need room to spread out without running into roots of other plants. Seems the roots can actually talk to each other thru chemicals. They will very likely start picking fights if they are too close together. A great book to read on gardening is Gerdening when it Counts by Steve Soloman. He was the founder of one of the best seed companies on the planet, Territorial seeds. He shows that intensive and/or sq ft gardening can work for about 1 season if you are lucky and then the soil becomes exhausted. By growing a bit further apart, amending the soil and letting plants have enough room to really grow, you will get as much or more food and the food will be of higher nutritional quality. I have read and reread this book and recommend it to many other people who then tell me the same thing about how they love the book and how it made them much better gardeners.

    Thanks for letting all us little folk know that a broadfork may not work that well for us. I had wondered. I have 1/3 of my garden now in well made raised beds and will start working on the second of my 1/3 sections this next year. I still haven’t found a perfect way to keep the paths weed free but those raised beds are awesome for keeping my old back happy. And with the help of the little bunnies in my rabbitry, my soil is amazing and I have grown so much in those beds without over crowding them.

    I can’t wait to see what all you grow this year. You are an inspiration

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ann! More than anything I like the containment aspect of sq. ft. gardening. As far as amending the soil, I add compost every year so I’m hoping that will help, plus because of the reasons you described I’m adding extra compost into each hole this year, plus I’ll be watering every so often with compost tea. We’ll see how it goes! ~ karen

    • Erin says:

      Ann-
      That is a great book. It has totally changed the way we garden on our homestead.
      Plus Steve is a bit of a curmudgeon, which you gotta love.

  10. maggie van sickle says:

    Hey Karen I planted a garden this year for the first time in my life and I am 70 yrs old. My layout on paper looks nothing like yours. Mine looks like chicken scratch not to say your chickens draw pictures of gardens. The radishes are up and looking good. It is hard work but hopefully worth while and yes I planted a lot of flowers for cutting. Lets hope they make an appearance because I planted them from seeds. It is a little cooler in my part of the woods so things are later going into the ground so I will not see too much growth for a bit yet. I am keeping my fingers crossed for success.

    • Karen says:

      HI Maggie! I planted a lot of my flowers from seeds last year and had no hopes of them ever amounting to flowers but they did! You’ll love a garden. Just don’t let the weeds get away from you. It’s easier to go out every couple of days and scratch over the soil with a rake than it is to do it once every few weeks after they’ve grown and turned into monsters. ~ karen! (I never do that by the way but … I felt I should give you the right advice as opposed to what I do, lol)

  11. IRS says:

    So that’s what that thing at Lee Valley was! I was at their store in Vaughan on Saturday, and I thought it was a perfectly sized pasta fork.

  12. Ev Wilcox says:

    Karen, as much gardening you do, perhaps you should get one of those cute little tillers (Troy-Bilt?)! Really.
    Check them out after this season, when they are on sale! This winter you could build a cute little trailer to tow the tiller back and forth from the community garden to your homestead! Better yet, cut one of your famous deals with a Troy dealer. You take pictures-they give you a tiller and hauler too! Yay! Do it do it do it!
    Anyway, happy gardening this week!

  13. Beth W says:

    Be sure to share some photos of the men you encounter in your garden… perhaps it’ll inspire more of us to get out there and hoe-it-up ourselves.

  14. Ellen says:

    check out Ruth Stout………… there are several videos on youtube AND she liked to garden naked……… check her out

  15. whitequeen96 says:

    Dang, girl, you look so cute in your shorts, boots and red shirt – it makes me sick! Even after a long winter! I’m sure you’ll easily be able to talk some single men into helping you!

    That dirt looks awfully hard; like you’re digging into an asphalt parking lot. It’s probably this kind of work that keeps you in shape. I think I’m making extraordinary efforts because I have to drive almost 20 minutes to a Trader Joe’s for organic veggies.

    WHERE do you get the energy?

  16. Kathi says:

    Excellent job ‘Tom Sawyering’ the guys in the garden!

