I absolutely loved the little farm site we had when we moved to the new River Valley. Unfortunately, it had extensive storm damage that caused excessive water leakage and the evil dreaded black mold. We had to move. Locating a new place that would take our menagerie wasn't easy but we found one with a smaller parcel of land and a larger home within reasonable distance of my husband's job. It's gorgeous up here on a high hill overlooking the valley, and the property is heavily wooded with large, mature black walnut and other hardwood trees. It's beautiful- and that's also a problem.
With the slope of the hill and the abundance of large trees there is very little space to put in any food crops that allows enough drainage and sunlight. Add rocky, clay based soil and it's a disaster for any hope of a vegetable garden. What's a girl to do?
Get creative, that's what.
A former neglected flowerbed near the front porch that receives plenty of morning to mid afternoon light was dug up and made over into an herb garden. Using old landscaping timbers we found on the site we were able to create a raised border. We lightened the soil with composted wheat straw from our chicken coop, which had the added benefit of nitrogen rich manure. The sage, basil, rosemary and mint are all doing well. We lost the garlic chives to the chickens, who are permitted to roam the yard during the day and despite fencing (they flew over!) love to dust bathe in that spot. I don't mind so much, the loss of the chives was worth it for the automatic weeding done by the birds! My thyme and oregano were not doing well, and were moved to hanging planters where they are much happier.
Another small strip of level ground along the porch was also given similar treatment. Imagine my surprise when I found a pretty silver ring with semi precious gemstones buried like treasure in the spot! This narrow section was just big enough for a few tomatoes, with a little more light daily than the herb garden. To make more of the space, I built a tall frame from 8' high 4" x 4" treated posts. From this, we hung three "topsy turvy" planters with more varieties of tomato. We're having mixed success with these; the German Queen and Lemon Boy are thriving while Mr Stripey isn't looking too hot. We may need to relocate old Stripey. Our two large upside down plants and the ground based cherry, Bush Goliath and Black Princes (my favorite) are all full of flowers and we hope to see fruits by the fourth of July.
As much as we love tomatoes, we can't live on them alone so I needed to put in some more veggies. But where?
On an internet homesteading site I found information on re purposing untreated wood pallets, creating upright flower beds, really interesting raised beds (will try this next year!) and lie flat planters that make weeding a breeze. So in a corner around the house near our cellar access, I found enough fairly level space with good quality of sunlight for four pallets.
Being able to separate plants in this way, I thought it might be a good opportunity for a little experiment. In one, we used composted chicken manure with the soil. In a second, we used the offerings from the ducks. In a third, rabbit. Yes, we now have rabbits! I'll get to those in my next post.... And for the fourth, a mixture of both. I'm tracking what has been planted where and will be tracking their growth to see what works best.
I'll find space to add a few more of these across the yard and finish getting the rest of the plants I'd like to have into the ground. The plan is to have enough fresh greens for the entire family for the season from our own gardens, and some canning down for the winter. We'll see how it goes!