I wanted a vegetable garden of my very own, separate from the one in back of our house, which Betsy and I work together. So last year I took over a 40-by-60-foot plot near a brook and shielded from a hiking path by tall weeds.
It’s been a challenge. My garden is at Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, two miles from our house. It is very nice to have a brook close by, for the peaceful sound it makes and the water it provides (below right). But unlike our other garden, I can’t just walk out back and check the plants whenever I feel like it. A big part of organic gardening is constant monitoring for insects.
Also, this land had not been worked for a while and is sandy. I’ve lugged in lots of compost and manure to build up the soil, and have to water the crops whenever it doesn’t rain. Last fall I brought in 32 buckets of manure in eight loads, pushing a wheelbarrow the fifth of a mile between the parking lot and the garden. I’m constantly filling up four gallon milk jugs with water from the brook and carrying them over.
There have been delights — and teachable moments. Last year’s spinach, tomato, eggplant and butternut squash crops did well, and this year the broccoli is starting to head up (photo at left) and the potatoes look impressive. I’m doing an experiment with red plastic mulch on two tomato and eggplant beds. I’ve figured out that I need to protect many of the crops from insects with garlic-pepper spray, and heavy mulching after a rain diminishes the amount of watering I have to do.
I’ve invested a lot in the 19 beds of this garden. I’ve improved the soil, I’ve placed cardboard and wood chips along the paths to snuff out weeds, I’ve scavenged for logs to border the beds. Unlike our backyard garden, there’s plenty of space (about 500 square feet of planting area) and plenty of sun (except for the four small beds nearest the brook, which are partially shaded by trees). There are also plenty of dogs running by, requiring that I build a fence around the garden.
Has it been worth it? Well, that’s something I’m going to decide at the end of this growing season. Will the time I spend there (and getting there) seem justified based on the joy it gives me and the vegetables it provides? Is it taking too much of my time and attention away from our urban homestead? I’ll be discussing these questions in the blog this summer and write what I’ve decided in September.