Thoughts on the first year Back To Eden project (Part 1)

Late winter 2014 and a choice had to be made. That is the season of mega piles of free green wood chips. Are we gonna do this or are we gonna just talk about it?

March 12, 21014

March 12, 21014 I come home from school to a pile of “We’re gonna do this”

We talked about it, We read about it. The reports were glowing. Huge juicy fruit and vegetables. Little to no work beyond planting, pruning and harvesting. No watering. Sounds too good to be true, and you know what they say about that. When I saw the text about a free load of fresh chips someone wanted to give away, I did not think much about it. The job always looks bigger when I see it then it does when I’m thinking about it.

Early winter strawberry bed under a blanket of composted horse and chicken bedding covered with more then four inches of green chips

Early winter strawberry bed under a blanket of composted horse and chicken bedding covered with more then four inches of green chips

I have a confession to make. When it comes to farm work and house work, I like to putz. I want to enjoy the process, hear the bird song, smell the earth. It’s true, I’m a bit lazy. But I like to finish a corner instead of getting crazy with step by step everywhere. We have a Square Foot Garden (SFG) at the back of our property dedicated to strawberries. Nothing was happening in the strawberry bed in March. Because I had heard that it takes a couple of years for a BTE garden to be really ready, I hedged my bets by layering in freshly mucked chicken bedding, a layer of older compost, finished by a layer of composted horse stable bedding (the lady next door worked at a boarding stable). Then I grabbed a shovel and a Lowes bucket. Then two Lowes buckets. I only put a four inch deep layer of chips on the strawberry bed.  It hardly made a dent in the pile of chips out front!

May 31, 2014 The strawberry bed is to the right in the (raised) SFG, finally growing through all the layers I put on it.

May 31, 2014 The strawberry bed is to the right in the (raised) SFG, finally growing through all the layers I put on it.

By mid April I was worried that I had killed my strawberries. Nothing, and I mean zero sign of green, was coming through. My neighbors and fellow bloggers were getting green already, what did I do to mine? Soon enough one, then three and finally a whole box of strawberry plants began to come through.

June 8 and we are getting ready for shortcake season.

June 8 and we are getting ready for shortcake season.

All my worry was for nothing. Jam season was right on schedule. I had worried about slugs with all the nice moist places for them to hid. To be honest, we had a few berries that had been taste tested but not at all like I was afraid of. I will keep my eyes open next summer if we are still here, but a little bit of sluggo early in the season is probably still a good idea. I did not use anything but a flashlight and a bit of salt this year. I did not water the strawberry box at all during this hottest of PNW summers. We had a hot drought that seemed to last from late May to mid September. The truth is, I couldn’t have done much work in the garden this summer even though I wanted to. Some fifteen plus years after a summer hike and suffering what some call a heat stroke (others tell me that people do not survive heat stroke, so I do not know what happened to me), I still get violently sick once it gets warmer then the mid 80’s. The summer of 2014 goes down as a summer spent in my room with the AC on. Blah! Mornings were good for getting out. I could stand about 20 minutes in the garden before that uncomfortable throbbing starts at the back of my head. My guys are all very good to me! Beans got canned, strawberries got jammed, but the poor dogs did not get as many walks as they would have liked. Never mind, it was still a fantastic summer and I have a lot more pictures of getting our Back to Eden Garden started.

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