Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Good Tractors Make Good Neighbors

Our new neighbor from the property behind us likes that I like to talk manure. He says it's a rare thing to find someone who knows the true value of horse manure. When I first drove up to bring them homemade bread and introduce myself, he asked me about my plans for a productive garden. Then he looked me square in the face and said, "You're going to mark out where you want this garden. Then I'll come down with my tractor and plow, and I'll plow under the field for you. And then we're going to do what neighbors hardly ever do anymore but should: we're going to garden together." Every good relationship should begin with manure and gardening, I say.

A couple of weeks ago, that's just what he did. We removed all the hunks of grass that had been torn out by the plow. He came back a few days after that with a tiller attached to the tractor, and he tilled the plowed soil.  We removed as many rocks as we could. He tilled again a few days after that.

The garden begins with Zoey inspecting
the work. (Photo courtesy of Turfman.)

As much as we love Cisco, our neighbor horse, we doubted his ability to produce the amount of manure that we need for the new garden. So we drove a little way one Sunday to pick up horse manure from a facility that boards and trains horses. It was absolutely amazing just how quickly our truck bed filled with manure when the owner used his Bobcat to load us up. We covered the pile with our tarp as best as we could, but I was a little worried about the drive home. I fretted the whole way that we were flinging poo on everyone down I-75. Imagine my extreme horror when I looked in my side mirror and saw a State Trooper. "Slow down," I said. "We can't fling poo on an officer." Thankfully, we arrived home with just about every scrap of poo in place.

Tippy and I are now officially knee deep in poo

Now the area is ready for a garden to be built around it. I had carefully drawn out a design for the garden on my graph paper, but something has been nagging at me a bit. I've been questioning whether we all need to spend so much money on building our vegetable gardens. Then I came across this article about our obsession with raised vegetable planters, and I feel a little stuck. I'm not sure how I will proceed with the design now. The original plan calls for a number of raised beds built from 2x8s. I considered dropping down to 2x6s, but I'm not sure that accomplishes much. I've been perusing photos of the walled kitchen garden at Prince Charles's Highgrove Estate for inspiration. I have to make a decision soon since I have a whole bunch of seedlings peeking their heads out of their little greenhouse beds and hoards more seeds arriving in the mail this week. I shudder when I think about the garlic that will arrive a few days later. Something must be done this weekend. It's getting a little urgent here.

Any suggestions?

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