Weekend Update, Part One

This time of year in Central Texas is not the time of year to skip a weekend of garden blogging. Amassing the activities of two weekends means you’re more than likely in for writing a novella when you do get around to chronicling your garden doings, for everything starts happening all at once. Such is the predicament I find myself in now. Seems like there are a hundred developments and doings to relate. Probably no good way forward other than just to dive in, though.

Probably the most important thing I did the weekend before this one was reduce my brush pile mountain down to a molehill. Some of the material in the pile went back at least 3 years, including the trunk of a former Christmas tree. I created at least three wheelbarrows of excellent mulch, some of which went right back into the compost, while much of the rest went to cover an area that used to have grass.

I did also clean out an area that was my particular windmill to tilt at… the site of the former Chinese tallow that fell last July. It had become a trashpit of discarded brush, pieces of tallow tree, random rotting lumber (most of it from palettes), and broken concrete. Woven into this aesthetically appealing tapestry was St. Augustine grass, straggler daisy, and various hackberry starts. Much of this crap was mulched – except for the concrete. The trusty 20+ year old Craftsman 5.5 HP chipper/shredder did several hours of duty, releasing untold pounds of pollutants into the atmosphere. But at least the mulch was free, organic and locally-sourced.

I used a metal fence piece I’ve had sitting around as a trellis for my rapidly-growing snow peas. It is attached with small copper-pipe brackets to the back of the bed.

I also planted a number of seeds… tomato, pepper and cucumber. I’m told, however, I’m too late with these things, as they’ll never be large enough in time to beat the heat. Oh, well. Lesson learned.

Cucumber seedlings:

This brings us to this weekend, which also brought my parents… organic gardening whirlwinds and angel investors they are in my enterprise. For starters, they brought a thousand pounds (yes, one-thousand) of sandy soil from the Houston area, stuff dug out in the process of creating beds there. It’s an excellent additive to our clay- and limestone-bearing soil, especially when a fair amount of organic matter or compost is also added. Some of this went on the compost heap. This helps add some beneficial microbes to the compost process, as well as a good source of non-organic material to add bulk and body.

Additionally, my dad volunteered to take himself to Lowe’s for lumber to make new raised beds. After a consult, we determined some good sites for new beds and took some measurements. He came back from Lowe’s with one-by-six cedar deck planks and cedar two-by-fours.

He suggested the cedar as an alternative to while pine, which I’ve used in the past. It may or may not last longer, but it is prettier and smelled better when cut. The two-by-fours were used as corner posts, cut to about 18 inches. These were dug into the ground to make the side boards level with the ground.

New Cedar Bed

We created two beds. The smaller of the two, sited next to one of my recent white pine additions, was pretty straight-forward to install. The larger, five feet by six, needed to have a slightly odd shape to fit. But the ground underneath was more a problem than I realized. To begin with, the Chinese tallow had lots of roots there, most of which had turned into balsa wood and were easily chopped up. There was a lot of Maximillian sunflower roots to pull out, and assorted other rhizomes, roots and rubbish. Worse, though, was that the meticulous craftsmen of Time Warner thoughtfully laid their cable – our internet connection – across the surface of the ground a full 4 feet from the property line. This had been buried by leaves and crap, but was otherwise exposed. I had to do some careful digging to entrench the cable below the surface. I covered this with a lot of the concrete rubble I had around to make it hard to dig into. If it poses a problem in the future – or I dig into it – I’ll simply call Time Warner and threaten to switch to Uverse to get them to move the cable out of my yard.

Beds completed, we filled them with layers of chopped leaves and that sandy soil. We had to pull out a lot of grass rhizomes, which we composted in the piles. All in all, I have 54 square feet of new planting areas.

There was certainly more that we did – my parents are nothing if not ambitious – but I’ll have to write about that later. The fingers are worn out, and this is getting long-winded.

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