Friday, October 1, 2010

That Old Black Tar

Thank you Clarabelle for the comment posted in Managing My Thyme.  I had never heard the comparison between our lovely ground in North Texas, and that Old Black Tar, but it is so true.  The only difference that I can tell, is that you can actually stick a shovel in that Old Black Tar.  In light of that, I wanted to show you a little progress that I have been making.

This garden area looked like this during the spring:

This was taken when it was still actually looking pretty good.  The cucumbers in this shot really went crazy and took over everything.  After we made it through August, and our I-don't-know-how many 100+ degree days, it did not look like this.  It was not pretty at all.  I gave up on the water and then I removed all of the old vegetation, added amendments, re-tilled and doubled this space, and then I made beds.  (I wrote a little about the work to expand and improve this area in Managing My Thyme.) 

First, I measured the beds out according to my plan.  I like a four foot width in a raised or mounded style of planting bed.  It allows you to reach into the middle from either side for weeding or harvesting, and it also allows you to raise it enough to increase drainage and give you a little bit more room for some root depth - two things that this soil has no consideration for.  Then I create a two foot path in between beds  which gives you a little room to move around without stepping on anything.

The plants that you see in the above picture are a Pepper plant, I believe it is a Jalapeno, that I will leave where it is and hopefully get a few hot peppers for salsa this fall, and two Chive plants that will be relocated to the new Herb Garden.  They really were doing great so I just left them for the fall.  I have a really hard time ending plant life.  I am sure I will write more about that weakness in the spring.  I believe the proper term is "thinning", as far as I am concerned, you might as well just call it "Murder". 

Anyway...After you get to this point, you just keep measuring and moving your stakes and keep on going.

Public Service Announcement:  You should always wear leather work gloves when you are working with wooden stakes and a hammer.  I learned this lesson the hard way one year at Christmas time.  I used some plastic Candy Canes in the yard for decoration, and they were leaning a little.  So, I decided to stake them up for support.  On the very last Candy Cane, the stake split when I hit it and I drove pieces of wood into my hand between my thumb and index finger.  You know the area that hurts really bad if you pinch it?  Well, that is nothing compared to how it feels when you drive large splinters of wood into it.

By the next day my hand was red with infection, and my poor husband spent our first anniversary with me in the emergency Room.  You have to know that he told me 500 times that I should have been wearing my gloves.  To the point that the elderly man that was with his wife in the next exam area finally pulled back the curtain, and said, "Okay, I just have to ask, what happened?"  Of course after getting the full explanation he said, "You should have been wearing your gloves." 

I may have been upset by that remark, but by that time I was on some serious pain meds and feeling pretty good about things.  More of what was going through my mind was, "Huh, something to look forward to...Young smarty pants...Old smarty pants."  Not to paint anyone in a bad light, my man was not mad because of the location of our anniversary celebration, he was concerned because my hand was red, swollen, and I couldn't move my fingers, and at this time we weren't certain if I had done any permanent damage.

Several Dr.'s visits, a few trips to physical therapy, and a year and a half later, yes, you heard me, the last piece of wood came out of my hand.  So, when I was hammering the stakes in the pictures above, and NOT wearing gloves, and this happened...

My heart skipped a beat, did a flip, and nearly jumped out of my chest.  It scared me on so many levels when the knot in this stake popped out while I was hammering it in the ground and I was holding it with my bare hand.

1.  A year and a half is a long time to deal with a crippled hand.
2.  He would kill me.  Hands down, absolutely kill me.

So, I put my gloves on, counted my blessings, and thought maybe I should warn you. 

Wooden Stakes, Hammers, Hard Ground = Gloves!

Don't forget that.

This is what I ended up with:

The first four beds have been planted, but are not doing very well.  There is broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.  I have never grown cauliflower or cabbage before, so I thought it would be a fun experiment.  Unfortunately, I may have planted them too late.  We will have to wait and see on this.

The second half of this area is new, and my intention was to plant lettuce and spinach here, but I have run into a problem with the way I prepared these beds.  I will write more about the problem later, but I may scrap the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, and give the lettuce and spinach a go.  They have plenty of time and would even enjoy a frost here and there.  We have had much cooler temperatures lately so I am leaning more in this direction.

The unused beds won't go to waste.  I will plant some type of cover crop that will then be tilled under in the spring and then they will be better than ever.  There will be more to come on these new developments.

There is work to do, and more posts to come...a hint, there is an old saying, something that used to be done to bad people, they were "tarred and _________"!  The next post will be full of them. 

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