Friday, May 5, 2017

Projects, Projects, Projects With the North Node on Zero Virgo Until May 9

Last year around this time, I was relocating to a new province. I planted a garden in Saskatchewan before I left but moved before I could enjoy the "veggies of my labour."

I moved to the new location halfway through June and spent the summer getting my bearings in my new locale.

I visited the local Farmers Market (and set up my own DIY table there for a few weeks) and was also happy to learn that my local grocery store carried a nice selection of foods, including organic.

Still, I missed my garden terribly! More than one might imagine. It was like an ancestral psychic panic when I thought about having no space to grow food after having a garden five years running in Saskatchewan. The trauma and vulnerability of the landless peasants, reliant on someone else's land, over which someone else has ultimate control. It runs through the blood of most of us, I'm sure.

I applied with the community garden for this year but was only able to secure one 4-foot by 6-foot bed.

Since being poisoned by Cipro, I have to eat a diet of mostly fresh vegetables (my body rejects most other foods), so this was not going to cut it considering the volume of vegetables I needed to produce.

I scoped around for more space, but the community garden was full. The local college had a little bit of space available under some landscaping fabric, but it was two bus rides and a three-quarter kilometre trek just to get to the garden spot. A little on the inconvenient/arduous side, but I went to check it out anyway because I was pretty well desperate.

I was talking about gardening one day around my apartment building, and my landlord overheard. He said he would be happy to put in a raised bed in the adjacent yard! Oh, man. Was I overjoyed.

That still left me a little short of space for things like cucumbers, zucchinis, and tomatoes, which like to spread out a whole lot. So he said I could spade up some sod along his hedge to make an extra vegetable bed. Eureka! Amazing! I found my garden space, and I could make it right in the yard of my apartment building. There's an outside water source, too, to make it even more convenient.

The first project to get to work on was the raised vegetable bed. This part was a bit more complicated and definitely required assistance from my landlord, as I had never made one before. Now that I've taken part in putting one together, I can see that it is quite simple if you have the supplies and tools required. (Thank-you to my Awesome McPossum landlord. I hope he is well-rewarded for his kindness.)

Tools/supplies needed to build a simple raised garden bed:

 Isn't it cute?

- wood (6 pieces that are longer, 6 pieces that are shorter, of a 3-inch depth to make a 9-inch tall bed like the one shown)
- a drill
- large nails/spikes
- a hammer
- a vehicle, possibly with a trailer (to get the wood and also to pick up the soil)
- a spade (pointed shovel)
- a level
- top soil

As my landlord said, this style of raised bed is built like a log cabin. I didn't know exactly what that meant at the time, but as you can see, the ends of the wood are layered over each other in alternating positions.

Setting the first layer (foundation layer) is the trickiest because it should be level on the ground. We had to dig one end down a bit with the spade so the wood would sit in a level position. We used a level to make sure.

You basically set the first pieces of wood down on the ground as you would like them, making sure the ends are all flush, and then measure diagonally from one corner to the other corner, length ways (long side). You then measure diagonally corner-to-corner the other way, length ways. These numbers should match. If they don't, adjust the wood a bit until both diagonal measurements are the same length.

Then drill holes on the ends horizontally through the outside piece of wood into the inner piece of wood. Hammer a spike (large nail) through the hole to hold the pieces together. (You can see the spikes in the photograph.) Do this on all four ends.

From there, you place the second layer of wood on top, alternating the placement of the ends, as shown.

Drill holes again through the end pieces horizontally from the outside piece into the inner piece of wood. Hammer spikes through the holes to hold the pieces together.

On this second layer, you also drill holes vertically down through the top of the wood to hold the second layer to the bottom layer. Drill these holes on the ends (making sure to offset the spikes that have already been hammered in) and also along each piece of wood. Two holes spaced evenly along each long piece of wood should do the trick with one hole drilled in the centre of the shorter pieces. Hammer spikes through these holes vertically (up and down).

The third and final layer is basically a repeat - set it on the second layer, but alternate the position of the ends again.

Drill holes horizontally through the end pieces to hold them together and hammer the spikes through. Then drill more holes vertically on the ends and also spaced throughout the pieces of wood in a couple places. (Again, make sure to offset them from the spikes that are already in place.) Hammer spikes in vertically through these holes.

Now, you have your frame.

You can add more layers of wood if you would like a taller bed and just repeat the steps, alternating each layer's ends as you go.

There are lots of methods for building raised beds - this is just the method we used, and it turned out nicely. 

The next part of the process involves some grunt work - spading up the sod underneath your bed and removing it. You will flake off as much soil as you can from each chunk of sod with your hands to keep in your bed and then get rid of the sod however you can.

Once all the sod is removed from the area of your bed, you will dig down into the ground with your spade to aerate (loosen) the soil. Use your foot to kick the spade down into the soil and then flip the soil over, breaking it apart with your spade if necessary. I could only go one spade length (about one foot) deep or even less in some areas because the soil underneath was quite rocky. This is OK - just do your best, and the plants will find a way! According to my online research, most plant roots need 12 - 18 inches, so with the nine inches of raised bed, this will likely be sufficient.

You can fertilize this layer of soil if you like before adding top soil. I threw in a few weeks worth of vegetable scraps and crushed egg shells as direct compost, as well as a couple shovelfuls of store bought fertilizer that my landlord had.

Finally, you will add soil to your bed. This may be the tricky part, as you will need a vehicle and possibly a trailer if you can't get it delivered. Extremely luckily for me, my landlord had a vehicle, a trailer, and all the tools we needed to build the bed. (Handy!)

There are places in most areas that sell top soil, or you may be able to buy it from a local farmer.

After some delays (yep, Mercury was retrograde), my landlord picked up the soil on the day Mercury went direct, and we shoveled it into the bed.

