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   Click here if you want to start back in 2012 for the very beginning of the project.

 The garden had a nice winter sleep and then I got cracking again in the spring of 2013. Here’s a shot of the potager in front of the house in July of 2013:

Garden_July10 Panorama_small

 
The first thing I did as soon as the snow melted was to build a better composting operation. I found a three-bin plan on the web. The parts touching the ground are made out of black locust, a highly rot-resistant wood. The upright dividers are cedar, also rot-resistant. After all, composting is controlled rottage.

Garden_compost bin1

 
The components were bolted rather than screwed together to extend the life of the unit.

garden-compst3

 
I added plywood “floors” to each bin, thinking they would rot and could be changed out every few years as necessary. Eventually, it got moveable slats for the front.

Garden_compost2

This is how the units were working eight months later (Dec 2013). I had the wire bin last year and kept that going too.

Compost_Winter_2013

 
What had started out conceptually as a central masonry pad for a pavilion (with a little pergola) didn’t work out. Instead, I decided to make it an herb bed with some old standbys (thyme, rosemary-in-a-pot, oregano) and some novelties (stevia, wormwood) and one novelty vegetable (a cardoon). 

Garden_May13_herbs

 
I planted a couple of artichokes in the right side-bed just to see what they would do. This region is not regarded as prime artichoke country. They came on nicely, though, as you’ll see.

Garden_May13_artichoke

 
By May, the Arugula was ready to eat. Yay!

Garden_May13_arugula

 
I ordered a couple of blight-resistant American chestnut trees from St Lawrence Nursery (real cold-hardy stock). Planted in April (brrrrr), this one was doing nicely by late May. Hardware cloth guard is to keep mice from chewing on bark.

Garden_May13_chestnut

 
Got some clematis going on each side of the front garden gate. It’s a climber.

Garden_May13_clematis

 
In keeping with last year’s scheme, I planted sunflowers all through the west inside bed of the garden. I had a load of leftover pea gravel from 2012 and laid it in a little trough under the fence line, with some janky pieces of slate on top to suppress weeds. I ended up doing that under the whole fence line all the way around. Ugh, lot of work.

Garden_May13_sunflowers

 
This is how things were shaping up in mid-May.

Garden_May13_fullarray

 
In the meantime, I started to turn my attention to building a chicken house. I had help from my friend Mike Durkee on this. I was between open heart surgery (March) and spine surgery (July — bone spurs in neck vertebrae — aaarrgghhh). Kind of took the starch out of me. Here’s the “foundation.” underway. Sills are lag-screwed into posts set on concrete block.

chickenhouse3

Joists are hung between the sills and triangular braces installed to prevent racking. 

Chicken_Foundation 

Stud-walls are going up.  This shot gives you a sense of the chicken house’s location, at the rear of my little orchard. Deer fence in background. The property is like a petting zoo, though we are literally off the last street in the village. The deer come right down into the village at night and munch on people’s foundation plantings — and anything else they can get their lips around. Note nice growth of 2nd year fruit trees: apples, cherries, pears.

Chicken_studwall

Floor installed and painted with epoxy exterior deck paint to protect against rain during construction.

Chicken_studwall2

 
Rafters going up. Figuring out the cuts for the bird’s mouth joints was a killer. I don’t pretend to be anything but an amateur carpenter.

Chicken House Rafters1

 
Roof installed. The ridge cap allows for a ventilation space at the peak. 

Chicken Roof

 
Siding goes on. The scheme is board-and-batten. Eventually this will be tricked out with gothic-style trimming. 

Chickenhouse_siding2

 Okay, please don’t be shocked. This is as far as I got with the chicken house this year. Completion scheduled for May 2014 (chickens included). I had to turn my attention to another construction project in July.

Siding finished_Fall 2013

Scooter the cat (The Lion of Prospect Street –”Brrrrrowww ! !”) takes his leisure in the new herb bed. Digitalis (Foxglove) in rear. It’s June.

