Some of you may be wondering how the garden is doing.
For new readers, let me recap very briefly. For nine years I fought our horrible sticky clay-y soil and got nowhere. I also fought weeds worthy of a jungle expedition, and constant attacks by deer. In short, my gardening attempts were a shambles.
For a successful garden, we needed to control three things: soil, weeds, and deer. We needed to do this as economically as possible, with a long-term goal of making the garden as maintenance-free as possible. I hit the half-century mark last year and Don is five years older, so our bodies are not what they used to be. I don't want the garden to be so physically overwhelming that we can't keep up with it as we get older.
The solution to the deer problem was, simply, to raise the fences to eight feet. Haven't had a stitch of trouble since then.
For weed control (since we didn't want to use poison), we obtained old vinyl billboard tarps from an advertisement company in Spokane. We anchored them with gravel. (We ran out of both time and gravel and only got less than half the garden tarped, so we'll continue our efforts next spring.) Incidentally, the difference in weed control between the tarped and untarped parts of the garden are staggering.
For soil issues, I abandoned the idea of planting directly in the ground and went with raised beds. Initially we put in four raised beds for small fruits (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) and they proved immensely successful.
But the massive beams we used for the fruit beds were limited (we dismantled someone's old barn a few years ago and the beams came from that barn) and we needed lots and lots and lots more raised beds in order to have a successful garden. What kind of resource could we find that was cheap or free for making raised beds? It was Don who came up with the brainchild of using tires. We fill the tires with compost and topsoil.
Some people express concern that using tires will poison us. Rest assured, that's not the case. Please see this website for clarification.
Through trial and error, we learned to put the tires directly on top of the tarps and gravel. If we lay the tires directly on the ground and fit the tarps around them (as we did for so many of the tires we already had in place before coming up with the notion of using tarps), then weeds will find their way through every chink and crack... plus grow up through the tire center. By putting the tire directly on the tarp, the gravel promotes drainage, the tarps protect from weeds, and weeds won't grow up from the soil below. But this also means the plants grow solely in the tire itself, so we have to factor in root depth and plant type, etc.
For this reason, and also because we've found they're easier to handle in the long run, we've transitioned away from smaller tires and moved toward using big tractor tires, which are abundant in rural areas. We even get them delivered.
Anyway, this is what I've got growing in the garden this year:
Here's an update as to how these items look, with any specific links if I made a blog post about them.
Peas. Unlike last year when I had peas coming out my ears, this year's peas didn't do as well. The one that grew are podding beautifully, but not everything grew. Oh well.
I have several places I planted pinto beans, and they're all coming in beautifully.
Green beans. I didn't plant a whole lot because I already have so many canned up.
Broccoli. It's growing luxuriantly but not producing a lot of heads.
The older ever-bearing strawberry beds. As you can see, they've recovered quite nicely from being devastated by the deer.
They're still producing some fruit.
The newer, June-bearing strawberries. These are done for the season. (The orange splot in front is a bit of billboard tarp that didn't get covered with gravel.)
Our one surviving fruit tree is producing a lovely crop of pears this year.
I have two peach trees barely clinging to life...
...but rather to my surprise I have some peach sprouts coming up. What the heck, I'll keep them watered.
Raspberries. These are two years old and got severely eaten by deer last year. Thankfully raspberries are like weeds and they came back strongly. We got a nice crop this year.
Blueberries. These have produced heavily this year, and I've harvested at least nine pounds with more to come.
Garlic. Yeah yeah, I know... I never got around to snipping off the scapes (what can I say, it's been a busy summer). The garlic bulbs are likely to be a bit smaller as a result, but such is life.
Pumpkins. My goodness, they've taken over one whole corner.
I have dozens of pumpkins coming in, some as large as basketballs.
Here are the watermelons and cantaloups. You can see why I spaced all the "viney tires" so far apart.
Most of these melons are short-season hybrids. Normally I don't like to plant hybrids, but I ran out of time (since we were working on the garden infrastructure until the very last minute). But I must say they're producing beautifully.
Watermelons. (There are three in the top photo, somewhat buried in leaves.)
Cantaloup. (There are at least five in the top photo.) There are so many cantaloups that I'll be handing them out to all the neighbors.
The tomatoes flopped. Grunt. There go my dreams of canning tomato sauce.
That's the garden tour. Next spring we'll be laying tarp and gravel in the rest of the garden and put in yet more tires. I want to plant oil sunflowers, a LOT more beans, and probably more potatoes, etc.