  17. Erin says:

    Your community garden plan is inspiring!

    I can visualize exactly how big a plot you have because we just installed a 20×36′ hoop house. Our glorious long weekend was spent doing all that shovelling and raking. So, I feel your pain. or future pain.

    Sure is awesome when it is accomplished though. Looking forward to your updates as the garden progresses.

  18. Mike says:

    I’ve not seen one of those “U Bar” things before. Is it an expensive item? Does it work as well as a rotor tiller? I have always used the rotor tiller and hoe, but can see how this might eleminate a tool or two. However, I must admit that lately I’ve been going to the local farmers market for my “gardening”. Last real garden I had just helped feed the local deer population, and I live in town!!

  19. Mary W says:

    I’m looking forward to the pictures!

  20. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Sure…that kinda stuff works when you are a cute little blond…lol..Can’t wait to see it..also anxious to see what strange veggie you grow this year..Have fun girl..cause I’m pretty sure that hard work is fun to you..ya weirdo..lol..

  21. Jen says:

    I think you will really like the square foot gardening. If you leave it marked off for next year, no one should walk on it, and it will be much easier to break the ground next year. We just used the swirl-thing on a stick to get it ready after the first year. Adding compost and calcium kept us going great each year. I think people who have had problems with soil nutrients using this method probably had the traditional confined beds. I think it is easier if it isn’t completely confined. Good luck!

  22. Mary from Barrie says:

    Brilliant way to get your plot prepped! I wish I had 20×40 feet. And a supply of gullible men. My “double” plot at our community garden is a vast 12ftx15ft. I made 3 rows of boxes with 18″ cedar mulch paths between the rows (3 boxes in each row – each box is 4ft x 4 ft) . The initial work to get everything framed was a pain because I wanted it all level and square, but now each box is easy to maintain. I rotate crops from box to box each year and just have to top up with compost. This year’s prep is done and now I’m ready for planting – no more frost allowed! Do you have a water source at your plot? The worst part of ours is hauling water in if there’s not enough rain.

  23. Tigermom says:

    Impressive. All of it. From the plan to knowing that some of us would worry. Thanks and I wish you wonderful weather in which to get your garden prepped.

    We’re drowning down here in Texas and are looking at more rain and severe weather today. I love rain, but this is just getting dangerous. Plus, the ground is so saturated and muddy we’re getting cabin fever in the spring. : /

  24. Nancee says:

    Your garden plan looks great! But before you plant any of those veggies and flowering/nectar plants, please make sure they are not treated with any Neonicotinoid chemicals. Home Depot and Lowes are being gracious enough to tag the plants that are treated with neonics…they even make glowing (ok, not glowing) claims that this neonic poisoned plant will not be bothered by aphids, white flies, beetles, or mealy bugs. It’s all on a very pretty little tag tucked way back inside the foliage of the plant.
    What they don’t say is neonics kill beees and caterpillars. And altho some caterpillars are a nuisance, some are the larvae of gorgeous butterflies. So you are killing bees, which pollinate most of our food, and killing the larvae of, let’s say Monarch butterflies.
    So please, read the labels and ask very pointed questions to make sure you are getting a “clean” plant.
    Happy planting! And enjoy watching those bees and butterflies visiting your flowers.

  25. Maria says:

    If you wear a pair of daisy dukes, they will plant weed and harvest for you. Their WIVES, on the other hand may not be so appreciative

  26. Barb says:

    When I was a kid, we lived next to a bald-headed farmer. In the summer, he always wore a hat for sun protection. We never saw him without his hat, until one cold winter day. The part of his head that had been tanned by the sun had turned purple in the cold. The top of his head remained a sickly white color. Forever afterwards, we referred to him as “Turniphead”! That was over 60 years ago, and I cannot recall his real name.