Garden_Scooter3

 
Watch out ye mouses and voles! Scooter is on the prowl!

Garden_Scooter1

Wuh-Oh…! Here comes the hoop house. This is a plastic covered tunnel for extending the growing season on both ends, spring and fall. I had to get cracking on it. I got the plans off the internet (there are many such plans, all a little different). You can also buy kits from place like FarmTek, where I purchased some of the materials. Most of the materials just came from the local lumber yard / hardware store. The frame was constructed out of 3/4 inch PVC “schedule-40″ plastic plumbing pipe, though I hear electrical conduit might be superior. 

Garden_2013_Hoophouse1

The foundation  is 2 by 8 treated lumber. Research indicates that the chemicals used for treating the lumber do not really leach much. The site is on the right side of the potager garden. I temporarily got some corn and tomatoes and peppers going between the hoop house site and the raspberry bushes. At far end of the hoop house is a strawberry bed. Mike Durkee also helped with the construction of this thing. The dimensions are 10 feet wide by 21 feet long. The planting medium has already been prepared: a  blend of topsoil and compost

Garden_2013_hoophouse2

There are eight hoops. Each is composed of two 10 foot lengths of PVC with 2-way joints and T-joints at the ends. The pipes are anchored into 36 inch lengths of 1/2 inch steel rebar driven 18 inches into the ground and then clamped onto the wooden foundation. That’s an asparagus bed in front. I let it grow out to establish the roots.

Garden_2013_hoophouse4

Here’s a view of how it related to the garden. Note nasturtiums established in garden front beds. The flowers and leaves are edible. Great in salads (and beautiful!)

Garden_2013-Hoophouse3

 
Now you can see the end-walls going up. There is a ridge pole at the top of the arch, bolted in, and side braces too.

Hoopehouse with walls

 
This shot tells a pretty complicated story. What seems like a simple job so far got more interesting. First of all, I had to figure out some way to connect these two rather incompatible materials: PVC pipe and lumber. Thank you Gawd, for duct tape. Then the whole interface had to be sealed with plastic to keep cold drafts out. Down below on the side. The metal channel on the horizontal wood support (bolted onto PVC pipe) is for “wiggle-wire” designed to hold the plastic cover on the whole thing. The bottom 36 inches can be rolled up to provide ventilation in spring.

Hoophouse_wiggle install

 The end walls have got their plastic covers on and we can now make a seal between the hoop cover and the end walls.

Hopphouse_endwall_plastic

 

My friends Mike Durkee and CJ Lyttle are anchoring the plastic film in the wiggle-wires channel.

Hoophouse_wiggle wire

The whole shooting match is completed in October. It was a much more laborious task than I imagined at the start. A lot of the details for mounting and connecting various components had to be puzzled out as the process moved forward. The plastic cover is a special UV-decay-resistant film designed for this kind of structure. Its design life is about five years. It’ll cost about $150 (2013 dollars) to replace it when the time comes.

Hoop House Oct 2013

 
Here were the first plantings in the hoop house in October. It’s past the frost date for this climate zone. Things are coming along pretty well. A mouse and vole problem soon become apparent. The little buggers were tunneling in and nibbling the shoots off started plants. I set mousetraps and caught some practically every day. Of course, there are probably 10,000 more where they came from on my little three-acre parcel. Supposedly, the plants go dormant from December to late February. When the days get longer, and if the plants survive, they’ll start growing again. I can also get a head-start on spring garden plants in here. In December, I installed two brace posts on hoops 3 and 5 (not shown here) to support the structure under snow-loads. When all is said and done, I’d rather have a regular steel-and-glass greenhouse, but they’re pretty expensive and I have not succeeded to the Earldom yet.

Hoop house Inside Oct 2013

Meanwhile, back in the potager.  Here we are in August. Everything going pretty full blast. A fall crop of sugar snap peas just coming up. Sunflowers are thriving. Plenty of table greens going — enough to supply a restaurant, actually.

