Spring brings new light and a new fence to Turning Toward the Sun.
Change is happening in the kitchen garden out back.
I’ve been planting vegetables and herbs in raised beds for a long time, at least two decades and probably more than a quarter-century, in the fertile ground at the back of our city lot in this hundred-year-old neighborhood. Two things have been a constant frustration to successful peppers and succulent tomatoes: increasing shade cast by a ring of venerable old trees, and rabbits.
Because of our wealth of trees, the only time the area gets full sun in summer is for about an hour in the morning and another couple of hours late in the afternoon. Dappled shade the rest of the day causes everything to grow tall and rangy, all stems and leaves and very little produce.
Spinach stays safe for now in wire cloches.
Red-veined sorrel awaits release from its cage.
Then rabbits eat much of what’s out there even before some of it has a chance to grow, a problem I’ve tried to solve with an ugly assemblage of chicken wire cloches and cages and wobbly chicken wire fences that keep the rabbits out, but also keep me from being able to get to the plants without taking everything apart.
One day at the bitter end of last summer, I stood out in the middle of the yard looking at the overgrown, under-producing garden and the chewed nubs of bell pepper plants and said to whoever was listening, “Why do I even bother?”
Spring puts everything in a different light, of course. This year I’ve decided to try one more time to grow a more productive kitchen garden, and invest in improvements that might make that happen. First, I removed a small, misplaced tree – a little Liberty elm that was so shaded itself that it had grown almost diagonally and hung low over two of the raised beds — to open up the tree canopy to allow more light. If I read the sun and the remaining trees right, this should allow at least another hour of direct sun onto about half the garden area.
Lettuce, kale and spinach transplants in a newly built and shortened raised bed.
The biggest change may also be the most significant: I decided to replace the scattering of chicken wire fortifications, and hired Chad, a friend who is a handyman to build a sturdy, rabbit-proof fence that surrounds all eight raised beds. Two gates will allow access, but once inside, I will be able to reach all the beds easily, and won’t have to move cloches or disassemble cages or bend over fences to plant, weed or pick beans. I will be able to get to the vegetables, and the rabbits won’t.
That’s the plan, anyway. This morning, the kitchen garden out back was a construction zone as Chad and Ryan set posts and cut lumber. They rebuilt and shortened some of the beds to make room for the fence posts and widen a path. They’ve been working carefully around the herbs and early spring vegetables that are already growing, and I’ve moved a healthy clump of golden oregano and a large and lovely sage to new positions in the shortened herb bed. I hope those herbs survive the move, but if they don’t, I understand it’s part of what happens in a garden, which is always a work in progress.
Here’s another picture of the construction zone at Turning Toward the Sun. In the next few days, I hope to be able to show off these new ideas.