Monday, October 21, 2013

Reconfiguring the Garden


This past summer wasn't a big one for gardening.  We had an unexpected amount of work to do at the theater, creating the pre-Broadway production of No Man's Land, with Ian McKellen and Parick Stewart.  I may not have tended my vegetables, but I really can't complain.

Over the past two weekends, I cleared out all the plants that were past their prime, and started the daunting task of loosening up our rock-like soil in preparation for whatever winter crops I might plant.

While the soil tests we had done when we first moved in assure us that we have great mineral content, our dirt might as well be made of cement.  It has terrible texture, no doubt because our neighborhood is built on an earthed-over stream-bed.  My soil is pure silt.  

The strange thing is that no matter how much organic material I dig in, the texture remains the same.  Dense, and rock-hard.  We compost like maniacs, I collect rabbit manure, I mulch everywhere.  And as far as I can tell, this stuff just de-materializes.

Or maybe not.  If I dig a foot down, there's a powdery layer of what I assume is some kind of fungus.  Is that the remnants of the countless cubic yards of organic material that I've dug into my soil?  I like to think it is.

In addition to digging past the point of exhaustion, Robb and I re-configured the garden fencing.  Robb clever built the fence as a totally modular structure.  I wanted to exclude the chickens from more of the crop-growing part of the garden.  Our feathery dinosaurs have two favorite activities: eating every plant in sight, and digging massive holes.  Neither of which are particularly helpful to our home vegetable garden.

We expanded the garden, back toward the World's Ugliest Fence.  And shortened it on the side by the hen-house.  We figure that the Saint Catherine's Lace probably doesn't need protection from chickens.

Non-Californians will be amazed by the size of our rosemary bush, which we bought three or four years ago in a four-inch pot.  Those things get to be as large as automobiles, around here.  Strangely, the chickens don't show any interest in eating rosemary, though they love to dig underneath the bush.

The girls are still molting.  Isabella (white and grey) looks especially goofy, with just two long tail feathers poking out of her backside.  Anne Elliott (seated) is the only hen who is laying any eggs.  We got two eggs from our four hens last week. 

Two eggs.  Yeah, there's not much food being produced around here, these days.

If you're interested at seeing what other gardeners are doing, mosey on over to Daphne's blog, for  her weekly round-up.


Michelle said...

Perhaps you should grow something like creeping fig on that ugly fence, it would cling to it and it's evergreen in our climate, it would be the perfect thing to cover it up.

My native soll is as bad as yours, probably worse, it's just grit, hard as rock when dry and it eats compost faster than I can eat chocolate. That's why I have such huge raised beds full of imported soil in the veggie garden. I just laughed when my husband said we're saving so much money growing our own veggies.

Daphne Gould said...

I felt like that at my last house. We had clay. It seemed like no matter how much I added the soil as horribly heavy. But it did produce better toward the end of my stay there. Two decades of adding compost does add up. I could even grow carrots the last few year and have them look like carrots instead of stubs. When we moved to our current house the builder hadn't added in the soil yet. So we told him not to and I put in good soil. Now digging isn't such a pain and carrots grow long and straight.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

"Eats compost faster than I can eat chocolate." PERFECT!!!

We had good luck with scarlet runner beans next to the World's Ugliest Fence. Next year, we'll built serious trellises and plant the place up with beans!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Yep. There's no hope of growing carrots in this soil!

Norma Chang said...

Given a bit more time your soil will improve. When I first started my garden I focused on one small area at a time, took years, but the overall texture is good now. Am still amending after all these years.

Anne Bonny said...

"Our feathery dinosaurs" hahahahah, that's phenomenal.

Bee Girl said...

Amending soil takes time. I find myself frustrated often, but have to surrender to the process. It sounds as though you're doing everything right, though!!! Our chickens are molting, too. Poor, poor production. Ugh...I try to be grateful for each egg, but when the cost of feed is going through the roof and the Ladies are giving me just a few eggs a day (we have 15 hens), it can be super frustrating! It's a good thing they're cute! ;-)


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