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I kind of let the garden report slide for a couple of years. Apologies.

Below is where things stood on Christmas Eve 2015. As you can see, I began the project of converting the grass paths to wood chips as winter began. I made one conscious blunder: I lay down high-quality landscape cloth directly over the grass. Ideally, I should have dug out the turf, but if you have any idea what a hard job that is, you’ll understand why I took the easy way out. Bottom line is that some grasses and weeds poked up through the landscape cloth and chips the very first year of the new regime. I also aimed to deconstruct the raised beds in each corner quadrant and combine them to make four larger planting beds. You’ll see….

 

garden-christmas-eve-2

But first a look back to the 2015 season: Here’s how things stood in May 2015. This arrangement was producing nicely, but the wooden frames around the beds were showing signs of rot — they were not made of chemically treated lumber — and I began to get annoyed with mowing the grass paths.

arugula-may-22

 

The perennials were getting pretty well established. Here’s the rhubarb and Iris in May.

iris-and-rhubarb-may-22

 

I planted a new blueberry bed. The older bed was not thriving and I don’t know why. I put down plenty of acidic material (peat moss) as a mulch around them and supplemented that with sulfur. But the berries did not thrive.

chicks-in-blueberries

 

I pruned the raspberries pretty severely. They ended up doing great. Lots and lots of berries in 2015.

rasp-canes-pruned

 

Okay, that was then.

Let’s move on to 2016:

I combined the 8 X 8 and 4 X 8 beds by filling in the space in between.

planting-beds_3

Then I removed the wood frames. The beds are still raised. I continue to put new compost on them along with some fireplace ash.

front-planting-beds-march

 

Here’s the scheme completed in April. I like the greater simplicity. The center-end beds are still a work-in-progress. I’m going to keep them in the boxes one more year and then combine them too like the quadrants. The center is an herb bed and will remain, though I replaced the wood edging with stones.

garden-beds_complete

 

Here we are getting all planted up in May. Lettuces and peas in.

garden-all-planted-may24

 

Here we are a month later. Foxgloves blooming in herb bed, center. The tall plant behind them is lovage, stately and aromatic, with an intense celery scent. I planted some really special hybrid lilies around the back perrenial strip.

garden_june5_16

 

The two year old plum trees blossomed heavily. But after a very mild winter, we got hit by a freak May frost at the critical fruit-setting moment and all my fruit trees were affected.

plum-blossom

 

This plum is literally the only fruit that grew on my 30-odd fruit trees. Not a single other fruit survived the frost… apples, pears, cherries, peaches. You begin to realize how fragile and perilous food cultivation really is. Most of my friends in the county reported the same crop failure.

plum1

 

My tepee for growing hops collapsed in the winter of 2015. I built a new one and braced the shit out of it this time.

hops-tepee-braces

 

The perennial beds came in nicely, but I’m getting a little tired of sunflowers falling over in rainstorms. I’ll go for more hollyhocks next year.

perennial_2016

 

More sunflowers. See the cosmos in the background. They also blew down in heavy rain. Annoying.

red-sunflowers

 

Scooter likes to sleep in the hay bin. Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping cat?

scooter_in_hay

 

I was plagued by “volunteer” morning glories. They got into everything and helped drag down the cosmos.

sept_cosmos

 

This flat-leaf kale resembles a collard. This is September. In the weeks following, I was hit by some kind of cabbage caterpillar that decimated the leaves.

sept_kale

 

Lemongrass came in nicely and thrived. I harvested it in October and put a big bag of trimmed aromatic stems in the freezer. I use them as flavoring in Asian-style soup stocks. The bright flowers are portulaca, also “volunteers.”

sept_lemongrass

 

I grew a big box of soybeans and enjoyed a couple of weeks of edamame snacks. But I read some material about the effect of soy on the body — it produces an estrogenic enzyme that is not good for male humans — and I think I’ll forego them in the future.

sopybeans

 

This was a bummer. I planted a “Three Sisters” patch (in the native American style): corn, beans, and squash. The squirrels climbed the cornstalks just as the cobs began to ripen, peeled back the husks ever so daintily, and nibbled all the kernels away. To add insult to injury, they also pushed over the corn stalks a few days later. Weeks after that, they chewed holes in about half the butternut squashes. A lot can go wrong in the schemes of gardeners. Eye-yi-yi….

three_sisters_corncob

 

And here we are once again at the end of the season. One big corner bed all cleaned up and ready to sleep for four months.

oct-planting-bed

 

Another sad, frustrating note: in 2013, I planted two “blight-resistant” American chestnuts. Well, one of them turned out to be not so blight-resistant. The main trunk died off in April, and after that the tree struggled to send up watersprouts. I doubt they will amount to the regrowth of a regular tree… but we’ll see. I should have just planted Chinese chestnuts.

chestnut_sick

 

The composting operation is working splendidly. I’ve been successfully rotating this material through the bins and getting it back onto the garden beds. I’m mixing a lot of chicken bedding in. Powerful stuff. Needs to cook for a while.

compost_nov_2016

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

15 Responses to “The Garden 2015 – 2016” Subscribe

  1. Steeleje November 11, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    Nice to see the progress of your garden. I have a tip for you to keep cabbage beetles from making your kale and cabbages into lace dollies: Garden Lime.

