Wednesday, February 9, 2011


guess I should tell you that I’ve been a gardener of sorts all of my life.  In my childhood, I would sneak into the neighbors’ gardens and gather seeds from their Lady Slippers to plant in my mother’s small patch.  My  grandmother was a wonderful gardener, but was interested mostly in flowers, except for one very large peach tree in her Philadelphia enclosed garden.  Now I know that I was small and all things look proportionally larger than when you grow up, but that one tree produced the most delicious largest peaches I ever ate.  Any that were not  eaten right off the tree would be canned and we would enjoy them in the strudels and pies that she would bake in her small linoleum kitchen. When I got married and moved into our first house, uninvited rhubarb sprouted from our backyard and I never really got used to that taste and finally dug it out.  Over the years and in various houses, we had vegetable gardens of little success.  It was usually a shady patch to blame, or the time constraints of raising a family.  But nevertheless, we would always have a few obligatory tomato plants struggling to survive.  And the small harvests from these plants provided a happy feast at the end of the summer.  When we moved into our current house, I again planted a vegetable garden – under a canopy of towering poplar trees.  Between the shade of the trees, and the wildlife living in this poplar forest, vegetable gardening became such a battle that I eventually replaced it with a wildflower shade garden.  It wasn’t until a wind storm toppled some trees, opening up a hole in the canopy,  that I decided to give it one more try.  One more very serious try.   So after spending a few weeks researching the internet and reading anything that I could find about raised bed  gardening, I finally put three 4x8’ beds in.  I filled them with compost and some manure from the horse up the street, leaves from the poplars and some garden  soil to top it all off.  I made a fence out of wildlife netting to keep out the critters and bought my seeds.  Well, that first spring the garden got off to a great start until some varmint ate all the beautiful seedlings.  Not only that, but I caught a squirrel red-handedly (paw?) chewing right threw the plastic netting.  That’s when I went out and bought a metal fence and even though a squirrel could easily climb it, it deterred any additional nibbling.  In fact, I was so paranoid, I put fences inside fences, inside fences and found that once the plants were pretty well established, and maybe because there were other things for the animals to eat, they left my garden alone.   Once I made the hoophouse, the plastic could be replaced by netting making a very effective barrier.   So I guess that there is always some problem – weather, animals, shade, blight – but that’s what keeps it all so interesting. 

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