  27. Barbie says:

    You go girl! Take all the time you need! We have a 3000 sq. foot garden that is being planted slowly by my 91 yr old uncle, who lives with us! If not for him it just would not get done this year! I told him I wanted to save a big plot for flowers like you are doing (brilliant idea BTW) as “I am” sort of in the “flower” biz after all. However I do love to clip and arrange for inside my house too! We have a wedding for my oldest son in July and we are balls to the wall trying to get our 3.5 acres ready (we have neglected it a lot in the last couple of years due to traveling all summer each year) now we are paying the price! All flower beds are in process of being redone and sprinkler system is getting redone and porches refinished and all rockers and porch swings repainted and tables etc etc. I have the back porch completed and half the back flower beds….redoing my lavender as I go (we lost most of it this winter) ….so am propagating about 75 plants at the moment. All while we are in the midst of making new cabinets for my design room in the warehouse! Somehow I got that started w/out thinking of all the other crap we have to do! Our friend owns a cabinet shop and is allowing us to borrow it to make them but…….LOTS to do! So my respect for you is immense! Don’t know how you get it all done.

  28. Cathy says:

    Holy smokes! Are you guys ever going to get leaves on the trees up there?

  29. Gary G from Holland, Michigan says:

    Like you, I want to grow my own food, but I can’t find any bacon seeds. By chance, can you, or any of your followers, help me out with that?

  30. I really enjoyed reading your article. Hope to see follow up photos. I have a YouTube channel called “The Vegetable Gardener” if you are looking for ideas or inspiration

  31. Su says:

    That tillng thing is impressive. I have hand dug my garden many times with a plain old pitch fork…figured the work out if it didn’t kill me would buld muscles and character…. nowadays this patch of dirt is my cutting flower bed as it doesn’t recieve enough sun for good veggie production. In a previous life I did square foot gardening…. and it did make weeding easier, not sure I got more produce but it looked good I must say….

  32. Darla says:

    I think it’s great that you are doing the “no plow” garden. It is much better for the soil than a roto-tiller. We used one of those big diggers (but from another company) a few years ago on a 20 X 20 spot, but you really can’t do more than a couple rows a day with it. We had 11 foot tall tomato plants that year. We have since moved and I am doing a small straw bale garden which has been fun. Tomatoes are already growing to lemon size with very little work. I think a few more manly neighbors would be a great help to you!

    • Chrissy says:

      I almost considered a tiller this year for the first time… what about it is bad for the soil?

      • Karen says:

        Hi Chrissy. Rototilling your soil is bad for a lot of reasons. Basically it fools you into thinking you have nice friable soil but really it’s an illusion. It mashes up everything in its path including minerals, microorganisms, fungi and bugs. It’s way too disturbing to soil. Soil is a complex system of air, water, minerals and organics. The rototiller literally rips it all apart. It also cuts too deep into the soil messing with the layers of goodness. Your soil will be smooth and light for a little while then it quickly becomes compact and icky. The more you rototill the more you have to rototill and the worse your soil gets. The best thing to do for soil is to simply fork over the first few inches or lightly loosen and then rake it. So what I’ve done with my community garden is lift and loosen the soil with the U Bar and then rake over it lightly to level out and smooth the surface for seeds. Hope that helps a bit. ~ karen!

  33. Melissa says:

    So good to know about the broadfork! I totally thought it would be a great idea, but at 110 lbs, probably not.

  34. Laura Bee says:

    I swear I thought the pink circles had pelicans sitting on them.

  35. Meghan says:

    Love square foot gardening! Before we packed up, sold our house, and moved to Germany, my husband and I used the square foot method for our own garden. The trick to making it easy to weed and low maintenance though is really in the soil: equal parts vermiculite, compost and peat moss. Now, for a garden your size, that would be a lot of dirt mixing, heck for our 4, 16 sq. ft. bed it was a lot of dirt, but it’s totally worth it. And if you need to, just add a little bit of compost back in every couple years to refresh the nutrients.

    Good luck! Looking forward to seeing what you grow. It makes me miss having a garden. And grass. And a backyard.

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