Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Building a garden: the first years

When we bought our house 3 summers ago, with its 3.75 acres of theoretically usable land, we were excited to have space to learn to grow our own food. This has not been easy. We face three major challenges:
1) a short growing season, with the average last frost date around June 1 and average first frost around October 1--that's just 120 days to grow in;
2) a lot of trees on our property, so that except in midsummer there are few plots of ground that receive more than 6 or 7 hours of sun; and
3) many resident deer, who happily eat pretty much everything we do. Well, hey, we also have lots of rabbits and gophers, but we haven't had a chance to notice their effects since the deer don't leave them much.

We will be learning how to work around #1 and #2 as long as we're here, but the answer to #3 is pretty straightforward--we have to fence our garden.

In 2009 we got permission to place some tomatoes in containers on the property as soon as we entered escrow, around June 1. Since we didn't live there yet, we put the tomatoes on a corner of the lawn where they'd be watered by the automatic sprinklers. The fence was a simple ring of wire:

fawns and tomates on lawn

After moving in, we moved the containers and fence off the lawn so we could water the tomatoes more optimally:

deer family + tomatoes

After a few weeks, we realized that it was easy for the deer to reach through or over the little fence and nibble on the plants, so we widened it:

deer family + wide tomato fence

This was our first time growing tomatoes and we made the mistake of choosing four yummy-sounding heirlooms that all matured slowly. Finally, in mid-September, we excitedly harvested our first two tomatoes--multicolored and very tasty Ananas Noir:

ananas noir

A few days later, we enjoyed two lovely Black Krims:

Black Krim 2009

AAAAAND the day after that, the deer jumped into our little enclosure we had naively thought too small for them to attempt, and stripped the plants. Thus ended our garden experiment, year one.

I have no pictures of our garden in 2010, but we were much more successful. We used a double ring of 4-foot deer mesh this year, which effectively kept the poachers at bay, and harvested quite a number of Early Girls and Sun Golds, as well as a few heirlooms and some lemon cucumbers... we were eager to see our results next year, when we'd build a real fence and grow more crops!

To be continued...

1 comment:

GretchenJoanna said...

When I see all the lovely deer surrounding your tomatoes, I have to admit I don't love them quite as much!