Tuesday, August 12, 2014

my reassessment season

Here in Memphis, it is still hot as blue blazes but it's time to begin thinking about fall crops.  I have just a few more weeks to start seeds before the weather really begins to change.  I love fall gardening and can't wait to get started, but this year, I have some structural issues to deal with before I can have fun. It is the time of year when I reassess my garden and make changes.   First, what's worked:
I've enjoyed my galvanized tubs this year.  I have cucumbers and basil in the front one, tomatillos in the second (it's almost ready!) underplanted with some tender herbs- creeping rosemary and bicolor sage, dahlias and lavender in the third, and pole beans in the fourth.  They all need a good dose of compost, but they'll keep producing through at least October.  I will start some kale and burgundy mustard seeds in them for when the summer crops give up.  I've also loved the cutting flowers in what was my big raised bed.  The soil is full of root knot nematodes which choked all of my vegetables last year.  I grew marigolds, zinnias, and these large perennial black eyed susans in this space this year.  It was something happy to see from the back door, and the flowers have been full of native bees (as well as my honeybees).  The bed itself is made of cinderblocks, topped with bricks that we cemented in.  We'll repeat this treatment later this fall on a new bed.

 The hyacinth bean vines and Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes that I planted along the front yard fence are doing very well, climbing around and fruiting with abandon.  I can't wait for the hyacinth bean to bloom!  

There are two major areas that need revising.  My front yard raised beds have never done well.  I've added compost and mulch, but the dirt I bought was nutrient deficient to begin with, so I'm planning to pull the beds out and rebuild them with rot-resistant cypress.  These knee-high plants pictured below are supposed to be taller than I am.
And you can see how the level has sunk, and the grass from the lawn has crept in.  So I'll pull off the frames, put everything in the compost, reframe the two beds into fours smaller beds, and bring in a truckload of promix and compost to begin again.  I'm saving up all of the cardboard boxes my clay comes in to line the bottom of the beds so that they'll have a fighting chance against the bermuda and zoysia grasses that make up the lawn.

The side of our house is getting a complete makeover, which began today.  There is a 3 ft wide flowerbed that was filled with bermuda grass, heirloom bulbs, and a wandering fern that, while lovely, forms a thick black mat of stems at ground level.  As this is the south side of my house, I'd like to be able to plant sun-loving vegetables and have a cutting garden in this space, and it had become a weedy embarrasment.  Today, we began clearing it out.  It looks BAD.  It probably looks worse than it did before we cleared it.

The little tripod is protecting a Japanese Kerria that came from my grandmother's house and was being choked by the ferns.  We replanted a few echinacea and yellow coneflower, saving a few pieces that we dug out of the mess, but we trashed/composted the bulk of what we pulled out.  The edging you see to the right will be raised with brick-topped cinderblocks, just like my back raised bed.  I'll  fill the majority of this new bed with compost and promix to become a home for cutting flowers like sunflowers and zinnias, as well as sun-loving vegetables.  As soon as the soil is settled this fall, I'll plant carrots, greens, and radishes, then top with pansies.  Tomorrow we finish clearing out the grass and begin to smother what's left with cardboard and mulch.  Progress is so ugly sometimes, but this area needed a fresh start.

I'm looking forward to cooler days, more order in my garden spaces, and starting my cool season crops.

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