Garden_Aug16 full

We had excessive rain in late June into July. One of the artichokes died, as did a number of parsley plants. But this baby made it and flourished.

Garden_artichoke

 
The peach tree — one of two fruit trees that came with the property originally — bore prodigiously.  For about two weeks it was peach-o-rama around here.  I pruned the shit out of the tree back in late winter.

Garden_2013_peaches

 
My second year Northern Spy apple trees both put out some apples. (two and five respectively). I was so awed by it that I let the darn things grow. Dumb. I should have pinched them off so the trees would put more of their energy in roots and limb structure. Oh well. Next year I’ll rest them. The tree that grew the most in two years was an Asian pear. That thing really took off, and it put out two deformed-looking pears — which nonetheless tasted real good!

Garden_2013_apples

 
And finally here we are in the fullness of September. 

Garden_Aug29_2013

 

A couple of weeks before Christmas, 2013, the garden is going to sleep. Adventure awaits in the spring. New beds. Plum trees and more apples. I neglected to document the grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, hardy kiwis, and currents. Chickens coming. Will check in on them in 2014.

Garden_Dec_2013Merry Christmas to All 

 

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.

38 Responses to “The Garden, Second Year, 2013” Subscribe

  1. Cynthia Preston December 8, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Nice garden Jimmy! I optimistically tried to grow a peach tree my first year in the Adirondacks. It was a brutal winter and sadly it did not make it. I love the gothic style chicken house. My neighbors raise chickens so I just cross the street to get my eggs.

  2. mims December 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    This is an incredible post, thanks for the elaborate documentation.
    Try to put in asparagus in 2014. Alot of work to establish but keeps on giving for years afterwards. And if you don’t already follow “Throwback at Trapper Creek” you might want to. I find her blog very inspirational for gardening.

  3. knobcreekfarmer December 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    While I always look forward to your whimsical, shrewd and oh so true Monday blog posts I truly enjoyed this garden extravaganza. Thank you Jim for sharing something good. Something you clearly take pride in and enjoy. This post paints a picture of a man who is happily planting his own roots in good soil.

    Many prolific years of garden!

  4. dnb December 10, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    Much more artistic and attractive than my soybean and wheat fields!

  5. dnb December 10, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    http://www.snapclamp.com/prices.htm

    For your next hoop house project!

  6. WW December 10, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    James, I am not sure if you are familiar with the concept of hot beds. Using them in your hoop house will allow you to grow year round. We’ve been doing so for years.
    Here we bury the ends of the polytunnel (hoop house)cover in trenches either side, this tensions the cover and also helps to anchor the tunnel in high winds.
    Speaking of wind one small observation about the hen house is the narrowness of the base in relation to its height. It does not appear to be anchored down. After a heavy windstorm you maywell find it blows over, unfortunately I speak from bitter experience losing a number of hens in the process.
    Lovely garden though and good to see such progress as well as witnessing a writer that actually practices what they preach so to speak.

  7. Lkat December 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Your garden is beautiful! I am glad you managed to keep it going, in spite of your bad health year. I would give you some good advice, except my own garden is a mess. I blame that on living in Texas, and my husband.

  8. NH Steve December 28, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    I’m glad so see you were able to continue your work of art despite the health issues. It’s a beautiful garden you’ve got there. Inspiring and functional.

    I plan to have a go at a hops arbor one of these days. Hops: does a body good :-)

  9. DrTomSchmidt December 29, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Wondering how much Wendell Berry, and how much Polyface Farm you’re putting into this, James?

    You might look into getting a mini-cow (perhaps a Jersey?), which would graze your grass in patches, and then letting the chickens at the manure to eat the pestilential fly maggots 3 days later. 2-3 gallons of milk a day, although you’d need to milk it EVERY day (or find a neighborhood kid to do so). You could also use the manure to create a warm bed for planting, one that gives off heat as it decomposes below the plants in your hoop house.