Ready for planting!

This leads to the second vegetable bed, which was a regular bed, not a raised bed. Much simpler. This bed I could make myself with only a spade for a tool.

Standard vegetable bed (right)

The good thing about this kind of bed is that any area that is currently seeded to grass could be used, as long as the soil underneath is decent. Top soil, organic material (leaves, hay, vegetable scraps), manure, and fertilizers can be added to make better soil if it is not the greatest.

The other major advantage to this type of bed is that the cost is very low (free if you have a spade to work with). Making a raised bed is comparatively pricey. 

I made this bed between a hedge and a gravel walkway, so it is a long, skinny bed.

This one pretty much just requires grunt work. Spade up the sod, making sure to get all the grass and plant roots up in each chunk. Again, flake off as much soil as you can from the chunks of sod with your hands to keep in your bed and then get rid of the sod however you can. In this case, I stuck the pieces of sod into the bottom of the hedge where they will break down.

 Halfway done spading the regular bed

Once the sod has been removed, you will aerate the soil by digging down into it with the spade. Use your foot to kick the spade down into the soil and then flip the soil over, breaking it apart with your spade if necessary. Go down one to two feet.

I had a little extra top soil left from the raised bed, so I mixed some of that in with the already existing soil.

Now both beds are ready for planting!

 Both beds finished

I look forward to sharing photos of these garden beds this summer. Fingers crossed, everything grows nicely.

I didn't know if my Cipro-fied body would cooperate in the making of these beds, but the power of the zero-degree Virgo North Node must have helped me though! Work, projects, preparation, and health (Virgo).

As always, I would encourage anyone to try his or her hand at gardening. If you don't have access to land (for most of my city-dwelling adult life, I didn't, either), community gardens may be an option. Talk to your landlord - he or she may be surprisingly agreeable to converting lawn to garden space. Less grass to mow! And there aren't many people who don't like watching gardens grow, especially if someone else is doing the gardening work. Talk to your local town or city council - members may be agreeable to converting public land into garden space. Some of the areas that have been devoted to growing flowers, for example, could be converted into food-producing zones. Empty lots may also be prime candidates.

You can also grow an interesting array of plants indoors. Even a window box full of herbs can bring a lot of joy and satisfaction.

Dwarf planet Goddess of Agriculture, Ceres, is in Gemini (until July 10) and is forming a conjunction with Mars in Gemini at the moment, so asking about and talking about (Gemini) the growing of food (Ceres) could bring a surprising amount of movement (Mars) now. The potency of verbal/written cross-pollination is intensified by the fact that just-stationed-direct Mercury in Aries, tightly conjunct Uranus, is the dispositor (key influence) over Ceres and Mars in Gemini. The time is ripe for unexpected and critically-necessary change, particularly of a survival-based (Aries) bent, and these changes are stimulated and spurred via talking, asking questions, and making connections, especially in our local areas (Gemini/Mercury). Again, food and agriculture issues (Ceres) are hot (Mars), and making connections with others along lines of shared interest related to these subjects is indicated.

Growing food is intuitive to most people. It doesn't have to be hard or intimidating. It doesn't have to be finicky or precious. Just jump in, and you'll figure things out. I'm a big fan of the Plutonic punk gardening style. From a previous post:

"Food doesn't have to be a tiring bore, and growing things doesn't have to be an intimidating chore. We can simply shrug off that version of things and strip things down to the essentials.

The basic rules to follow here are:

It doesn't have to be done the way it has always been done!

You can do things your own way!

You can experiment, have fun, and do it the easiest way possible!

And finally...remember that all-encompassing Plutonic punk "fuck it" attitude whenever you need a little reminder!

Throw a few seeds in the dirt, and see what happens. Throw a handful of seeds in a pot in your windowsill, and see what happens. Visit a Farmer's Market just for the hell of it, and see what interests you.

Growing even a little of your own food or herbs is good for the soul. Seeing things grow that you planted is good for the soul. Being around plants and soil and air and sun is good for the soul.

One pot of basil in your windowsill can give you fresh herbs for the summer. Grow some more, and you can dry the leaves for use all year round.

Don't let the hardened, hardcore gardeners intimidate you. You can do it your way. You can learn as you go."

And remember: YouTube and online searches are a gardener's best friend. There is plenty of simple, basic, do-it-yourself information out there to help us along and also more advanced techniques and tips when we are ready for those.

My first garden was made by my dear old Dad on a road allowance with his tractor and disker. Just a small scrap of a garden with no water source. It barely rained that year, and my veggie output was minimal. But I was hooked. 

You can read about more of my adventures in gardening here


Greg F said...

Hi Willow. I read this post when it first came out, but only this weekend has the rain and wind let up in the Pacific Northwest enough to do some cultivating and planting.

I live in an apartment complex with 65 units in a small town: Olympia, Washington, USA. I have a nice stretch of flowerbed in back, about thirty feet, that the past resident and I have nurtured. I now have a resident rabbit, D.B. (Danger Bunny) Rabbit, as there are large cats nearby....

My question is: How do you contain the prairie critters like deer, rabbits, and so on in your garden, elevated or not? I live in a city, yet the beasties are everywhere (cute but hungry)?

Happy horticulture, Willow!
Greg F

Willow said...

This is my first gardening season here (I'm not in the prairies anymore), so I'm not sure how that will go. The community garden is just raised beds and I haven't heard of any major critter problems. I imagine some people use fences. I live downtown, so I'm hoping most of the animals will stick to the outlying areas. I guess I will see!

Most people in Saskatchewan seem to get away without using fencing, etc., so I really don't know!

You could research "natural animal deterrents" and see what you come up with. I'm sure there are some ingenious methods.

Happy gardening to you, too.