Making space

In February of 2011, I cleared out my 100 square foot garden. I ripped the grass, dug three feet down removing weed seeds, grass roots, and June bug larvae. DH built the edging to keep the crawling St. Augustine and Bermuda at bay, anchoring the edging with posts with which to anchor shade cloth and bean string.

In January of 2012, I rented two plots in the local community garden. My 100 square feet in which to garden jumped to 500 over night. By May of this year, I realized that community gardening, or at least gardening with that community, wasn’t for me.

Even with my stark lack of gardening this year so far, dropping from 500 square feet back to 100 was a bit of a blow. So what’s one to do? Whine and lament the attitudes and personalities of those who made it necessary to leave the extra 400 square feet behind? Nah. That doesn’t solve anything. Unless there’s a complaint quota necessary for being human that I don’t know about…it would solve that.

One makes space.

Shannon over at Dirt ‘n Kids has shared her success with a similar climate to mine using Lasagna Gardening. August is not the time to be digging 36″ down through clay and pebbles to make a new bed. I wanted to grow more seedlings of self-saved broccoli seeds (Green Early Heirloom) and Amazing Cauliflower. I wanted to try my hand at some Ruby Moon Hyacinth Beans and Sugar Ann peas. And then…you get the idea.

I dug in the garage for a box. I must’ve had this same urge ages ago when I first stumbled upon Shannon’s blog, because there was a large cardboard box containing untreated brown packing paper, a neighbor’s discarded leaf bag, and smaller segments of lesser-chemical-ed cardboard eagerly awaiting the day.

I needed boards and screws. DH had gathered a neighbor’s discarded decking for my compost bin and had some extra pieces. I found some excess ends of 2″x4″‘s left over from his saw-horse project. Exterior screws were shelved beside the drywall screws, eye hooks, and other fasteners. I had to choose – 1″ 1/4″ dry wall screws or 4″ exterior screws. I knew the 1″ 1/4″ were too short to bite in properly, and may not weather the outdoors very well. I grabbed the 4″ exterior screws.

I didn’t feel like measuring. So many things in life must be weighed and measured, exact and equal. I find gardening to be good practice for my (slightly obsessive) need for accuracy and organization to let go and see that the world doesn’t collapse. The earth and the bugs and the microbes know infinitely more about what they’re doing than I do. The practice of letting them do what they do is soothing in a culture that glorifies busy-ness and demands constant multi-tasking.

I made thicker sides by putting two boards together, locking them in place with cross boards. The 2″x4″s were to serve as the corner anchors. I started the assembly…and learned that while too-short screws don’t work well, neither do too-long screws. I didn’t mind that they stuck out. I rationalized the tops would be great places to lash string ends. What I didn’t know was that a too-long screw won’t pull two boards together, it will leave them with a gap. Frustration set in. I went inside and was done for the day.

Letting the frustration go, armed with my new knowledge, I picked up a box of 2″ exterior screws and went about the business of removing a 4″ screw, replacing it with a 2″ screw, and repeating my way around the box. The boards cinched together and the box was square. I dug four quick holes to sink the corner posts into the earth. One full of pebbles, one blocked by a concrete over-pour, the other two easy. The bed lowered into place, it was ready for soil-making magic.

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I had already saved up some trimmings and egg cartons, some hay and compost. I’d even saved it in layers (you can see it behind the bed frame.) It was as simple as cutting loose a strip of layered goodies, carefully lifting it off the ground, and nestling it in the wooden frame.
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So I’m not sure how much square footage I gained. I’m ok with that. I’m also ok with the fact that the stump of the maple tree we had to cut down in the front yard has finally bit the dust. Giant sponges of carbon to start the fungal map off right made themselves available the very evening I needed them. The creation of a suburban forest floor.

I put up the drill and the skill saw. I wrapped and tied the extension cord. The shovel and buckets in hand, it was time to go in. DH had made some grass-fed burger patties and Cinderella squash discs on the grill.

And there it was. A forgotten carrot lost beneath the returning basil offering up spring’s sowings.
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7 comments on “Making space

  1. Good luck with your brand new garden bed! And you’re right, carrots in bloom do look like Queen Anne’s Lace – I guess that’s why some people call QAL “wild carrot”. That basil looks luscious – I’ll have to go out tomorrow and pick some of mine. Mmm, pesto…

  2. Shannon says:

    Yeah!! How surprised am I to see you jumping on this wagon? If your lasagna bed is anything like mine, you will have to do just about NOTHING except pick fruit and leaves and EAT THEM. I’ve only found one weed that does not stay out if just one piece of stolon or rhizome is left: Bermuda

    (hissing)

    Of course, with a lasagna bed, the root system is so “loose” in the crumbly soil, it just pulls right up. Easy weeding!! In fact, my lasagna beds are so luscious and green that tomatoes and eggplant are still fruiting with ZERO RAINFALL and no tending by me for more than two months.

    Take that, rototiller. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Next for you? Keyhole garden. It’s a lasagna bed ON STEROIDS. Stay tuned for that one coming late 2013 to DirtNKids.

    Thanks for the bloggy shout-out, A!

    • plumdirt says:

      I thought about a keyhole! Masonry is not something I wanted to venture into with only an hour to spare on construction ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m excited to see how yours goes though!

      • Shannon says:

        Keep it in your hip pocket. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll have a bunch of kids wanting something to do. You can give ’em a pile of those hill country rocks and say to them, “Here. Build this.”

  3. I’m sorry to hear you downsized and left the community garden, but you seem to have taken the challenge on and dare I say it enjoy it !! What with your new found skills at making boxes who knows where this will lead ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy gardening my friend

    • plumdirt says:

      Thanks! I’m not opposed to trying another again in the future…just not that one. Perhaps yours has a friendly cousin on this side of the pond? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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