    It’s great to see something of visual interest and practical use added to the landscape!

  10. Andy December 30, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Interesting how some peoples’ lives rhyme with your own. I expanded and fenced in my raised bed garden this year. Also, our cats could’ve come from the same litter!

    May your year be as beautiful as your garden!

  11. Hands4u December 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Looks great Jim! Much health and happiness in the coming year for you and your family.
    We planted Kale (not a big fan- “Jonathan… eat your vegetables if you want to grow up big and strong!”) this past summer and tried kale chips (baked) a little salt and olive oil. More kale going in next summer (can’t grow cheez-doodles!)

  12. danieljosridgeway December 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Hi Jim, I would replace the duct tape with hose clamps. Or, you could actually drill and bolt the wood and pvc together. The duct tape won’t last long. DR

  13. martingugino December 31, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Oh! Spectacular and/or I’m an idiot.

  14. tim January 7, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    I built a PVC greenhouse (8x16x8 high) several years ago and it has held up well.

    Mine is PVC and plastic sheet only. I used zippers (Peel ‘N Stick Tarp Zippers) in the eaves for ventilation and for the door.

    Each year I try new ways of making it more efficient.

    In non-sunny hours, a 1500 watt heater will maintain a 10 degree difference in my greenhouse from the outside temperature. I added a TC-3 Cold Weather Thermo Cube that turns on at 35 degrees and can keep plants happy spring and fall for little cost.

    One hundred 2-liter bottles filled with water provide approximately 4500 watt-hours of energy with a 40 to 80 degree daily swing giving the same help as running my 1500 watt heater for 3 hours. I stack them in old plastic milk crates and because of their large surface area they do a good job as thermal mass. Walmart sells Great Value Root Beer for 84 cents a bottle which is about the least expensive way to acquire them.
    The thermal mass keeps the day time temperature in check and helps keeps my nighttime temperature above 35 degrees.

    This year I added some LED lighting to help make up for the short and cloudy days. I bought full spectrum CREE T6 chips and fastened them to small clamps. Their output is 1000 lumens each at 10w and I can clamp them anywhere. They run at 3.3v so I use an old computer power supply since PSUs have built in 3.3v outputs.

  15. carstars January 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    Get 150 jars to put up that fruit for year round eating. Maybe a quick sun dryer for the apples. And a crossbow for hunting dear for protein and you should be off to the races to weather the long emergency.

    Makes you wonder why humans gave up gardening for consumptive civilization? Look what an elder gentleman did in two short years, just think what could be done if one harnessed the energy of youth in such activities.

    Gardening the real solar energy future.

  16. ThomasPatrick January 28, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Jim
    Great garden. I believe last year you mentioned that the main purpose of the picket fence was to keep out the bunnies. I have a huge cottontail issue myself. the spacing on the pickets looks pretty wide, are you having any success in keeping them out ?, do you also have a wire fence that is not in the pics ?
    again, just a super garden, congrats

  17. Greyghost March 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Jim,
    That is one beautiful garden. Very nicely laid out. I assume you are tracking the yeilds of your various varieties. This will help make the future decisions as what to plant.

    Are you planing to expand into some herbs that are suitable for medicinal tea’s ? It’s always handy to have some on hand. They will be included in my plan for my garden.

    Keep up the great work. For a kid from Brooklyn you sure have a green thumb.

    And while I’m at it, your art gallery is also getting better. I like the pictures of the post industrial ruins. When you look at stuff like that I can only wonder what life must’ve been like back in the 20′s thru the 40′s when those buildings were in their prime.

    Oh well, it’s almost April. Time to get back outside and into the garden.

    Phil

  18. sanorient2 June 2, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    really great creation of garden ..
    visit our new project http://www.supshitl.com/

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