After considering several places around our little bit of East Tennessee, we decided that the old chicken yard would certainly have enough sun, but it needed a makeover to be ideal. I got out of chickens several years ago and this space had been incorporated into the goat yard, though they rarely made it over there. What a waste of a sunny place!
Early March I was looking on YouTube for some gardening ideas and I ran across "Roots and Refuge Farm" and I liked her encouraging approach to gardening. I watched many of their videos over the next few weeks and knew that time was a wasting if I wanted to get a garden in this spring. March 25th I began to transform the old chicken yard into a "no till" "deep mulch" garden. Ruth Stout is my champion here, she wrote several books about it in the 50's and 60's. The first book I read by Ruth Stout was "How to have a green thumb without an aching back". She switched to a continuous deep mulch system on a well established garden that she had been cultivating already for 10 years, so she was ahead of the game there. All she had to do was to import bales of hay and scatter it around and voila, deep mulch almost weed free, rich garden. My story is much different, I think the "no aching back" comes later. I managed to take some before pictures, but that was after I had moved the chain link fence panels to close the garden off from the goats, so you will have to use your imagination just a little bit.
This boxwood stump used to have a chain link panel running just to the left of it, and it took me several hours using a handsaw to cut the fence away from it. I will have to take an axe to the stump if I want to get rid of it!
|chain link fence with a boxwood inlay|
I am going to keep the rest of the stump in the panel, as a conversation piece, but mostly because I can't get it out!
|Garden before #1|
|Garden before #2|
From the front of the new garden looking towards the back. You can see the stump of the boxwood to the left and the chain link panels in their new position to the right.
Now, looking to the left of the previous photo, you can still see the stump on the right and a dog kennel and some old fencing and stuff in the center and finally the 3 compost bins on the left.
The first step was to empty the compost bins, so that I could move them to the back of the garden. I decided where I wanted my 4ft wide beds and I began to move the finished compost, spreading it onto the beds using my wheelbarrow and a pitchfork and sometimes a shovel. (I got the wheelbarrow for my Birthday last year, it has 2 big wheels on the front, no more tipping over!) I put a 2 inch layer of finished compost on all of the beds. I moved each compost bin as I emptied it by rolling it end over end, it took some doing, but by tumbling the bins, I didn't have to take them apart and reconstruct them all over again. This phase took a couple of days to complete, with frequent rest times. That compost was really really heavy!
When I finished distributing the compost, I began to clean out the barn with the dry hay that was on the floor. The hay was much, much lighter and easier to move as I put an 8 inch layer of the hay on top of the composted beds, and I managed to empty most of the barn in one afternoon. The dog kennel was still in the way so I contacted a neighbor to see if she could use it and she could! She also took a small hutch that could be used for a broody hen. Since those two things were out of the way I could finally finish laying out the new garden beds.
|New garden #1|
|New garden #2|
If you click on these pictures to make them bigger you may be able to see the old compost bins at the far end of the garden. If all goes well they will not be used for compost anymore, at least not all three of them. From now on the hay should go directly onto the beds. You can see in this photo that I have started the bed by the barn but I wanted to use the last of the finished compost on the bed in the last photo before I put this bed in.
There is also in the foreground of this picture a bit of old rusty 2x4 fencing that I have cleared from this area and from the goat area as well. It was an unexpected goat pen clean up as I began to remove fencing I no longer needed for them. I would use these cattle panels and t-posts to use in the new garden as trellis'. I got the idea from "Roots and Refuge Farm" on YouTube, they use cattle panels and t-posts to make arches over the pathways in the garden and they train indeterminate tomatoes plants, (and other vining plants) up and over the trellis' to keep them off of the ground and within easy reach for harvest. For bush tomatoes they use the 16ft cattle panels as well, but they don't arch them over the walkway, they run them the length of the bed, again on t-posts.
I'm not done with the hard work yet, once I get the last 4 trellis' in place,(no easy feat in itself) it will be time to bring in some rough wood chips for the pathways, to help keep the weeds down and help absorb rain water that might make muddy pathways otherwise. This being the first year of the garden, I am not expecting miracles in the weed and productivity department. If I had done all of this last Fall as the grass and weeds were dying, (as I would have, had I known I was going to be into gardening) then I think the weeds would already be fewer and the soil already much richer. As the years go on though, if I keep it up, the soil will definitely improve and I think that this will truly be a way to keep the weeding to a minimum, and that is what has always defeated me in the past.
Even though the garden is not quite finished, I have already put a few plants in, I am excited about it and I can't wait for the last frost date to pass, April 13th I think, but that will all be for another post, for this one is quite long enough.
Until next time, enjoy the coming Spring, Tina