Saturday, October 31, 2009

Starting a Vegetable Garden

After many years of living in the mountains, my husband and I moved back to the place of our birth and the home of our hearts – The Great State of Kansas!! It was late summer when the move was completed and once everything was unpacked and put away; the next order of business was planning a garden – a real vegetable garden – which we had missed so much in the past several years.

So, I surveyed my little estate, picked the side of the yard where it was protected from the wind, but got a lot of sun and declared “This will be my garden!”

With the help of my husband and grandson and an entire winter of working (no, it doesn’t always snow every day and it isn’t always cold in Kansas in the winter) we dug out shrubs and found 18” of lava rock on the ground underneath – now I do not know who created lava rock, but there is absolutely no space in my vegetable garden for them. I started with the lofty goal of picking up 20 pieces per day in the most Queenly of manner. It soon became apparent that this method was netting me zero progress! So, we scooped, we put 3 trugs in the dumpster each week, we scooped some more, we took giant boxes full to my step-mother on the other end of the State, we scooped some more. We offered it to local landscapers who offered to trade what they wanted to get rid of to us for ours. We swore that it was giving birth to little pieces each night while we slept. One week I got carried away with what I put in the dumpster and was presented with a note the morning after pick-up that said “Too heavy to lift” and all my lava rock left in the dumpster. Seemed we would never get to the end, and since Spring was right around the corner by then, we borrowed my Godson’s pickup and after three trips to the landfill with the pickup loaded to the max, we were finished with the lava rock. The landfill is an experience no Queen should ever have and fuel for another story, but believe me it doesn’t take many minutes there before I was a real “Prickly Pear” and pretty well finished for the rest of that week – poor little muscles!

Next step – prepare the soil. Sounds easy, doesn’t it, well, let me tell you that is not for the weak at heart! You beg, borrow, rent, or buy a rototiller – and once the gas and oil are full, a mystery never totally solved by me, you start it and away you go – this is the most muscle-building experience known to woman-kind – unless you are training for Miss Universe – and this one doesn’t involve oiling your body, just the machine! There is a rope, there is a little rubber handle and there is a lot of yanking, many invoked blessings, and finally it sputters – this is when you are supposed to keep one hand on one part, another hand on another part adjusting it, and use your foot to hold the whole thing together until the adjustments are made and you are once again upright and composed.

After three trips over the designated area it was time to pick up the grass clumps and rake – carefully judging the weight of each clump to avoid the “Too heavy to lift” note, we filled in all the bare spots that we could find in the yard and tossed the rest in the dumpster, which by then was my most important garden tool. Of course before you can toss any into the dumpster, you must do the “shake, shake, shake” with it to remove any precious soil from the roots.

Time to amend the soil – a Queenly brew of peat moss, horse manure, compost, and staying as organic as possible, no chemicals on the garden. Again, the rototiller, if there is any doubt in your mind what part of your body is flabby, I recommend about three minutes behind a rototiller, anything that is not firmly affixed to bone will shake and rattle, and roll!! So, strolling behind it like a drunken sailor that job was finished.

Finally it was time to do the final raking and sit down with a long tall glass of tea and a stack of seed catalogs that would have killed me if it had fallen on me. What to plant and where to plant it, so many ideas and so little space and room – although I was reminded the space was 27 feet long and 20 feet wide – it seemed so huge when it was being prepared and so small when it came to the planning stage.

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