This weekend was an oxymoron, it was both laborious and relaxing all at the same time. Turns out this hard work, manual labor kind of home life is right up my alley. We filled and planted the planter boxes and pallets, edged, mowed and trimmed both yards, and took another step toward winterizing the coop/run. There have also been some shake ups in the flock, nothing detrimental, just necessary. It all ended with dirt under my nails, paint on my hands and a few tender battle wounds.
It has taken a few weeks to determine the best route to fill our gigantic raised garden planters. Seems three 6′ x 6′ x 10″ planters require A LOT of dirt to fill them. The Handsome Hubs called around and priced out the delivery of 10 yards of garden soil, not a pretty number. We priced out purchasing the 3 cubic foot packages from the home improvement store, that would require 36 bags, yikes! When asking about a possible discount we were denied, seriously? We were asking about more than a pallet worth of soil. Ok, that one was out too. The Hubs being in the construction industry came across a fella in excavation. This great guy was more than eager to deliver our needed mound of dirt for free. Only problem, he has a tractor trailer with a 30 foot bed and we have low hanging power and phone lines that would make the dump sight inside our garage. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work either. Now we were back to square one and I was fast running out of patience as I really wanted a fall/winter garden in and the planting window was fast closing. While scrolling around the internet I came across a planting method I had forgotten about when we began building the planters. It’s called the “Lasagna” Garden and is meant for serious weed suppression in those hard to weed garden locations.
For me it was a light bulb moment. The “ingredients” for these layered garden beds are far cheaper than all the dirt. You need newspaper or cardboard (had that lying around the house and garage), Alfalfa hay (Less than $20 from the local feed store), fertilizer (thank you chickens and rabbit), straw ($10 at that same feed store), more fertilizer (same chickens and rabbit) and compost/garden soil (that came from the home improvement store). Yes we still had to purchase garden soil but only a third of what it would have taken to just use garden soil. After several trips to the home improvement store and the feed store the Kiddo and I set about building our garden layers.
Step one: Lay down a layer of at least 4 sheets of newspaper or a flattened cardboard box, wet it down. (we had to tag team this step one spreading paper, the other hitting sections with the hose so they didn’t blow way. We then divided the bale of alfalfa into 3rd’s, one for each planter.
Spread it out and tamp it down by walking on it, it should be about 4 inches thick. Sprinkle 1 inch of composted manure over that. (Note: If you don’t have the composted manure you can use store bought fertilizer but don’t spread it as thick).
Top that with an 8 inch layer of loose straw.
(The Girls were more than happy to help loosen up the bale of straw)
Next, another round of the fertilizer about an inch thick. Finally, top this all off with about 4 inches of compost. We went with 2 bags (3 cubic feet each) of the organic garden soil topped with one bag (1.5 cubic feet) of organic compost.
Water it all in thoroughly, give it a good soaking but don’t drown it. All that remains is to plant it. Here is where I discovered that even at 6 feet tall, a planter box that is 6 feet square with a 20″ tall fence around is too big for me to easily reach the center to plant. Oops. Will be interesting come harvest time, that’s for sure. Oh well, stretching is good for the body.
What we have planted: Peas, a rainbow of carrots (literally, red, orange, yellow, purple and creamy white) 2 varieties of radishes, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower (white and a chartreuse), Brussels sprouts, red and yellow onions, scallions, garlic, bok choy, 3 varieties of beets (Detroit Red, Gueardsmark and Gold), celery, mustard (mainly for rabbit food), spinach, 3 varieties of lettuce (Romaine, Bibb and salad bowl), cabbage, parsley, dill, kale, Swiss chard and a sweet mesclun mix. This added to the artichokes, potatoes, herbs, strawberries and remaining pepper plants is an exciting fall/winter garden that, fingers crossed, should give us a wonderful harvest.
It was so rewarding working on the planters. Spending the afternoon in the warm sunshine, getting dirt under my nails as I planted seeds that will hopefully bring us a bounty of home grown, organic vegetables in the coming months and most importantly, spending the afternoon with my Kiddo who is fast approaching adulthood.
Days like these are too few and far between. It is so nice, if even just for the one afternoon, as Sunday found her buried in her homework for all but a few short hours of the day. Saturday afternoon found us sweating, schlepping, hefting and laughing together. We built this garden as a family for our family. What an incredible feeling.
One of the potato towers.
On Sunday the Hubby and I worked together to get both yards edged, mowed and blown. He also had some downed palm fronds that needed to be cut off the trees, cut down to size and stuffed into the trash cans. Once we were done with the yard maintenance we were able to turn our attention, once again, to the winterizing of the coop/run. A substantial chance of rain is forecasted for our area the middle of this week and our coop & run are still not ready. Facia board was on the docket this day. Which meant The Handsome Hubs measured and cut and I wielded the paint brush. No matter how hard I try, I always manage to get paint on my hands when I’m painting. I also manage to get it on my feet, face, clothing, the ground, yep, I’m nothing if not thorough.
We started this project rather late in the afternoon and since it was Sunday I put a cap on our hours of labor, I wanted to end the day at dinner time so after dinner we could take turns in the shower and just relax as a family before starting our busy work week. Luckily I had my wits about me earlier in the day and had thrown the ingredients for beef stew in the crockpot, set it to 6 hours on high and went back to work. There was NO WAY I or any one else was going to have it in them to make a nice Sunday dinner. Yay for the crockpot! I foresee the use of it on many a Sunday. At 6pm we started clean up and evening animal chores. By 7 we were all done and sat down to a delicious family supper. By 10 we were all showered and wiped out.
This has been one of the busiest weekends at home and yet I have come away more relaxed than many other weekends. Battle wounds, oh yeah. Let’s see, alfalfa is a rather stiff hay that taught me I should always were gloves and long sleeves when handling, I was stabbed in the hand and scraped on the wrists and arms. I have also learned to keep my finger clear from between boards when using power tools. Relax, I only managed to pinch the skin of my index finger between two boards when drilling holes in the top one. This resulted in a lovely, and tender, blood blister. But after a kiss from the Hubby and a bit of ice I was good as new.