    You should generously dust the plants with the garden lime in the morning when the plants have a bit of dew on them. The powdered garden lime should cover as much of the leaves and heads of the kale and cabbages as you are able – the beetles hate it and will move on. Dust your plants at the first sign of their being compromised. Dusting in the morning when you have the coating of dew helps the garden lime adhere to the leaves and heads better. Reapply as needed and after rainfall.

    When you are ready to harvest just rinse away the lime.

    This trick was passed-on to me by my dad who learned it from his grandfather.

    I grew-up in the city (Pittsburgh) and a good 2/3 of our backyard was garden which kept us in fresh produce from May to the end of September. It was a big help as my dad didn’t make a big salary and my mother couldn’t work because she had MS. We ate like kings by mid-July. The simple pleasure of putting food on the table that you nurtured and grew (without pesticides) is one that I still relish.

  2. Being There November 13, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    A lovely visit to your wonderful garden. May it always produce well. And indeed the sleeping cat is sweet.

    • trolleybill March 21, 2017 at 6:49 am #

      I really have enjoyed following your blog along with your books. I recently retired to N.E. Florida From N.E. Ohio or in gardening terms from zone 5 to 9 and trying my hand at exotics & citrus. I’m in a stand alone apartment with one unit overhead but have a breezeway with 10 Lg. pots all doing well. I did once have 2 acres up north and wish I had the time to devote working to it with work and other obligations detracting me from my passion . I understand fully the horror of a late frost and a year lost and the constant battle with critters and insects. Container growing eliminates many problems but not immune as had mealy bugs on a tomato last year and one started from seed this year had leaf miner hit it. I do look forward to your annual garden post and garden vicariously through you….Thank You Jim

  3. AHtheHumanity November 13, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

    Nice! Let sleeping cats lie!

    There are fruit varieties better suited to the northern parts of the country where spring freezes.

    I got this list from sfgate.com:

    “Among the hundreds of apple varieties, good choices include “Anna,” which has large crops of crisp, sweet apples, “Dorsett Golden,” a producer of large, firm fruits that store well, and “Gala,” a New Zealand import with sweet, dessert-type apples. “Moonglow” (Pyrus communis “Moonglow”) is a good, frost-resistant pear choice that has greenish-yellow, smooth-skinned fruits with excellent flavor, as is “Anjou,” a late-bearing pear with especially large, sweet fruits.”

    “For peaches, choosing varieties that require less winter chill and bloom in late spring is best. These include three self-fruitful cultivars: “Harken,” which has medium-sized, sweet, freestone fruits, “Early Elberta,” with large, golden yellow fruits, and “Glohaven,” whose fruit is almost fuzz-free. Among plums, the European type is more frost-resistant than the more tender Japanese group. European plums that are good choices include “Stanley,” an especially productive cultivar, and “BlueByrd,” with firm, sweet fruits. Both varieties have dark blue plums with yellowish flesh.”

    “The black walnut is a large, 75- to 100-foot-tall tree that begins blooming in May and yields a crop of nuts in fall. Although pecans (Carya illinoinensis) are generally considered warm-weather trees, the variety called “Native Hardy Pecan” is a naturally occurring tree that does well in USDA zones 5 through 10. A large, spreading tree, it reaches a height of 50 to 70 feet and produces a crop of pecans with typically thin, easy-to-remove shells.”

    ” These include the Japanese heartnut tree (Juglans ailantifolia), also called the Japanese walnut, which grows well in USDA zones 4 through 9. It blooms in mid-spring, when most frost danger has passed, and produces an oval nut than can be heart-shaped, depending on the variety. When cracked, it reveals a flavorful, edible nut that can also be heart-shaped. Chinese chestnut trees (Castanea mollissima) produce edible nuts and are also quite frost-resistant, making them good choices for a home garden. Quite different from other nut trees, Chinese chestnuts bloom in late spring and produce nuts encased in spiny coverings that ripen in late summer or early fall. They also make excellent shade trees and do well in USDA zones 4 through 8.”***

    ***New York State is zone 3b to 7a.

  4. pamela martin December 19, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    We live in central NH and have pretty much the same setup as you with raised beds and wood shavings between. I don’t need fences because we have a dog who makes it very clear that no predator will ever enter our garden. We have open fields around the garden so deer are less likely to sneak in, but it really helps to have our dog keeping watch. He is a mixed breed we got through petfinders.com and he was shipped up from the south where they don’t fix their animals like we do here. Also, I cover my cabbage and broccoli with netting as soon as I plant them and they are never attacked by bugs. I recommend that highly. All the best. Keep up the good work!

