Now that we have lived in our house for nearly 11 years, I realize that a good third of that time has been spent gardening. Our “front lawn” was a joke; it wasn’t big enough to need a lawn mower, but big enough to be a poor excuse for a front lawn.
So the Crankee Yankee came up with a brilliant idea: he began making raised beds for gardening. He put together the first four garden beds with wooden boards, and put crushed stone all around them. This of course meant digging out all that sparse and unpretty lawn first, but once the boards and the stone went down, it looked pretty good.
We filled each bed with loam (we had been composting for quite a while, and had a sizeable heap of good loam), then cow manure (say what you will about the stink; the stuff is great for gardening!). Then we began planting. The first year we put in beets, garlic, radishes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, herbs, cucumbers and brussels sprouts, and peas; tons of peas.
We learned quickly that a little planting goes a long, long way. We ate out of the garden, gave a lot of produce away, and never once went to the produce counter at the grocery store. It was fun, and we learned a lot.
Now, four years later, we pretty much have our act together. We keep a record of where we plant what, so that we can rotate our “crops.” We now have eight beds, and each year the Crankee Yankee does what he calls “McGyver-ing” the fences for the peas, tomatoes and cucumbers as these tend to be climbers.
Last year we had so many peas and tomatoes that everyone we knew always went home with bags of produce. But this year, the Crankee Yankee has a whole new spin on planting. We learned the hard way not to plant tomatoes in rows that are too close to each other; the same with peas. The tomatoes will form minor jungles, and it becomes hard to reach them all. But the pea jungle takes over like that old sci-fi movie, “The Day of the Triffids.”
The peas really need space. I learned this early on; my best exercising was always in the pea patch. I would hang on to one side of the McGyvered fence, and stretch my arm out as far as I could to pick the peas. The rows were way too narrow to walk in comfortably.
So this year, the Crankee Yankee has come up with yet a new pea planting ploy (say that five times fast!): the “pea tee-pees.” He plans to make the tee-pees out of wire, and plant the peas so that they will twine up the sides. This will mean a bigger space to walk into and harvest, instead of stretching our arms out of their sockets trying to pick the peas.
Wish us luck! Oh, and if you should drive by when the garden is in full bloom, stop by. We’ll gladly give you some of the produce overage!