To grow a great garden, you need great soil. Mrs. Sloan has problem soil. With each house move, we have moved to ever worsening soil. The latest move took us to a plot of land with demanding cool season grass, basically, a food and water junkie, on a former cattle pasture. There was K31 Fescue lurking just below the surface. K31 Fescue is a grass specifically designed for cattle pastures. It is very difficult to eradicate, requiring hand digging to remove it. Once it emerges, it creates a flat open “head” which is not only an unattractive turf but also not conducive to playing any kind of game. After much hand digging and pouring food and water onto the desired grass, we believe we have the fescue problem under control.
At our previous property, we grew tomatoes, herbs, okra, green beans, raspberries, blackberries, Old Time Tennessee muskmelons, grapes and Cherries. But here, nothing much seemed to thrive. Except for mint, mint always thrives.
After adding the deck to the back of the house, Mr. Sloan rototilled around it, adding soil amendments, peat moss and compost. This was very needed as the ground was hard and nutrient poor. We planted Carissa Hollies to soften and hide the base of the deck. After amendment with pecan hulls, Azaleas were planted in the shady area under the fireplace. Antique garden roses, Kronprincessin Victoria and Madame Ernest Calvat were installed on the sunnier side of the deck.
But the kitchen garden was neglected. We attempted tomatoes in the spot where the roses now thrive but they didn’t fare well. We provided a feast for tomato hornworms and other bugs with low or no yield for us. We gave up for many years. Last year, we tried again on a very limited basis. This time we grew in pots, with magnificent soil. At last, success! Albeit we only had one small harvest of carrots and one of radishes, but they made a lovely side dish and a wonderful salad.
Emboldened by our previous container garden success, we took the plunge to consider expanding the garden experiment. Mrs. Sloan is very picky about the looks of the garden! Her Pinterest board is filled with beautiful French and English potagers, most of which are too large to fit on the property. Willow bordered beds are a favorite, but until recently, assumed to be strictly the province of those with a gardener who meticulously weaves these by hand. Mrs. Sloan certainly doesn’t have a gardener, nor an abundance of willow or weaving skills. Thankfully, raised willow garden beds can be purchased. Master Garden Products carries raised willow garden beds in a variety of sizes and depths.
Mr. Sloan is a reluctant gardener, partially due to spring being a busy season for him and less than ideal for having time to plant, and partially because he grew up without gardens. Given that, a 4′ by 4′ wide by 18″ depth garden is all that he agreed to try. The depth is chosen for the aforementioned Carrots, which need depth.
Mrs. Sloan realizes that all her previous gardens were 4 feet by 29 feet. Now we all know that at least one more of these raised beds is likely to be necessary. But, until then, a plan for one garden encompassing all the varieties of tomatoes on order and all the peppers, not to mention the lettuce and beans and corn and carrots and radishes and, well, you get the picture. A plan needs to be in place. Square foot gardening seems to be the way to go.
Using excel, I developed a square foot garden plan, then filled it. Square foot gardening says that one square can be dedicated to marigolds, but giving up a square seems a waste of space. Though it may not work, I plan to try planting the marigolds under the tomatoes. Corn, Southern peas or beans, and squash are known as the three sisters. The corn provides support for the beans or peas to grow up the stalk and the squash shades the soil. Unfortunately, a stink bug infestation means that squash is not likely to be wildly successful. This is the plan as is stands now.
The willow bed arrives soon, requiring 24 cubic feet of dirt to fill it. The tomatoes and peppers are on order and the seeds have been gathered. Planting time is getting close!