  5. greatbeard January 8, 2017 at 7:13 am #

    “the south where they don’t fix their animals like we do here.”

    WTF? You ever been out of your perfect little Yankee world to see for yourself or do know we’re all ignorant backwards cretins from reading books? Of course, what would us folks down south know about reading books?

    • routersurfer February 11, 2017 at 11:26 am #

      I live in Jacksonville,FL. Southern GA would be closer to it’s feel than Miami. Have a family close to us that “breeds” feral cats and drives around a pickup with a DO YOU KNOW JOHN GALT?” sticker. We have a huge outbreak of FIV. We adopted one of the male strays that tested FIV+. With the help of a great Vet Dr. Lee and interferon he has stayed healthy. But, he is isolated from our other cat. Before you start on one more damn Yankee moved to the south I have much more gray than blue in my family tree. Which the oldest headstone is 1611. JHK has been to the south. If he feels more at home in NY so be it. Freedom is great is it not? He is just as hard on the mistakes of the north. Read his book THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE. Do I agree with JHK’s view of the south? No, but his view does give us food for thought on how the world at large sees us. We have become too thinned skin. It does not behoove us. Welcome to the New South.

    • CirclesnCircles February 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

      Why so emotional, greatbeard? What Pamela said happens to be true.

      I volunteered at a dog/cat rescue organization for many years in Atlanta and they described that exact thing. In fact, they had a set-up with a rescue in MA whereby dogs that the ATL facility couldn’t get adopted would be sent north because there was more demand for than supply of shelter dogs.

      There are many rescues in the Northeast that do this. They are well-funded and send vans South to take animals back to where the supply is less.

      If I was up for it, I’d dig the internet to find euthanasia rates for young dogs as well as spay/neuter rates for dogs and cats nationwide. I have little doubt what they’d show.

  6. karastiff January 9, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures and thorough update. I hear it takes 10 seasons to get really good on a new patch, so you look like you’re doing spectacular (I keep moving, and therefore starting over, but we finally have our long-term place now).

    After several years gardening, what would you say generally about your food supply? Are your storage crops making it through, or running out in December? Is the work of feeding yourself too much for knees or back? Basically, if the supermarket closed tomorrow, how quickly might you starve? Valuable information for the rest of us 🙂

  7. jayrome January 11, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    Hiya Intrepid Gardener Jim;
    The competitors for food are persistent and formidable in your gardening experience to date. Having a smaller sized garden can be easily stripped by the critters. So. . . what gardeners have done early on is over planting in larger sized gardens so there will be enough for your wildlife and yourself. Planting other native fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs at the outer edges of your land will tend to draw the animals away.
    However. . . However. . .
    I’ve observed that when, for example, Hickory, Oak, Maple are dropping their seed, every critter for what seems like miles around comes to feed on the bounty. Food sources are telegraphed by the critter network it would seem.
    In your case the concept of constructing wire cages around your beds would keep the raiders out. Note: you also need to have wire netting go down into the earth to keep the critters that burrow out too.

  8. routersurfer February 11, 2017 at 11:00 am #

    Nice update. Many thanks. Scooter is a trip. Fun reading tips. Hope more people post on this part of you site. Best wishes 2017!

  9. Mark February 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm #

    Like the garden layout.

    I think you’re problem with the blueberries not doing well was soil and mulch related. You perhaps have a soil that is on the clay loam/alkaline side. Although you did make an attempt at acidifying with the peat moss and wood chips these materials were not rotted enough – pulling nitrogen out of the soil, not thick enough, and were not successful in lowering ph – resulting in poor growth. Give it another try – use old pine needles or rotted oak leaves.

    Like the artificial owl in the corner. Why not put up a screech owl nest box nearby and attract a real screech owl to your yard. Major vole/pest control!

  10. RobRhodes April 13, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

    I just read your remark about the landscape cloth blunder. There is an alternative to digging all the turf; sheet mulching. Get a bunch of cardboard and lay it down with no gaps on the turf, doubled if you can collect enough, bigger boxes like those for appliances, bikes etc. are best. Tuck it under your bed boxes or trench it in. Now bury the cardboard with wood chips. We have had the best results doing this as a dry period approaches, the cardboard has more time to kill the grass and weeds before it rots. Don’t use glossy finished board, you’d be adding plastic to your soil.

    Cardboard often has mushroom spore in it, you may find them sprouting after a season or so! The method does less to disturb your soil structure than turning or tilling. If you decide to do this in a new or established orchard area I suggest that you research “Fruit tree guild” a method of planting around your trees that supports them without competing and depending on the varieties suitable to your area, may produce additional food. We ended up with so many daffodils that we sell them at the end of the driveway.

    Cheers, Rob

  11. Nicky May 25, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    Scooter is a sweetie. Looking forward to your next garden post (and a town post, if you are are so inclined)!

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