In Massachusetts, it's officially gardening season. Memorial Day weekend typically marks the end of frost risk in New England. This year, summer came with the holiday, so we started working on the garden space that my husband designed.
We're putting in 8 2-foot wide beds with rows between them in the front yard (pictures of our in-process space will come next week). This involves taking about 4 feet of lawn space, and relocating roses, raspberries and other plants in the overgrown perennial garden that was already there. We have a lot of beautiful, mature plants that my husband is relocating in the process.
We had hoped to get the potatoes in last week, but the first garden bed wasn't finished until yesterday, so they will go in this week. We're probably a little behind, but we'll live with it.
A big financial decision came up this weekend - to rototill or not to rototill. Much of this ground is being turned for the first time in years, and the embedded root systems are making it a challenge. After talking with an experienced gardener at our local Home Depot, and pricing out new and used tillers, my husband decided to create the garden by hand, using a hand cultivator we 'borrowed' from his parents, a pickaxe, a rake and a shovel. My husband has the heart of a lion, but we've made a deal that if this gets to be too much, we'll rent a tiller.
We may end up with a smaller tiller for maintaining the garden area, such as the one by Mantis http://www.mantis.com/ but for now, we're going for it the old fashioned, and inexpensive route.
Each bed will be outlined in stone, rather than the traditional raised beds outlined in wood. We only had enough small stones on our property to outline about half of a single bed, so we'll be buying stone in bulk from a local stone dealer. While this is a little more outlay up front, the stone will never rot, can be configured more flexibly than wooden railroad tie-style beds, and looks beautiful.
To build up the beds, we're adding about a 2" layer of compost to the soil. We may add more soil amendments over the years as we need to, but this is our start.
As for the vegetables, they are now living on the deck. I've managed to kill a few plants off by planting them too early, overplanting, or not thinning - it seems to be a rite of passage to be unable to resist the siren song of spring in March, and end up with spindly tomatoes and dead squash plants. Maybe next year I'll be able to resist. But I've managed to plant enough to have extra tomatoes and peppers to give away to a friend and my mother-in-law, so I'm pleased with that. And this year, I've potted only about 1/3 of what I eventually intend to plant on an annual basis.
Next weekend the bulk of the garden will go into the ground, and I'll plant some additional squash, melons, carrots, parsnips and bean seeds. It's a busy time of year, but the end result will be worth it.
Thinking about gardening? msn.com lists 5 foods it is cheaper to grow: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/5FoodsItsCheaperToGrow.aspx