I’m not an expert on vegetable gardens. As in so many areas of my life, I’ve read a lot of books on the topic but I’ve never done any real gardening myself. I do have a bit of experience from the big garden we had in our backyard when I was a child. My grandfather, who was a great gardener, put it in for us, 10×10 feet or so, surrounded by railroad ties, and filled with neat rows of warm red tomatoes and fast-multiplying zucchini. We had red currant bushes and raspberry canes, little apple and pear trees and one giant sour-cherry tree, great for pies and beloved by birds. On the other side of the yard a rhubarb patch kept us well supplied with pie fillings throughout the spring. (It was a very pie-centric childhood). Despite growing up with a bountiful garden, I never got out there much myself. This year I’m hoping that my knowledge of the delights of a vegetable garden will make up for my lack of familiarity with the mechanics of the enterprise.
It’s been somewhat easier than I imagined to start the whole thing. I used graph paper to plan out the space, brought home the seeds and seedlings from the nursery, and started digging up the grass where I wanted to plant. That was sweaty work, but didn’t take too long. The hardest part was digging all the rocks out of the ground and dealing with the sorry state of the soil. We live in a quite new condo neighbourhood and the developers of such places have a very helpful habit of carting away all the topsoil and filling in the ground with gravel and shards of brick. The earth that is there is mostly cold, hard clay. To make up for all this I had to bring in a lot of topsoil and some well-rotted manure from the nursery. I hope my plants can manage in these circumstances, but as far as I can tell they are doing quite alright.
In order to provide my garden with some nutrients in the future, I built a mulch bin out of 1x2s and chicken wire. The mulch bin (or compost pile, if you prefer) was a big part of our childhood garden. I was always amazed by how soft and green the grass was that grew in the rich, damp soil around the bin.
I’m also keeping a calendar to record important garden dates, such as planting and harvest days – like today, when I ate the first strawberry! (Although the rest of them appear to be several weeks away).