It's easier for some of us to answer the call to self-isolate during COVID-19 than it is for others. Alan and I are both happiest when we're creating something or helping another person or animal. Luckily, I fall on the list of people Alan readily helps. We are quite grateful to enjoy pursuing our creative inclinations, and more fortunate that we take joy in being together – carrying through us through this pandemic in a peaceful home. That's a true blessing in these uncertain times. Our families and friends are also great gifts and comforts to us. Thank you. I wish everyone enjoyed the same peace of mind. Sadly, the peace and comfort of many people are at greater risk now.
Sanctuary for us also comes with the joys of gardening. For approximately 20 years we've had some form of veggie garden in the backyard. At first we were sad and surprised that we needed raised beds. That's a story for another day. Yet, we've learned the benefits of raised beds in northern climates, and we've accepted the challenge of rotating our humble crops each year.
We have four 4' x 12' beds which Alan built. During our more ambitious years we overloaded the perimeter of the garden with potted plants. Three raspberry canes were gifts via Freecycle. One not only has survived – it thrives! Our blueberry bushes took a few years to mature and only have begun to fruit consistently during the last three years. Although we draped that end of the garden with abundant bird netting, it was apparent that we were outfoxed by some eight inch flying creatures. The work we did to dissuade the birds from eating our berries tripped us up more than those hungry birds.
Back to the drawing board.
More than two winters ago I researched bird netting. Larger sizes of netting are not cheap. We eventually bought netting to cover the entire garden from front to back and left to right. I had the easy job of doing the research. COVID-19 provided Alan a break from our usual routine so he could do the physical work. And work it is!
During many years, the work of the summer and the harvest of the fall have given us great joy together in the garden. In several other summers, the garden wasn't so grand – neglected by us while we tended to other obligations, needs or interests. During the last summer or two it was extremely apparent that an overhaul was due. An overhaul we were not willing or able to do for any of several reasons.
I'll add photos from 20 year ago (and our first harvest) at a later date. As a point of reference, here's a screenshot from 2010.
The garden hadn't been fully planted for the season. The fence was low. The only planted small berries were strawberries. Parenthetically, the red plastic mulch enabled sunlight to be filtered to grow tomatoes faster and larger (in northern states). Strawberries, too. If you're interested in learning more, here's one reference from the USDA, "Red Plastic Could Bloom in Gardens This Year," written in 1998. Marigolds help to prevent pests and predators while attracting bees and adding beauty to the garden. They are a great companion to most vegetables.
One of the beauties of having a garden over a long period of time is that - even in the messy off years - minimal efforts can yield joy and bounty.
This snap was taken during the second half of October 2019.
Although the garden was a fading mess it was still producing despite our neglect. For many years, our garden also caught the attention of some of our neighbors who forage for food. Here's one:
And another 2019 forager :-)
As the first frost of fall 2019 approached, we recognized that the garden would need a lot of TLC if we ever were to return it to earlier abundance and beauty. Silhouettes of formerly raised beds had become small berms. The netting tore on the trellis we had used for cukes and some beans. One of last winter's early (and only) storms toppled the trellis for good.
As they say in sports, 2020 would be a "rebuilding year." Our team and league: veggie gardening.
Alan has begun rebuilding the raised beds. We almost had enough scrap wood stored in the basement for the posts he set to support our massive length of bird netting. Never one to take the easy route, Alan is manually screening the weeds and debris from the old beds. (He fashioned the screener some years back.) We have some leftover plastic red mulch. More importantly, we also have some heavy agricultural cloth which is nifty at suppressing weeds. The materials sold in the big box stores pale greatly compared with the "good stuff."
Our two compost bins, Bert and Gert – named for people we loved in our Attleboro years – were already full of the real black gold: great compost. Getting that compost from here to there posed a bit of another problem. Alan is fixing the wheelbarrow. He's a very busy man out there!
Uh oh. There are two?
Thanks for your interest in our garden's renaissance. We'll add some photos and text as we progress – if the rabbits, deer, and turkeys allow us.